Finding Mindfulness In Little Things

I am guest-posting over at the Wakefield Doctrine today. I hope you hop over there and take a look – you’ll find some fun tips about completing puzzles and finding mindfulness in unexpected places.

Here’s an excerpt:

 

Being able to “center” and find mindfulness when you’re surrounded by chaos is a powerful exercise.

Mindfulness allows us to consciously slow life down and concentrate on one task while using all our senses. It has a calming effect.

Our world today is filled with noises, distractions, too-full to-do lists, and countless other activities that drain energy.

But, you can control your reaction to everything around you.

In fact, you can experience and use mindfulness to help stress and calm those jittery nerves.

A Geometric Puzzle

The other day, I was at my in-laws’ house.

It had been an incredibly busy week: work obligations, my mother-in-law went to the ER (she’s okay – she swallowed a fishbone that lodged in her esophagus, but then it dislodged without any extreme measures), and we had family visiting.

On Saturday morning, I was feeling a bit out of sorts as I continued my way into the weekend.

We also had another visitor, Hootie. He’s an Amazonian parrot. I once did an abstract painting of himhere!

Read More >>>

 

Guest Post: Bill Holland

I just love guest posts. In fact, I’m so grateful to have met so many wonderful blog friends over the past two (almost three if you count HubPages!) years.

I love finding inspiring friends. I know many writers, bloggers, photographers, and more who make me smile. They have a story, and their backgrounds inspire the rest of us with their power to persuade others with their words, and instill in others a sense of passion.

I asked Bill to do a guest post because from the moment I met him online, he’s been like a mentor to me, a shining example of persistence, and a great friend across all the miles that separate us.

Since I consider myself to be a writer, I look for people who are like-minded and can help in the collective writing journey.

And now, let me introduce Bill, who writes over at William Holland, an author with an incredible story.

Bill Holland

My Passion for Writing

 First let me thank Cyndi for allowing me to post today.  She and I have known each other now for about two years.  We met on HubPages and formed an instant bond.  We have similar beliefs, likes, and dislikes, and I call her Lil Sis, and she calls me Big Bro, and I just enjoy the heck out of her.

I’ve been freelancing for three years now.  One day I got fed up with some verbal abuse from my principal, and I quit my teaching job and decided I was going to be a writer. 

I laugh when I think back now, but I wasn’t laughing at the time. I had no financial backup plan, no safety net, no nothing…just a desire to write.

Three years later I pay my bills, I’ve written two novels, and I absolutely love writing….and that’s the topic today…my love of and passion for writing.

I have been lucky over the years.

I taught school for eighteen of those years and I loved it.  I enjoyed getting up every day, and the kids were wonderful, and I honestly would have taught for no pay if that was the only option. 

And now I write, and I enjoy getting up every day, and my job is wonderful, and there have been many days when I wrote for no pay.  What has carried me through the tough times in both of those jobs is passion.

Teaching is something I believe I was born to do. 

It came so easily for me, and the challenges were never-ending, and man oh man I loved it. 

The same is true of writing. 

I love knowing that my words will be read 100 years from now. 

Writing is my legacy. 

It is my contribution to society and culture, and I just think that is so cool. 

I have things in common with Hemingway, Steinbeck, Angelou, and Blake.  I rub shoulders daily with Shakespeare, King, Lee, and Thoreau.  I understand what they went through, the voice they heard that drove them forward, and the endless desire they had to write something meaningful that will stand the test of time.

Teaching is what I did.  Writing is what I do. 

But neither of them define me as a human being. 

That story is still being written.

Thank you for reading, and thanks, Lil Sis, for the opportunity.

How’s that for a guest post? Put your hands together for someone who’s mentored me, and shown such persistence in writing, that we all can learn powerful lessons from this novelist.

Big Bro, you’re an inspiration to many. I have so much gratitude in knowing you and seeing you when you started this journey and you’ve been going strong ever since!

Dirty House? Read a Poem

In recent weeks, I’ve headed to quite a few beautiful places: the botanical gardens, the beach, the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. In all of these scenarios, I see trees, animals, and places that I know I want to preserve for posterity.

It pains me when I see pollution, see animals suffering, or see how human activity affects trees and water sources.

I was inspired to write a poem – about our island home, floating in the Milky Way.

How we need to take care of the only home we have.

We can’t move from it.

We can’t sell it and buy a new one.

We have to stay here and whatever we do to our home, we do to ourselves.

