Thursday, March 4, 2010

"How To Be An Angel..."

(Posted today at "A Dose of Positivity"):

I love modern technology. We added the “TEVO” service to our satellite/cable service last year, and simply put - it's amazing!

Since my husband and I don't watch a huge amount of television, this handy little service allows us to record the programs we do watch, and save them until a time when we can view them. (without having to deal with tapes or discs.) With the boys still at home, it's really handy when mom and dad are forced to watch something later on!

The other day I noticed that Oprah had a special guest on that my husband and I had recently been reading about. He wasn't quite ready to leave his home-office for the day, so I recorded the show so that we could watch it together. Oprah's guest that day was Mr. Roger Ebert, the famous movie critic (most notably of  At The Movies - with Siskel and Ebert) who has been battling Thyroid cancer since about 2005. Even though the majority of her show that day was to be on the upcoming Oscars, I was so glad that we had the opportunity to watch this particular piece together, because Roger Ebert's appearance was extremely inspirational, and it couldn't have come at a better time for us.

Because of the degree of Mr. Ebert's cancer, the entire lower portion of his jaw was removed. Many of you might remember what this gentleman previously looked like during the high-point of his career.  The numerous surgeries he has had to endure have dramatically changed his appearance. What deeply impressed us was that his appearance is no longer as important to him, and Roger had no issues with being on television in front of millions of people, speaking through his wife and the latest in computer/voice technology.

His entire career being the sharing of thoughts and opinions to millions of people, Roger can no longer communicate with his own voice, and no longer eat or drink. Accompanied by his wife Chaz, Oprah asked if Roger missed "eating." Chaz responded that he actually missed the bonding and camaraderie that occurs when sharing meals with friends and family. He now often watches his wife eat, vicariously experiencing the meal through her.

Even in the face of such hardship (which honestly, would crush the best of us) Roger Ebert exudes courage, strength, and peace. He has continued to find meaning and purpose in his life, not letting his unfortunate medical past and ensuing physical handicaps prevent him from taking part in life's special events – he's even attending this year's Academy Awards show. He continues to write movie reviews and news, as well as his personal journal and blog (see the links below).  More importantly, Roger is determined to live his life in an attitude of Joy:

"I believe that if - at the end of it all - according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do.  To make others less happy is a crime; to make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts.  We must try to contribute Joy to the world.  That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances - we must try.  I didn't always know this, and I am happy that I have lived long enough to find it out."   

(Passage read from Roger Ebert's journal by his wife Chaz on Oprah, Wednesday, March 3, 2010.)

Roger had written this testimony down prior to the show, and as his wife read it aloud to the audience and viewers, it was obvious that it had deeply moved Oprah Winfrey. My husband and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes. This is a man who clearly knows why he is still here, and continues to courageously walk forward in that belief.

Even though their presence might come to us via the television, internet, mail or other form of communication, I firmly believe that God “places” certain people in our paths at specific moments in our lives. There are many definitions of what an angel is, but I personally believe it is a being(s) sent or placed to be near us at crucial times in our lives. My husband and I were immediately uplifted upon witnessing Roger Ebert's cheerful and poignant message, and I knew deep within that the two of us were meant to hear it together at that particular moment. For this reason, I not only believe that angels exist in the spiritual realm, but here on earth as well.

We might not actually consider a particular person an “angel,” but perhaps their presence or the manner in which they were introduced into our lives was indeed an angelic moment. Many would call this divine providence, and it's not uncommon for this to happen when we least expect it, often not even noticing that we've made a deep, spiritual connection with another. I'm quite certain that at some point in my life, I may have personally missed the signs that I had crossed paths with someone that touched me in this regard - or that I might have touched theirs.

Perhaps when we are at our lowest moments - when we are searching for guidance and any form of hope – our hearts are more open to recognizing those that come to us with angelic aid. It can be quite easy to ignore the fact that “someone” else might have played a part in our lives when things are going smoothly.

While it's very important, taking time to “stop and smell the roses” doesn't necessarily mean that we should take time to relax and just enjoy being where we are. It can also mean taking time to notice those around us – even though they may have come into our lives only briefly – and appreciating their presence and connection to us at that moment.

Since I began this blog, I've found myself becoming even more attuned to those around me – even those that I “meet” on television or the internet. While writing, I'm opening my heart and soul to the page. Prior to putting a particular thought or idea to pen, I've almost always been struck with the realization that someone else has played an integral part in my feelings or experiences.

I'm certain that Roger Ebert has no idea that he touched our hearts so deeply yesterday, as well as hundreds of thousands of others.  Sometimes the Lord places an angel in the path of many...  it's up to us to notice and take heed of their message.

Sometimes God uses us, without us even knowing. 

Perhaps you will be an angel today - bringing your own, very special gift of Joy to another who needs it - at just the right moment.

Pay it forward - spread a smile!

For addtional information on Roger Ebert:

Roger's Journal / reviews:

Guest appearance on Oprah:

Esquire Magazine's Profile on Roger Ebert:

Photos property of Google Images & Esquire Magazine

Does the Dalai Lama cry?

