Reasonable Expectations Verses No Expectations…What Do You Think?

 A perfect quote from Tony Robbins!

Reasonable expectations verses no expectations…What do you think?

Last week I posted a message about green tomatoes and expectations. You have certain expectations for life that life doesn’t always respond to. Like waiting for my green tomatoes to turn red. Or wanting the people in my life to be what they clearly are not! Or expecting more of myself than I can put out. You can never be disappointed if you let go of expectations. Expectations can control you and can color your world (for good or bad). You can have too high or too low and negative expectations. The message was about non-judgment and letting go of expectations.

After I was through writing this post, the Zen Papa posed a question, “Do you think there’s such a thing as reasonable expectations.” I thought about it for a long time. I’ve left most expectations behind me and am a much happier person. Then again, I reflected that unless you’re a Buddhist monk, (and even at the montastary you would have certain expectations I suppose) you are a member of society and you do need to function. And your children need to function in this life, too. So can you have reasonable expectations without having extreme expectations? I decided yes!

For instance:
What you’d say and what you wouldn’t say to your kids:
“I expect you to do well in school” verses “I expect you to excel in math.”
“I’d like to you to exercise” vs “I want you to be a football star.”

And for yourself:
“I want to be healthier” verses “I want to lose 10 pounds this month.”
“I’m going to clean out one closet or drawer this weekend” verses “I’m going to clean the entire house.”

Yet as I read through the internet I found this at Dharma Wisdom:
“Expectations are almost always the result of what in Buddhism is called “wanting mind.” This wanting mind is driven by desire, aversion, and anxiety; it creates an illusion of solidity and control in a world that is constantly changing and unfolds independently of how we believe it should.

That makes a lot of sense! Letting go of expectations is letting go of what you want to make room for what is and what is possible.

I also love the Buddhist thought called “Emptying your cup” and read this at Psychology Today:
“In the Zen tradition there is a concept called “shoshin”. It suggests that we should come to every situation with an empty cup, ready to receive. If our cup is full, then we have no place to put what is coming to us. Emptying our cup, we release our expectation and our sense of “knowing” allowing us to see what it is directly in front of us. This sensibility helps us remove our tendency to interject our ego into a situation, and also deflects our tendency to interject control.”

This idea is illustrated perfectly in this Zen Story:
“A professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s full! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “This cup is you,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”

When your cup is empty, there is room for more tea. When your cup is full, there is no room for anything. If you empty your cup (of expectations) you are then open to what else is out there. It’s like blowing the top off “the box”. You can’t think outside the box until you can get out of it. Look for possibilities and empty your cup see what fills it.

I also feel that I’m the best person to decide what my life is going to be like. And so is everyone else for themselves. Every person should decide what their life is going to be like. This includes my children, my husband, my co-workers, my friends and you! The ability to decide what we want is freedom and is your greatest wealth. I hope if anyone told me what they wanted out of life, I would be enthusiastic, try not to judge and support them in their endeavors.

Reasonable expectations verses no expectations…it’s a hard question to answer!

What do you think? Is there such a thing as reasonable expectations? Or should we let go of everything? I think both are good. I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

A great thought by Galileo

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What I Expected Was Not What I Got: Letting Go of Judgment and Green Tomatoes

Zig Ziglar Quote

Zig Ziglar Quote

I’m hoping that the last bit of warm weather will completely redden my green tomatoes. But I have become a great fan of green tomatoes since I first wrote this post 2 years ago. As I looked at all the beautiful green tomatoes still in my garden, I decided to re-post one of my favorites posts. Besides learning about how delicious green tomatoes are, this is a post for everyone who has ever judged or been judged. That means this is for everyone.

At the beginning summer, as I do every summer, I planted tomatoes. They were healthy enough, plenty of green leaves with lots of green beautiful tomatoes. These green tomatoes never turned red! It was frustrating at first. My expectations were for RED tomatoes. So I yelled at them, “Now listen here, Solanum Lycopersicum, how many times have told you to turn red? What’s it going to take to turn you RED!” No not really! :) How could I judge or blame the fruit for not changing to red? No, I had to accept this and look at the circumstances. Maybe the tomatoes needed more water or more sun. Perhaps the dirt needed to be fertilized more. Or maybe it was too much rain.

What I expected was not what I got!

What I expected was not what I got!

