Archive for gratitude

Being Here Now

By Guest Blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I’m risking making space in my life for the present.

I was inspired by Debbie Kerr’s recent post about cleaning out her closet. I have a lot of stuff in my house right now. Much of it came from the homes of my mother and mother-in-law. Their extra belongings filled our extra space, as we eased their journeys into assisted living.

It’s time to begin digging out from under the clutter we accumulated.

My husband is working on an estate sale for his mom, and I’m slowly taking inventory of my own clutter, before I even deal with my mother’s.

Recently I gave some lovely pieces of clothing to a theatre costume shop. The gift included two gorgeous pairs of shoes that had been my grandmother’s, that I had worn occasionally and really loved. There was also a nice business suit that was just a bit too small for me. (It had been too small even when I bought it. Wishful thinking made me believe I’d lose five pounds.) All of it was beautiful, and all of it represented a part of my life that I had held onto longer than I needed to.

As I let go of those clothes, I heard myself telling the costumers that I hoped they’d be useful in a play, because they didn’t belong in my life. They were reminders of who I’m not anymore, and I’ve decided to be who I am now.

Let somebody else be who I used to be.

I realized that I was only able to let go of those things because I’ve started shifting my thinking, very slowly, toward an appreciation of the present.  The words “be here now” are the best advice I know of, as I seek to live peacefully within my changing emotional landscape.  I have so much to be grateful for, when I stop and pay attention to it all.

Letting the past be the past, and not burdening the future with my worries:  those are my risks for today.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

Dropping the Ball

By Guest Blogger, Carolyn Cook.

OMG, I forgot to blog on my assigned day.

I know in advance that I am forgiven, so I’m not even going to pretend to obsess about this.  I know that you understand how it feels when you drop the ball. Right now, my life is a like game of catch. Most days, the ball is winding up in my glove. But on days like today, I’m not only dropping it, I’m watching it roll down the street and into the storm drain. Goodbye, ball.

I can’t even think about taking an intentional risk today. Risk is built into the structure of my life.  I am taking risks every day, because of the choices I’ve already made:

I have chosen to homeschool my child.

I have chosen to move my mother, who has dementia, to an assisted living facility that is five minutes from my home, and to be actively involved in her care.

I have chosen a career in the arts, which means I make very little money for a very large commitment of time, energy, and emotion.

There are new risks I want to take, and I’m looking forward to the time when life feels safe and boring again so that I can shake things up with an exciting new venture. But now is the time to hunker down and deal with the risky choices I’ve already made.

My next blog date is my fiftieth birthday. If there’s any risk I need to take at this stage of my life, it may be the risk of slowing down, dropping more balls, and letting them roll away. I simply want to love my husband, my mother, my daughter and my siblings. I want to be grateful for this amazing life we have with each other before it slips away.

If there’s any risk I need to take right now, it’s the risk of admitting that I am not in charge. Life is too big for me to hold in my glove. I’m part of a team, and it’s okay to let other people catch the ball sometimes. That’s how the game is played.

This post originally appeared True Voices’ RiskADay blog project, which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to a raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. She is now posting her insightful thoughts on her own blog here.

Bright Lights and Barred Owls, an Elegy

Today, on September 11th of all days, I present a poem for you. It is in loving memory of my client turned friend, Tayyibah Taylor. She was a brave and beloved ambassador of – and dedicated activist for – world peace.

“A Bright Light, A Barred Owl: An Elegy”

Our bright light has moved on.Tayyibah Taylor in hot pink
And we have moved
From Shock and Disbelief
To broken-heartedness
For ourselves, for all – and at the
Loss of her song, and her being
That mellifluously brought a potent, loving message.

Our bright light has moved on.
Clothed in vibrant wisdom, and with
Exquisite engagement,
Her worldwide heart and
Her other worldly delight,
No longer embrace us –
Not in this realm.

