Close Encounters of the Real Kind

Such a refreshing thought – to actually meet someone who is genuinely real and speaking the truth.  Now that is some rare shit.

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Sometimes the very people we are closest to become unreal to us. We might easily assume we know what life is like for them and forget that, like us, they are always changing, their experience is always new. We lose sight of how fully they too are living with hurts and fears, how hard life can be on the inside. – excerpt from Radical Acceptance 

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Now I’ve been accused of being too tough on my family.  My tone too harsh . . . .coming in too hot. . . way too aggressive, they cry.   I’m not soft enough, gentle enough, kind enough.  I don’t give them enough room to be human.

I have also been described by my family as angry, enraged, and demanding and someone who can never be pleased.  This in turn has made me a lightening rod for blame.

It’s a terribly messy situation and it has also alienated me quite a bit.

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Recognizing Our Humanmess & Pulling Our Emotional Weight 

I had to ask myself, am I really that emotionally insensitive? or . . . .am I perhaps emotionally exhausted, with very little patience to have the “tell me what I want to hear conversations“. You know how they go.  The one you where you are trying to give some good sensible advice and it sucks all of your time and energy. . .and the troubled one cries, moans and complains and then goes on to make even bigger, unavoidable mistakes.

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Now having a mentally-ill ex who uses the children as weapons does nothing to elevate the family dynamics one bit.  He is sick, he is weak and the weak grasp onto anything they can to stay afloat. It’s truly painful and pitiful and annoying as hell.

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Growing up with a bullet-proof, hard-headed immigrant family I have been trained to do one thing and one thing only. When we have a problem we fix it. Simple as that. No added drama and delusional ego defense tactics. We simply make the repairs. . . . we change our behavior, our environment, our thinking, whatever it is we need to do, including removing ourselves from the messes left behind.

I was taught to humbly take complete ownership for myself, my life and my actions.

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Yet I do believe it is okay to ruminate for a solution and to sometimes overthink things – -but it’s not okay to go around thinking badly or poorly. The world is not out to get us. The real problem is you, it is very, very rarely what happens to you.

This lack of desire to sit with another and hold space for them for a very long time, when they do nothing to face their challenges – is the issue.

You see when I think about their complaints about me, I realize its not just my tone that they don’t like.  It’s how they interpret the tone.  When I am firm, they hear you’re not good enough, you’re a mess, you are just terrible and you really don’t have it together” and there in lies the suffering – the sever in the relationship.

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Stuck, it’s my lack of desire and willingness to placate them. To sit with their suffering. To buy into their woe is me helplessness.

For this I have been pegged as emotionally unaware, arrested in my growth and a non-compassionate person. Which is the farthest thing from the truth. I am wildly compassionate and loving but also a huge fan of the being absolutely honest with ourselves.

So, I do two things at once. I call bullshit on their desire to expect me to sit and stir the pot of sadness and sorrow that they decided to make for dinner and eat for left overs.

But, more importantly, I apply a bit of compassion to their pain and suffering by asking myself two questions before we begin –

What does she need right now?

What does this person fear right now?

These two questions help bring us closer together as humans.

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The Endless Struggle to Think Well of Ourselves & Living in a World Where Everyone is Real

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

T.S. Eliot “The Cocktail Party”

 

 

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Fact: A complete stranger upon meeting you within the first five minutes of getting to know you, will know more about your flaws than you will ever learn in a life time. 

-Alain de Botton

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Caught up in their own self-centered drama, most wander the planet fantasizing that they are a caring and kind person even when inside they know they are a absolutely reckless and uncaring.  We all walk the fine line of wanting to be accepted and appreciated while anxiously defending our ego.

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I agree with Alain de Botton –

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However, there is a difference between living for approval and connecting with others without ego.

Living in a world where everyone is real. (an excerpt from Radical Acceptance)

One of the most remarkable things I’ve noticed about the Dalai Lama is how he treats everyone equally. When the Dalai Lama says “My religion is kindness” he is expressing his commitment to live with the unconditionally open and loving heart of compassion. Kindness is a facet of the jewel of compassion.  It is the desire to help that arises when we remember that we are connected with every living being we meet. Each person is precious, each person is fragile, each person matters.

