Root Down to Rise Up

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Drawing from http://www.hellokids.com, but you can draw your own.

I did this healing exercise in both my adult and teen journal writing workshops. On the tree and in the branches, they wrote words that positively described them, how they were special, and how others saw them. Then under the ground in the roots, they wrote their values–what was important to them.

The oak tree has always had a strong symbolic meaning for me. My connection to trees is deep. (When I was a child, I sat in them for hours and read.) Despite the storms, wind, and rain, the oak tree bends, but it never breaks. Its roots run deep, its core is powerful, and it rises up to not only persevere, but to be a beacon of hope for the world.

It’s been a tough week on many levels, and everyone has those days, weeks, months that just seem like endless storms that pummel our spirit and soul. It’s not easy to dig deep into our roots, our values and let our positive attributes stretch forth when we feel like the world keeps knocking us down.

I went to yoga after my teen’s class, and as I reached my arms to the ceiling and rooted my foundation into tree pose, I thought about my positive attributes. What do I root down to in order to rise up to not only get through another day, but to make my life, my family, my community, and the world a better place? What do I reach for?

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Photo by Alysia Thomas

One word came to me–optimism. My hope and intuitive belief that the crisis that I’m in or the sadness that I feel will get better is what grounds me. No matter how devastated I have been, I have always reached up and reached out for the good in life, the best in others, and hope in myself that I can make this world a better place.

But it all begins with me. If I don’t grow deep and strong roots, if I don’t reach out to help others or ask for help, my branches are fragile, and I will break. Yes, some of our branches do break, but the core of who we are is forever powerful if we root down, dig deep, and find beauty, love, and sunshine no matter where we are in our lives.

So I ask you. What makes you strong when the winds of life beat on your branches and threaten to tear down your foundation? How do you dig deep and root yourself to the earth, so that your spirit isn’t ripped away? What makes you special? I hope you come up with at least 10 adjectives, because you have so much to offer. What is important to you? Knowing this makes you a powerful entity. Living by your values and sharing your unique attributes creates a community that is stronger together.

But it all begins with you.

Going with the Changes

 

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My sister and I are crazy. Simple as that. We know how to have fun and laugh at ourselves. Michele is five years younger than me (I know we look like twins!), and we both were very active in high school sports. How does this relate to life and changes, you may ask. Allow me to digress and weave a story.

In high school, Michele ran track and played soccer. I played soccer and softball. My older sister, Stephanie, played softball, and my brother played soccer. We are a very athletic and slightly klutzy family. Compared to the skills in soccer nowadays, I may not have been considered a very skilled player, but I was tough and successful. I was the bomb!

Fast forward 15-20 years later. My younger son, Stephen, is an awesome soccer player. My husband, Luke, still plays soccer and yes, Stephen gets some of his skill from his dad, but his toughness from his mom. Over the years, Stephen has asked me to kick the ball with him, and we have played in parent vs. kids soccer games on his travel teams. I’m in good shape and, in my mind, I’m still that vibrant soccer player who plowed through the defense.

Some of the last few times I have played soccer with Stephen have been enlightening and deflating. My legs go wobbly, my balance flies out the door, and the ball goes everywhere, but to my son. What the heck happened? Where was the skilled soccer player who ruled on the playing field? My son asks, “You sure you played soccer?” I had to show him the certificates proving I played sports. Here’s proof in case no one else believes me!

Wait it gets better. Michele’s job at the time had a summer softball league. Michele wanted to play and recruited me since I was so skilled on the field and at bat. She talked me up like I was the answer to their prayers. I was psyched! I couldn’t wait to get up to bat and send that ball to the moon! I played first base in high school, and I knew I could make a difference and be an asset to this team. Plus playing a sport with my little sister was bound to be a hoot and a good time for all involved.

The time had come. I was up to bat. I swung it across my body a couple times to  loosen up. My golden rule was never ever swing at the first pitch, so I let the first one go by. Hmm, that one looked pretty good, but it didn’t matter. The next pitch came, and I swung. Oh, my back! Swung a bit too hard and missed the ball. No matter. I could do this. Next pitch I connected, but it felt like someone sent a jolt of electricity up my arms that reverberated through my teeth and into my skull. I ignored the shock. I had hit the ball. No matter that it didn’t make it to the pitcher. I sprinted toward first base. Why was it taking so long to get there, and why did my heart feel like it was going to vomit right out of my chest? Not able to believe it, I was called out before I hit the plate.

Needless to say my ability to eye the ball while catching wasn’t the greatest, although it was better than my hitting. The ground was so uneven, I tripped running to get the ball, fell on my face, and wondered where the 16-year-old sports star had gone.

The one saving grace was that Michele did about the same, and we laughed hysterically  over it, much to the dismay of our competitive teammates.

