Live Life Like Someone Forgot to Lock the Gate

Sophie runningDoggie friends, Sophe and Ziggy, live life like someone forgot to lock the gate. Sophe’s human companion Jim McDonnell lives by that motto too.   Jim proudly displays the trophy and blue ribbon that Sophe won in their partner race. This picture of Sophe running for joy shows her ears flying like sails. Jim runs and snowshoes for joy too; although his ears don’t flap in the breeze, his kilt does.   Sophe’s high-spirited nature charms Jim’s friends who marvel at her zest for life.

Our doggie neighbor Ziggy’s expression of joyful abandon infects everyone around her, too. Remember: don’t forget to lock the gate when Ziggy goes out.

Mean Mom doesn’t care to take on the responsibility of her own doggie family member, so my deprived, poochless kids get their doggie fix through neighbor dogs- especially Ziggy. My daughter thought she was in heaven when the neighbors offered to pay her to dog-sit for a couple days. I swear she would have paid the neighbors for the privilege of caring for Ziggy.

I do admit that I kind of enjoy dog-sitting at someone else’s house. Like a grandparent, I get to love them up and then go home. Ziggy, the pug-mix, overjoyed to see us and exuberant to go outside, races across the hardwood floor sending the rug skidding into the door which makes us laugh. Buster, the loving pug-mix, sends my daughter home perfumed with dog slobber. Like a starry-eyed girl after a first kiss, she doesn’t want to wash the love off her cheek.

Lesson for the day: find a job you love so much that you would pay someone to let you do it.

We observed another life lesson in action watching Ziggy and Buster interact. Ziggy squeaks her toy loudly in Buster’s face, prances back a few steps, then advances squeaking again to entice Buster to chase her. Buster’s food-focused priority enabled him to steal Ziggy’s sweet potato breakfast during her antics.

Second lesson: Seize the day! Focus on your priorities! Engage your friends in playful banter but eat good quality food first.

This week, I am on a road trip with my friend attending a seminar in Kansas City. WooHoo! Someone forgot to lock the gate! At the seminar, I marvel that I get to do work I absolutely love – work that feeds my Soul and allows me to contribute my gifts and talents to the world. My friend and I enjoy ourselves immensely savoring fabulous Thai cuisine, delicious bruschetta, grilled vegetables and even a glass of Chardonnay while learning skills to enhance the work we love to do. Doggie lessons one and two – check!

In the evening, I check in with the family to see if homework got done and how everyone’s day went. I left the family with plenty of food in the fridge, instructions to eat breakfast, and a schedule of the extracurricular activities to attend. I am both pleased and dismayed that they can function without my oversight. Maybe I can lighten up on the oversight.

Doggie Lesson Three – enjoy Sophe’s and Ziggy’s zest for life on a daily basis and in all areas of my life. I will work on that lesson when I get home.

Mouse Musings

Our pet mouse, Isabel, died today. Well, not actually my pet mouse. She is (or was) my daughter’s pet mouse. Isabel came home at the end of a 5th grade science experiment about the merits of fruits and vegetables.

My surprise at the passing of Isabel the white mouse is that I might miss her just a teeny bit. As I cut up vegetables for dinner, I realized I would no longer save tidbits for Isabel. Never did I dream that I would save vegetable scraps for a mouse. Curious things we do as parents. Living with Isabel the white mouse has taught me a few other things about life.

For a while, Isabel ran on her wheel every night. We shut the door so not to listen to the squeaking plastic wheel turn all night long. One day, we realized that we had not heard the wheel for a time. When we investigated why Isabel had stopped running, we discovered that the wheel had become lodged during a cage cleaning and would not turn. We adjusted the wheel so that it turned properly again, but weeks later, Isabel still would not run.

We mused that Isabel had failed so many times at turning the wheel that she quit trying. Even though one more try would have proved that the wheel turned freely, Isabel Mouse would sit in the wheel but she would not run.

How often do people behave like Isabel? They feel dejected over failure and refuse to try again. When have I quit trying, when one more attempt would have created success?

Towards the end of her life, Isabel appeared agitated and climbed the sides of the cage regularly looking for a way out. Maybe the cage was too stinky. Now, Isabel Mouse is free. Her carbon atoms buried under a tree combine with the carbon of the earth. Her life force energy combines with the Universal Life Force. Isabel Mouse finally got out of her cage.

Do you notice, as I do, how often people trap themselves in a cage of their own making – prisoners of old patterns of thought? Where in my life do I cage myself in my old stinking thinking patterns?

During meditation, I free myself from the stinking cage of my limited thinking mind. Focusing awareness on my breathing, I watch my thoughts pass by like clouds in the sky. With an open heart, I experience the freedom of aligning with Universal Life Force. I align with my Soul, connect to God, and feel free.

Thanks for the life lessons, Isabel Mouse. May you rest in peace.

Sending a Boomerang for Peace

Actively commemorating the Season of Non-Violence, between the dates of Ghandi’s and ML King’s deaths, January 30-April 4, gives me an opportunity to send out a boomerang for peace.

During the Season of Non-Violence, I invite you to pay particular attention to any negativity you send out before it comes back at you like a boomerang. I experienced this first hand one morning when we were rushing to get to an event on time. In a crabby mood, I fussed at the kids about their lack of preparation and the possibility of arriving late. The tension in the air escalated. I fumed in the kitchen, hurriedly throwing together ingredients for a dish to bring to the third event in a day with back-to-back activities. In a careless, not-at-all-mindful moment, I knocked over a can of olives, sending the liquid flying all over the floor and behind the stove.