Remembering we are all real.

 

Read:

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

Enough is a Feast & How We Rise Up

An essay and prayer of gratitude from Madeline Johnson

I do not wish to make sense of life. I wish to dwell in it’s sacred mystery.  For life is one infinite, remarkable, unfolding miracle.

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Every single breath I take, you take, we take is a true gift.  A moment to be held in reverence. I remain humbled for this life given to all of us today, for it is is nothing short of magnificent.

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I look up at the cosmos and pay my respect.

For life is a daily, daring, epic adventure, a thrilling mystery ride to explore. I live for the questions, the seeking, the learning and the strikingly beautiful moments of awe.

I am comfortable and content with this.

I do not need answers.

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Gratitude is my living, breathing moving prayer, and my heart breaks open wide with an enormously huge appreciation for everything that happens today.

My soul cries out a passionate thank you to God and the universe.

This is how I pray.

My heart softening and melting into the moment.

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I am genuinely grateful for this breath, and now this one, and the next. . . For as my friend Julia says. . .

we are all just one exhale away . . .

There is nothing to prove or improve. Not to ourselves or to others. Honoring that we are all made perfect already. No mistakes, all of divine intelligence. We connect to our compassionate soul source, our innate goodness to our loving nature right now.

Love is the only real emotion, every other, the absence of it.

This is our best self, our connected self. Leaning on the cheek of of God, we sway, through our divine dance with life each day.

All of us quite unique on the outside, yet our hearts and souls beating as one.

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All throughout the day, I am grateful for this opportunity, this moment right now, to be awake, aware alive and here and I will not waste a moment of it.

Not a single second.

 

This is how I rise.

 

Featured art Nikolina Petolas is a Croatian based photographer and digital artist.

Perennial philosophy (Latinphilosophia perennis),[note 1] also referred to as Perennialism and perennial wisdom, is a perspective in modern spirituality that views each of the world’s religious traditions as sharing a single, metaphysical truth or origin from which all esoteric and exoteric knowledge and doctrine has grown.
The Perennial Philosophy has its historical roots in the syncretism of Renaissance humanists like Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, who suggested that Plato, Jesus, Hermes Trismegistus and the Kabbalah were all pointing to the same God (they were almost excommunicated as a result). Leibniz also championed the philosophia perennis. You can see it flourishing in the transcendentalism of Emerson, Coleridge and Thoreau.

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Be Who You Are, Not Who You Wish You Were

How to be authentic with Madeline Johnson, writer, thinker and strategist.

I am helping this genuinely lovely couple build their wellness empire. They own a mine, a mine with liquid gold. Lucky them. So blessed. I consult them about business, marketing and growth plans. I help them build actionable strategies and tactics. We have weekly FaceTime conversations and tonight after yet another long call they blew my mind with something they said to me.

They said, “Madeline, We are so happy we met you. You are so positive and you make us believe we can do anything. You make us feel so strong. You open our minds and you have made us understand that being around positive people is very important.”

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They didn’t know it but I was melting inside. My heart filled with a lightness, a brightness I haven’t felt in a very long time. I know that what I need is to feel valued.  Yes it is true, we all need to feel deeply appreciated. Tonight I felt recognized, respected and prized.  I also felt happy, light and free.

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I use to think feeling happy was practically impossible.

Now, honestly, between you and I well, I abhor the word “happy” and it’s my father’s fault.

So, Why The Hell am I So Happy?

I’ll never forget what my father, a depressing kind of dude at times, said to me when I was about 15.  You see I am a smiler. I smile through everything. I smile when I am sad, when I am angry, by myself, with others. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, I just feel a sort of smile in my heart.  So Mr. moody swinger, daddy O passes me in the hall and asks me –

Why are you so “happy”?

Nice thing to hear from father dear during my formative years.

My automatic response  because I am. I am happy.  Genuinely happy.