So I wasn’t the jock I used to be. It’s a tough pill to swallow. I can’t sprint across the field and frankly I don’t want to! It’s hard not to live in that past and think that my self worth was based on how I performed in high school. But it’s not. It’s based on who I am as a person now. Sure I gave up soccer and recreational softball, but I took up yoga. I can bend and twist like I don’t think I could have as a teen. I’m stronger inside and out. Even as a martial artist, I can’t do jump kicks and spinning heel kicks as well (actually I never was good at getting any hang time), but I have learned to be efficient and effective as the athlete I am today.

This was a long, but hopefully exciting, story to basically say that change is hard. We can fight it, we can deny it, we can rail against it. We can delay change by staying in shape and trying new exercises. But the fact is our bodies change as we age. Playing soccer and softball made me feel alive, strong, and happy. Now yoga makes me feel that way and more.

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Michele and I can still and always will be able to boogie!

What did you use to do as a youth that you no longer do as an adult, or maybe not as well as you would like? It doesn’t have to be sports, it can be anything from knitting to singing to riding a motorcycle. How did you feel when you did that particular activity? What emotions went through you? Write about it, describe it. How does it feel not to be able to do that anymore?

What activity can you do now that would give you that same sense of accomplishment, joy, and emotion? Is there something you’ve been wanting to try? What is stopping you? Make an action plan and do it today.

Change is good. We only need to embrace it.

The Dogs Ruined my Meditation!

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Yes I know. Quite adorable Zoey and Dakota

I sat in my library where I usually do my meditation. The dogs like to be in there, and it’s better than them banging on the door to be let in. They will calmly sit at my feet. This morning they kept barking at our neighbor’s dog as they walked by, they chomped loudly on a bone, and basically were a nuisance. I got mad and said, “You are ruining my meditation!” What did they do? Went back to barking and chewing.

That got me to pause. My dogs weren’t ruining anything. They were being dogs. By barking at Bindi walking by, they could be protecting their space and me. Or they could be saying, “Let’s play together!” Chewing on their bone is part of their daily routine, and I’m sure satisfies some craving.

They didn’t ruin my meditation. I let outside forces affect my inner calm. It’s easy to be calm and centered when life appears that way. But when the dogs of life let loose or those black clouds appear, all the yoga, meditation, and calming techniques can blow up in your face if they aren’t practiced daily.

I wondered about one technique that I could do before I got upset or overwhelmed and would help me get centered. In meditation one cue is to always reconnect to a part of your body that is touching something–your feet on the floor, your back to the chair or your fingertips touching. I usually connect with my fingertips touching and feel the energy in my palms. This simple act brings me back to the present moment and allows me to pause before reacting. I could have done that this morning and realize that yes the dogs are being loud, but I can choose how I react.

I’m going to try this during my day when stressors and emotions get the best of me. It takes a conscious effort, and about 21 days to create a habit. If the black clouds in life get the best of me, then I will take a deep breath and start over again.

What stressors or crises do you currently have in your life? Write them down and why they are stressing you. What is a simple technique that you can incorporate into your daily routine to pull you out of the downward spiral of emotional stress? For example, keeping a stone in your pocket and rubbing it; carrying worry, mala or rosary beads that can be held or counted. Rubbing your hands together to create heat and a connection to you. It can be anything that immediately places you in your body.

Try it out and let me know what works for you.

Step back Saturday

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Looking back at my week, I actually accomplished a lot, managed to walk my dogs, and got some exercise in. I’ve been focusing on meditating every day, so all in all I felt positive. Yet last night when I went to bed, I felt anxious and out of sorts. I physically didn’t feel well, and I know that my emotions or some underlying issue affects my body.

I went to bed with this intention: What do I need to see? I had just seen this intention from Robert Moss’ blog (great one to follow on dreams) and it made sense to ask this specific question instead of getting deluged with too much insight. This was my dream:

What I Don’t Need Dream

I volunteered to drive a tractor trailer somewhere. I also told a dad that I would drive his son home after the soccer practice that my husband coaches. He didn’t ask anyone to drive his son, I just volunteered.

Then when I was leaving to go to the tractor trailer, I saw the kid’s mom and his sister in a cast. I was going to ask her to just go pick up her son, but I felt bad about his sister. She yells telling me to make sure I didn’t forget. No thank you or I’ll just get my kid. Then I realize that they live all the way in downtown Albany. I feel trapped.

I’m driving the tractor trailer and am pretty amazed that I can do this. I’m almost to my destination when I take a turn too sharply and the trailer flips onto its side. I get out and my phone rings. Some friend of the family wants to know why I haven’t picked up the kid yet. I explain my situation and say that they will have to handle it. I feel bad, but relieved. I turn around and the tractor trailer is gone.

Feeling: Totally trapped. Snowball effect of saying yes.

Reality check: Except for the fact that my husband coaches a soccer team, everything was extreme, which is common in dreams. If the dream was fairly normal like something I would do, then I may not have paid attention. The fact that I was driving a tractor trailer, which I have never or probably wouldn’t ever do was a big message for me.

