Archive for the ‘Positive thinking’ Category

What to give up for Lent? How about complaining

February 16, 2010

It’s Fat Tuesday and I’m thinking about the most difficult things to give up for Lent. I was raised protestant, but my friends were mostly Catholic so I adopted many Catholic practices. (And now I am converted and married to a Catholic – but that’s another story.)

In high school I gave up material things I loved, like chocolate or sweets altogether. One year I attempted to give up swearing. Every time I swore, I would do ten pushups or sit-ups. By the end of Lent I had great abs and arms.

Learning about Catholicism during nine months of required adult education provided a better insight to Lent and what it means to me. Personal changes can be made in any season, regardless of religion. However, Lent prompts me to look at myself honestly and the changes I need most.

I’ve found that as difficult as it might be to give up – gasp – beer, it’s much harder to renounce a negative trait. (And since I quit sugar in January, I have very few drinks anyway.)

Instead, I will continue to attack serious downfalls in my spirit and attitude – the areas in which I do not behave like Christ (or Buddha or any enlightened being). I’ve learned that you’re not supposed to announce your Lenten plans, so I’ll talk about past years instead.

Two years ago, I gave up complaining. Yes, complaining. I can’t say that for 40 days I never thought or voiced a complaint. Who could? But I learned to catch complaints in thought, ask myself what good the complaints served, and then keep most of them to myself.

It’s amazing how many complaints our heads come up with in one day. I get out of bed and complain that my back hurts. Then I complain that the cat puked on the floor. The shower runs out of hot water mid leg shaving and I complain again. Plus, there’s always dishes in the sink, traffic is bad, and on and on.

I caught myself complaining about good things like a messy fridge filled with too much food. Or the sun was too bright. Or there was too much work to do (who would have known I would loose my job). I needed an attitude adjustment and it started with being aware.

Why was I complaining? How could I be grateful instead? How much of this could I just turn over to source and let go?

It turns out that most complaints are not warranted and serve no good purpose. I still complain, but a lot less. Even my husband notices the difference and catches me if I start complaining.

This year, I’m tackling a pretty huge lineup of issues. If I have success, I will find peace and joy in every day. For anyone who wants to keep chocolate and give up something hurtful, this little reflection is from one of our church bulletins last year. I cut it out and it’s still on the fridge.

Give up complaining … focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism … become an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments … think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry … trust Divine Providence.
Give up discouragement … be full of hope.
Give up bitterness … turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred … return good for evil.
Give up negativism … be positive.
Give up anger … be more patient.
Give up gloom … enjoy the beauty that is all around.
Give up jealous … pray for trust.
Give up sin … turn to virtue.
Give up giving up … hang in there.

Blogging keeps the monsters out of my head

February 9, 2010

I don’t know why I took a break from blogging. Let’s just call it laziness. (A bad habit is as easily set as a good one). Some readers missed my writing, but I realized yesterday I am the one suffering.

Blogging keeps me in the habit of writing, which is good. Plus, rewriting and editing each blog hones my wordsmith skills. More importantly, writing helps me think creatively and explore unexpected thoughts.

Analyzing my thoughts helps me distinguish between fact and fiction. Often, I create a truth in my head that is upsetting and detrimental to my goals and relationships. Those negative thoughts roll around in my noggin. Like a snowball, they get larger with every roll. Pretty soon, the thought is a horned monster that stabs at my confidence and enthusiasm. He gnashes his terrible teeth and roars his terrible roar just like the characters in my favorite book.

Then, I put him on paper (or screen). When I dissect the monster, I see it is either a tiny, baby monster or no monster at all. Either way, it is no match for facts.

So, I need to get those pessimistic thoughts out quickly so they cannot build momentum. I know some people write their fears and concerns and then burn the paper – or freeze it in blue water.  In some exercises you write the worst possible scenario imaginable (in regards to that fear or worry) only to find it ridiculous or comical. Some people journal or write letters they’ll never send just to work out their thoughts.

Method aside, I must examine my thoughts continuously. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says the subconscious mind is like “a fertile garden in which weeds will grow if the seeds of more desirable crops are not sewn.”

His work focuses on feeding the subconscious creative thoughts – and mine must too.

An avid gardener, I know my love and passion for the crops is unequaled. Sure, people enjoy my tomatoes – and my blogs – but the genuine nourishment is mine.

So I’ll strive to tend the garden more often and rid it of weed sprouts and imaginary monsters.

Don’t wait for cancer to ask for a miracle

December 30, 2009

I was the typical person complaining to everyone about all my struggles until I starting taking responsibility for them.

We all have struggles in our lives, whether physical, financial, spiritual or mental/emotional. Instead of lamenting about my struggles, I ask myself if I am willing work on them – or simply feeding them.

Because I read a lot of spiritual/positive books, I am certain that thoughts attract similar thoughts and events to our lives. I also know that thoughts make our reality. (Olympic athletes improved their races by visualizing wins. The brain didn’t know the difference.)

I have been trying to catch my “whoa is me attitude” before it spills out of my lips. I ask myself, “Are you willing to work on this?”

For example, I have gained weight since I was laid off, and was never thin before, so I don’t like way it feels. My old reaction was to stand in the closet and bawl, complain to others and resent skinny people. But today I ask myself “what are you willing to do to change?” I am willing to walk more and try to eat less. I am thinking seriously about hitting the weights, but I’m not ready yet. So, I focus on making small improvements and BANNING negative self talk. (I tell my reflection I’m looking thinner whether it’s true or not.)

Most people have genuine reasons to complain. I used try to solve their problems until a life coach suggested another approach – ask people what they could do for themselves.

Since I don’t always have immediate answers for my issues, you might not either. However, we must keep asking how we can change, improve or ease the struggle.

Now I am going to pick on us a little. Friends lament to me about their horrible jobs, bad relationships, financial strife and health issues. They don’t know how to fix these issues, won’t seek help and don’t make even the smallest changes in themselves.

This describes decades of my life. It seems we want to wallow in our self-pitying, whoa-is-me attitude. Every time we complain, we bring more of the same crap into our lives.

Irritated? When the mirror was in front of my face, I didn’t like it either. But, I didn’t want to be a crying, complaining, fearful victim of the world. So I started making changes; first in my thoughts, then in my reactions and now in not trying to solve others’ problems.

Want to really feel like a whiner? Listen to this. A friend has a successful business and beautiful family. He is caring and does much for others. You know what he got for Christmas? He got three tumors on his beautiful wife’s brain; cancer in the worse degree.

In their daily journal this couple talks about reasons to be positive, seeking knowledge and support everywhere possible and multiplying their faith exponentially.

This woman could be sobbing all day over her struggle, yet she seeks healing by praying for others.

I am not saying that because other people have bigger problems, ours are somehow easier or overshadowed. I am saying you don’t have to wait for cancer to ask God for a miracle.

Do you really want relief from this burden? What can do to ease the struggle a tiny bit? Ask the Universe for help and expect it.

Today I will concentrate on what I DO HAVE, what I LOVE and ways I am BLESSED. I expect a miracle.

Enough maturity. It’s time to play.

December 23, 2009

An undefined absence has lingered in me lately. So I prayed for a miracle with earnest. I prayed for a miracle of joy and love in my heart so great that it must spill over to others. As I made a second lap around Gabriel Park I was drawn into the dog park.

A collie, a Bernese mountain dog and a greyhound mix bombarded me and my heart was immediately overflowing with joy. I knew what I have been missing – play.

I’ve been taking life a bit too seriously. I’ve been a bit too grown up for my own good. My focus on cleanliness is so overboard that I am often affronted by a dog’s muddy paws on my clean clothes.

Yet I grinned all the way home in the running tights and jacket I just washed, now covered in sand and muddy paw prints.

This childlike elation spilled into the evening as I joined a group of gals for a night out. I cannot remember the last time I really let Larque out to play, especially with girls. I’m accustomed to drama-free guys (for the most part) who watch sports and live simply. Truthfully, girls scare me a little – which is another blog entirely.

But thanks to some random dogs I was in a playful mood, eager to play. I was met by three tables of other playful girls who just want to enjoy life, share stories, sip over-priced concoctions and laugh loudly.