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Doesn’t matter what’s going down, I am always going to be happy. It’s just my nature. Sure I feel grief, sadness, anger, rage – yup, even rage, but for some reason, I always swing back to happy.  This is where the good vibes grow.

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P.S. If you want to be happy, be aware of manipulative ass hats with selfish agendas.

Ego Trippers, Smiling Our Way Through Fear & The Life Long Importance of Relationships

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When we remove ego, we’re left with what is real.ReadEgo is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday

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Redefining Our Identities with and without Psychedelics

Ego death, or as Jung called it, “psychic death,” is also called “ego loss.” It signifies the complete loss of subjective identity. In Jungian theory, this precedes a rebirth into a new identity. Timothy Leary coined the term “ego loss” in regard to LSD experiences. Ego death is the second stage In Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.  Ego death in Buddhism is related to understanding one’s true nature, (not mistaking the rope for the snake), which leads to a permanent awakening from ego fixation (one will never mistake the rope for the snake once it is seen to be a rope).

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Psychotherapy and psychedelics both assist in helping redefine identity. Psychotherapy focuses on ego defenses and issues stemming from identification with the ego and its journey to wholeness, while ayahuasca can loosen the strict boundaries of self-perception and allow other information and perspectives in, introducing a new dimension of healing.

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From Panic to Peace – Smiling Your Way Through Fear

Thich Nhat Hanh calls his practice of yes “smile yoga.” He suggests bringing a slight but real smile to our lips many times throughout the day, whether we are meditating or simply stopping for a red light. “A tiny bud of a smile on your lips,” writes Thich Nhat Hanh, “nourishes awareness and calms you miraculously. . . your smile will bring happiness to you and those around you.”

The power of a smile to open and relax us is confirmed by modern science. The muscles used to make a smile actually send a biochemical message to our nervous system that it is safe to relax the flight, fight or freeze response.  A smile is the yes of unconditional friendliness that welcomes experience without fear.

Smiling can be the trigger that switches us from operating under the power of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Our body is designed to be in the state of rest and digest most of the time, but there are too many stressful things in our life to keep our body to stay in the fight or flight mode.

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Why is smiling important? Smiling not only offers a mood boost but helps our bodies release cortisol and endorphins that provide numerous health benefits, including:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Increased endurance
  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced stress
  • Strengthened immune system

Read

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

 

Good Genes are Nice, But Joy is Better

Robert Waldinger is a Zen priest and leader of the longest-running study of human happiness. He has found that science and Buddhism agree on what makes life happy and meaningful.

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Waldinger is also a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard University and director of the famed Harvard Study of Adult Development. It’s perhaps the longest-running study of adult life ever conducted. For seventy-five continuous years, it has tracked the lives of 724 men in order to understand what makes for a healthy, happy life. Now it’s following the next generation, as it tracks the lives of the original subjects’ children and their families.

Harvard study, almost 80 years old, has proved that embracing community helps us live longer, and be happier.

 

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Nine Ways to Strengthen Your Mind

This post ponders the idea of turning sour feelings. a.k.a. – a shitty state-of-mind – – into persevering resoluteness.

I am thinking about the alchemy of emotions. Turning fear into fascination; frustration into fortitude, pain into power and anxiety into assurance.

It’s about turning my life around. Drilling deep into my psyche to pull through life with courage and conviction.

What I believe to be True

When we do things thoughtfully we have a better chance at transforming for the better.

Think about it. . .How numb have we made ourselves to our heart felt emotions?

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When we are thoughtful we consider more possibilities. New ways of doing the same old things. Even the possibility of doing things differently. Disregarding old habits. Doing less of the busy and more of the productive. Challenging the status quo. Removing the habitual actions we have done in the past that no longer serves us well today.

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New decisions lead us to a new destiny. A better, more balanced life.

Beware of Bad Decisions

Unfortunately, even smart people make bad decisions when they are in a lousy state of mind.

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Good decisions come from clearing the head and pondering the problems. Becoming curious about why we are so dissatisfied with our lives.