I took a deep breath, recognizing that I had just magnetically attracted that experience into my morning. Like attracts like. My negativity had come back to me like a boomerang.

Pulling the stove out to the center of the room, I cleaned the floor and the wall behind the stove while imagining that I was cleaning the negativity from my aura. The day got brighter. On that specific day, I had to focus several times on mindfulness in the moment.

Some days require the extra mindful awareness to my responses. The fellow in the next car flips me off because he doesn’t like the way I am driving. Breathe. When I am mindful of being the change I want to see in the world, I send a boomerang for peace, “I hope the rest of your day goes better.” If I am not paying attention, or if I have already collected too much negativity in the day, I may boomerang negativity back at him – which will come back to me later.

I invite you to bring mindful awareness into your daily interactions. Are you sending a boomerang for peace or for violence?

While attending kids’ sporting events in the past few years, I have sometimes noticed adults yelling or speaking rudely to players or refs. My daughter and I commented on a poster at a kids’ basketball tournament, which read: “Remember, this is a game. The players are kids. The coaches are volunteers. The refs are human. This is not the NBA. Have Fun!” I invite you to be aware of the level of respect in your tone of voice at your kids’ sporting events. Are your comments contributing to hostility or to fun?

Today, I had the opportunity to talk with middle-schoolers about non-violence. Gossip presented as the hot topic. One student suggested that when she hears negative talk about a friend, she weighs what she knows about the person and chooses not to believe negativity. Another student says that she walks away from negative talk and will come back when her friends change the topic.

A couple years ago, while assisting with two situations requiring conflict resolution among adults, we found that the root of the conflict started with miscommunications via electronic media. When volleying email and text messages back and forth, I invite you to be mindful of your intention. Others cannot hear your voice and may misinterpret your words. Misunderstandings over electronic communication can mess up relationships. When I get an email or text message that feels prickly to me, I try to communicate verbally in person or via phone call to sort out the underlying message.

Being the change I want to see in the world, as Ghandi urged, requires that I put mindfulness into practice in my daily life. It takes one set of skills to be mindful of my thoughts while sitting peacefully in meditation. Being mindful during daily interactions requires another set of skills. In what ways are your thoughts, words and actions contributing to peace or to violence? What is on the boomerang you are sending out today?

Leah Skurdal teaches classes on meditation and wellbeing at the Wellness Circle in Lino Lakes, Minnesota. For more information, click here. Or visit her website, www.MasteryInTheArtofLiving.com

Recharging Your Batteries Efficiently

When did you learn efficiency of time?
Daughter #2 and I arrive home at the same time. I shovel snow, eat a snack, pack an overnight bag for an away basketball tournament, throw in a load of laundry, clean up the kitchen and am ready to go – in the time it takes for Daughter to finish packing the bag she started the night before.
When do we learn that level of efficiency? Apparently not at birth. Is it a personality characteristic or a mommy tool honed over years of supervising multiple activities? Perhaps both.
Sometimes that efficiency overlooks an important detail: ME Time. Sometimes I get so focused on getting things done that I neglect adding “Down time for myself” onto the TO Do list. Maybe you are like me and squeezing in an hour of yoga, 20 minutes of meditation and a cup of tea before bed is the best quality ME Time you get. Actually, that’s pretty good for one day, but paltry as the sum total for the week.
Some weeks feel like a roller coaster with hairpin turns. Maybe you land gracefully, ready to dance on Friday night. Maybe you catapault into a heap on the sofa with a bag of potato chips and a soda. By the end of the week your inner battery needs serious recharging.
When your batteries run low, here are three tips for efficiently recharging your body, mind and spirit before running off to your next activity.
Breathe. Find a quiet space for five minutes. Yes, you can. Go sit in the bathroom. Imagine that you are breathing through a nose in the center of your chest. Touch your thumb to each finger while saying, “I am at peace.” Repeat for ten heart breaths. Notice your energy move from your head to your heart. Listen to your inner voice.
Move. Find your own body rhythm and stretch. Reach overhead, up on your toes, stretch side to side, bend down low. Listen to your heartbeat. How does your body want to move? Notice, stretch and breathe into an area of tightness. Relax the back of your tongue. Wow! You didn’t know your tongue was tense until you relaxed it, did you?
Ask. What would feel good now? A luxurious, sweet smelling bath? Clean sheets on the bed? A foot massage? Extra care washing and moisturizing your face? Choose and schedule a self-pampering activity. Then, be sure to do it.
Efficiently recharging your batteries on a regular basis helps you stay out of depletion mode. You stay available for your loved ones, remain productively in the flow of the things you love to do, and you can monitor your own wellbeing. Periodically, though, a deeper recharging of your batteries benefits the entire clan as well as yourself. A weekend spa sounds great but not practical with our schedule. A half-day to myself feels doable and luxurious though. Dedicate some extended ME time just for yourself to nourish and renew yourself and to recharge your batteries. You will be glad you did.

Living on Purpose

When you are living your life on purpose, you feel connected to something bigger than yourself. You feel grounded and anchored in your core values. Your inner compass is set to Due North and when you get off track you can easily check your inner coordinates and get back on track. Mastery in the Art of Living helps you connect to your inner GPS and create the life you choose.