As I look before me on my little bookshelf I see many wonderful books created to educate, inspire, uplift, and educate. I have the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, and books on I Ching wisdom and Buddhism. I have Dr. Wayne DyerEckhart TolleAndrew Cohen, and Doreen Virtue adorning my shelves as well. I have books on acceptance, living in the now, recovery, humility, religion, faith and self help. You will also see this roster punctuated with Stephen KingDan Brown, and Mitch Albom. I think there is also a Dr. Seuss up there too.

The interested thing I find in the tomes I have read containing a more spiritual nature, they all, in their own dialect, point to certain values, practices, and observations of how to live a spiritually fulfilled life. Although varying in many ways, they also conjoin to teach us of awareness of ourselves and our actions, compassion to others, beliefs of a higher nature, accountability, and certain moral modes of conduct. It is this research that helped me understand and appreciate others and their right to what they believe, and if what you place your faith upon, or whom for that matter, works for you, then who am I to judge? Many of the ideals I learned, once distilled to their spiritual core, all seem to eventually converge to certain universal core values.

For me personally I was called to write this more so as a digestion of my observation of why I read, research, and try to develop myself. Why do I try to keep a glistening shine on my spiritual self? On top of that, I was pondering the paradox of enjoying the journey and if it is and infinite one, or do we eventually become truly enlightened? Do we hit “cruise control” at a certain level? How does one become considered a prophet, a holy man, or a sought after pinnacle of his or her faith?

As I looked through time, I noticed the most revered people of faith, the tops of the spiritual pyramids if you will, were not only praised, but often equally chastised. I also found the beliefs they taught or followed had many common traits described in their own vernacular, but they came from what many consider very “different” belief systems. They leaders were often ostracized or banished or even killed. Even though they taught love and human compassion, many of their followers thought others were incorrect, and at times deserving of imprisonment, or death. Regardless of what you or I believe, I find it confusing.

I guess what led me to this is I indeed have read, practiced, and researched the works of great spiritual teachers both current and past to experience a better life and appreciation for all things. Once a certain level is understood, the basic tenets are simple. Like basketball for example; it is easy. Put the ball in the basket. Now doing it in the dynamic of a game, when the obstacles are flying at you are where the challenges come in and the practice is needed. It shows too why there are only so many legends in this game as well. Consistency, patience, practice, understanding, tenacity, and heart all leverage growth and can be a difficult recipe for the masses to acquire.

I then wondered, is there a level where things just level out? Is there a time when your understanding is just so ingrained that life’s challenges are no longer as difficult or consuming? Is there a time when you totally release all circumstances to the, “it is in God’s ( the universe’s, the Source’s, the deity of your choice’s) hands now, and I am totally okay with it?” Is there a point where faith and or spirituality are strong enough to where you truly, I mean truly find you are in honest and total acceptance and allowance? Not a fa├žade you stand behind because you feel it is the right thing, what is expected, or that others will think less of you if you do not wave a banner of faith. It just was something I wonder about.

I see many of my friends of strong faith and conviction, and spiritual practice recently enduring some challenges. They turn to their faith and belief systems (as they should) to find solace. They turn to following the practices and teaching of the belief systems they follow. I then wondered, about the demeanor of the leaders of the faiths in question and how they got where they were spiritually in such situations. Maybe I have too much time on my hands. But I thought, we follow them because they have something extra special. They have overcome or gained an understanding we hope to someday achieve. They have endured enormous challenges of both physical and spiritual nature, and seem to arrive well on the other side. There is a gap between them and us we are led to aspire to close. That is why we study them.

Unfortunately since most of the supreme leaders of most belief systems are deceased, I am saddened that I cannot ask them some simple questions. I want to go to the source and not a mortal’s interpretation of their words.

A couple of days ago it was brought to my attention that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was coming to my neck of the woods soon. Then I thought, “He is a good example; a kind, gentle, and very wise soul!” Here is a man who is a leader to many and of great spiritual conviction. He also lives in the world I live in, in a time I live in. He also has suffered and to a much greater extent. He is estranged from his homeland against his will. He tries to share a message of love and peace in a challenging time. Great candidate!

I want to ask him if he cries. Does he, a great spiritual man, one of deep conviction, and leader to many break down at some of the things he sees or experiences? Does he consider himself still human like us, or does he feel he has elevated beyond the frailties due to his deep understanding? And yes I want to know too, is it weak to fall when we know better? Does it show we are mortal regardless of our training, or is that what we are actually supposed to achieve to experience humanity in its truest form? Is spiritual greatness adding to our knowledge or actually decreasing what we know? Is it more troubling to know too much or too little? If so what would that be and how much and by whose standard. I think I need more time than he would have for me.

I know that it is none of my business, but I just want to know that the people I have read about, and those I and others revere were perhaps a bit closer. To just for a moment think we are not so distant. Hopefully I will get a chance to see the Dalai Lama when he comes here to Ohio. I just want to know if he cries, and when I do that it is okay.