Again, I ventured out of my comfort zone and found what I’d been missing. I already yearn to know more about these gals. I crave further details of the wild tales that assemble their life stories. I want to laugh until my sides hurt. And I feel like I could dance ridiculously or sing horribly and they would join in, rather than judge.

My husband says I “collect people,” which is why people needing comfort seek me and tell me their stories. But what if I let down my guard and allow others to collect me? I can only anticipate continued joy and love from new friends. Every day is truly a gift.

“There are two ways to live your life – one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle,” Albert Einstein.

Thanks girls.

Tis the season to stomp ANTs (Auto Negative Thoughts)

December 19, 2009

Five days until Christmas and my focus is on the battle against ants. Not the little black sugar ants trying to find goodies in the kitchen, Automatic Negative Thoughts.

I’m listening to and reading Happy for No Reason. I heard this gal on the web, so I know this book discusses how most of us are not born happy, but raise our happy thermometer over time.

As I drove past two malls this morning, on a mission to the vet, I saw the usual hustle and bustle of people out buying happiness – or attempting to buy it. Simultaneously, the chapter about ANTs came on. Based on fight or flight, we are programmed to think cynically to survive. Since survival requirements have changed completely since our caveman days, we don’t really need to be so cynical.

Author Marci Shimoff says we only have to comprehend one thing to battle – and defeat – our ANTs. “What we think is not necessarily true.”

She says we have 60,000 thoughts a day and 45,000 of them are negative. Holy smokes Batman. Thoughts are like ants at a July picnic in the park. And if they are ANTs, then the picnic sucks, it’s too hot out, the watermelon is mushy and that potato salad is probably going bad.

I use many brain exercises, so this isn’t my first circuit at the mental gym. Still, I need to treat positive thinking like a workout habit. I can’t do it once a week and expect results. I figure this next week will provide plenty of opportunities to catch ANTs, put them under the magnifying glass and fry them. I expect a few of the ANTs to be nasty, flying carpenter ants (like Christmas will suck because we have no money), so this will be fun.

And I will replace the zapped ANTs with thrilling thoughts that may not be true, yet have potential. Wow, I think I just lost five pounds. My hair is perfect today. There are so many job offers awaiting me. The bills are covered for the month.

Plus, I will concentrate on the positive resounding truths. I have the best husband, a beautiful house, good health and enough wit to survive. My belly is full of yummy casserole, my energy is high and I hear the rain will stop for Christmas. (hike, hike, hike)

Last but not least, today’s blog is done! Woo-hoo.

Now get out there and stomp some ANTs.

My 10 favorite habits, so far

December 12, 2009

A chat with my little brother reminded me how much I enjoy saying “love you” rather than good-bye. This habit started in my early teens and is a rewarding life change. It tops my 10 favorite habits.

1) Telling people I love them – today. Possibly I read too many romantic novels in which the character lost someone and didn’t get to say it. I don’t wait until tomorrow to say “love ya.”

2) Build a positive outlook. If I said “keep” a positive outlook I’d be a liar at least some times. I keep constructing a solid positive foundation one brick at a time.

3) Be honest, but not harmful. Both parts are crucially important. A boss once said I am honest to a fault. He thought the fault kept me from selling. Much worse, the fault caused me to be rude and hurtful. I try to be candid, yet not blunt or inappropriate.

4) Laugh at myself often. A best friend knows when to laugh with me. So should I. When I do something silly, I chuckle. In the middle of disaster, I laugh. Of course I snicker and snort at my own stories. I just can’t help it.

5) Talk to myself, and listen for response. It runs in my family. My brothers sing little made-up songs or hum all the time and my mom states her next move before she does it. Dad’s not so obvious, except the little remarks to the air.

Naturally, I talk to myself (the cats, the plants, the garden and nearly everything). I recently began listening for a reply. An answer could lie in my words or body language. What is my heart really saying?

6) Strive to be a better listener. Quick with a word on anything, I had to learn to listen. Instead of letting my mind race ahead in the conversation, I try to focus on what’s said, not said and suggested. I can only improve.

7) Seek adventure/try new things. I do something new for my birthday every year. I also taste new things, listen to different music and join people in unique adventures. Even more significant, I give childhood dislikes a second chance. I still gag on sweetened squash, but adore little oysters on the half shell.

8) Read, read, read. I’m not Oprah, yet I do cram a lot of text in the noggin. Reading is one of my oldest habits. It connects me to fantasy, truth and people. Most days I wish I had more time to read from my pile of books, RSS and social media.

9) Always ask the question. Whatever the question may be, I typically ask it. I’m an outgoing, natural speaker, but crave stories and knowledge from others. So my philosophy is “ask and you shall know.”

10) Smile as often as physically possible. My face is literally tired at the end of a good day. I like to smile at people. I visited New York at 17 and was perplexed because everyone looks down and walks fast. A New Yorker friend explained that there are too many people to attempt connecting. Thankfully I live in Portland, because I like connecting.

Could my four-leaf clovers change your life?

December 7, 2009

Believe

Four-leaf clovers in resin-filled bezels dry in the sun on my kitchen table. I see them and am encouraged.

You see, I married a beautiful musician who had never seen a four-leaf clover and therefore did not believe in them. I insisted they exist because I found one on my 14th birthday. I wrote him a poem seven years ago that began like this:

Searching for a four-leaf clover
to prove you are an angel
when you sleep
and dawn fills your mouth
Music is conceived in your veins
A pin prick and it
will drip laughter and sorrow …

But with no proof, he had a hard time believing. Then a few months ago, my friend and I plopped down in the yard and I said “you should sit by those clovers because I know there are four-leafed ones out here.” And there were. She found two that day. I found a third the next day. Three times since I have been in the yard crying and begging for a sign that everything will be okay. I found 11 more four-leaf clovers.

Now I believe and others do too.

Our beliefs create our realities. My reality is formed by these beliefs.

Angels surround us and conspire on our behalves at all times. You can call them out in an emergency or just realize most coincidences aren’t. (Example: the day you are late for work for some stupid reason. Racing toward the office, you come up on a horrific accident that could have been your fate.)

Miracles happen, AND can happen from “bad” things. In hindsight, it is easy to see how traumatic events opened glorious doorways. Not so easy in the moment, I know. So I ask, what good can come from my struggle today?

We all get second chances … to start over, to say I’m sorry, to love, to achieve a failed goal, to be a better person. On that note, I also believe that people want to be good and do good things, yet sometimes it is easier to act poorly, do wrong or simply look the other way. If we don’t believe in luck, angels and miracles, then how the hell are we going to offer kindness to strangers? Please, just get out of my way so I can pick two lemons and go home.

I believe today has something for me. You have something for me; a smile, a message, a blessing – a parking spot! And I have something for you; a heart full of wonder. I wonder how I can help you, warm you or heal you. I wonder if you believe in my four-leaf clovers, could that change your life? I believe so.

… So with fingertips stained
like lawn-mowing shoes
I part leaves
Searching for your solace
Proof
of what I smell in your skin
See in glacier eyes.

Dousing stinkin’ attitude with Jedi mind tricks

December 6, 2009

I don’t want to blog today because I’m irritated and don’t want to express this mood. I guess it’s a good day to share my tricks for triggering gratitude and happiness – and put them to use.

Exercise is a biggie and I should probably hit the gym when I finish writing. I prefer a brisk walk in nature, but 38 degrees and 40-mile-an hour winds are not that appealing. Regardless of the exercise venue, I tend to shift thoughts as soon as I sweat.

Often I do yoga while listening to one of my favorite sources of positive information; http://www.healingwiththemasters.com. Jennifer McLean interviews healers, teachers and positive thinkers a couple of times a week and posts replays of the audio. Sign up is free and the lessons are priceless. I hope there is a replay in my inbox today.

I have learned many mind tricks from interviews with people like Jo Dunning, Guy Finley, Marci Shimoff and Neale Donald Walsch. Plus these short talks lead to fantastic books, CDs, coaching and other programs.

Daily affirmations are a necessary way to stay positive and I need one today. When Stuart Smalley of SNL introduced affirmations … “Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!” … he was hilarious. Now I know this is a seriously good way to empower myself. Some of my affirmations are simple like “I can handle whatever happens today.” This site, http://bit.ly/uvvPF, gathers people’s affirmations and helps me write my own. From today, I plan to use daily blogging as a reminder to write an affirmation.

