Entries by Brenda (25)

Thursday
Mar152012

Breathing...A Peaceful Rant?

 

 

I have been wondering...what do people think about a person who dedicates time and effort into a website titled Pursuing Peace?  Do they think "She must exude Peace on a daily basis"... "She must have the perfect peace full life" ... "Peace...what?...I must have clicked on the wrong link..."  or maybe they know me and they're thinking something more like this "Who does she think she kidding?"..."Really?"..."Isn't she the one with six kids?"  Well, someone who does know me asked the other day "Where's the rant?" I laughed and responded "Yeah right. A Peaceful Rant." 

Hmmm...why not?

It is true that I do love a good rant.  Generally about something that I seem to see so clearly that obviously everyone else is missing.  Like, for instance, the fact that life is NOT easy.  Or, that challenges DO make us stronger and refine our lives if we allow the process.  Or, that miserable people - though they deny this fact - are often most comfortable MISERABLE.  And it is also true- as every good ranter can affirm - I feel better after I have vented my frustrations with the world.

But not for long.

The process of venting - catharsis - does make you feel great, but it accomplishes little else.  In fact it can actually reenforce your desire to feel good through venting never addressing the issue causing your frustration in the first place which would negate the need to vent all together.

So what is a "Peaceful" blogger to do? Let's consider another meaning of the word Vent.  "To rise to the surface of the water to breathe" 

Breathe. 

I have to admit as a massage therapist no one knows any better than I do the therapeutic benefits that come with a deep breath.  I have felt unyielding muscles "let go" through conscious, deep breathing. So many people hold their breath, without realizing it, throughout the day.  Are you one of them?  Think about it...it may surprise you. I have literally had to teach people how to breathe again.  When instructed to take a deep breath many simply fill their lungs, lifting their chest and shoulders in a brief inhale and exhale motion. Now, while this type of breathing may sustain life, it's not the type of breathing that lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, strengthens the immune system, and simply put - makes you feel better.

I also know from personal experience that a well place sigh - deeply felt - does carry with it a glimpse of the peace that at the moment may be evading me.  Quite honestly, even the thought of Whales venting brings with it a sense of peace for me.  I am from the Pacific Northwest and as such have seen that quiet, peaceful, beauty first hand.  Off the shores of Kauai a few years ago my family was awe struck at the majesty of a pod of whales venting so near us we could almost touch them from the Zodiak we were in.  Imagine that whales deep breath...taking in enough air to fill his lungs to capacity - holding it with ease while he travels - and then that exhale...definately one with some umph behind it.

That's the kind of breathing I'm talking about here.  Deep...slow... and with intent.

Just like the whale, a breath that's going to sustain through the deep waters of the day and get you where you need to go. 

Here is a simple breathing exercise to get you started:

  • Breathe in slowly, counting to eight (maybe you only make it to five or six in the beginning).
  • Hold on to the brief pause before the exhale for just a moment longer than usual.
  • Exhale slowly, consciously letting go of whatever frustration your holding on to.
  • Pause again, for just a moment, before you continue with the task at hand.

Variations in this can and should include closing your eyes if possible.  A good stretch.  A "walk about" outdoors if you can, but hey - even around the office can do wonders.  If your sitting in your car try cracking the window just a bit to get some fresh air...even if a raindrop or two sneaks in.  At night before you sleep  do this breathing several times while lying on your back and slowly pumping your feet... toes towards the ceiling then forward towards the distant wall.  With each breath let go of the day and settle into a good nights sleep.

Finding peace can be difficult if your not getting enough air.  So often we stay underwater, feeling overwhelmed by the currents pull.  All we really need is a good vent...rising to the surface of the water to breathe.

 

 

Tuesday
Mar062012

"Like" Life

I "Like" life.  Click on the little icon and you suddenly will like whatever your doing.  Wow.  Simple enough. 

Wouldn't that be amazing? 

"Liking Life" is not as simple as the click of a mouse, but it also isn't as complicated as we tend to make it.  And as far as I'm concerned the time to start enjoying life is immediately.   To do that you must start right where you're at, because wherever you're going to go it is from there that you must begin.  The most difficult part of this strategy is acknowledging that you actually can choose to like whatever you do.

