What’s Right With You?

Henri Matisse, a positive thinker!

Henri Matisse, a positive thinker!

“We become what we think about all day long.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The other morning I awoke with a sore throat. That’s always a sure sign of a cold for me. I almost felt disappointed in myself as I asked, “What’s wrong with me?” At that moment, I thought of my favorite Wayne Dyer quote, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I knew I had to change my thinking. I had to ask myself, “What’s right with me?”

The idea about “What’s right” rather than “What’s wrong” was first introduced to me 7 years ago by my Yoga teacher, Suzanne. We would be lying down on the Yoga mat breathing and relaxing just before starting our practice. She’d have us mentally go through our body and find where any pain was located. Next she would tell us to acknowledge the pain and thank it. Then she would tell us to find what is right in our bodies and thank that part of your body…thank your toes, your arms, your legs and your head…etc. You would realize that the pain was taking up a very little space in your body and you actually had much more right than not.

We have all asked that question, “What’s wrong with me?”
While you can’t ignore pain or sorrows, just remember that difficulties make us appreciate the positive more. We often grow through adversity. So acknowledge that and then focus on how much is right in your world rather than what is wrong. Do you have electricity? Do you have a grocery store nearby? Do you the right clothes for the right weather? If you answer yes to these and similar questions and then you have abundance! This type of thinking is the basis for a new type of psychology called Positive Psychology.

What is Positive Psychology? “Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.” (http://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu) Sounds right to me!

Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology sees life as “using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification.”

What can you do to concentrate on what’s right with you?

• When you wake up in the morning, don’t focus on your aches or pains, focus on the many, many parts of the body that are feeling good!

• Be engaged in something you love at least once a day. If you have a passion you can lose yourself in what in you love!

• Surround yourself with positive people who love or support you unconditionally.

• I believe that this habit of “What’s right with you” is a very important one to teach to your children. Here’s one thing you can do: play a dinner game with your family where you each tell what happened right in your day.

• Practice mindfulness. I do this often in my garden. I love to see the little buds on the plants, the different stages of flowers, the small insects in the garden, the smell of dirt and the color of everything in nature. I also practice mindfulness when I eat slowly and really taste my food. Mindfulness, for me, always leads to gratitude.

• Practice Gratitude – gratitude is thankfulness taken to the next level. Every day remind yourself of how lucky you are. Gratitude can be affirmations like “I’m grateful for…” It can be the simple, but essential things like breathing, running water and a roof over my head or thoughts of family and friends and a job.

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly—you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you.”
~Eckhart Tolle

What you think about expands. Shift your attention away from what’s wrong and concentrate on what’s right. Try it for a day and you’ll adopt this attitude for a lifetime!

What to hear more? Watch this 23 minute TED video with Martin Seligman calle “The New Era of Positive Psychology”.

If you live near Denver (or even if you don’t!), I’d like to invite you to a workshop I’m giving with Tricia Gast of Body Talk. We’ll be teaching about releasing negative emotions like stress, worry, angry from the body, becoming a Peaceful Parent, finding your passion and becoming a positive thinker. We’ll be laughing a lot, practicing Yoga and giving you some practical tips on integrating all of this into your life right away. The workshop will take place June 28th from 8:00 to 12:00 in Littleton, Colorado with lots of heathy snacks included! The cost… you decide… that’s right! It’s based on the Buddhist principle called “Dana”: giving what you feel the program is worth. If you’re interested please email me at thezenmama (at) gmail.com and I’ll send you more information.

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Oh The Possibilities…

 Norman Vincent Peale, my favorite positive thinker!

Norman Vincent Peale, my favorite positive thinker!

My summer is just starting. I am at the start of two months of possibilities. I have a few commitments but otherwise each day is open to many possibilities.

I want to finish my book, have a great flower and vegetable garden, make really delicious food that is also healthy, travel to new places, take some unbelievable hikes in the mountains, read books, go swimming, create some new photography, meet some new people….. the list goes on!

I feel like a kid! Kids see the potential of every summer. Kids imagine great crafts, making a Tom Sawyer raft, a hole that must be dug, sprinklers to run through and stars at night to be wished upon. Were your summers as a kids that way? When we’re young and just starting out, the world is full of possibilities.

If only we could feel this way every morning, excited and enthusiastic! The whole day is laid out before us, just like a summer break. Fourteen – sixteen hours, depending how much you sleep of course, before us to use the way we want.

Then your inner voice starts a conversation:
“But wait,” you say, “I have responsibilities.”

“And I have children to take care of.”

“And my job is serious.”

“I have a ______ to pay.” (insert mortgage, phone bill, Visa card)

Ok. I understand. You have responsibilities! But don’t those responsibilities limit your possibilities. The possibilities that you make for yourself come from your beliefs.