Tayyibah Taylor w/sparkler

Sparkling Tayyibah and her Sparkler

Our bright light has moved on.
We know not to where –
Perhaps Allah as she believed.
We do know
As she lost her battle,
We lost a champion and one
Of the highest magnitude.

Our bright light has moved on.
And she visited me, on the way to her
Soul’s next evolution, by embodying a barred owl.
Cloaked in the song of “Who cooks for you?” she spoke
As in unison with Quan Yin. “I hear your cry.
Compassion and Mercy to all,
Including you.”

Our bright light has moved on
Though her message lingers – an invitation
To be a woman with wings, migrating as necessary,
Leading us all heartlong with her love lantern
So that we see the divine, invisible and
See beyond the human, visible
In the faces of our families and our enemies.

Tayyibah Taylor

Tayyibah Taylor, in the Colors of our Planet

Our bright light has moved on.
She now beckons us to pick up our purposes,
Travel across borders created by mankind,
And through veils created by a power
Greater than we, and surrender,
Finally, to building and then crossing countless
Bridges to peace.

II.
For your life, Sister Tayyibah Taylor, bright and
Guiding light, we give thanks.
And for the gifts you brought us,
The gift that you were,
We will know you, in the call of the barred owl,
The eyes of the gentle doe, and the magnificence of the flamingo,
If we will but listen, if we will but see.

III.
Our bright light has moved on
And so must we –
Not soon, but eventually –
When we are ready.
We must get ready.
But first, we must grieve.
Our bright light has moved on.

Laura Overstreet Biering, Clarkston, GA
©2014 All rights reserved

PS To learn more about Tayyibah and her legacy, click on her name in the opening paragraph, and/or visit these links:

PPS To learn more about the Barred Owl and the “medicine” it is believed to bring, visit one of these links:

PPPS  And finally, just to be clear… As you know, the majority of photographs on this blog are ones I’ve taken. The ones included in this post, however, are not. If and when I find out whose they are, I will certainly post that here.

Throw Forward Thursday

It’s Throw Back Thursday on Facebook.  I feel sure you’ve enjoyed, as have I, seeing the pictures of your friends as adorable newborns, as toddlers trying to walk, teenagers striving to find themselves, couples getting married, and more.

Today, however, I want to offer you something different: Throw Forward Thursday.

You see, I’ve just watched an incredible video, one that I hope you’ll stop right now and watch along with me, as I watch again and again. It’s aimed at women, but I do believe the brave men who watch it will be just as inspired by it as I’ve been.

Please – whoever you are, no matter your gender, your age, or any other circumstance or situation you find yourself in –  please, give yourself the gift of the 4 minutes and 15 seconds it takes to watch this short, powerful film.

I wholeheartedly invite you do so, and then comment with your feedback. I’d love to hear how it affected you – what you thought, what you felt, what you are re-inspired to do, or what you are now inspired to do and/or be for the very first time. In other words, as a result of watching this motivating movie, how will you now Be You Out Loud as never before?

Here’s the video: Your Calling?

PS A favor: If you are willing, I ask you to please share this – specifically the post, and in general, my website and blog, too. You may not get a prize, but you will get my deep appreciation.

PPS Some shameless self-promotion: If you know others who could benefit from a conversation with me, about their callings or  anything else on their minds and hearts, please ask them to email me for an appointment.them to me. It would be my pleasure to offer this to them, as my gift. Why? Because it would mean I’d get t0 be myself out loud, while helping them get clear on how to do that for themselves! And if this person is you, and you’re not a current client, you’re just as welcome to contact me for a chat! Come on in, the water’s fine!

Getting Up Early v. Being Up Early

The former, I hate. The latter, I love!

How can I be so adamantly sure?

Because five out of the last seven days, I have gotten up between 2:30 and 3:30 in the morning. In the past, even the mere thought of doing this would send me into fits of laughter and/or tears. But what started as a difficult necessity – taking care of an old dog who can’t “hold” it through the night – has become a sheer pleasure.