Making lists of things I love or am grateful for is another nifty tool. My heart fills with thankfulness when I list all the things I love. On a day like today, I open the journal and recall the reasons life rocks.

Visualizing also lifts my spirits. This is a tool I believe every positive person uses and something I should do more often. If I picture my happiest memory, my favorite place in the mountains or my dream for the future, this minute’s frustration fades. I use photos to stimulate these visions sometimes. I looked at several before typing today.

The last stunt I use on myself is self-inflicted laughter. Whatever it takes to rouse the giggles is fair game: playing with the cat, comedy on YouTube, a favorite movie, or the never-fail stare down in the mirror. Laughter is the best reminder that happiness comes from within – and it is always in there if I dig. Thanks to digging, I feel better already.

Santa, please bring me presence

December 3, 2009

Dear Santa, if you exist (even in spirit) and I have been good enough this year, please bring me presence. No, not presents … presence.

Six years ago I didn’t even understand what presence is or why I should desire it. My yoga instructor introduced presence to me. The longer I sit on the word’s meaning, the more I want it. Just so you understand what I’m asking for, Santa, here’s most of the Merriam-Webster definitions of presence.

1) the fact or condition of being present

2) the part of space within one’s immediate vicinity

4) one that is present: as a: the actual person or thing that is present or b: something present of a visible or concrete nature

5) a: the bearing, carriage, or air of a person; b: a noteworthy quality of poise and effectiveness; the actor’s commanding presence

6) something (as a spirit) felt or believed to be present

I might have presence some moments – or even some days. But my thoughts are a flashing neon signs that I need more presence. A couple of weeks ago I landed in a deep funk. At one point in the night, after too many beers, I sat and wrote:

“I am jealous of myself or the picture of me in my memories – how I was then. Thoughts you are not meant to think of yourself; judgmental. But here I am, looking at the old me in this hue.”

Wow. Does this mean I don’t love who I am today? How do I use this as a wake-up call? What the heck was I jealous of … a thinner body … fewer responsibilities … working as a photographer?

I read passages from Buddha, the Bible, Gandhi, healing gurus and positive thinkers. And Santa, do you know what I discovered? We humans tend to wish for the past and fear the future. They say we must practice catching negative thoughts and replacing them with optimism.

So, Santa, here’s what I need.

1) help staying in the moment (and appreciating it)

2) love and peace in my immediate vicinity

3) kindness and love that spills out to others

4) a spirit of thankfulness for the many blessings I have

5) the ability to scrutinize my thoughts and squash the stinkers

I’ll hang my stocking this weekend in case you want to drop off my presence early.

Thanks a bunch,

Larque

Happy? Not always. But Larque every day.

December 1, 2009

I might have been born happy but cannot recall those early years. Thankfully, I don’t recall my mom and biological father fighting for my first six years either. I do recall a surly teenager who bore my name and thought life was a miserable waste of time. Yikes!

“Happy as a Larque” is a personal trek in boots that don’t always fit right and the disregard of blisters caused by life friction. I haven’t discovered a magical way to disregard the friction itself, so I am not always happy. On the worst of days I go to a terrible dark place and think the worst of thoughts.

My adventure is about gathering wisdom so I may experience bliss and help others. I stash these tools in that dark place so I can navigate my way back. Every time it gets easier.

My goal is to amass strategies and reasons to be happy so that I may be a beacon of light to others. I have already experienced countless paths to happiness; some little jaunts and others grappling, scraping, gut-wrenching climbs. I hope to share with you both types of excursions. I hope that sharing some of the painful points on my journey will comfort you and further strengthen me.

When you pass me on the street and I look deep in your eyes and smile (which I will), don’t assume I am some Pollyanna, Gandhi or Einstein. I am merely one girl who desires to be a mix of the three … optimistic, loving and brilliant.

Cynics around me who scoff at my “fairy dust” education might want to look a bit closer. The sprinkles of faith, trust, belief and passion that glitter around me are bling you can’t buy with money. You have to earn this stuff the hard way – one lesson at a time.

(NOTE: This is the first blog in the Jumping Duck Media 30 Days of Blogging Challenge. http://bit.ly/6bUdVx)