What needs to change about our thinking?

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Real change, sustainable change comes from deliberate choices. What new choices can we make today?

 

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Problems are reversible when we get to the root of the cause.

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I want to change. . . .

Feeling Rushed & Overwhelmed

I despise the feeling of racing through my day. Moving so fast, juggling so much, attempting to “get it all done”. That rushed and over whelmed feeling leaves me discouraged and disappointed.

The Solution

Realistically predict the amount of time something will take me to do and add 60 minutes to that as a cushion. Build in some thinking time. Breathable time. Note to self: Realize life is a process, not just a checklist. It’s my pace, my life. If I can, I will always do it on and in my own time. 

Slow down, stay as organized as I can, surf the waves instead of fighting the tide, so that I get the work done and not drown in a sea of distraction. No matter who is pushing me to move faster.

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Feeling Tired & Exhausted

Serving others, really helping those you care for  is our true purpose. I believe it is the most important thing we can be doing. To be of service. However, becoming a slave (persona non-grata) to everyone’s whim is simply enabling and demeaning to myself.

Solution

I choose to review every request for help I get today. I will no longer run myself into the ground for anyone or anything. I will take breaks throughout the day. I am not a puppet, I pull my own strings. Oh, and I rest at the end of the day. Sometimes in between projects too.

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Feeling Insecure & Helpless

One of my best traits is that I am always learning something new, discovering new ways to do my job, developing more skills and increasing my worth. One of the worst things I do is say I can do something before I have mastered the skill. Yup, I do that and it is wrong. This lets people down. I over promise and under deliver.

Solution

I will never overestimate my talent or skills again. I will practice and become better, while only taking on paid projects that I know I can manage and execute.  I will be very careful to accept money for something I am still learning. I commit to asking plenty of questions and never saying I understand something, until I truly do.

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Feeling So, So Scattered

I am the dive right in type and I believe this is a good character trait to have, but I must learn to evaluate the waters before I jump in to the next project or relationship.

Solution

I promise to consider the possibility that I might not have the time to add anything else on my plate. I must have a plan before I attack. I must really look at what needs to be accomplished and not blindly beginning doing the task at hand.

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Feeling Frighteningly Frustrated

Why do I rush? Who is pushing me to move any faster? Is it the warped sense of time that this global interactivity thrusts upon us? Must everything be done in an instant?

Solution

Hell to the hasty and heedless. No more rushing. It is time to calm my heart’s dark waters.  I will take pauses, collect from deep thoughts and breathe deeply through it all. Especially the most difficult projects.

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Feeling Like a Victim

Okay, I will own it. When I am in a lousy state I tend to repel those around me. I bark at people. I speak to them like they are inferior. This in turn has them on the defensive and they return the favor. They bark back.  It becomes one big ugly dog fight.

Solution

I promise to stop taking on the world. Not everything is my problem to solve. I speak my truth more assertively and clearly without dictating or treating others unkindly. Sure I point out the elephant in the room but without embarrassing anyone. I will remember, it pays to be more patient.

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Feeling Super Guilty

Us alpha types, we just like to stay ambitious. We have so much to do – to accomplish. Then soon come the distractions once again. The texts, tweets, Facebook messages and phone calls. The favors asked.  In an endless loop of “I don’t have time for this!” I begin to feel guilty. I get confused about doing the right thing vs doing the “what I want to do thing.” Oh I hate disappointing others.

Solution

I leave room for interruptions. I prioritize helping those that I know need me. I question how important their requests might be. I help by empowering, not by doing it for them. I understand my responsibilities with each role I have in life. Mom, marketer, wife, daughter, writer, creator, friend – while giving my 100% imperfect effort to each role.

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Feeling Scammed

You know, I am a bigger believer in that we know who we should and should not get involved with – but we continue to make the same mistakes over and over. We give people second and third chances. We continue to pick the worst friends, business partners, clients. People that let us down.

Solution

I hold my standards higher. I listen to my instinct the first time around and I promise to be realistic about the people I am getting involved with.