Now don’t get me wrong. As I said, I hate getting up and always have. In fact, as I write this, I’m thinking that when my mother reads it, she’ll probably not believe me or she’ll think I have been taken over by aliens. I’ve never been easy to coax out of bed. Leaving the layers of the warm, cozy covers and turning on the light, always too bright in the dark, can be a stark and cruel way to wake up.

But being up? That’s a different story.

Right now, as I sit in my sun room with, ironically, the darkness of the morning’s wee hours all around me, the only lights my lamp and laptop, I am relishing the experience. There’s a sense of time standing still, as though I have all the time in the world, and I feel a freedom and a permission to do whatever I want. There’s an often unfamiliar focus I feel, allowing me to be “all in” while doing whatever I want to do, and without the distractions that inevitably come when working during the day. There’s also a nearly tangible peace that comes from simply sitting here, hearing the crickets and the occasional night birds “doing their thing,” being themselves out loud, encouraging me to do the same. And it feels as though they are the my bridge, connecting me with the whole wide world. Sweet.

Who would’ve thunk it?

As a coach, it’s common for me to work with my clients on their perspectives. I know that changing the way we view something and choosing the meaning we give it, can completely transform our experience of it. And this brings me to a question – a coaching question – for myself.

What if I chose to have the same perspectives during the day as I do here in the middle of the night? Perspectives such as:

  • There is enough time for me to do everything I want to do;
  • I have permission to do anything I want to do;
  • I can focus, and being “all in” helps me do that;
  • I can set boundaries that keep me from being distracted; and
  • I can choose to be aware of the peace that comes from “doing my thing,” thus contributing to the rich and complex tapestry that is our world.

Yes. Viewing my day through any one of these lenses could change quite a lot. But working with all of them could transform my world!

My Sweet Old Man, Dogberry

My Sweet Old Man, Dogberry

So, as difficult as it is for me to get up, whether for Dogberry (pictured here) or for me, I will continue to do it, even if just a few times a week, so that I can have the opportunity to be up.

And I’ll begin right away working those perspective into my daily life… as soon as the sun rises.

PS What about you, my lovely? How could you see your day differently and change your / our world?

Om-azing Grace

By guest blogger, Andrea Lea

I have been practicing yoga off and on for fourteen years now. More off than on, quite frankly. I cannot explain why there has been more off time, considering how much I love yoga and how yoga has always been there for me (when I showed up), but it is the reality. Because of the emotional turmoil of my teen years I developed an odd resistance to things which were good for me. I gave many of those “off” years to cigarettes and depression, I suppose, and let me tell you, you cannot have a consistent yoga practice and be a depressed smoker at the same time (make no mistake: this depressed smoker was disguised as someone having a lot of fun). In fact, I’m pretty sure that smoking cigarettes is the exact polarity of a pranayama practice!

We all make these trade-offs along the way, and usually we know when we are giving ourselves the short end of the stick. I knew ten years ago that I had a special relationship with yoga – that I could bring yoga to people, or translate, if you will – but I was so unwilling to part with my last little bit of teen angst and petulance that it didn’t seem worth it at the time. It felt like sacrifice. It felt like giving up something I loved. It did not feel like freeing myself from the enslavement of addiction and rewarding myself with something that brought me true joy and calm. So I lit another menthol and decided to think about it a little longer…

In early 2009 (no longer smoking or depressed) it occurred to me that I wanted to teach yoga to teenagers. Those are the years during which so much of our programming gets locked in, and many adults never seem to transcend it. I want to help kids find the strength and balance – in body, mind, and spirit – to navigate the white squalls of high school life with their dignity and identity intact. In August I got my first yoga teacher certification, and today – November 2nd – I taught my first kids’ and teens’ yoga class!