You belief system is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Your beliefs are that inner voice your are hearing. If you can eliminate certain beliefs your reality will change

After eliminating certain negative beliefs, your other inner voice, the positive one, can say, “Wait, can’t our responsibilities be part of our possibilities?”

Well, why not? As George Bernard Shaw wrote: “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’”

So first, take time to examine your beliefs by answering these questions:

• Is the world for you a loving place or hostile?
• If you’re a parent, do you look for the good in your children or the bad?
• Do you spend time with yourself or are you always doing things for others and living only with the constant chatter in your head?
• Do you wish things were better yet do nothing to change that? Or do you act on your thoughts?
• At your workplace are you open or are you controlling? Are you a leader? Maybe you see yourself as a victim? Are bad things are always happening to you…Or are you with your world?
• Do you laugh much?
• Do you have time in your life to simply be?

Your job as a parent, your career and even how you pay bills can be what you make it! So in this post I’m giving your homework. Time to stop seeing the world as a limiting place. Instead see the world this week as a week of possibilities.

1. Be open.
2. Make mistakes.
3. Think outside the box.
4. Be open to coincidence or serendipity.
5. Stop complaining.
6. Do something a lot different from the norm. Drive home a different way. Stop at a new shop that’s just opened. Brush your teeth with a different hand.
7. Do something outside your comfort zone.
8. Remove negative behavior.
9. Volunteer in your dream job.
10. See the humor in life.
11. Change your attitude!
12. Sing this song from Oklahoma all week (or something equally as positive):
“Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I’ve got a wonderful feeling,
Everything’s going my way.”

13. Lastly, it’s up to you to make your day fun and full of possibilities.
• For example, if you’re with your children all summer, create a fun summer filled with trips to little creeks, playgrounds, hikes around a fun farmer’s market or a scavenger hunt around your neighborhood. (It doesn’t have to be expensive)
• If you’re in a serious job, start bringing humor to work. People may be grumpy at first but they’ll start to look forward to your jokes and one day bring a joke of their own!
• If you are overwhelmed by the bills you have, look at them in a different way. Thank them what overwhelms you, like paying bills, for the opportunity it give you to have a house, car, phone or to do the many things you get to do. Thank your taxes for giving you an incredible place to live. Thank your sore throat for helping you to slow down. Take an opportunity to change some negative into a positive.

Creating a possibility is like removing a roadblock in the street that is your life!

So join me and be excited for all the possibilities this summer. As part of your homework assignment, write below what possibilities you have for the summer. You all know the quote “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Well, make some lemonade with your responsibilities and turn them in possibilities. I can’t wait to hear what you’re going to be doing!

My favorite positive thinker, Norman Vincent Peale

My favorite positive thinker, Norman Vincent Peale

If you live near Denver (or even if you don’t!), I’d like to invite you to a workshop I’m giving with Tricia Gast of Body Talk. We’ll be teaching about releasing negative emotions like stress, worry, angry from the body, becoming a Peaceful Parent, finding your passion and becoming a positive thinker. We’ll be laughing a lot, practicing Yoga and giving you some practical tips on integrating all of this into your life right away. The workshop will take place June 28th from 8:00 to 12:00 in Littleton, Colorado with lots of heathy snacks included! The cost… you decide… that’s right! It’s based on the Buddhist principle called “Dana”: giving what you feel the program is worth. If you’re interested please email me at thezenmama (at) gmail.com and I’ll send you more information.

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17 Fathers Quotes To Inspire Great Dads

Fathers are a beacon of light

A father is neither an anchor to hold us back, nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way.”
~Unknown

I’ve always known that having a good father is important. However more and more I realize how essential having a good father is for an easier adulthood. Friends who didn’t have a father or have “father issues” continue to search for what’s missing in their lives.

I’m very thankful that I have my own wonderful father who has always treasured me. And I have an incredible husband who shows my three boys what it is to be a great Dad and husband!

Great fathers:

• Give Protection – by making a safe home and being there through thick and thin.
• Give Support – whether it’s financial or emotional.
• Teach self confidence – Self confidence is taught by treasuring your children and by showing them the respect you want them to show you.
• Treat Mom like a queen – This helps children to see how to be a great spouse someday.
• Are there for their children – Think of the Harry Chapin song. You need to be there! Quantity time is more important than quality time.
• Are funny! – I grew up with a very humorous dad and then married a very humorous husband. Being a fun dad helps to make life fun, too!

My father and me

Here are some great quotes that help to define what it is to be a great dad!