(*Note - I read many things to understand them, but it does not necessarily mean a practice or endorsement of the material)

This is a re-post from Artisan of the Human Spirit

Neuroplastic Transformation

I’m reading The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge and it has me thinking.

I can’t remember how I learned about emotions. I have memories of the warmth of my mum’s hugs, the intensity of worry and fear I had over things, the absolute joy, happiness and excitement and terrible wrenching sadness.

I know I had seesawing emotions over dreams, nightmares, quarrels, loss, love and Christmas and birthdays.

My feelings were intense. I remember being able to tell straight way if someone was angry or happy or sad, but only if their feelings were relevant to me.

I remember my internal world felt as if it was bigger than me.

I don’t know how I learned that other people had feelings inside them just like mine, and why it matters to know how others are feeling.

I know my emotional development ran alongside my reading, writing and arithmetic progress. I know that it was hard work to work it all out.

And because I am also reading The Time Travellers Wife I really want to go back and meet myself as a child to find the answers to these questions. But that is not possible, so I did the next best thing and dug out my school reports to look for clues about my emotional development.

At age 6 my school reports show that I was domineering and inclined to mumble, but I was also a keen and eager student.

At age 7 my domineering behaviour was reduced to just being 'impatient with others', but I was becoming more self confident (which the teacher suggested I needed encouragement with).
All reports say I was still impatient at age 8 but I remained a very keen and eager student.
By the age of 9 at the beginning of my 4th year at school, I had almost overcome my impatience, and my school reports show this problem was resolved by the end of that year.
These comments never appeared again, but were replaced with comments about how well I cooperated, my willingness to share and how well adjusted I was.

What happened?

I seem to have extinguished my impatience and built my self confidence while maintaining my eagerness to learn.

I imagine I learned that others had feelings and I made room for them, and I learned to control my feelings.
I underwent a neuro (for neuron) plastic (for changeable, malleable, modifiable) transformation. For that is what learning is; the brain changing its own structure through thoughts and brain activity.

Our early educational and social experiences matter. But it’s good news that adult brains can rewire because not all learning, thoughts and experiences are good.

In the blink of an eye

Sometimes it takes extraordinary circumstances to make you truly appreciate the ordinary; the everyday things that we so often take for granted.

Like sight, for example.

Last night I was pottering around the house, doing a bit of pool maintenance and while I was filling a container with caustic cleaning fluid, a drop splashed out of the bucket and straight into my eye.

At that moment, a wave of panic washed over me. As I rushed to the laundry, screamed for help, shot up some urgent, fervent prayers and started to flush my eyes under the tap, it dawned on me just how quickly things can be permanently altered.  All it takes is one slip, one wrong turn, one small accident and life can change forever.

Without my vision, I would never see another sunrise. The absolute delight of that moment when the sky starts to streak with colour would be permanently etched in my memory but would never again be experienced.

Without my vision, I would miss the joy of seeing my family and loved ones grow older. I would miss the cheeky smiles, unsaid words, winks, nods and silent tears I may ordinarily be able to wipe away.

If I was unable to see again, my freedom would be limited. I would never drive again and would be unable to step outside of my home alone.

Without my vision, I would never again be able to read a book; wouldn't be able to relish the moments when I can curl up with a cup of tea and totally immerse myself in a world of fiction. My ability to learn and discover via a trip to Borders would be something I would surely miss.

Without sight, I would feel detached from the world I have come to know as my own. I would be unable to cook, go for long walks, surf the Internet or watch a movie. I wouldn't be able to stand and take in a view, put on my makeup or clean my own house.

If I lost the ability to see, whilst it would certainly not be the end of my life, it would mean a tremendous loss of things I love so much, yet daily take for granted. 

Thanks to a quick reaction on my part, an even quicker jump to action by my beloved, and a prompt, thorough treatment at the local emergency department, I am relieved to report that all is now well with my eye. Whilst it is a little tender and puffy from all of the trauma, I have completely clear vision and no pain or side-effects. The doctor who followed us up this morning said that I was very lucky as alkaline-based products can be far worse and more damaging than acid.

Lucky? I think not. I am blessed to have a God who is looking out for me.

And blessed to have the gift of sight; something I want to appreciate and be thankful for every single day of my life.

Also posted on Write Minded

Dreams Do Come True!

'Don't be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so.'

Belva Davis.

I came across this wonderful quote yesterday. It was very fitting as I was thinking about a book idea which I am really excited about, but was trying to push away the negative chatter of my ego.

When I read the quote, I felt a sudden rush or reassurance. My ego stopped in its tracks and I dared to carry on with my dream.

It occurred to me that it is not enough to have a dream. You need to have faith and patience to make things happen.


If one of these components is missing the dream will not manifest, or it will manifest in a way which is not in the best interest for everyone involved.

As the quote by Davis states:

'Don't be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality'

Release your dream having no expectation, releasing the need to control situations.

'If you can dream it, you can make it so.'

If you can dream it, it will become a REALITY.

Have FAITH and PATIENCE because Dreams do Come True!