I woke up one morning, several years into my "happy homemaker" phase, when I turned the page on my favorite calendar to find the caption "To be happy don't do whatever you like...like whatever you do!"   The picture depicted a woman vacuuming and dusting with a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face.  Fitting for me as Manger of the Duce Domicile.  At that point in my life I was a 24/7 homemaker with six kids to "make" a home for on a daily basis.  Keeping the house in order each day was a lot of work, mostly unappreciated and entirely unrelenting. 

Life at home was not as I had imagined it would be sitting in traffic commuting.  I knew that I had what it would take to go back to a "real" job - if that was where I wanted to be.  Yet, hadn't I just spent the last thirteen years working towards this very goal?  I was living the dream now...right?  How could I have lost that I -love -what- I'm -doing- feeling so soon?  There was so much that I loved about where I was at and I had worked so hard to get there.  I had to find a way to like what I was doing -  the work of my every day.  Like was not a word I would have used to describe the time I spent working at keeping house.  Considering how much of my time was spent doing just that...I knew I needed to incorporate the caption on my calendar that day into my life.

I went to work on the "like whatever you do" concept.  For me that meant music in the house while I worked.  In particular it became a part of my kitchen where we still spend most of our together time each day.  Next...investment in fabric softener and no more cold, wrinkled piles of clothes to fold.  As crazy as it sounds I still today love to fold clothes soft and warm out of the dryer.  I simply no longer allowed the next load to be washed until the last one was folded "warm".  Some days that meant more than one re-warming.  Now that may seem ridiculous to some of you - but for me it also meant enjoying the folding...and that was my goal.   A candle or two burning with my favorite fragrance, an invitation to friends to come visit and enjoy our home (our friends and the kids friends), and the investment in a new vacuum (with the right tool any job can be done easier) - and I was well on my way to liking what I was doing each day.

I knew that I had come full circle when my nephew proclaimed to his mother after making a mess at my house..."Don't worry mom, Aunt Brenda likes cleaning."

That is only one example of many opportunities I have had to take what I must do and make it something I enjoy - even if I don't feel that way when I begin the work.  This doesn't just apply to physical labor.  I have often had to apply the concept in my relationships as well.  Lets be honest... "like" may not always describe the time spent with co-workers, children, a spouse, or family members.  Life is full of peaks and valleys.  All of us find ourselves experiencing things we didn't ask for, things that are placed upon us.  By choosing to enjoy life  -  in spite of it - we regain our power to act rather than be acted upon.  You may be surprised to find that the changes you initiate to "like what your doing" will most often be small and subtle.  Be creative. Keep it simple. 

Share you ideas here.  How have you come to "like" what your doing? 

Thursday
Jan122012

Peace, cowboys and a good stick...

"When you pick up one end of a stick you pick up the other"  I can still hear my dad's voice relaying these words of wisdom to me whenever I was facing the inevitable consequences of my choices.  My dad's education went no further than the sixth grade, he was from a small town in Eastern Wyoming, grew up in a home that started with a dirt floor, he was a veteran of the Korean War, an oil rig worker, long haul truck driver, dump truck driver, land developer, and small business owner.  He was self taught - reading the newspaper front page to last everyday.  If he wasn't sure of a word he'd holler out "Mom...what does this spell?"  or "... what does this mean?"  He'd get the explanation from my mother and then just keep reading.  His language was laced with expletives throughout, not so much in an offensive way but more as a matter of fact.  What my father may have lacked in formal education and worldly polish, he made up for in life experience and common sense.  He was a man of integrity, and as such, whether or not you liked him, you always knew where you stood with him.  The idea that the reward of labor was life itself both my mother and father understood well.  They worked hard everyday and as a result they were able to enjoy life.  Work was an integral piece of who they were - not just simply a means to an end.  If life was to be worthwhile you had to work at it...and if that was the case - you might as well enjoy the working too.

 

So back to the stick..."when you pick up one end of a stick you pick up the other."  I spoke to a group of kids this past week about that very topic.  In fact I went out in search of the stick you see above just to get my point across.  Choices.  Consequences.  Both are inevitable in life each day.  What I found most interesting as I discussed this concept with those kids was that even though they had a clear understanding of the meaning of the word"consequences", it was only understood by most of them as something negative and in their mind resulted only from bad choices.  The idea that consequences could also be positive and result from good choices was foreign to them...  Really?  I couldn't believe it.  