Fathers need to teach their kids to ride bikes:
“The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.”
~Sloan Wilson

Fathers need to have tough skins:
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
~Author unknown (Possibly Mark Twain)

“Discipline doesn’t break a child’s spirit half as often as the lack of it breaks a parent’s heart.”
~Anonymous

Father’s need to understand their children go through stages, sometimes not good ones:

“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.”
~Charles Wadsworth

“It is a wise father that knows his own child.”
~William Shakespeare

Fathers need to gently discipline:
“A father is a man who expects his children to be as good as he meant to be.”
~Carol Coats

“When you teach your son, you teach your son’s son.”
~The Talmud

John and the boys in Costa Rica

Fathers need to learn to be fathers:
“Fathers, like mothers, are not born. Men grow into fathers and fathering is a very important stage in their development.”
~David Gottesman

“The guys who fear becoming fathers don’t understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of child raising is not the child but the parent.”
~Frank Pittman

“Becoming a father is easy enough, but being one can be very rough.”
~Wilhelm Busch

Fathers need to know when it’s time to let go:

“How true Daddy’s words were when he said: ‘All children must look after their own upbringing.’ Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
~Anne Frank

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.”
~Hodding Carter, Jr.

Fathers need to treat mothers with respect:

“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
~Henry Ward Beecher

Fathers need to lead by example:

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
~Clarence B. Kelland

“Character is largely caught, and the father and the home should be the great sources of character infection.”
~Frank H. Cheley


Fathers need to have a good sense of humor:

“I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”
~ Harry S. Truman

Fathers need to have unconditional love:

“A parent’s love is whole no matter how many times divided.”
~Robert Brault

Thanks, Dad and John, for being great fathers. Thank you for the humor, the unconditional love and for teaching me, and my boys, to ride a bike!

Posted in Gratitude, Holidays, Quotes, Zen Papa | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Four Agreements

Don Miguel Ruiz's 4 Agreements

Don Miguel Ruiz’s 4 Agreements

“Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive – the risk to be alive and express what we really are.”
~Don Miguel Ruiz

Have you read the best selling book (bestseller for 7 years!) THE FOUR AGREEMENTS by Don Miguel Ruiz?

He writes of four agreements to practice and much more. These four agreements stay with you! These principles help to create love and happiness in your life. I really enjoyed reading the book several years ago and re-visit these agreements to remind myself of their power. These agreements are simple, but simple isn’t always easy. Actually living these Four Agreements can be challenging.

Don Miguel Ruiz left his career as a surgeon and became a Toltec shaman following in the traditions of his family. The ancient Toltecs lived in the south of Mexico not far from the Guatemalan border. He began his career as a surgeon but then instead followed his family’s traditions of being a shaman. He moved to the United States before and has lived here after writing the book. THE FOUR AGREEMENTS was published in 1997. It’s based on Toltec Wisdom he learned from his family. He shares these ancient Toltec teachings as a way to find happiness, peace, and love. He has now passed these traditions onto his sons.

The Four Agreements are:

1. Be Impeccable with your Word:
Say only what you mean. Avoid saying things against yourself or gossiping about others.

This is some of the best advice in the book. I gave up gossiping years ago. The advice of the poem, “words will never hurt you” is so wrong! Words hurt people very much and if you’re talking behind someone else’s back they can feel it. Or they may find out from someone else. The negative talk you tell yourself is equally as hurtful. Your subconscious believes what you tell it. Stop both!

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say is their own reality, their own dream. When you stop taking things personally, you can analyze why someone’s actions.

I love this one. It’s advice my mother gave us years ago. She’d say, “If someone is angry or trying to make you feel guilty about something it’s because they have a problem, not you.” I always take that to heart. After initially being hurt or angry sometimes, I try to delve deep into what might be going on in that person’s life. This person may be dealing with financial issues, relationship problems or any of life’s big dramas. I don’t accept letting others treat me in a negative way, but I also don’t take it personally. I try to extend non-judgment to everyone.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Maybe you learned the same thing as me about the word assume? It makes an ass out of u and me? It’s still the same! It’s the same as the agreement above, “Don’t take things personally”. If you make assumption, you might miss what someone else is going through in life. Try, once again, to imagine that’s it’s their problem not yours. Use your inner wisdom and practice non-judgment.

4. Always Do Your Best
In any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

I know that I was always told this as a kid: “We’re happy as long you’ve done you’re best.” Your best is going to change from moment to moment. Somedays your best is incredible. Other days your best is just so-so. Your best will always be changing depending on health, wealth or wisdom. Do you best and avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, or any regret.

Each of us will find one or more of these agreements difficult to do! Pick the one or two that you need to work on more. It will be different for everyone. And these are great to share with your children!

It’s a short book and you may want to give it a try! Click on the book below to get it at Amazon.

And by the way Don Miguel Ruiz’s son Don Jose Ruiz has released a sequel with his father, The Fifth Agreement, which adds a further agreement:

5. Be Skeptical but Learn to Listen.

I think I’ll read this book over the summer! Read more about Don Miguel Ruiz, his family and their books at his website… click here.