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Feeling Sad and Down

Luckily my regression to the mean is happy. Not happy in a ceremonious and demonstrative way, but in a satisfied way. I am not a high maintenance human. I require little to keep me satiated. However, sometimes, when I feel a pity party coming on, I can go places dark.

Solution

Move more and laugh more, while getting out of my own way. I make a thoughtful decision to have more fun with problems.

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Some Other Race

the-black-and-white-cookie-620x300I was on standby jury duty yesterday. My first time ever and while I realize it is a privilege to serve I just didn’t want to go. Too much to do.  I am sure you can appreciate that.

Anyway, as I climbed the steps of the Supreme Court building (in much need of some TLC I should say), I made the deliberate decision that I would approach the day with a mindful curiosity, looking forward to learning a thing or two about our judicial system and the right to a fair and just trial. I have never been in a courtroom before. Judge Judy my only reference.

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Although I can go on and on about how even just a tad of technology could greatly improve a very antiquated system, I want to point out one single moment that left me absolutely dumb-founded.

It was filling out the 2010 (yes 2010)  census questionnaire.

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Seriously? In a racially diverse world where people consider themselves to be “global citizens”, we are still asking these questions?  According to Pew Research the US Census bureau is looking into changing the questions on the next census because more and more “Americans” don’t know how to respond to the “race” question. The Census Bureau’s overall goal is to reduce the number of people who select “some other race.” Read more here.

Now, my husband’s family is of German, Irish and English decent. My side of the family is Italian and Brazilian. Although our grandparents came to the US in search of the glowing promise of the American dream, we were both born here in America. Which leads me to a question my daughter asked me this morning.

“How do you feel about interracial marriage?”

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Photo: Richard and Mildred Loving never asked to be heroes of the Civil Rights movement. But when the state of Virginia deemed their interracial marriage illegal, the couple fought back. And won. More here.

Love Rules

I believe that love rules and color/race/nationality is irrelevant. If you are a loving and kind human, you deserve to be in a happy and beautiful relationship with another loving and kind human or alien for that matter. As long as the two, three, five of you are giving your best back to the world. Period. That’s what I believe Ariel.

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Love Rules

I have had fantasies about starting a website or podcast based on this whole “race” thing – this ridiculous act of defining ourselves by the color of our skin or the place we come from. Sure we have cultural and belief differences but I believe it is our duty to tolerate those differences with compassion and empathy as we raise our collective consciousness.  I hope you do to.

Note: Now, I completely appreciate the importance of gathering demographic data after all, I have spent my career as a marketing professional.

 

Collect Moments, Not Things

 Thoughts today on creating awesome experiences. Memorable ones – like the time my husband and I took our four daughters on an 18-day bareboat charter around the British and US Virgin Islands. They were ages 8, 6 and the twins 4 years old. They were young and fun.

The Future of Travel

Just how close do you think virtual reality arm chair travel can get to replicating a real barefoot beach combing, dolphin swimming, colada sipping  vacation for you?

Imagine all the travel pleasures without the annoying TSA security check points, baggage claim blunders and long exhausting lines.

While I still think there is plenty of reason to travel  IRL (in real life), like new friends to make, dishes to try, terrain to hike and air to breathe, I can also imagine enhancing your weekends with even more jet-setting and globe hopping in the comfort of your own cozy family room.

A Virtual Bucket List 

What an amazing gift a virtual reality vacation would be for my housebound mom and dad, who are too ill to travel, but can simulate the relaxation and adventure of a vacation while checking off cherished places on their bucket list.

I am fascinated by the future of virtual reality travel. Are you? 

travel-quote-3“By its very definition, virtual reality is a simulation of being somewhere different, and if you’re in need of an immediate break from your current reality, stepping into a virtual one in a matter of moments is the ultimate form of escapism.” – read more about Occulus Rift and how technology will take you anywhere with 360 degree video experiences  here


The British Columbia tourism bureau filmed this virtual reality video to lure in vacationers –here

To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls.”  Rolf Potts, Author of Vagabonding.

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Read: Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel