Friday, April 24, 2015

You're Ripening to Perfection

Dr. Christaine Northrup wrote a great book titled “Goddesses Never Age ~ The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being.”  Even though it’s geared towards women, it’s also a great read for men as well. 

The premise is that age is more of an attitude and state of mind than a biological issue, although biology does play a role.  Mark Twain said that “Age is an issue of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”   It’s true.  We see people who are in the 70’s or older who look and feel much younger than their age.  They have a lot of energy, have a passion for life, and they may even look a lot younger than they are.  They work at being healthy, eat healthy foods, stay active, and take little to no medications.  Then there are those who are much younger than the above and yet they look and feel a lot older, they have no energy, no passion for life, may have a lot of health issues, and they take a lot of medications. 

Yes, there are a lot of factors that can play into a person’s overall health and vitality.  Some health issues sometimes can’t be avoided (though there are those who say they can and have done so).  Our life experiences, culture, upbringing, beliefs, where we live, the foods we eat, our thoughts, heredity (to a degree), drugs, alcohol, smoking, stress, sugar, all play a factor.  All these can have an effect on our state of mind, which then also influences the way we take or don’t take care of ourselves.

Our thoughts can greatly affect our health and impact our aging process.  Are we positive and optimistic, or negative and pessimistic?  Our thoughts become us.  There are many people who have become so identified with their health issues that it’s all they can talk about.  The more we talk about our ill health, the more we manifest ill health.   

We also have our beliefs about aging.  Do we believe that we’re “old” by a certain age?  Do we expect that we’ll automatically get an “age-related” illness?  If so, this tends to become a self-fulfilling prophesy and we will more than likely get what we expect.  In fact, I never use the word “old” anymore; instead I’ll say “older.” 

Dr. Deepak Chopra said that we don’t die of old age.  We die of illnesses and diseases.  If we could live illness-free, we could live to a healthy 120 years old!  Rarely does anyone die of natural causes anymore. 

I’ve heard people say that life is short so they’re going to eat, drink, and be merry while they can.  That’s fine.  If this is the case, then they can’t complain when it has all taken a toll on their health in a negative way. Personally, I would rather try to be as healthy as I can now so that my chances will be good of having a good quality of life in my last years.  My goal is to have a healthy mind, body, and Spirit so that I can live healthfully as long as possible.

Spiritually, we were given these body vessels to house our souls.  It is said that our bodies are our temples.  They should be worshiped, cared for, and loved unconditionally.  We should eat healthy foods from the earth and not put anything unnatural in or on our bodies.  Is it easy?  Not always.   But with effort, we can do our bodies and mind a world of good.

It really does go back to how much we love ourselves and how much we realize our true magnificence!  When we truly love ourselves unconditionally, we will want to take excellent care of ourselves and live as healthy a life as possible.  I’m still working on this myself.  It’s a process, but I’m trying.

Age really is just a number and it has no meaning except for the meaning that we give to it.  I no longer believe in age.  There are times when someone asks me how old I am and I have to think really hard to remember.  I’ve always said, “Einstein proved that there’s no such thing as time, so if there’s no such thing as time, then there’s no such thing as age.  Besides, I refuse to be identified by a number, whether it’s my age or my weight.”  (My quote.)

We really do need to ask ourselves, “If we didn’t know how old we were, how old would we be?”  Think of it this way… “You’re not aging.  You’re ripening to perfection.”  As Abraham Lincoln stated, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 24, 2015.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Love from the Reservation

A couple years out of high school (70's), I had the wonderful privilege to live on an Indian reservation in British Columbia.  After seeing the movie “Billy Jack,” I fell in love with the American Indians, their culture, and their spirituality.  Later, the opportunity manifested to go to the reservation through a student missionary program affiliated with the church I was attending at the time. 

My first week was to go through training on Vancouver Island along with other student missionaries from all over the country.  I don’t remember a whole lot from this week other than the horror I felt when I saw and heard the various religions and missionaries arguing over who would save the ‘savages.’  Savages?!?!  Shocked and repulsed was an understatement!  From that moment on I decided that I didn’t want anything more to do with the missionary program and that I was just going to live with my Indian brothers and sisters, love them, and accept them just as they were.

After training week was over, they divided us up into teams and sent us to different areas on the reservation.  My teammate and I found ourselves living on the Okanagan Reservation near Vernon, B.C.  We found ourselves first staying in a pick-up camper trailer.  It was small and cramped, but we loved it.  One night, we were awakened by the shaking of the camper.  Nervously, we looked out to see what could be causing it and found a horse was rubbing his hind end against the corner of the camper. 

The family we lived with was the Louis family consisting of the elder mom and dad, Ben and Rosie (whose home we later moved into), fifteen children (age 21 and older), and a slew of grandchildren.  I immediately fell in love with every single one of them.  Most, if not all, of the men and boys were rodeo cowboys, so we shared a love for horses.  (Just recently, the Ben Louis family as a whole, five generations, were inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame.)

Because I was so accepting of my new family, we got along famously, and I was later told by the staff psychiatrist that I was the only student missionary out of all of them that had no culture shock. 

I grew close to Ben and Rosie and they came to be like a grandmother and grandfather to me.  Rosie and I kept in touch for years after I left until her death some time later.  Their children and grandchildren and I also bonded and they were like brothers and sisters to me.  In fact, to this day, I still consider them all my family.   

During the summer, I spent a lot of time with the grandchildren in particular.  We made Jello in the ice cold streams, walked a mile to get the mail three days a week, went to rodeos, ate meals, and attended PowWow’s.  I became very close to several of the grandchildren and we still keep in touch.  One friend even named her son after me (Kieren). 

Since that time, I have been able to visit a couple of times, though I wish I could get up there more often.  On one of the visits, a friend and I went to a large PowWow.  At the end when they did the Friendship Dance, I happened to look at everyone in the circle and noticed that I was the only white person.  I mentioned this to my friend and she gave me a very precious compliment when she said, “Karen, when you’re up here, we don’t even think of you as being white!”

The point of this article is that when we make an effort to get to know another culture, without judgment, and only unconditional love in our hearts, we find that we have a lot in common.  We learn that we’re all human beings just trying to do the best we can to get through life.  And when we do this, you’d be surprised at the friendships we can make, some of them lasting a lifetime.  There is also so much we can learn from each other.

As Paulo Coelho stated, “Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbor is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.”  James Van Praagh said, “We are all one.  Only our egos, fears, and beliefs separate us.”  And Bruce Lee declared, “Under the sky, under the heaves, there is but one family.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 17, 2015.

Addendum:  I love this family so much that I really do consider them all family.  They've given me so much and taught me so much.  Every single one of them are some of the nicest, neatest people you would ever want to meet.  I miss them so much and can only hope that one day, I can get back up there to visit.  They'll always be in my heart.  (Pictured:  Ben and Rosie Louis, Vernon, B.C. Canada)

Also, not everyone at the training on Vancouver Island called them 'Savages" so I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking it was the missionary program as a whole.  There are always exceptions and people who get the wrong ideas mainly through ignorance.  I'm sure that they changed their perception as soon as they met these wonderful people.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Amazing Indomitable Spirit

The dictionary describes an Indomitable Spirit as someone who cannot be subdued or overcome, as persons, will, or courage; unconquerable. 

There are countless stories about individuals and groups of people from all over the world who have survived and overcome the most horrific circumstances in their lives.  And then there are stories of those who let life experiences destroy them and they gave up by either turning to addictions and/or suicide.  What is it about the mind that it can be so delicate that it can snap in an instant causing a person to succumb to the most debilitating mental and physical illnesses, yet at the same time, it can be so powerful as to help a person overcome the greatest of obstacles?  We know many people who have gone through the most horrendous physical and/or mental and emotional experiences.  Some let those experiences destroy them and they become barely functioning individuals.  Yet others have gone through the same or similar experiences and have become stronger and better people because of those experiences. 

There are many people whose autobiographies I have read and whose stories have made a huge impact on my life.  Immaculee Iligibiza wrote several books, which included “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust,” and if you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it.  Immaculee was a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.  The Hutu’s declared war on the Tutsi’s and nearly one million Tutsis…men, women, and children, were literally slaughtered by the Hutu marauders.  Immaculee escaped to a nearby Hutu pastor’s home where she and seven other women hid quietly in a three foot by four foot bathroom for three months.  They couldn’t make a sound because the pastor’s own family didn’t know they were in there as he had covered the door with a dresser.  Hutu’s were always present searching for them.  The pastor tried to sneak food in for the women when he could.  When Immaculee went into hiding, she weighed 115 pounds.  When she came out, she weighed 65 pounds.  When the French came to establish refugee camps, the women walked down roads seeing dead bodies piled high on each side.  Immaculee soon learned that with the exception of one brother, all her family and friends lost their lives all in the name of hate.

But Immaculee had a strong faith and her will to live was strong.  With books from the pastor, she taught herself to speak English.  When released, she committed her life to teaching peace, hope, and forgiveness, even towards those who slaughtered her family and friends.  She went on to work at the United Nations, moved to the United states, received five honorary doctoral degrees, has written numerous books, became a U.S. Citizen, got married and had children, and was the recipient of the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace award.

Another recent inspiring story is about Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani, Sunni Muslim girl.  Malala’s father ran a chain of schools and believed that all children, both boys and girls, should be highly educated.  The schools were doing really well until the Taliban militants starting taking over the Swat Valley where Malala and her family lived.  These extremists banned television, music, girl’s education, and more.  Malala wrote a blog under a different name for the BBC about her life and education, and she stood up to the Taliban.  In October of 2012, a Taliban gunman found her on the bus after taking an exam and shot her in the face.  Her story became well known and she gained support from people all over the world. 

On her 16th birthday, she spoke at the UN to call for worldwide access to education.  In her speech, she said, “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born ... I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I'm here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.”  She wrote a book titled “I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban” and talked about her life as a Muslim and her passion for education.  The book also gave great insights into the goodness of Islam.  In 2014, at the age of 17, Malala was a co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

Another story recently told in the movie “Unbroken” was about the life of USA Olympian and athlete Louis “Louie” Zamperini, who survived in a raft with two other men in the ocean for 47 days after his bomber plane was downed in WWII (one died during the ordeal).  Captured by the Japanese Navy, they were sent to prisoner of war camps where they were severely beaten.  When the war was over and after his release, Louis got married and became an inspirational speaker.  He, too, was able to forgive those who persecuted him.  A few days before his 81st birthday in 1998, he ran a leg in the Olympic Torch relay for the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

These are just a few of the many examples of people who triumphed over adversity, who went on to have successful public careers, and are using their experiences to make a difference in the world.  There are many others:  Survivors of the Holocaust, 9/11, POW’s, Oprah Winfrey, Helen Keller, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Victor Frankl, and countless more.  I would highly recommend reading more on these and others. 

But not all people who are experiencing or have overcome adversity are well-known.  Many of them are people like you and me, living everyday lives.  Our hardships range from the minor to the major, but regardless of what the experience, they are just as much an obstacle to overcome. Yet we all have that Indomitable Spirit within us! 

Maybe you had an illness/disease and you did whatever you had to in order to survive; you have an Indomitable Spirit!  Maybe you experienced an accident, abuse, financial issues, emotional issues, or whatever the issue, but you survived and made it through; you have an Indomitable Spirit!  Maybe you are being bullied, but you keep on going in spite of it; you have an Indomitable Spirit!  Maybe you are struggling just to get up in the morning to get through another day or another minute, but you are surviving; you have an Indomitable Spirit!

Granted, there are those who do let life destroy them and they succumb to an addiction or whatever in order to escape life.  They still have an Indomitable Spirit; they’re just not aware of it!  Or there are those who do end up taking their own lives.  They still have an Indomitable Spirit, but for whatever reasons, they let people and/or life beat them down so much that they didn’t realize they had that power to overcome.  We have to remember that people who commit suicide don’t really want to die; they just want the pain to end.  I always say never take away a person’s hope because that may be all they have left.

I sometimes hear people say “If I could do it, then others can do it.”  I so disagree with that statement.  What I prefer to say is “If I can do it, that means it’s possible for others to do it.” We have to be careful not to judge those who do let life beat them down.  We never really do know their state of mind or what they’re really going through.  Everyone has a bigger story than we see or know. 