“Everything is there for us, but first we need to have the courage to open our eyes, to use the truth, and to see what really is.”
~Don Miguel Ruiz

If you live near Denver (or even if you don’t!), I’d like to invite you to a workshop I’m giving with Tricia Gast of Body Talk. We’ll be teaching about releasing negative emotions like stress, worry, angry from the body, becoming a Peaceful Parent, finding your passion and becoming a positive thinker. We’ll be laughing a lot, practicing Yoga and giving you some practical tips on integrating all of this into your life right away. The workshop will take place June 28th from 8:00 to 12:00 in Littleton, Colorado with lots of heathy snacks included! The cost… you decide… that’s right! It’s based on the Buddhist principle called “Dana”: giving what you feel the program is worth. If you’re interested please email me at thezenmama (at) gmail.com and I’ll send you more information.

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Thich Nhat Hanh, photo courtesy of his Plum Village website

Thich Nhat Hanh, photo courtesy of his Plum Village website

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

I discovered Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tik-N’yat-Hawn) a few years ago when my mother gave me the book, Peace With Every Step. It was a particularly crazy time with three kids full of activities, working at my job, cooking meals, cleaning as much as I could, doing laundry and trying to fit in a garden… everything added to the chatter in my head and gave me monkey mind . I craved peace. Then, suddenly, here was a way within a book to help to bring peace back into my life! I loved it.

Thich Nhat Hanh is the best known Zen masters in the world today. He is a writer and peace activist. He was born in central Vietnam in 1926. He entered the monkhood at the age of sixteen. He helped to found the “Engaged Buddhism” movement to help to bring about peace in Vietnam and other countries during the 60′s. Martin Luther King Jr. called him “an apostle of peace and nonviolence”. His life has been dedicated to the work of inner transformation for individuals and society. Today, Thich Nhat Hanh still travels the world leading retreats. His home is Plum Village in France, living in the meditation community he founded. There he teaches, writes and gardens. You can read more about him here.

I know how busy we all are. So while you may not have time to read Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, here are some little nuggets of his advice to weave into your very busy days!

On Mindfulness
Thich Nhat Hanh is all about mindfulness – noticing everything without judgment. Mindfulness never fails to change my mood!

“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.”

“Around us, life bursts with miracles–a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.”

On Waking In The Morning
We don’t always wake up in a good mood… so try saying this before you get out of bed and see how your day will change. This quote is like my mantra!

“Waking up this morning I smile
knowing there are 24 brand new hours before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment,
and look at beings with eyes of compassion.”

On Letting Go
Zen Mama started because I realized that if I could let go, I could be a better mother and have a better relationship with my kids! But it can be very difficult!

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”

“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”

“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”

On Breathing
Another way to change your day is to make sure you are breathing deeply, in and out.

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”

On Meditation
I loved the walking meditation that I leaned through the book. To do the walking meditation: walk at your regular pace, not too fast. Be aware of each foot touching the ground. Be aware of everything around you, clouds, trees flowers, little creatures. Have a smile on your face and smile into every cell in your body. Try taking two or three steps for each in-breath and each out-breath. I think as I breathe, “I am breathing in peace.” When I breathe out, I think, “I am breathing out ________” You can fill in anxiety, busyness, anger… whatever emotion you want to let go.

“When we walk like (we are rushing), we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth… Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth. Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”

On A Positive Attitude
I know that some see a positive attitude as sticking your head in the sand or being a “Pollyanna”. Yet I know that the days I have a positive attitude are my best and happiest days.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

“I have noticed that people are dealing too much with the negative, with what is wrong. … Why not try the other way, to look into the patient and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?”

On Expectation of Yourself and Others
We try so hard to fit into the culture. Try to not fit in today and don’t just do what the culture expects of you.

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”

We’re always searching for the person we know ourselves to be, not a second rate version of someone else. So, why are we trying to make everyone else into an idea of what we think they should be? Reading this quote really made me think!

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you
don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not
doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or
less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have
problems with our friends or family, we blame the other
person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will
grow well, like the lettuce.

On Slowing Down
Do you find you are always rushing through your day? I try to make my day last forever so this quote is one of my favorites!

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”

On Love And Relationships
Loving unconditionally can be very difficult. It means being there for someone without judgment. It doesn’t mean giving up. It means you’re willing to support someone you love.

“When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?”

“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”

“You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”

“Compassion is a verb.”

I hope you enjoyed these quotes and got an idea of what Thich Nhat Hanh is all about. I’ll be giving away my copy of Peace With Every Step. To be entered in the giveaway, please leave a comment about why you need peace in your life. I’ll put your names into a hat and the Zen Papa will pick one!

Click through the link below to read more about Peace With Every Step:

Everyone, including yourself, can profit from your happiness!

Everyone, including yourself, can profit from your happiness!

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When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking… I Was!

