Book Recommendation: Day Four

Yesterday, I woke up with a very sore throat and an earache. It was a very familiar feeling, and I was sure that I had strep throat again. Instead of getting upset as I usually do, I made the decision first thing that I would take it easy despite everything I believed I had to get done. I went through the list in my mind of the things that truly had to be done, and let the rest go. And that’s what brings me to my next book recommendation: The Magic by Rhonda Byrne.

The MagicOn November 1st, Allyson Bright, the founder of Determined to Shine, started a free thirty-day program based on The Magic. I had partially read the book before and had great success with it, but for some reason, I never finished it. I thought this was the perfect time to start it again, and this time, actually get through the entire book. The book has brief chapters that focus on a different gratitude practice that you perform each day while also keeping up some other gratitude practices every day. I have to say that, once again, this practice has drastically changed my life. Yesterday, when I woke up feeling like I had strep, that day’s practice had to do with saying thank you for every single thing you touched during your morning routine. Even though I wasn’t feeling well, I went ahead and started to express my gratitude for everything – my warm blanket, heat on a cold day, my feet touching the soft carpet, the honey ginseng green tea, my coffee cup, a comfortable reclining couch, my cuddly cats, and so on. I sat on the couch, sipped some green tea, and wrote out the other daily practice of writing down ten things I was grateful for and why.

By mid-afternoon, I felt 100% better. My sore throat was gone, my earache completely gone, and I was able to get more done yesterday than I had thought possible when I woke up feeling so unwell. This morning I woke up still feeling 100% healed. This is the first time I have experienced something so miraculous. In a typical year, I’ve experienced strep throat 9-10 times, so I am very familiar with what it feels like. This is the first time that my body has healed itself. I believe turning my focus away from not feeling well and putting it on gratitude gave my body the space to heal.

Something I often forget, and I’m not sure why, is that gratitude works…every single time. It shifts my mood quickly whenever I am feeling hopeless, alone, anxious, or that I don’t have everything I need. The trick is to really look at things I take for granted such as running water, internet service, food to eat, a comfy couch, a laptop to type this blog post on, a washer and dryer, and so on, and to keep building on those things. Writing a detailed gratitude list every day, including why I am grateful, has helped me to dig deeper and identify exactly those things I take for granted. I am often astounded by all the things I have that I take for granted, and it totally shifts my perception. I hope that you will try it and see if it works for you.

Book Recommendation: Day Three

Many, many years ago, on New’s Years Eve, I had written down all the things I had wanted to accomplish in the next year. I wrote the list on one of the pages in the front of my Day-Timer, and promptly forgot all about it. A year later, when I went to put the next year’s calendar refill into my Day-Timer, I found it again. When I read it, I was floored because I had accomplished every single thing on the list, and these weren’t small things, these were really big dreams that I had, dreams I had no idea how to “make” happen, things like “become a firefighter.”

downloadAfter that experience, I wanted to know more about why that had worked so well. That is when I came across my next book recommendation: Write it Down, Make it Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser. This is another of my permanent collection books. It is a book I turn to when I need a sense of hope. Klauser discusses her own experiences with writing things down and how miraculous the practice was at created what she wanted in her life. I am always looking for ways to believe in some kind of magic while still having a sense of control about it. This practice of writing things down is something that has worked well for me since.

In my experience, it seems the act of writing things down, and then letting them go (out of my mind), works best. I have a very large glass jar that it’s very difficult to get things out of and is dark blue so I can’t see into it. I write things I am most anxious about, things I wish I could have, and big dreams I hope to accomplish onto little strips of paper and then drop them into the jar. Every new year, I shake out the papers from the jar, and I am astounded by how many things 1) I forgot I had written down and 2) were miraculously taken care of. So many of them were HUGE worries that I was incredibly anxious about, and I was amazed at how they seemed so small in hindsight (once they were magically resolved of course). However, if there are things that I pull out of the jar that have not been resolved or achieved, then I re-evaluate whether they are sill important to me, and if they are, I drop them back into the jar for the next year. It is a practice that is very similar to that first New Year’s resolution list I wrote in my Day-Timer and then forgot about, and it is, to date, the most successful practice I’ve had that has allowed me to be able to look back on the things that I’ve wanted, written down, and dare I say, made happen.

Book Recommendation: Day Two

When my son was hospitalized in a residential facility several years ago, I was devastated. When even the staff of the residential facility didn’t know what to do to help him, I started to try to figure things out on my own. One of the practices that helped us both was something I learned from today’s book recommendation: Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro.

DevotionI learned a lot from this book, mostly to just accept where I was at, and that there wasn’t just ONE way to be spiritual. It was okay to collect what worked for me from many different practices, and develop my own spiritual practice. But, what I learned from this book that had the most profound impact on my son and me was the Metta meditation which Shapiro discusses on page 36.

At the time that I found this book, my son had a hard time processing conversations. At the age of 18 months, he had lost his ability to walk, talk, and most other basic functions. He eventually gained back speech, but it had begun as echolalia, and then progressed from there. However, even though he had gained back his speech fully by the time he went into the residential facility (oftentimes being described as the “little professor” because of his adult-like speech), he still had difficulty processing and understanding what others were saying. In addition, he had an acute need for repetition which had presented itself as a severe form of OCD.

