Conversations By The River

"Water's Edge," Dumbo, Brooklyn. 2014

“Water’s Edge,” Dumbo, Brooklyn. 2014

This morning I was drawn to the river.  I hadn’t been down to the steps of Dumbo since they closed the portion of the park closest to where I live.  When I arrived, there were three photographers set up with tripods, shooting.  I am grateful for the conversation I had with one of them.  His name was Anthony and he had taken up photography three months ago.  I learned so much from him in our brief exchange and I am motivated to save for a new camera.  In this photo you can see that so much happens at the river’s edge…waves crash, driftwood collects, moss grows and friendships form.

 

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Invitations To Be Led

"Path at Omega," Rhinebeck, NY 2014

“Path at Omega,” Rhinebeck, NY 2014

I am grateful for the workshop “Channeling Your Creativity” given by Alanis Morissette and James Van Praagh at The Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY.  I had found James’ book “Talking To Heaven” one morning on the book shelves of Blue Spirit in Costa Rica.  Upon returning home, I looked on the Omega website to find that this was being offered.  It was an unforgettable and life changing weekend.  It was also a full circle moment to see my cards on display at the bookstore.  I am grateful for how life unfolds, the signs along the way, the people we meet and the invitations to be led.

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Daffodils

"Daffodil Bowl," Summit Arboretum, Summit, NJ 2014

“Daffodil Bowl,” Summit Arboretum, Summit, NJ 2014

I am grateful for daffodils.  For me, they are the surest sign that Spring has arrived.  On Friday, I had the pleasure of eating a picnic lunch next to my sister on a bench overlooking this sight.  I don’t remember ever seeing this many daffodils at once.  As the determined sun beat down and reassured us, a light breeze made their heads bob in the wind.  They all seemed to be nodding in agreement that we had made it through the winter and it was time to let out a big exhale, in gratitude for this new season.

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Sunrises

"Sunrise at Blue Spirit," Nosara, Costa Rica, 2014

“Sunrise at Blue Spirit,” Nosara, Costa Rica, 2014

I am grateful for the beginning of the day and the days when I am awake to greet the sun.  Earlier this month I was in Costa Rica at Blue Spirit on a Qoya retreat with my friend, Rochelle Schieck, and thirty four other women.  Because of the two hour time difference I awoke each morning at 4 am to say hello to the starry skies.  As the sky lightened the roosters would begin to crow and the monkeys would begin to howl.  After making myself a cup of tea, I would wait, from this perch, to see the sun come up over the mountains.  It brought new meaning to the local greeting “Pura Vida.”

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Unexpected Gifts

"Gratitude Rock," 2014

“Gratitude Rock,” 2014

Yesterday I arrived home to find a small package in the mail.  Inside of it was this rock with a note that read:  “Thank you for being in the world & for your positive energy!”  It was from a mother of one of my son’s classmates.  We have known one another for over ten years since they were in the same kindergarten class.  I will treasure this gift forever and remember the feeling of being seen.  It inspires me to do the same for someone else.  I am grateful for unexpected gifts and their ripple effects.

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Agapi Stassinopoulos

"Agapi Stassinopoulis, author, actress, speaker," 2014

“Agapi Stassinopoulos, author, actress, speaker,” 2014

I am grateful for Agapi Stassinopoulos.  She is a woman who embodies wisdom and an open heart.  Her most recent book Unbinding The Heart – A Dose of Greek Wisdom, Generosity And Unconditional Love is a real gem.  In it, she shares many stories that invite the reader into her world of optimism and possibility.  I was particularly drawn to the anecdotes that involved her mother who seems to have taught her that we are all born with open hearts.  At last year’s Hayhouse “I Can Do It” seminar in New York City she brought the entire audience to it’s feet with her exuberance and contagious joy.  When I told her that my copy of her book had been lost in a fire that I had had in my bedroom she invited me to her home to sign books for myself, my mother and my sister.  It is appropriate that my first guest blogger is Agapi and it is on Valentine’s Day eve.  My heart is full as I share her words on gratitude here.  They were originally published in The Huffington Post on August 24, 2012.

Recipes for Love: What Are You Taking for Granted?

by Agapi Stassinopoulos

My mother used to say, “You can’t be unhappy and grateful at the same time.” Over the years, I have found how right she was, in matters of the heart.

Often, we think of love as a big emotional experience and we put conditions on it. We think, if X, Y, and Z happen, I can experience love. We think of it as something outside ourselves that we suddenly arrive at one day. But actually that is not so.

I think of love like the air we are breathing. It’s always there, even if we don’t notice it. However, when our minds, emotions, preoccupations, shoulds, worries and doubts take over, they can profoundly interfere with experiencing the simple state of loving.

How do we access it? We need triggers so we can remind ourselves that love is always there. How do we know it in our hearts as a breathing, living, knowing, practical, grounded state of our daily existence? How do we know it when we feel challenged, when we’re running to our jobs and our kids are throwing temper tantrums and we’re late for the train and we can’t find our keys? How do we find that love in the hustle and bustle of life? When we feel criticized and rejected? When we are judging ourselves and our circumstances? When we don’t get what we want? When our colleague gets promoted for a job we wanted? When we ask for a raise and we don’t get it? When the bills are mounting and we don’t know how to pay them? Where is love then, and most importantly, how do we find it? How do we get back to our hearts? And why does it matter?