My mother and my three siblings in Sedona

My mother and my three siblings in Sedona

“In teaching (and mothering) you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.”
~ Jacques Barzun

I am so lucky to have the mother I do as an example of how to be the best mom. I won the Mother Lottery. She is the original Zen Mama. Growing up she was ever present yet not hovering. She didn’t seem to worry and always trusted that I was making the right decisions. When I had problems, she listened, without judgement and then gave me solid advice but didn’t press me into following it. When the time came for me to go to college, travel or move to Colorado, she let me go on these grand adventures in life with a smile and a cheer even though inside she knew she’d miss me. We are finally living in the same town again, much to my joy and delight. My mom is a blessing and my inspiration!

Mothers, as we know, are very influential in their child’s life. I don’t think we mothers even know how much we influence our children. We mainly influence them by example. We act, they look.

Each stage with our children is about letting go. From the moment our children lift their heads up and roll over, they are working towards independence and we need to let go at each stage. We don’t have to worry (but we will anyway!) because hopefully if we were doing our job of setting a good example, they were watching. Remember that saying? “Do as I say, not as I do.” Children are always watching you!

I was watching my mom, taking it all in. And when I became a mother, this is what I strove to be like! When I wrote the book, How To A Zen Mama, I unconsciously had in mind all of those nuggets that my mother set her standard by. I’m very lucky!

Here’s favorite poem that sums it all up! And a few quotes to inspire you or write in your Mother’s Day card!

When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking

“When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you hang up my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another one.
When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you feed a stray cat, and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.
When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I knew that little things are special things.
When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I felt you kiss me goodnight, and I felt loved.
When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I LOOKED….
and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.”

“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
~ Author Unknown
(Thank you to the Zen Papa for loving me!)

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”
~ Honoré de Balzac

“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
~ Tenneva Jordan

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”
~ Rajneesh

“A mother understands what a child does not say.”
~ Jewish Proverb

“It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn’t.”
~ Barbara Kingsolver

“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around – and why his parents will always wave back.”
~ William D. Tammeus

“There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.”
~ Chinese Proverb

“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”
~ Sophia Loren

“I’d like to be the ideal mother, but I’m too busy raising my kids.”
~ Unknown

And to my children, Max, Charlie and Oliver, thank you so much for teaching me these many lessons about what being a mother is all about! You’ve changed my life. In letting you go, I’m able to see to sit back and see the person you’ve become. You’re all perfect the way you are and I love being your mother.

My birthday and my three boys

P.S. My latest book, Zen Tips, Daily Meditations for Happiness and Fulfillment From the Zen Mama, will be on sale at the Kindle store for just $.99, starting Saturday for 5 days, in honor of Mother’s Day!

Have a wonderful day!!

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7 Ways To Find Peace In A Garden

Zen Tip Finding Miracles In The Garden I was so exhausted yesterday when I got home. That’s what the end of the school year is like for teachers. It’s spring, the kids are ready to be outside and filled with energy. The first thing I did to revive myself is go outside, grab my garden hose and begin to water my perennials and vegetable seedlings. I began to feel a little more like myself.

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”
Luther Burbank

I have several gardens but my favorite is the vegetable garden. If you’ve never planted one, you should! One of my greatest joys is planting my vegetable garden. I have two; one I make with my preschoolers and one at home.

There is great satisfaction in growing vegetables. I adore my flower garden but it’s the vegetable garden that I look most forward to. There is incredible beauty in a head of lettuce and little scallion sprouts popping up out of the dirt. My mother had a huge garden that all four of us children planted, weeded and harvested! I’ll never forget digging up potatoes and watching beans form. Maybe it’s why I’ve always loved eating vegetables from a very young age. I couldn’t wait to grow one of my own when we got our first house. I’ve had one where ever we’ve lived. Each spring, there’s nothing like starting over each year… a fresh slate to do what worked and change what didn’t.

Why should you garden? One of the biggest reasons for me is to find peace, revive and relax. Here are seven ways that bring peace in a garden:

1. An important lesson in the garden for us and for our children is the waiting and anticipation. Our culture is very impulsive and our society expects everything to happen instantly. No one seems to ever want to wait. It’s important to learn that good things come to those who wait. Anticipation for the seeds to grow is like Christmas!

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.”
~W.E. Johns

2. In a garden you can experience true living in the moment. You experience mindfulness as you watch the bugs and dig up worms. It allows you to think about something other than stressors. You use all your senses especially sight, touch and smell as you dig in the earth. Touch and smell the dirt, smell basil, admire the miracle of a sprout or taste a small scallion. For me and many others, there’s nothing like tasting a fresh warm tomato right out of the garden.

“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

3. Gardening is a chance to be creative – I sometimes feel like an artist in my garden. I love to mix colors in the flowers. I plan so something is always blooming. I like to plant the lettuce in a pattern, red, green, red, green. I love to take pictures of the insects at work. My garden is filled with possibilities. It is my palette.