Here’s what I learned (which I believe applies to all risk):

1 – Leap!
2 – Have a detailed plan – be very prepared.
3 – Forget your plan. Go with energy flow in the room.
4 – Laugh.
5 – Note the net that appeared when you weren’t looking. (Moment of gratitude for net)
6 – NEVER convince yourself that ANY group is a “tough audience” – only outpicture the best possibilities
7 – ALWAYS remember, in every situation, that people are people. If you look them in the eyes, smile, and be authentic, you will experience the best of everyone you meet.
8 – Stop punishing self for “wasted time” or anything else that rings of mistake- or regret-like energy. Those lessons will become tools if we let them.
9 – Ten minutes of meditation (or quiet centering) can open ten doors in your heart, your mind, and on your path. Never once have I wished I hadn’t taken the time to meditate!
10 – Loosen your white-knuckled clinging attachment to a particular outcome. Indulge in the satisfaction of a risk well-taken and start planning your next one…

…which is, for me, to escape to a north Georgia cabin alone to complete my first book.

Namaste!

Andrea Lea is a writer who is cracking the code of the symbolic and recording the spiritually hilarious. Her adventures so far have included several years and a cooking show in post-Apartheid South Africa, a stint in rural south Georgia, a brief but sparkling singing career which she intends to revive, and a glorious indigo daughter named Dom. When she’s not painting, taking photos, writing, singing, or doing laundry, Andrea can be found in her kitchen, channeling her grandmother through new recipes, and feeding folks.

This post originally appeared on RiskADay.com.

Are You Chasing Your Hero? Or, Some Great Oscar Acceptance Speeches

There are many things I like about watching the Oscars. While I don’t know much about fashion, I do enjoy seeing my favorite actors “all gussied up.” I also like seeing the clips from the nominated movies. It’s nice to remember the ones I saw the year before, and it helps me determine whether or not I want to see the others.

But the main reason I watch the Oscars is the acceptance speeches. I like them all – the funny ones, the tearful ones, the unabashedly gleeful ones, and the even the ones that are more like grocery lists of gratitude.

My favorite speeches are the ones that include a little of all of the above, and then some. What’s the “then some?” It’s when the actors talk about love, peace, or justice. It’s when they tell personal stories about where they came from, and how, if they can do it, anybody can. It’s when they talk about the way that making their particular movie changed them, and/or the world, in some significant way.

I originally meant this particular post to be about Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speech, given at the at the 2014 Oscars after winning the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in Dallas Buyers Club. I was going to write about him saying that he was chasing his hero – himself, always ten years older. It was really lovely, and it reminded me of an exercise I do with many of my clients. It’s one I learned long ago in coach training at the Coaches Training Institute, called the Future Self Meditation. Matthew McConaughey’s take on it is unique and certainly working for him. I encourage you to see what I’m talking about by clicking here.

However… As I was doing my research about Oscar acceptance speeches in general, I realized that this post had to include many more than just Matthew McConaughey’s. My goodness, there are some great ones out there! And, we are so lucky that YouTube exists now, so we can watch them loooong into the night, if we like.

The first speech I want you to see is that of Hattie McDaniel. She was the first African American to receive an Academy Award, winning Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of “Mammy” in 1939’s Gone With The Wind. Her acceptance speech, which can be seen here, is as beautiful as she is, glowing while she speaks of gratitude and hope. There is much more to say about Hattie McDaniel, including the facts that she was in over 300 movies and only received credits for 80, that she was the first black woman to ever sing on the radio in the United States, and that it’s currently unknown where her Oscar is! Her story is heart-wrenching and encouraging all at once, and you can read more about her, and her too-short life, here.

Next, I encourage you to watch the gorgeous and emotional 2002 acceptance speech of Halle Berry, especially right after Hattie McDaniel’s. She had just won the award of Best Actress in a Leading Role, for her performance in Monster’s Ball. There are no words that can augment what she said in her speech, which can be watched here. What I will tell you is that, with the winning of this award, she became the first woman of African American descent to win an Oscar for an Actress in a Leading Role, and is still the only one, as of this writing in 2014.