When I told my friend Ashley about my tomato disaster she said, “Haven’t you ever made Fried Green Tomatoes?” I waited a little longer for them to turn but the frost was nearing. So in the end, I learned to make Fried Green Tomatoes. I was not prepared for how incredibly delicious Fried Green Tomatoes are! From now on, I am not only growing red tomatoes, I’m going to be picking the green ones, too. What a positive experience!

I can’t blame a tomato for being what it was not. I will never try to make a carrot be round or a bean grow in winter. I can’t make acorn squash grow as much as zucchini. As a gardener, I need to create the best circumstances for my vegetables and then let nature take its course. No blame and no judgment.

So why is it that when we have problems with a friend or a child that we judge them rather than look to outside circumstances? Why not view ourselves and the people in our life with understanding rather than judgement? In our society we’ve been taught to expect a lot of ourselves and the people around us. But in reality if you expect less, or even have no expectations, you’ll actually get more!

The Zen Papa and I have a running dialogue on judging. He says that judging is a natural part of human nature. We all do it. I agree! It’s natural to observe people. In fact I just love to stray over a cup of coffee at an airport or crowded corner, people watching and creating fun stories about everyone. The stories are judging just based on observation. What I don’t like is negative judging especially when it’s for the people closest to us…. and the worst, when it’s about judging ourselves! I’ve come to this conclusion: All judging is all based on expectations.

When you expect something of a friend, co-worker, family member, spouse, and they don’t live up to that expectation, then you are upset with them, or disappointed. It causes anger. But what if you had no expectations — then their actions would be neither good nor bad, just actions. You could accept them without frustration, anger or sadness.

When you let go of your expectations for yourself or others, you can find peace. Just like I let go of the red tomato. You’ll find that it’s liberating. Some people think that letting go of expectations means you’re giving up on a person. You’re not giving up; you’re letting go to the attachment of the outcome. And you’re giving permission to yourself or another person to be themselves. If you let go, you can be happier with life. And infinite possibilities open up for the person you were judging and for yourself.

Here’s your homework: Try a Judgment Free Day. Try a day of no expectations. Let go of perfection for yourself and for your family, friends and co-workers. When you feel the judgmental thought come, listen to it and then let it go.

Good luck with your homework! Let me know how your Judgment Free Day went and let me know in the comments below when NOT judging has really made a difference in your life. And here’s the recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes!

Recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes:
• 3-4 large green tomatoes
• cup of flour with a little salt, pepper and a dash of garlic powder added
• 2-3 eggs beat with a tablespoon of milk
• panko (Japanese bread crumbs or bread crumbs of choice)
• olive oil (I just put in a little rather than cover the whole tomato)

First, cut thick slices of the green tomato. Have three bowls ready. One with flour. One with eggs. One with panko. Dip the tomatoes in the flour first. Cover completely with flour. Dip in egg mixture next and then dredge them in the panko. (I’ve read that adding a little buttermilk to the eggs if good, too!) Lastly, fry up them up in the oil. Flip over when browned. Drain on paper towels. If you don’t want to fry in oil, you can bake them. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes on one side then flip them over and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes.

Great eaten alone or dip in a sauce of mayonnaise mixed with a little lemon and a lot of dill. Very easy and delicious!

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
~ Salvador Dalí

“If we stopped judging our success, our bodies, our relationships (and) our abundance, not only will we have more, but everyone else at the table will as well. And removing judgement makes room for something so much greater and so much more expansive.”
~Elle Sommer from Reflecting a Life

“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.”
~ Buddha

*Also, if you love gardening, check out Fran Sorin’s, Author of Digging Deep, wonderful gardening blog, Fransorin.com.

Zentips:Miller:Accept people

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Every Day You Have A Choice – 16 Instant Mood Changers

 Gratitude is the answer to almost every bad mood.We all have days that we start off in a bad, grumpy mood. Every day you have a choice. Are you going to let that mood define your day or are you going to change the way you look at things. When I start out my day in that grumpy mood, I make a cup of coffee and change! Why should I ever have a bad day? I choose to be happy. And you can, too. Every day!

Here are 16 instant mood changers that work for me:

1. Have Gratitude! Walk outside, look up at the sky and contemplate how amazing life is. Gratitude the biggest one first!