The photos interspersed throughout are images I took with my camera during my excursions, that, I thought, illustrate what I’m saying in the lines of poem:

How Do You Feel When Your House Is Dirty?

How do you feel when your house is gross?

You don’t just sit there, as if comatose.

You clean and shine, dust and mop

So you present your best to the people who stop.

Our other home is dirty and polluted, too,

With trash and muck that others spew.

What do you mean; what’s this about?

It’s Blue and round, massive and stout.

paradise
This photo captures paradise in its essence, though it’s not “green”

It’s green, too, and everything between.

A marble floating, in space brillantine.

The only home we have, we say this every day,

Yet we trash it and bash it every which way.

Coal ash and chemicals sit and percolate;

Rivers, forests – we continue to abnegate.

Our respect for each other threatens to diminish;

We have wars over oil, water, and sorts of rubbish.

We darken our vision for a bright, vibrant future

Our once-blue skies wax gray with dull verbal cloture.

We’re evolved; we can think this through,

This mess, this trash, we can clean this, too.

Our planet is our home, and together we can,

Form a united front, like a family clan.

We can send thoughts of healing and peace,

Reduce, reuse, recycle without cease,

To soothe, to mend, and restore our home,

Is to find balance and the blessing to roam,

To see the oceans in purple majesty,

Witness the creation of the Almighty.

beautiful purple blue green earth
Purple ocean majesty…yes, I tweaked the color a bit to support my cause. 🙂

Our lives, we must conduct with more intention,

And act like the status-quo should be questioned.

We must stop and scrub our marble stoop,

So generations of children shall enjoy some soup –

Free of pesticides and harmful ingredients,

And play in paradise instead of on pavement.

The dust from our mercenary ways

Continues to build and leave us dazed.

We must awaken from our complacent daydream,

Taking action, moving as a united team.

Clean our hearts, our bodies and our minds

and create a world newly consigned,

Where animals, birds and reptiles exist,

With humans in love and all coexist

In a clean, pure world, healthy and new-

Skies azure, pristine and blue,

No money, no borders just me…and you.

ocean, outer banks
We can coexist – because we all deserve to be here.

What do you do when your house is gross?

Does Thinking About the Future Make You Happier?

Thinking About the Future

I was over at Ruchira’s blog Abracabadra recently and commented on one of her posts. As I was thinking about what to write, I had a sudden string of words pop into my head:

The path upon which we walk can can always be admired as we look behind, anticipated as we look forward, but only truly enjoyed in the present.

And oh my goodness, I have the perfect photo to go with that thought. (Maybe that’s why I thought it in the first place.) It’s from when I was at Mt. Mitchell and I was hiking the trail from the top to where we were parked. A cluster of clouds cleared and let sunlight shine on the forest floor, just as I was walking through. It was a present:

living in the present
The present path. Photo by C. Calhoun 2014

Of course, this thought isn’t that original. It hearkens back to a Dalai Lama quote I’ve run across a few times:

When asked about what surprises him (the Dalai Lama) most about humanity, he said:

Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.

(Interestingly, as a side note, the Dalai Lama is reported to have not said this phrase, and that it’s an internet hoax. Instead, this supposedly comes from An Interview With God. I found this out as I was trying to locate the real source of these words. Regardless, they are a powerful reminder to live in the present as much as possible.)

However, I am completely guilty of thinking about the future too much.

I think about all the things I’m going to do next week, next year, in five years, in ten years, in twenty years.

do think about what I’m going to do today, making my lists and checking them off as I complete my tasks.

But I love how Ruchira’s quote made me stop.

And think.

(Okay, well, I do too much of that, too, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing…)

Why exactly is it so hard to focus on the present?

The Marshmallow Experiment

While researching a bit for this post, I read about an experiment conducted on children (don’t worry, it was a social experiment, based on anthropological research – stuff I love!).

It was about how four year old children will eat a marshmallow immediately, 70% of the time, when told that if they wait fifteen minutes, they could have two marshmallows. The ratio of kids who can’t wait is about 2/3 vs. 1/3 for children who do.

They found out this ratio transcends cultures – Japan, the U.S., the European Union….

Interestingly, they followed up with these children and after 15 years, the ones who could delay gratification tended to be more successful in life. They had higher test scores, achieved more, and had a higher overall life satisfaction.

But, this makes people who delay gratification for a better future, actually focused on the future, and not the present.

We all want a little success in our lives, don’t we?

So, What is it? Focus on the Future or Focus on the Present?

This is where common sense kicks in.

There needs to be a sense of balance.

I’m a graduate student right now, investing my present time for something that may or may not pay off financially in the future. (For the record, I personally think education is never a bad thing; improving ourselves should always be a priority, actually – in a classroom or otherwise.)

But there are those out there who work all the time to buy things and have things. I myself work – a lot: saving for retirement, creating a reputable career online and off, spending my weekends and weeknights blogging.

I’ll be the first to admit that I require more balance: I need more exercise, I need to get back to making bread.

It all comes down to priorities.

The key to finding balance is realizing where your priorities are – and not living in the future too much.

If your priorities are family and friends, and spending time outdoors, then you’ll find ways to make that happen.

I haven’t prioritized exercise in my life enough lately, and I aim to take steps to change that.

If I have a dream of traveling the world, wishing for it to happen someday is not going to improve the present.

It’s okay to have ambitions and future goals.

But, in the meantime, it’s critical to enjoy things along the way. In the present.

Because you don’t know if there really will be a tomorrow.

page divider

  • Are you more future-focused or present-focused?
  • What are your priorities?
  • Would you eat the marshmallow now or later?

Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Are You a Millionaire Thinker?

That depends on what you mean. Millionaire in what sense?

Before I answer that, let me tell you a story.

I have been reading “inspirational” material.

I think it’s incredibly important to always be reading something that fills your soul.

Though reading books that talk about making millions might not be the place to do it.

 

givingI was reading the “One-Minute Millionaire.” A respected blogger recommended it and she mentioned how it changed her life and her thinking.

Change Your Life; Change Your Thinking

Sometimes I can use stuff like that – change my life; change my thinking…I’m always up for a fun challenge to grow and be open to new things.
Except, sometimes I just don’t know when to shut the damned door.
I get to the part about mantras, or manifestations, as he calls them. If you know me at all, you know I looooove mantras.
The first one was pretty good: I am enough. It goes on to say, “I’m smart enough, wise enough, able enough, confident enough, etc.”

Mantras are Good!

I think this actually is good to say to yourself over and over. Too often, we get caught up in feelings of guilt for “being inadequate.” 
Do I see hands going up in the air?
He even talks about how “giving to others is the key.”
But then, I get to the second manifestation: “I am a money magnet. I like money and money likes me. I attract money 24 hours a day. I am forever enjoying more and more money, etc.”
That. Right there. Nuh uh. Can’t do it.
I mean don’t get me wrong: everyone needs money. And if I had more of it, I’d be giving more of it away to help people. I can’t seem to do that enough.
But to sit there and essentially utter: SHOW ME THE MONEY!
I think of children in third-world countries who could really use some of that green just now. Or even children in the US. There are some crazy statistics of kids living in poverty in this country.
But I feel really weird asking the universe for more, more, more when I know others are suffering – terribly. 
In fact, I started to feel really down for a couple days after reading this. Because of this book’s words, I felt like because I haven’t made my millions, it’s all my fault. 
Really inspirational, that one.
I get that having millions means you can move mountains. I get that the choices we make do play a very large role in determining what happens in our future.
And if I had millions, I’d have no plans to move into a big “dream house.” In fact, I’d stay right where I am and “green” my house by adding solar panels, and all those cool gadgets that make a house go from carbon-positive to carbon-negative.
Okay, maybe I would get a house in the same county with like, 100 acres, and turn it all into a preserved forest or something. And get a couple of horses. I don’t even know the first thing about them. But I have this romantic notion of riding one all cowgirl-like and letting the wind brush my hair. I’ll probably fall off, but that’ll be material for a future blog post, I’m sure.
I’d donate to this cool little church I really like; maybe pay off my family members’ mortgages. 
I’d seriously address the poverty problem in the region where I live – something like 66% of all African Americans live in poverty in my region. It’s even higher for Latino kinfolk.
I’d do a few other things – I mean, hey, I am a Spanish teacher and an anthropologist. I also have a camera. Macchu Picchu, Chichen Itza and the Camino de Santiago have been beckoning me for years. I would like to answer that call…before I have the first signs of dementia.
And so, after reading several of these so-called inspirational books, I have come to a couple conclusions:

Making Money Is Okay. Even Making Good Money.