I pondered this a great deal over the next several days.  I have heard many times over the years from those around me and the media that the young people of today simply don't want to face the consequences of their actions, that they want to side step personal responsibility.   In fact, today as a talk radio host discussed the current snow storm Seattle is entrenched in, he reflected upon his own childhood and how he and a friend would go neighbor to neighbor offering to shovel out their driveways for a small monetary reward.  When they had finished going through their neighborhood they would take their money and go rent a video and order a pizza to eat - immediately consuming their hard earned reward.  Nice memory...  It was immediately followed with the comment "You wont see kids today offering to shovel your driveway.  No.  The movie is available "on demand" and their parents have already bought them the pizza."  

If you are not responsible for any of the positive things that happen to you in life - why should you be responsible for any of the negative things? And who wouldn't want to avoid consequences if they were always negative? What if our young people  began to understand again as the generations before us (my parents were born in 1926 and 1932) that the "Reward of labor is life"?  That good choices carry with them good consequences?  And here's a thought - what if that transformation simply required a keen eye for the right sticks?  Could it be as simple as pointing out the shovel in the garage?  

I recall going to pick up my son (now 24) from a sleep over when he was about 14.  There was an elderly neighbor out mowing her lawn a couple houses down from where all the boys were.  She was struggling with the electric mower she was using.  On an impulse I stopped my car and told her to wait just a minute I would be back with some boys to help.  Yep, I did it.  I rousted my son and his cousins and their friends and they all walked down the street for some yard work - free of charge.  I showed them a stick they needed to pick up.  They were sure I had lost my mind.  Yet, I know when they were done the "consequences" of their labor couldn't have been duplicated any other way.  

When one of my daughters was about 7 years old she asked me "Mom, do you have to be happy?"  The question caught me off guard.  I hadn't been asked that ever before and she was asking with more than just a passing curiosity.  I could tell she already understood at a very young age that being happy required some effort.  I told her no - that it is a choice, one she would have to make again and again.  I didn't know at the time if I had made the right decision, sharing that truth with one so young.  Shouldn't she just be happy?

 Perhaps what I should have told her was that happiness is a consequence.  Success is a consequence.  Peace is a consequence too.  They are the other end of sticks we have the option of picking up, or leaving lay, each day.   Far too often we walk right by the very sticks that would bring us exactly what we are looking for.  If only we considered the other end of the sticks that lay along our path each day.  And even though a single stick can be broken and discarded - many accumulated over time and bound together have great strength.  

So there you have it.  My personal challenge for the new year. Examining the sticks I pick up. 

By the way... two young men were going door to door with snow shovels in my neighborhood this week.

Choices.  Consequences.  

I pulled out all these old photos of my dad.  I'm going to share them with my kids this week.  Some cowboy wisdom too.  Most of them really only know the baby in this picture...me.

Tuesday
Jan032012

What's in a word?

STRENGTH. BREATHE. FAITH. COURAGE. SINCERITY. HOPE. FAMILY. TRUTH. PEACE. FORWARD. PATIENCE.  Those are just a few of my more recent "personal words".  I am a firm believer in the power words have in our lives.  They impact us on a daily basis irregardless of our acknowledgement of them.  We process them, make decisions based upon them, subconsciously accept or reject them, file them away in our dreams, recall them, communicate our wants and needs with them, we are judged by them and we make our own judgements based upon them. 

I have many books with good words on the shelves of my home.  I love reading and discussing what I have read with others.  I would never discount those words, they have been powerful resources in my life.  Yet, most of them remain unread by my children or visitors to my home.  There are other words in my home - on my walls, on my refrigerator,  on a piece of jewelry -  that are often seen and shared with those very same people.  I was surprised not too long ago when a friend of mine introduced me as "a woman who loves words".  I'm not sure why I was surprised by that description, it certainly is a fact, I just hadn't considered it being that integral a part of who I was.  As I thought about this over the next several days I realized there were others who knew this about me as well.  They may not have ever stated it in such a matter of fact way, but they let me know when they handed me a favorite quote of their own scribbled on a post-it note or sent me words framed as a gift for Christmas. One thing I was sure of was that I had never had a conversation with any of them about "words" -  I decided that perhaps they too had experienced the power of words and were familiar with this "secret" peacemaker. 