2. Take A Shower – a hot one on a cold day or a cold one for a hot day!

3. Breathe Deeply – I like Andrew Weil’s breathing exercise. Breathe in 4 seconds, hold for 7 and let out for 8. Read more here.

4. Listen To Great Music – I love classical and jazz but play whatever makes your happy. You might enjoy this French song from Putumayo French Cafe.

5. Smell Something Wonderful – food, perfume or flowers to name a few. I just read this article about how the scents of lemons, rosemary, sage or basil or spices like cinnamon or peppermint can change your mood. I always have little testers of perfume with me. Try Opium by Yves St. Laurent.

6. Contemplate Art - a beautiful picture can always make me happy! Monet’s poppies make me happy!

Monet's Poppies

7. Eat Chocolate - We have a wonderful store on our Main Street called the Chocolate Therapist. Their dark chocolate is to die for!

8. Organize Something – sound crazy but you really do feel better if you organize something as simple as a drawer.

9. Laugh – Kids laugh about 300 times a day. We’re lucky if we adults laugh 2 or 3 times. There’s all sorts of health benefits to laughing a lot. Get those endorphins going! Read more here!

10. Smile a Duchenne Smile – make a big, toothy smile with your nose and eyes crinkled for 18 seconds.

11. Say “I AM ____” – when you put “I am” in front a something positive you’ll feel better and become that.

ZenTips: I AM

12. Eat Something Yummy – Try some of my Zen Meals - called “Zen” because they’re easy and delicious!

13. Exercise – just a simple walk around the block or a few minutes of stretching can help.

14. Plan Something Fun like imagining a trip – I like to take time out to imagine living in Paris and pick an apartment I would live in. Or I love looking at a beautiful beach and places to stay by the beach. I may never go… but it makes me happy to think that I could. Check out the Facebook page Room With A View.

15. Read Inspirational quotes – Check out my Facebook page for a few.

16. Get a hug from a positive person who loves you! I’m sending you a virtual hug right now!!

What helps you to change your mood?

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It’s My Blog-a-versary!!

(Found at Pinterest/http://observando.net/page/2)

(Found at Pinterest/http://observando.net/page/2)

I often find myself outside contemplating how amazing life is! I feel very lucky and filled with gratitude. How well life is turning out! And as I appreciate life, I also remember that life is fragile. I’ve just finished a busy two weeks beginning my school year. My 3, 4 and 5 year old students also remind me how amazing life is!

5 years ago I saw the word “Blog” on the website I was making for my fledging book, How To Be A Zen Mama. I clicked on the word and started writing from the heart. Thus the first blog post was born. It was September 2009 and that makes this month my Blog-a-versary!

I’ve learned so much over the past 5 years. I’ve written most posts as a conversation between friends about life, parenthood, interesting ideas and recipes. I made many great new friends throughout the blogging world. I’ve treasured every email from someone who’s been touched by a post. I’ve learned, too, many things about eastern thought, raising children, life and about myself. I’ve loved having a positive Facebook page. I’ve loved the writing. I always hoped I’d be writing at this time of life. Thank you all for being part of this journey! I really appreciate it. Thank you for celebrating life with me!

“Life Is Fragile” is the very first post I wrote. I wrote from the heart about what we all go through. During these first weeks of preschool, I was reminded how I still feel the same! “Life Is Fragile” is still as relevant today as when I first posted it.

So now, in honor of my blogiversay….here it is… my very first post, reposted on my 5th Blog-iversay.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
~ Robert Brault

This is a picture of my middle son, Charlie. We just dropped him off for his freshman year of college. He was definitely ready to go. In an instant, the last 18 years have flown by. We had so many great times at home with him just enjoying our daily interactions. He knows a lot about mindfulness with his unique ability not to be limited by time.

Often at my job as preschool teacher I say to myself, “Life is fragile.” These young 4 and 5 year olds are still babies and their parents are figuring out life at the same time. I really feel for what they’re going through. I get to see so many facets of family life through my job, also as mother to three almost-grown children and their friends, and lastly living in a close neighborhood where eventually you know, without searching or being a gossip, a lot of things about a lot of people. I am a very non-judgmental person who really feels for the personal struggles that so many people go through.

I have watched parents agonize over the little things. I have seen a neighbor’s heart-breaking move due to financial reasons. I have been to a memorial service for a beloved baseball coach of my son. I have watched friends try to be positive through their cancer treatments. I know that all they must be wishing for life to be back to normal.