“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”
~ Claude Monet

4. You improve your mental health in the garden – All sorts of studies have shown that people with depression feel much better after being in their garden. I’ve even read that gardening is good for your brain. One study found that people in their 60‘s and 70‘s who gardened regularly had a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners. Just Fascinating!! By the way, leave your phone in the house.

“Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes.”
~Author Unknown

5. My physical health is also improved – You might not think of exercise when you garden but after a day of digging up a patch, I’m sore and have used muscles I haven’t in a while! You’re breathing in fresh air and feeling the sunshine and getting your dose of vitamin D. Eating all those vegetables is good nutrition, too, a great example for your family. Kids will often try food that they’ve grown when they’ll never try it on their plate. This is as local as it gets! One study I read found that people who gardened recovered faster from surgery. Another found that certain strains of harmless soil-borne Mycobacterium vaccae stimulated the human immune system. Exposure to this bacteria can aid in developing a strong immune system! Another one I read is that farm children are less likely to develop asthma than city children.

“Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years.”
~ Anonymous

6. Time slows down in a garden – For me, life slows down if I spend anytime in nature. Our society is so busy! Many people never slow down. And our poor children also need to slow down and not be involved in so many activities. I can let go of my monkey mind in the garden and my time there lasts forever. A garden teaches us patience

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
~Lao Tzu

7. You can find yourself in the garden - With all that quiet and time to think I reconnect with whom I am. I’ve let go of the stressors in life and of the feeling like I’ve haven’t gotten anything done. All around me is beauty and peace.

“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

Are you ready?
• First get prepared. Are you planting a container garden? Or a plot outside?
If it’s your first garden pick things that are easy to grow. Don’t have a book on gardening? Google is at your fingertips!
• Have your seeds and dirt ready to go. Some kind of mulch is a good idea, too, to keep the dirt weed-free and moist. Choose easy to grow seeds. Or buy young plants.
• If you don’t have space, try container gardening. I’m going to do a combination this year. Prepared Mama put them in container and has great advice here and here. I like her 4″, 6″ 8″ and 12″ container ideas like the one below:

flowerpot9

One thing you need to know is when to plant. There are veggies that like cold nights and can take a little snow and others that can only be grown in the heat of summer. I recommend the following for an easy:
• Spring garden: crops include spinach, lettuce, peas, scallions, onions
• Mid Spring: crops potatoes, broccoli, beets, radishes and carrots
• Summer: after the last frost plant, tomatoes, pumpkins, squashes, beans, herbs like basil, dill, chives, oregano and rosemary.

Is all this too much for you? Ask for help! You probably know a gardener who is as anxious as I am to share. Otherwise, remember, google is right at your fingertips!

Please let me know if you start a garden! I’d love to hear how it’s growing.
Experience all these things for yourself and find peace in your garden… and if you have kids, teach them this kind of peace, too.

“Life begins the day you start a garden.”
~Chinese Proverb

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Wisdom of the Mayans – The Road Less Traveled Part 2

Zentips:BreneBrown:Connection

We recently took a trip through the Yucatan Peninsula on a Mayan Ruin adventure for our son Charlie’s 21st birthday! We traveled the road less traveled, driving all over the Yucatan in a little rental car. First we saw three sets of Mayan Ruins: Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Palenque (more about these in a later post). Then we spent two days on the Gulf of Mexico after visiting all the ruins in a town called Celestun (pronounced “cel-es-toon”). This is the type of travel we love! We knew we’d have an amazing time but what we didn’t know is that the best part of our trip were the encounters with the people.

When I first started connecting I had no idea what I know now know: what else is there in life but connection? Deep down inside I often feel shy or a little reserved. It is sometimes hard for me to get over that reserve and share of myself; or hard to dig deep and find out about other’s lives. Over the years I’ve pushed myself out of my shell, gotten out of my comfort zone. One of the ways I’ve done this is by asking others questions and really listening to what they’ve had to say.

Connecting with others is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. I feel like a better person…if I’ve connected with my students and parents, if I’ve connected with my husband or kids, if I’ve volunteered and really helped or even if I’ve just connected passing someone in the street with a smile or are eye connect – all this is what makes an ordinary day less ordinary but extraordinary!

We found the Mayan/Mexican people to be kind and helpful. As Americans, we sometimes at first viewed them with suspicion… why do these people want to help us? What are they trying to sell? We let go of that after a while. Then we were able to get so many positive messages that I began to write them down.

Listen before You Speak

Our guide, Jaime, at Chichen Itza

Our guide, Jaime, at Chichen Itza

We met Jamie (pronounced “Hi-me”) at the ruins of Chichen Itza. Our guide told us proudly that he is 69 years old and still learning more about his ancient ancestors all the time. We learned from him that the Mayan people were observant, quiet and always listening. We learned that people all came from the same source.