There’s a quote by Marianne Williamson that I include in many of my writings and it’s become one of my favorite quotes of all time.  It states:  “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.   Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

If you’re going through what I call “heavy-duty-life-do,” please know that you’re not alone.  Everyone has something they’re going through, but everyone handles it in different ways.  It really is our attitudes, our beliefs about ourselves and our world, and the thoughts we think that make a difference in how we get through life.  If you’re going through something, I won’t promise that it will get better because I don’t know your story.  But you DO have it in you to make it through.  I really believe that if we have the attitude of looking at everything as a lesson to make us a stronger and better person, then when we get to that hindsight part of your life, we will look back and will see that it really did make us a stronger and better person.  Don’t let people or life beat you down!  Try to keep things in perspective.  One thing I do is look at others who have it so much worse than me, and then I realize, I do have it pretty good.  I’ve learned to count my blessings.  Life really is beautiful and good; it’s just we humans who make it so difficult.  Therefore, friends, please hang in there.  It’s always possible for things to get better!

You ARE stronger than measure!  You ARE meant to shine!  YOU have an Indomitable Spirit!  Better yet, you ARE an Indomitable Spirit!  There’s a song that I’ve been singing over and over and it goes, “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cuz every little thing’s going to be all right.”  (“Three Little Birds” written by Bob Marley.)  I know that in the greater scheme of things and no matter what I go through in my life, everything is going to be all right.  To all those who are struggling, I love you and honor you, and am holding you in loving consciousness.  Blessings to you always.

Published in the Putnam County Visions magazine April 2015 issue.

Never Give Up!

While perusing Facebook recently, I came across an article about actress Sally Field and how at the beginning of her career her agent told her, “Well that's ridiculous. You can't do that, you can't get into film. You're not pretty enough. You're not good enough.”  I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Field when I was pursuing an acting career in Hollywood, and trust me, she’s very beautiful and talented, and she has the awards to prove it! 

Reading her story reminded me how I gave up on certain dreams because I was also told that I wasn’t pretty enough, thin enough, or talented enough.  Unfortunately, because I was young and didn’t know any better, I took those beliefs and adopted them as my own.  Even though I now know better, I still sometimes struggle with those beliefs because they had become so engrained in my brain.  Catch me at a vulnerable moment and I find myself repeating those beliefs until my inner Spirit gives me that spiritual smack on the back of the head and says, “Karen!  Snap out of it!  That’s NOT who you are!  You are beautiful, healthy, and talented!  Those are NOT your beliefs!”  I hear it, but I still don’t always believe it.

How many of us have had someone tell us something so negative and demoralizing about ourselves that we took those beliefs as our own?  I think of what so many adults tell their children and they believe it.  There have been numerous children who have told me that they’re stupid and no good and you can’t tell them otherwise.  Who is telling them these things!?!? 

I remember having a group of children repeat positive affirmations such as “I am beautiful!  I am smart!  I am successful!” and so on.  Afterwards, a young girl came up to me and said, “Miss Karen?  You know all those things you said we were?  I am none of those things!”  It broke my heart!  I always try to lift people up with inspiring words, especially our children. We need to remember that people who tear others down are speaking more about themselves than the person they’re speaking to. 

After I read the article, I went on-line to research those who overcame some serious obstacles and yet became triumphant in spite of what they were told or experienced.   I found countless successful people who were told they would never make it, weren’t talented enough, and/or weren’t attractive enough, or they survived horrendous events. Many even had numerous failures.  Here are some names you may or may not recognize depending on the generation you were born.  I would highly recommend Googling their stories as they are fascinating and inspiring.

Oprah Winfrey, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Jim Carrey, Sylvester Stallone, Lucille Ball, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Stephen King, Thomas Edison, Jay-Z, Simon Cowell, Steven Spielberg, the Beetles, Elvis Presley, Walt Disney, Dr. Seuss, Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln, J.K. Rowling, Colonel Sanders, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., ImmaculĂ©e Ilibagiza,  Helen Keller, Victor Frankl, Anne Frank, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Stephen Hawking, Malala Yousafzai, and the list goes on.