The speeches I’ve spoken about above are only a few of my favorites. I can’t possibly point you to all of them. However, I have listed a few more, below. I hope that you will take the time to watch each of them and maybe even allow yourself the gift of “going down the rabbit hole” of the many more great Oscar acceptance speeches.

With that said, may your “rabbit hole” experience start with these:

1985 – Sally Field, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Places in the Heart

1997 – Cuba Gooding, Jr., Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Jerry Maguire

1998 – Roberto Benigni, Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Best Foreign Language Film, Life is Beautiful

2001 – Julia Roberts, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Erin Brokovich

2001 – Russell Crowe, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Gladiator

2005 – Jamie Foxx, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Ray

2005 – George Clooney, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Syriana

2007 – Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, Best Original Song, “Falling Slowly” from Once (Make sure you watch this one – there’s a part 2; and you can hear the song itself by clicking on “Falling Slowly” above)

2008 – Tom Hanks, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Philadelphia

2014 – Lupita Nyong’o, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, 12 Years a Slave

2014 – Jared Leto, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Dallas Buyers Club

So, which are your favorites??? 

 

Photo of Laura Biering taken by April Groome.

 

The YES of Snow!

By guest blogger, Betsey Brogan

Living in the South, we rarely get snow, let alone 5 inches. I grew up in Illinois, then lived for years in Colorado. I have had my share of snow and all that comes with it: cold, treacherous roads, loss of electricity, work missed, travel plans interrupted, and layer upon layer of cold weather garb. I have suffered my fair share of being stranded, being stuck, having my car lose control on the ice, frostbite and other not fun events.

I got so cold one time while skiing that I became disoriented and tried to resume skiing going UP hill! My car spun out of control driving to a ski lodge and performed three 360s, while I sang a loud rendition of “The Hills Are Alive” because I was so afraid! Once on a 10 mile cross country ski trip I laid down because I was so tired and told the rest of the group to go on without me and come back later to find my remains. (I did make it back, but only because my friend sang every song he knew to keep my mind off of how cold and exhausted I was.)

Tell me why then, when the snow began to come down steadily here in Atlanta, Georgia, all I could do was look out the window and say “Yes!!!”? My heart took flight and I squealed out in joy like a 9 year old girl. Snowday, snowday, Snowday!! I haven’t been in school for years, and for me a snow day means a loss in income, so why was I so darn excited?!? Why did seeing that snow come barreling down and accumulating on my car make me happy?! Why was I thrilled?

The snow coming down when you are snug in your home is beautiful. As it blankets my surroundings, it becomes a winter wonderland. There is such a newness to it and especially here in the South, a novelty. There is a quiet that comes with the snow that is comforting. The air is crisp.

During this snowday, I have often thought of folks not as fortunate as myself for whom this weather really is a hardship. The shelters are packed these cold and snowy days. Some people are without power. Some folks are hungry and cold. I say a little prayer for those in need.

I can’t help but feel a little wistful as I remember those nights as a child when I went to bed thinking tomorrow will be a snowday and I won’t have school. This is nature’s way of giving a kid a day off from school. How cool is that?

I don’t see any harm in enjoying a snowday. I have tried today to work at the desk, being productive. It ain’t gonna happen. My heart is still flipping from the joy I felt last night when the first flakes came down and I knew that thetoday would be a snowday. YES!

So here is the RiskADay challenge as it relates to a snowday. The next time nature comes along and gives you reason to delight in its beauty, say: Wow! The next time you are given the unexpected opportunity to take a day off work, say OKAY. The next time mother nature comes to your window and creates a beautiful landscape using her skills and your front yard say: THANK YOU. The next time you you are gifted with a snowday: say YES!

Betsey Brogan is on her way to creating World Peace – one massage at a time. On-site Chair Massage and In-Home table massage. Bringing Stress Relief to You.

This post originally appeared on RiskADay.com