You Already Have Everything You Need

Bebe is the middle singer/guitar player

Bebe is the middle singer/guitar player

We met Bebe at the hotel where he played music with his sons and brother. From him we learned that family is everything along with music. Unintentionally he taught us that material things don’t matter so much. He invited us back to his home where his wife (daughter, daughter in law, mother) were making pinoches. Pinoches are a delicious snack of corn tortilla, beans, lettuce, pickled onions and some kind of meat. We went back into a very lively and rudimentary kitchen made of thick sticks and a thatched roof. A turkey and chicken were looking in through the door. I thought of all the people I know who couldn’t live without a granite countertop or a certain oven. I thought, “We are so spoiled!” Bebe sang while we ate the delicious pinoches and had a special rice milk drink called horchada.
Kitchen at Bebe's house

Kitchen at Bebe’s house

Be Proud Of Your Background
Gama was our guide at Uxmal. He was very knowledgeable about the Mayans of the area. He told us that Uxmal was probably a learning center rather than a ceremonial one like Chichen Itza because of all the cisterns that were discovered at the ruins. He knew all about the symbols that adorned the pyramids and other structures. He was very proud of his heritage and that Mayan was his first language.

Gama was our guide at Uxmal

Gama was our guide at Uxmal

Quality, Simplicity and Living Near The Land
Ignacio nicknamed “Nacho” was our guide at our favorite ruins, Palenque. He spent 10-15 minutes at the beginning of the tour giving us an education on the Mayan planting season and how it affected their lives. He made the pyramids and palace come alive for us. Nacho taught us about simplicity. He has no debt. He built his house on land that his father gave him for $2000. He was passionate about fresh food. He has a large garden so that he can eat fresh tomatoes (and other vegetables) from the land not from a can.

Our guide at Palenque, Nacho

Our guide at Palenque, Nacho

Follow Your Dream
Wanda and Karen and Kenn, the owners of the La Casa de Celeste Vida, are not Mayan but three Canadians, who taught us about following your dream. They had a dream of running a B and B in Mexico. We had such a relaxing time here. Over the years, they made that dream came true with perserverance, determination and knowing. We loved hearing their story.

Kenn, Karen and Wanda

Kenn, Karen and Wanda

Greet Each Other With Kindness
In Mayan there is a greeting “Lak’ech Ala K’in”. The saying means, “I am another you, and you are another me.” It’s not unlike Namaste, “The light in me honors the light in you” or the Golden Rule, “Do unto to others as they would do unto you”. We felt this respect and helpfulness wherever we went, from our waiter on Charlie’s birthday:

Our waiter, Adrian, with Charlie on his 21st Birthday

Our waiter, Adrian, with Charlie on his 21st Birthday

…to the grandson of Bebe…

Bebe's grandson

Bebe’s grandson

As time goes on, I may forget these exact lessons but I’ll never forget how welcomed I felt. I learned to let go of what I’ve been taught in the “1st world” and appreciate what the culture of a different society has to offer. The simple things in life are the most important… family, heritage, listening, simplicity, living your dream and doing what you love!

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
~Maya Angelou

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The Road Less Traveled – Part 1

We took the road less traveled on this trip to the Yucatan!

We took the road less traveled on this trip to the Yucatan!

Dear Zen Mama Readers, I’ve been a little absent lately…teaching, traveling and going to Lacrosse games! I was recently inspired during an amazing trip. My next few posts will reflect this! Hope you’ve been well!

As you may know, we love to travel. We just got back from a 10 day Yucatan, Mexico adventure, traveling between Mayan Ruins for my middle son’s, Charlie, 21st birthday. A few years ago, we decided to take each child on a trip alone to celebrate this jump into adulthood. It’s amazing how you can connect and get closer with just one child. We learned a lot on this trip. So much so that the next few posts will be a direct result from this trip.

We traveled the road less traveled, driving all over the Yucatan in a little rental car. First we saw three sets of Mayan Ruins: Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Palenque (more about these in a later post). Then we spent two days on the Gulf of Mexico after visiting all the ruins in a town called Celestun (pronounced “cel-es-toon”). We stayed at a small self-catering place called Celeste Vida. It’s run by Karen and Kenn and Wanda (more about this place and their dream in a later post, too).

Celestun's beautiful, empty beaches filled with shells.

Celestun’s beautiful, empty beaches filled with shells.

Celestun is still the “real Mexico”. No resorts here! In fact we only saw one set of other Americans. We mostly just interacted with the townspeople. This is the type of travel we love! It’s really being a traveler, not just a tourist looking for all that you already have at home. The town in known for the flamingos that reside in the estuary and it’s empty white sand beaches that are filled with perfect shells. We loved getting up early and watching the fisherman get their early morning catch. At night their boat lights twinkled among the amazing stars, attracting sardines.
Perfect Shells Everywhere!!

Perfect Shells Everywhere!!