  1. Money isn’t evil. But the relentless pursuit of it? Yes, I think that is.
  2. We must always think about giving. To help others. And to help ourselves.
  3. Lastly, I feel like – at least personally – if I can live my life thinking about how I can contribute and leave the planet in a better state than when I arrived here, than that is the ultimate goal. I’m always asking myself: how can what I do be of service to others?
  4. Being a millionaire thinker is more about embracing a way of life that helps you to become the best person that you can be. And when you get there, things line up and you become better than you thought you could be.

Does that make sense?

I think I’ll go to do something that fills my soul…like hike in the woods and take some photos…get more ideas come back and write…

 

 

I Know Some Incredible People Out There…

friends in your life
A little diddy about good friends…PIN ME!

 

A Thank You to Some Fabulous People

These last couple of years.

These last couple of years – full of lessons, ups, downs, triumphs, frustrations.

And through it all – at the beginning and still here now – are some people that I simply MUST acknowledge, thank and keep connecting with….

Before I do that, I do want to share a few things.

Many of you know I have been incredibly busy. I was teaching, and then that job turned into administrative/web/writing 2/3 of the time.

Meaning, I’m working full time this summer and effectively started a new job at the end of the academic school year.

I’m working on my graduate portfolio – it’s only supposed to be 200 pages long. Oh come on, I heard that collective sigh. Ha!

I’m tutoring – at other people’s houses.

I’m trying to keep up with writing, honoring myself with exercise, meditation, and still trying to do photography.

And…I’m gearing up to start teaching again in just a few short weeks, not to mention my last graduate course, ever will be starting.  (Okay, don’t ‘mark my words on that’ – we all know I’m a little addicted to school.)

The point is, I know I haven’t been here to my corner of the web nearly as much as I’d like.

I had a long talk with a good friend on Saturday – you know who you are – and she helped me decide that it’s okay to not be Super Woman. At least not all the time.

It’s okay to work on cutting back. I really am: I can’t keep going at this crazy pace….

The powers that be are gently reminding me that I must have balance in order to feel fulfilled.

If I don’t, I somehow sprout what seem to be dandelion-like fields of gray hairs, and my core seems to get all screwed up.

So, yes. I already know I’m going to be cutting out tutoring.

I don’t want to cut out writing.

But, until I’m finished with this degree, and I settle into my new job, I am going to be a little sporadic.

And so many of you have understood that. You have stood by my side and honored that.

So, today, I will honor you.

For being there during the long haul: commenting, checking in, stopping by, and even sharing my blog when even couldn’t share my blog.

I promise you: I’m not going anywhere. I intend to grow this site, and finally get something published (I do the work, but for some reason that “publish” button terrifies me…I’m working on that…), and to follow all the people I love in the webiverse.

That photo up at the top? That’s the phrase I thought of when I thought of all of you. You’ve all changed my landscape. Feel free to pin it. 😉

You’re all exemplary people. Each one of you is someone I look up to, appreciate and think of often – whether online or off. You have made a difference. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my thank-yous – think of them like the Thank You Awards:

  • To Melanie at Imagine You. You’re a clark like me. You’re funny, special, insightful, and gifted with a life philosophy that I admire. You’re in South Africa. I’m working on visiting you one of these fine days…or years. 🙂  I can’t believe how much alike and in sync we are. I feel like I’ve known you all my life.
  • To Bill at William D Holland. I call you BB because you’re like my Big Bro. Through everything you’ve commented, doled out advice, and you have a backbone of steel. Although my backbone is still covered in aluminum, I’m ordering some steel columns so that I can stand on my own two feet and be absolutely, unequivocally proud of who I am. You have helped teach me that.
  • To Janine at Confessions of a Mommyaholic. We started this web journey together. Your site skyrocketed. And you never stopped smiling, and being supportive. Your words of encouragement, and ability to comment on every post everywhere has my deepest admiration. You’re a gem to me and you have a follower for life.
  • To Sue at Dreamwalker’s Sanctuary. You have a heart of gold. Your amazing words heal my heart and help to heal the planet. Your poetry has permeated my mind and inspired me to dabble in it, too. I love your artwork, writing, and the way you think. If everyone adopted your philosophy, I think we really could heal the planet and have world peace.
  • To Denise over at Girlie on the Edge. You’re another beacon of bright light in my life. Your strength and fortitude know no bounds. You remind me that when life throws you lemons, you can make furniture polish and then sing as you spray it all around. Ha! No really, though. You’re a wonderful listener and such a sweet soul. I have loved your support, too!
  • To Christy at Poetic Parfait. Your attitude toward life and your sweet, positive words always brighten my day! I love your eloquent poetry – you’ve also inspired me – and your way of being just so caring, thoughtful and understanding has allowed you to create so many wonderful friendships. You, too, have a gift for words and beauty that I fully admire.
  • To Clark at the Wakefield Doctrine. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the Doctrine and analyze people in terms of clark, scott or roger. Not a single day. I love that I have discovered the Doctrine because it’s really helped me to grow and be proud of exactly who I am. I’m getting so much better at making no apologies for living life the way I do – I’m embracing it, in large part, because I understand myself so much more. So, thank you!
  • Audrey at Audrey Howitt Poetry – thank you, too. You’re so wonderful about stopping in from time to time – either here or at HubPages and your words are so refreshing. Your poetry and prose capture eloquence at every moment. You also have inspired me to embrace my inner-poet.
  • Ruchira at Abracabadra: your mantras carry such thoughts of healing and health; your words invoke a sense of peace. I always get such wonderful cupfuls of literary goodness and you fill my soul with letters of bliss. Thank you for being you.
  • Jennifer at Another Jennifer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of your blog and the sheer joy of your giving heart. You’ve inspired countless readers to give more and be more than they ever thought they could be. I love reading about your adventures in Nicaragua helping others or helping out closer to home.
  • Dianna at Seasoned Joy. Granted, I know you spend most of your time at HubPages – where we met – but I wanted to include your site here, because I see that it’s special – just like you. I can’t tell you how many times I see your wonderful, supportive comments on my Facebook page, or on others’ pages. You’re also a teacher and I feel like there’s just a certain level of understanding, no matter where we are on the planet. I’m so grateful that our paths have crossed.
  • Rebecca at My Creative Palette. Your friendship has come about because we were apprentices at HubPages and it was such hard work! From there, we found out we don’t live that far apart – and we need to meet one of these days. But, I’m so thrilled that we’re in the blogosphere together. You’re supportive, too. You’re another person that makes me smile every time I see a comment or a lovely reaction to my work. I’m forever grateful.

There are more to mention – and I’m sorry if I forgot anyone. I really just wanted to thank all the people who come by regularly and share their lives with me so often.

Before I close, do you like the new blog design? It’s because I really do want to strengthen my brand. Only a couple posts ago, I was talking about writing more at HubPages, but really, over here I can do things however I see fit. If I don’t have tons of time at the moment, I think I need to park myself here.

Give me five months.

And who knows what’ll happen in the meantime?

Maybe I’ll figure out the perfect schedule and get more done here. I have no idea how all this will work out.

But know this: I care about you – everyone who comes here. If I don’t always comment immediately, or share your stuff all the time, know that I am still thinking of you and I will get around to it.

 

Mount Mitchell-Inspired Poetry

pine trees western NC
Trees in black and white…with some green

 

A Poem Inspired by Mt. Mitchell

 

Awe-Inspired

I feel the subtle wind

and watch it brush the needles on the pine.

And look at the ones who have not survived to this date and time.

To exist and thrive is such sheer determination,

To soar against formidable obstacles, not enough carbon dioxide,

pine insects and cold, these trees through the air still glide.

I take that formidable example

and apply it to my life.

To survive and triumph, through darkness and strife.

When I walk upon a difficult path, I stop and think

That so many before me have fought valiant battles,

growing and loving, understanding that life is fragile.

And still, like the trees, I stand tall, and proud,

I spread my arms like branches through the sky,

Stretching and flexing as they shoot by.

I make no excuses for why I persevere,

The others, they may not always understand.

But one day, they will know my heart will withstand

bliss and tragedy and exactly what makes me human.

Even if they don’t, why that they might,

I must stand out, make a difference – it is my human right.

Celebrating Independence Day

J and I usually celebrate holidays by doing something outside. It’s our style, you know. Independence Day in the US was no different.

We set out and headed to the Craggy Gardens in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. From there, we headed to Mt. Mitchell.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit that we hadn’t gone there in the seven years we’ve lived near Asheville, nor did we in the four years we lived near Boone, NC.

Sometimes those interesting landmarks close to home are the last to be seen, aren’t they?

The views were breathtaking.

We don’t normally go for the potentially crowded places, but we figured July 4th was just as good as any day.