There’s a great poem titled “Don’t Quit” by Edgar A. Guest called “Don’t Quit.” It states, “When things go wrong as they sometimes will; When the road you're trudging seems all up hill; When the funds are low and the debts are high, and you want to smile, but you have to sigh; When care is pressing you down a bit; Rest if you must, but don't you quit.  Life is queer with its twists and turns, As every one of us sometimes learns; And many a failure turns about, When he might have won had he stuck it out; Don't give up though the pace seems slow; You may succeed with another blow; Success is failure turned inside out; The silver tint of the clouds of doubt; And you never can tell how close you are; It may be near when it seems so far; So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit, It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.”

George Bernard Shaw said, “People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get ahead in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”

And Marianne Williamson stated… “We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”

So never give up!  Keep going in the direction of your dreams!  I believe in you!

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 10, 2015.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Love Can Build a Bridge

Whenever I write an article, I really do try to put my whole heart and soul into trying to find a topic that is inspiring and makes people think.  But sometimes, my mind is blank and I have to wait until that Spiritual light bulb goes off in my mind. This was such a time.  After being on Facebook and seeing so many articles about the hate and bigotry that is being propagated by so many, particularly from some (not all) in the religious and political realms, I kept coming back to the question…why can’t we all just love one another and get along?  It’s what all the great spiritual masters taught from Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and so many more.  That was their main message!  To love one another!  And yet that’s not what we’re seeing from so many whether they’re politicians, religious leaders, those in the media, or others! 

While meditating on the word ‘love,’ I remembered a song that was sung by The Judds that touches my heart every time I hear it and causes tears to flow down my cheeks.  The title is “Love Will Build a Bridge” and the lyrics go like this:

“I'd gladly walk across the desert, With no shoes upon my feet, To share with you the last bite
of bread I had to eat.  I would swim out to save you, In your sea of broken dreams, When all your hopes are sinkin', Let me show you what love means.

I would whisper love so loudly, Every heart could understand, That love and only love, Can join the tribes of man.  I would give my heart's desire, So that you might see, The first step is to realize, That it all begins with you and me.

When we stand together, It's our finest hour, We can do anything, anything, Keep believin' in the power.

Love can build a bridge, Between your heart and mine, Love can build a bridge, Don't you think it's time? Don't you think it's time?  Love and only love.  Love and only love.” 

What if….?  What if we could build bridges of love between all people regardless of color, race, religion, politics, gender, sexual preference, cultures, countries, and nations?  What if we could focus on what we all have in common instead of any perceived differences?  What if all ministers and religious leaders from all religions spoke only of unconditional love from their stages and from media sources?  What if all politicians would only make laws that were based on the foundation of love and brought people together instead of separating them and legalizing hate?  Can you imagine? 

Yes, when we see what’s in the media nowadays, it’s hard to imagine that anything like this could manifest since the media only propagates the negative (though there are many stations that do have positive programming).  But look beyond the standard media!  Get on-line and search for sites that communicate good stories!  Stories of people coming together to be of service, doing good in the world, and actually living the teachings of their spiritual masters, without judgment, condemnation, hate, or bigotry!  It’s happening!  All over the world it is happening!  Maybe it’s happening in your community!  Maybe YOU are one of those who is spreading the love! 

Please don’t give up on humanity!  There are many of us who still have hope, who are working at uniting people with love, compassion, kindness, and oneness!  Look around!  Better yet, BE one of those people!

I know the word ‘love’ can be such a clichĂ© sometimes, but it really is so much more than the dictionary definition.  The love of God, the Universe, Spirit, Life, or whatever you choose to call it, is all embracing, all inclusive, and never judges, condemns, or separates.  Human beings are limited in their terminology to describe what this magnificent and all encompassing word really means.  Know that this love is in everyone and everything and no one is excluded.

Rumi said that “Love is a bridge between you and everything.”  Are you a bridge builder of love?  I know…sounds corny…but personally, I am choosing to work at building those bridges.  Will you join me? 

(“Love Can Build a Bridge,” written by Paul Overstreet, John Jarvis, Naomi Judd, Naomi Ellen Judd, Paul Lester Overstreet, ©Scarlet Moon Music Inc., Inspector Barlow Music, Words and Music ©O.B.O. Scarlet Moon Music, Mike Curb Music)

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 3, 2015.