It only takes a split second for the mind to register the words it comes across any given moment.  As a result, I am careful to make sure that the words I place around me reflect not necessarily where I am at as much as where I want to be.  There is a definite peace that comes through acknowledging our desired destination through the words we surround ourselves with.  And, unbeknownst to them, we recruit those who come in contact with us (and our words) in the effort. In my home those words come in many forms.  I have posted some of the more recent ones here.  Some change each week or month and others, those I want continually in front of me and my family, may stay for years.

If we are going to surround ourselves with powerful words, it's important to remember this applies to the spoken word as well.  We should hear good words the majority of the time from the people we surround ourselves with.  These people need not be perfect.  None of us are. However, they should be headed in the right direction most days.  This includes the lyrics, television, radio, and social media we expose ourselves to.  It is not too far a stretch to say that there are those of us whose "word input" may come more from those sources on a daily basis than from family, friends, or co-workers.  In fact, if you are having a particularly bad day, consciously stop and evaluate the words you have been processing, either of your own making or the making of others around you - you will be amazed to discover that the majority, if not all of them, are negative.  Simply changing the "conversation" created in your head by those words will dramatically change the course of the rest of your day.

If words are truly going to impact peace in your life you are going to need to be willing to give a good word.  Not only does this strengthen and uplift those around us - we gain personal peace knowing we have honestly given power to someone else simply through our good words. This piece of the good word challenge is more difficult.  Because it requires conscious effort on your part.  It also will bring the most dramatic results for the very same reason.  I'm not telling you to run around passing out "good words" willy nilly (...don't we all know someone who annoys us by doing exactly that?) They are not sincere and as a result they really are not "good" words.

When I began to really work on giving good words to those around me I decided to take the "safe" route and try people that I didn't really know but came in contact with several times a week.  The clerk at my local 7-11 and the clerks at my local grocery store were the beginning.  That year I gained great compassion for those who come to our country to work hard and find success, I also came to appreciate my citizenship and rights that I have often taken for granted.  I also came to admire people that were living through the challenges of losing their wife just before retirement was come, working full-time while their husband was waiting for (and later receiving) a liver transplant, and yet another trying to make ends meet as a single mom with two daughters during a tough economy working at a gas station.  She recently told me that her oldest daughter would be going to college on a full scholarship and that she was ready to go back to college herself.  I left cheering for her and her family. 

I only know the first names of these individuals and yet my two minute conversations with them a couple of times a week over the course of several years now has impacted my life and perspective in ways no others could have. Had I simply paid for the service each of them rendered and left without a word, all of those people would have still been there-- I just wouldn't have had the blessing of having them impact my life.  I know this is not an easy thing for many to do.  Do it in spite of that fact.  Start with step one below and then quickly give step two a try...all in one week.  

Step 1.     Start by simply finding a quote that moves you or a word that when you hear it gives you strength and/or focus  (trust your instinct - you probably already know the word you need) then simply put it someplace you will see it.  Add to it or change it up each day or week or month...whatever works for you. This is easy.  Don't complicate it. 

Step 2.      Finally, share a good word.  Say "Have a good day" or "How's your day?" to the clerk at your local gas station or grocery store.  "Thank you" to the person who let you pass through the door first.  "Nice job" to the spouse or child who did an expected daily chore.  This step is more difficult for many in the beginning because it really does need to be a sincere (albeit simple) good word.  It is an effort well worth it though.  Do it for selfish reasons in the beginning if you must justify the effort.  Because simply making the effort puts you in a position to better find peace in the chaotic world around you.  You will be consciously searching for things to acknowledge (gratitude in action) - and they will miraculously appear all around you.  I can promise this. 

Given some time and practice these simple steps will become second nature.  You will come to love good words as they enrich your daily life and bring you peace.  You will find beauty in them as they adorn your personal space.  Be fearless (a great word by the way).  Let us know how you do.  Share your good words here.  Comment on your successful (and less than successful) attempts at conversation. Because this forum really is all about the words...