The question that of what I needed to see turned into my asking, What Don’t I Need?

I don’t need to get involved with anything that has absolutely nothing to do with me. I don’t need to fix the world; I only need to work on me, take care of myself, and from that positive place, I naturally help those who need it. I’m not talking about family and friends where we want to help each other and that is what we do.

I’m talking about filling the space so that I don’t have any time to reflect or do what I’m called to do–write. I also didn’t take enough time to do yoga. It’s important to me and by stepping back and looking at my past week, I see the pattern of stepping in where I don’t need to.

Why do I do this? Well that’s a totally different journal entry. What I was meant to see is that I need to make space for writing and that is what I will do.

Catch Phrase to remember what I needed to see: CUT IT OUT!

What do you need to cut out of your life that doesn’t serve you or is stopping you from fulfilling your purpose? If you aren’t sure, write the intention “What do I need to see” in your journal and keep open to the answers. In addition write “What I don’t need.”

What Will You Bring to the World

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An acorn has everything in it to create an enormous, life-giving oak tree. The oak tree shades, provides air and food, and is a source of beauty and strength. Just as the acorn has everything it needs to grow and give to our world, so do you.

Last night in the first session of my adult journal writing workshop, we did an exercise where we wrote down our positive characteristics, what made us special, and what we valued. The answers were unique and eye opening.

One of my words was joyful. I wrote joyful because when I feel joy, I have hope that the world is a beautiful and kind place, despite sadness and uncertainty we have in our world. It’s wonderful that I feel joy, but how can I bring joy into the world, and why should I?

I have always told my children that no matter what you do, what job you grow up to have, make sure it brings good into the world and makes a difference. I believe that part of our mission on this earth is to grow as souls as well as people and to collectively improve it. There is no better way to improve our world by bringing the positive energy that we all have inside of us to others.

I bring joy to others through my words. Maybe my books and stories are purely entertaining or maybe they touch a person just the right way on a day that they are suffering.

I bring joy to others through laughter. I want to have fun while I’m here, so bringing people together to share laughs and raise spirits is very important to me.

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I bring joy by letting my light shine and sharing my truth of who I am as a person. This is something that has been hard for me to learn to do, but as I see how I can bring hope to families battling cancer or parents who have lost a child, I feel called to share my light with them.

I bring joy through teaching. My workshop last night was full of energy and happiness (even if there was some uncertainty!) That’s all right, because despite the fact that people weren’t sure about this thing called journaling, they took a class and had fun!

Write down only positive characteristics about you. What makes you special? What is one word your best friend would use to describe you? Take one of these words and write down how you will bring this into the world and what difference it will make to others. I don’t know is not an answer. You have a light in you that is begging to come out! Let is shine and share it.

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Step Back Saturday

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Photo by Alysia Thomas

The weekend is finally here. There is so much to get done and that to do list may feel like it is only getting larger. Many of last week’s themes were about love and being positive. They focused on embracing goodness, being with people who make you happy, and being aware of anything or anyone who is usurping your life, your energy, or your joy.

Take today to get caught up if needed. However, don’t forget to step back and take in all the good you did in the past week. Be with people who make all the hard work worthwhile. And be honest with yourself: if you fell short of telling people how you feel, spreading good in the world, or fulfilling your life mission, give yourself a break and start over. Soak in the positive and release the negative.

Embrace the Good

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Ziggy the Great Dane–photo by Alysia Thomas

In a world that thrives on the negative, it’s so easy to claim defeat and see everything we feel is wrong in the world. We blame other people for our setbacks and don’t claim responsibility when we basically screw up.

I shy away from negative social media and don’t publicly express my political views. If someone asks and wants to have an intelligent conversation, then I’m all for it. However, when the absolutes and bad mouthing begins, I walk away.

Why? Why wouldn’t I stand up to someone who is shoving their beliefs down my throat? Am I doing this world an injustice by simply walking away and following my truth?

I don’t think so. My philosophy and sometimes key to survival is embracing kindness, love, joy, and peace.  I work very hard to bring goodness to every person I come in contact with, every action I take in my day, and every word that comes out of my mouth or typed on a page.

This phrase, “Embrace the Good” actually came from a text by my older sister. Our family has had its share of heartbreak and loss, but when we can see the good amidst the bad, the sad, and the dreadful, then we bring more positive and productive energy to our lives that counteracts those tough emotions. May not get rid of them, but we rise stronger.

These photos inspire my journal prompts, and I couldn’t get past the photo of my other sister’s dog, Ziggy. I wanted to write about connections, but this photo portrays goodness in a crazy sort of way, so it was perfect! Personally I think the best kind of goodness makes us laugh and smile.

I am grateful for the goodness in my life, and I choose to embrace it!

What is good in your life? Who can you share that goodness with?

Even if you are in the midst of pain and loss, look deep. Where there is good, there is hope.