The setting was incredibly peaceful, just what we needed! It all reminded me of this fable of a Mexican fisherman and an American businessman. The American just doesn’t understand that sometimes we already have what we need and that less is more. Enjoy our fishermen pictures that compliment this lovely story:

The fishermen of Celestun working together.

The fishermen of Celestun working together.

The Fisherman!

An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?” The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, senior.”

A flounder was apart of their catch.

A flounder was apart of their catch.

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senior, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then, senior?”

The American laughed and said that’s the best part. “When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

One seemed to be in charge

One seemed to be in charge

“Millions, senior? Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

~Author Unknown

Breakfast at our guitar playing friend's home.

Breakfast at our guitar playing friend’s home.

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How To Calm Your Monkey Mind

Dear Zen Mama Readers, I’ve had a full month with plenty of “Monkey Mind”. Since I’m still rather busy, I’ve decided to post one of my favorite posts from the past, about that subject of Monkey Mind! It’s one I needed to reread myself and learn once again! Enjoy!

“I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the monkey mind. The thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. My mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined.”
~Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve had a drunken monkey in my brain this week! Sounds crazy doesn’t it?

I recently read that Buddha imagined the human mind was filled with drunken monkeys who jumped around and were constantly chattering. “We all have monkey minds,” Buddha said. All these monkeys want our attention and steal our energy. They are loud and make you worry about everything that could happen. Buddha showed his students that kind, loving and positive thoughts could transform the monkey mind. The monkeys did not go away, but became calm in your mind. Buddha said this could be done through a quiet time each day in meditation. You focus your breathing on a simple mantra/affirmation to calm the monkeys.

We live in a society where worry, anxiety, stress are commonplace. Most stress is mental. You are what you think. Spring is the crazy time of year for teachers and parents. When I woke up Monday morning, I realized I only have 6 more weeks of school left. And in that six weeks, besides teaching, I’m giving three presentations – two presentations at one conference, one at another. With that, I must update a book and make two powerpoints. Yikes!

All these thoughts set off the crazy monkeys in my mind! It started the anxiety I feel when I’m not sure that I can get everything done. The kind that starts in your stomach and feels like butterflies. You know what I’m talking about? The kind that wakes you up in the middle of the night.

Luckily I have a few tricks I pull out of my hat to calm my “Monkey Mind”:

1. You control your reaction. Often stress is caused by your perception of the problem. Can you solve it? Then do! If you cannot solve it, let go of your attachment to it. I realize that while I can’t control the next few weeks, I can control my reaction. I can be stressed out and thinking of nothing but what needs to be done. Or I can use these tricks. The things to do are still there, but I will feel calmer.

2. Practice Mindfulness. Try to live more in the moment. Let go of the past and don’t think too much about the future. Breathe in the smells of Spring, really taste your food as you eat today, look for beauty around you and feel gratitude for everything and everyone around you.

3. Take a break and let your soul rest. We all do too much and as the Zen Papa reminds me, much of it is self imposed. If you’re too busy because you’ve volunteered for too many things, then you need to take a break and let your soul rest! My husband and I took a walk and watched a movie last night. Yes, I could have worked the evening through, but I needed a break!

4. Positive Affirmations. I just finished reading Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting by Wayne Dyer. All through the book he talks about saying the “I AM” affirmations. You say the affirmation even if it’s the opposite of what you’re thinking. Strangely enough your brain believes whatever you tell it! Try one of these or make up one of your own:

I AM calm
I AM success
I AM prosperity
I AM stress free
I AM debt free
I AM organized
I AM headache free

*By the way, make sure it’s not negative or that it isn’t hurtful to others!!*

5. Meditate. According to Buddha and many others meditation is the key! I’m just getting started in meditation myself. When you’re a busy person meditation can be simple like just being quiet with yourself. Or if you can spend a little more time, you can try a guided meditation.

• Try sitting quietly, in a special stress free place, in the sun or you can even meditate on a slow walk. Breathe deeply and say one of the positive affirmations above. The opposite of whatever your “Monkey brain” is telling you.

• Do the 100 Breaths Challenge: Take a deep breath through your belly and breath IN at the nostrils and count in your mind, “One”. Let your breathe flow naturally, go with it’s natural rhythm. Continue from number 1 to 100. If your mind wonders (which it will), simply come back to your count and continue.

• Another way to meditate is through guided meditations. I recently participated in a guided meditation and was surprised at how much I loved it. Here’s a very short one by Deepak Chopra on gratitude help you let go of stress:

All this takes practice. You can’t get rid of the crazy, drunken monkeys in your mind, but you can calm your Monkey Mind by not worrying so much. As you practice all the tricks above, you will feel calmer in general and find it easier to focus. Which, in turn, will help you become even less stressed!

Photo credits:
Crazy Monkey image

Calm Monkey image

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