Tuesday
Nov292011

Red Rocks and Reaching Out

 

If October was the month for moving forward then November and December must be the months for sure steps on firm ground.  The desire/need to be "grounded" as we travel through life leaves us naturally conflicted.  Move forward and stay grounded.  Set aside fear and face your challenges head on.  Add the pursuit of peace to your daily to-do list and find time for the effort  amidst your many other worthy pursuits each day. Oh, and considering the season, let's not forget... enjoy a peace filled, joyous holiday season and spend more time with extended family and acquaintances.  Or, how about this one...review my entire year (or as many of us may be tempted - my entire life) and experience a sense of accomplishment.  It's enough to push even the most sure footed of us over the cliff and into the dark abyss of "I can't do this anymore....."  I only wish that somehow this posting could give you the same echoing effect I imagine when I'm in this space.  When I wake from this nightmare I always find myself asking the question.."I can't do what anymore?"  Exactly what is it that is leaving me feeling so utterly incapable and overwhelmed?

I spent several weeks contemplating this very dilemma.  I knew that as a result of my many worthy pursuits this past month I was feeling a bit shaky in the "sure steps on firm ground" department.  I had witnessed others struggling with this same issue.  And, quite frankly, the holiday season which is supposed to be the time for all things peaceful has become more often than not a race to see who can get to January first so we can put this all behind us until next year.  I say to myself, "not me, not this year" but I can not seem to secure my footing as the world around me is in complete conflict with my "higher" aspirations.  Then during a weekend trip to visit my mom in St. George, UT, I found myself in place called The Valley of Fire just outside of Las Vegas, NV. 

Brian and I had flown in to Vegas and rented a car to make the drive East to St. George.  As we were driving along Hwy 15 we saw a small sign that read Valley of Fire next right.  The map showed it as a loop that would take us off the highway a bit and then merge back on.  We took it.  Off across the flat and mostly lifeless desert as it is just outside of Vegas.  We came across two men with scopes spotting mountain goats on the (not so distant now) rocky cliffs and crags.  The road ahead was no longer straight - it curved right and then left many times as we gained elevation and from the beige sand  bright red rocks arose with a peculiar beauty.  Around one final curve and we were there...the Valley of Fire.  It was gorgeous, awe inspiring really, to see the massive red rock formations that had been there for thousands of years.  Solid.  Grounded. 

We stopped.  To my amazement there was actually a campground here in this remote desert location with more than a  few campers there for a visit.  I had to check out such an unusual place and to my surprise when I stepped out of the car it was completely silent there.  I don't know what I expected really, but certainly not silence.  The only sound was the wind creating a musical backdrop as it blew through the various openings within the formations surrounding us.  I breathed deep and let the stability of this place seep in.  It was good.  About a hundred yards away I could see stairs that led to a platform on one of the rock faces.  We were to discover it led to petroglyphs left by other visitors to this place 4,000 years ago.  Perhaps they had spent time in the very same camping area cut out by nature as a refuge from the elements in the barren desert.  I couldn't help but wonder if the person who left their mark upon those ancient rocks had sat there and breathed deep like I had a few minutes earlier.  If maybe, they too were able to gain stability while they rested there and prepared to move forward in their journeys across the desert.

It's back to real life for me now.  Only a few shorts weeks left before Christmas.  I haven't forgotten my stop at the Valley of Fire. I have worked at finding that same stabilizing effect in other more daily places around me.  As with all things "Peaceful" I do have to work at it a bit.  Here is a sampling of what has given me more sure steps as I move forward through this often chaotic season... a moment at the Thanksgiving table with friends sharing the things they were grateful for, the fog lifting over the flats near the Sound in the early morning hours, the warmth inside my car on a very cold day, a live nativity - quiet and simple, my Christmas tree (not even decorated yet) and the promise of a few weeks of twinkling lights in my living room.

The answer to the question  "I can't do what anymore?" I found sitting amongst the Red Rocks in Nevada.  I can't accomplish all of life's demands without something to hold on to for balance.  There are things within our reach to grab hold of for stability and strength when life seems to be spiralling out of control.  Too often as we move forward with all the best intentions we let go of the very things that keep our feet grounded for the journey along what is often a bumpy path.  Some of these things are grand and physically tangible - like my red rocks last month.   More often however, they are simply moments that touch our inner spirit. Those are the ones we often fail to recognize as essential, the ones we more readily set aside, and the ones that in reality are within our reach on a daily basis.   During this grand season of Faith, this season of all things Peaceful...reach out and grab hold.

When you do I'm sure you'll recognize Peace giving your hand a little squeeze.