Here is the quickest fix for getting into your heart: BEING GRATEFUL. I believe that true gratitude can shift even the most negative emotions. As my mother used to say, we cannot occupy two conflicting states of emotion at the same time. If you are unhappy, challenged and feeling stuck, here is the key to shift: gratitude. “Change the channel to what you want to experience,” was another one of my mother’s favorite sayings.

Think about something you are grateful for. If the kids are screaming and they don’t want to put their jackets on, maybe take a deep breath and pause, feel grateful that you have kids who have jackets and that you have enough money to get on the train and even the fact that there is a train. If you’re upset that your colleague is getting a raise and promotion, can you take a moment to be really, really grateful that you still have a job?

I was recently watching the Oprah Lifeclass, where a mother talked about the call she got 11 years ago, when she learned her three daughters were in a terrible car accident. One daughter was told she’d never walk again. The other two daughters were in critical condition. They all survived to tell the story. The daughter who was told she couldn’t walk now walks, and is pregnant. When Oprah asked the daughters what they learned from this tragedy, they all replied, “Never take anything for granted.”

Life can change in an instant. I have never forgotten a quote I read in a Time magazine interview with Christopher Reeve, where he spoke about watching people do everyday things, like unbutton a jacket, pick up a fork, tie their shoes or walk up steps. He said, “If they only knew how lucky they are.”

He said this as he lay there with doctors and nurses trying to help him move his limbs, hooked up to all kinds of medical machines, including a ventilator. I wonder, why is it that we have to wait for something so tragic to happen to be grateful for the miracle of our lives?

I had an experience the other morning that brought this point home. As I was getting out of bed, I was overwhelmed by the day’s schedule, which was packed because I’m in the middle of my book tour for Unbinding the Heart. As I started to worry about how I would do it all, something inside said, “Get back to bed and start your day by being grateful.” So I spent a half-hour going over all the things I am grateful for, starting with the miracle of my body, my family and friends and the opportunity to do something I really love. It’s remarkable how, as I got out of bed, I had so much energy, joy and kept moving from one thing to the other without feeling overwhelmed. Riding the wave of gratitude can definitely keep your spirits high.

Gratitude leads to great-fullness, and this feeling of fullness is the entryway to our hearts when they are closed and shut off. Once we are in our hearts, we find solutions to the problems that once seemed overwhelming. Once you start on the road of gratitude, there is no limit, because there are so many things we take for granted and so many things we can be grateful for. Being in a state of gratitude can move you into a state of power and presence. From a state of gratitude, we can ask for help, and people are moved to help us. A state of gratitude puts us in a state of worthiness. In a state of worthiness, we know that we are not alone.

The five-step, quick fix to get back to your heart:

1. Suspend all judgements of what is going on

2. Change the channel to being grateful for every little thing.

3. Continue to be grateful and appreciative for things that are right in your life.

4. Observe how with gratitude things can shift for you.

5. Express gratitude in words and actions to those around you.

 

 

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Gymnastics

"DHS Gymnast, Emily" Darien, CT 2014

“DHS Gymnast, Emily” Darien, CT 2014

I am grateful to have gone back and seen the Darien High School gymnastics team compete in a meet yesterday.  I am grateful for my friendship with Ellie Southworth, the coach of this team, who invited me to attend.  Thirty years ago, in 1984, I had been the co-captain of this same team.  I loved watching the girls compete on the balance beam, my best event.  It was exciting to see DHS win against the opposing team by two points.  Of course even more exciting for me was experiencing this full circle moment.

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Early Influences

"Myself and Tom Griffin at Darien YMCA" Darien, CT by Ellie Southworth

“Myself and Tom Griffin at Darien YMCA” Darien, CT by Ellie Southworth

I am grateful to have run into my first French teacher from 7th grade at the Darien YMCA yesterday.  I was able to thank him for being the first influence of this language and to tell him that I had gone on to become a French minor in college.  As I recounted that I had studied in Paris, worked on an archeological dig in Burgandy and sold shoes in a Parisian shoe store, I realized that it all started back in his classroom, at Mather Junior High School.  I am grateful for early influences and the chance to acknowledge them.

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Snow Globes

"Snow Globe," 2013 by Tara Dixon

“Snow Globe,” 2013 by Tara Dixon

I am grateful for snow globes.  Life is like one.  Magic and miracles are always present.  Sometimes it appears that all the pixie dust of life does not exist at all.  We feel flat…dead almost.  But it is there.  Just as the sparkles rest sedentary, they are ready to be released and float and drift in wonderous swirls.  This analogy came to me the other day.  It seems that something is afoot.  Goodness, kindness, warmth and love are everywhere I turn.  It’s as if my life is a snow globe.

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Hugs

"Hug" 2013 photo by Hilary Allinson

“Hug” 2013 photo by Hilary Allinson

I am grateful for hugs.  Recently I read that it is recommended to give and receive a minimum of eight hugs a day for optimal happiness.  I love this photo that my sister took of me hugging one of her sons on Thanksgiving day.  There is something so nourishing about an embrace.  In this exchange of energy and pressure hearts are allowed to get closer then normal.  There is a transfer of love.

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