I believe it was these aspects of him, as well as my wholehearted belief that even though I couldn’t change nature, I could certainly pour on as much positive nurture as possible, that made the Metta mediation process stand out to me. So, I created a personalized Metta prayer from several different sources and read it to him every night on the telephone when he was in the hospital and every night before he went to bed when he was home for visits. By the time he was released, we had both memorized it, and repeated it often when we felt any kind of anxiety or sense of being out of control. I still have one of the handwritten copies I had made and keep it in my purse where it can easily be accessed.

Our Metta Prayer

May I be safe.

May I be happy.

May I be strong.

May I be filled with love.

May I live with ease.

May I slow down and be more present.

May my heart be open to all that is.

May I have clarity of thought.

May I have clarity of speech.

May I have clarity of action.

Namaste.

This made a huge difference in our lives, and shortly after, my son began to write his own positive affirmations on post-it notes and post them all over the house to help him remember to be positive even though everything in his mind was telling him to be otherwise. I believe this practice is part of why he has not been hospitalized in the past six years.

A quick note: At the time I first read Devotion, I wrote a review on my other blog. If you’d like to know more about the book, you can read my thoughts here.

 

Book Recommendation: Day One

My dear Facebook friend, Kerry Scherer, suggested that I do 7 days of book recommendations. I had every intention of starting this on Monday, but my son came home from school on Monday with a migraine, and well, Tuesday was Tuesday, and then Wednesday flew by in a blur, and here we are on Thursday and finally my first book recommendation.

I can be an incredibly anxious person. I believe a lot of that anxiety stems from the belief that I have to do everything on my own. And, maybe some of it stems from wanting to do everything on my own, too. Another part of it stems from wanting to control things that are completely out of my control. I developed a very warped sense of myself and the world as a child due to severe mental and physical abuse and all in the name of an invisible man in the sky. So, I tried to be good. Tried to be very, very good. Developed the belief that if I could just do things perfectly, everything would be okay. The belief instilled in me was that everything bad that happened to me was because I did something wrong, and even if that wasn’t the case, it didn’t matter because there was something inside me that was inherently wrong, and as such, I deserved what I got. I have carried that with me since childhood, and judging from the emotions I feel right now typing it, I am still carrying it with me now. Why do I mention all of this? Because I’ve come to realize, as I look over my favorite books, that they almost all have something to do with finding an alternate way to believe in a power greater than my human self. I have come to realize that, despite all the difficulties I have experienced in my life, I am still a seeker, and this revelation brought back one of very few memories from childhood.

I remember standing on the half-moon drive that ran in front of our house and two others. I was surrounded by pine trees that seemed to pierce right through the sky. There was a moment while standing there, at maybe age seven or eight, when I just knew I was more than the circumstances I was living in. I knew that I was destined for more than what was happening around me. To adult me, it feels like a moment when an angel came down and whispered in my ear and said:

“This moment you are in is not you. You are so much more than this. Look beyond your circumstances.”

There have been more instances since then when I have heard the little whisper, and other times when I’ve been in such despair and there was nothing but silence. But, in 2011, I had a near death experience during surgery that shifted everything for me. The need to understand that experience (which I’m still trying to do) has definitely influenced what books I choose to read, and what books have the most impact on my life.

As I think more about the books I have read, I am fascinated by how they carry our memories with them. I can see a certain book on my shelf, and the memory of what I was going through at the time I was reading it comes into clear focus in my mind. Books are little storage units for our emotional and physical experiences. How powerful is that?

downloadMy first book recommendation is Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead by Tosha Silver. It is a book I turn to again and again when I am afraid, when my life circumstances feel out of control, or when I am fighting the need to try to control every little aspect along with the outcome of every situation in my life. This book is my cure for anxiety. It is a reminder that we can surrender everything, and let that mysterious power greater than ourselves do what it needs to do to bring us through whatever it is we are experiencing. What I love about this book is Tosha Silver doesn’t just say, “Let it all go,” she says, “Look for the signs of the Divine. They are everywhere.” And when you start to look for them, you realize she is right, there are little messages everywhere. It is a reminder of the magic of this Universe that none of us truly understand. All we can do is look for the little breadcrumbs that have been dropped along the way that say to us:

“This moment you are in is not you. You are so much more than this. Look beyond your current circumstances and you will see there is magic everywhere.”

Check out Tosha’s website, Facebook, and Instagram account. She is always posting amazing change me prayers along with insights and proof from her own life that you can let the Divine take the lead, let go of control, and things will work out better than you could have ever imagined. I believe all of us need to hear that message again and again and again.

 

Emoji Me: Disgust and Fear

I’ve been struggling with anxiety all day because I signed up to read a scene from my novel-in-progress at the Bluegrass Writers Studio MFA Alumni Reading event tomorrow afternoon. I’m not a fan of reading my work in front of people, but I know how important it is to do it anyway despite my fear and anxiety. Wish me luck!

As my sketchbook practice for today, I finished Nina Rycroft’s #EmojiMe Skillshare class. I drew one character with a disgusted facial expression and one with a fearful expression. It was surprisingly difficult for me to draw those facial expressions. It doesn’t help that I’m still struggling with sketching with graphite instead of my beloved blue pencil. However, it feels great to have completed another illustrating class.