Not too long ago, when my oldest children were about 2 years and 4 years old, I hated dishes and I hated laundry. It just seemed like I was destined for greater things whether it was being an author or even back at my 3rd grade teaching job. I had gotten a paycheck then and worked less than I did being at home with my two children. Then I read a chapter from Mitten Strings From God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kennison. The book is a series of chapters about enjoying life with her young boys.

In one of the very first chapters, Katrina Kennison talks about an author for whom she was an editor. Olive Ann Burn, author of Cold Sassy Tree, was trying to continue to survive cancer, but ultimately did not. She wrote about what she would miss about life. She’d miss the dailiness of things. One of the things she mentioned was dishes. She wrote of the special things she’d miss seeing out the window as she did the dishes.

“I have learned to quit speeding through life, always trying to do too many things too quickly, without taking the time to enjoy each day’s doings. I think I always thought of real living as being high. I don’t mean on drugs – I mean real living was falling in love, or when I got my first job, or when I was able to help somebody, . . . In between the highs I was impatient – you know how it is – life seemed so Daily. Now I love the dailiness. I enjoy washing dishes, I enjoy cooking, I see my father’s roses out the kitchen window. I like picking beans. I notice everything – birdsongs, the clouds, the sound of wind, the glory of sunshine after two weeks of rain.”
— Olive Ann Burns

Well, from that moment on I decided to love doing the dishes. I didn’t want to wait for a tragedy, like cancer, for me to appreciate the dailiness of life. The laundry took a little longer. But now as I fold my children’s clothes or my husband’s or that of the many boys end up in our house, I feel a part of their lives and what they love and realize how much I would miss them if and when they are gone.

We’ll miss Charlie a lot but there are no regrets because we enjoyed all the daily moments with him from babyhood to the fine man he has become.

Life is fragile. The people you know may not be in your daily life forever, whether it’s off to college, a new job or something more permanent. Treasure the dailiness of living. Even if it’s only found in the laundry or the dishes.

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Hummus: Simple, Uncomplicated and Filled With Umami……Um-what?

Hummus is what? Yes, simple and uncomplicated because it’s easy to make with so few ingredients and “umami,” which means “delicious” or “yummy” in Japanese. Yet there’s a little more to umami.

Umami is the difficult-to-define “fifth taste”. In the Western world, we have only four basic tastes: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. Umami, a fifth taste from Asia, is savory, complex, and yummy! It’s hard to translate, delicious in a salty savory kind of way. You know how it is when you taste something that is so filled with savory taste that you can’t wait for the next bite.

I like this definition from The Herb Farm.

In Shinto and Zen Buddhist religions, each food’s natural flavor, color, shape, and aroma are considered a gift from nature to be enjoyed and revered. This combination of qualities is a food’s umami.

• Umami can involve all the senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste.
• Umami wakens positive emotions.
• Umami can have cultural, spiritual, and even mystical aspects.
• Education, experience, and understanding elevate and refine our taste and our perception and enjoyment of umami.
• Umami contains a promise of pleasurable outcome.
• Umami conveys a sense of beauty.
• Anticipation enhances umami.

When I put together a table of appetizers I always make sure to include hummus in the mix. Maybe hummus isn’t exactly precisely what you’d term umami but it’s delicious, healthy and kids seem to really like it, too. And for me it fits the above requirements! Hummus can be a little expensive at the grocery stores, especially if it’s has roasted red pepper sauce on top. I thought it might be too complicated to make myself until I discovered a recipe this summer. It’s just too easy which puts it in the Zen Meal category.

Hummus is simplicitly at it’s best. Just 6 ingredients. Blended in minutes and all for the price of a can of garbanzo beans and a jar of tahini which is roasted sesame seeds made into a paste.

The Ingredients for Hummus

The Ingredients for Hummus

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons of tahini
1 can of garbanzo beans or chickpeas
1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/4 cup of the liquid from the can of garbanzo beans

Directions:
Put all the ingredients in the food processor. Mix until all the ingredients are smooth. You’re done. Amazing!

I put them in my new Blentec.

I put them in my new Blentec.

Delicious/Umami!

Delicious/Umami!

Dip carrots, crackers, brocoli, carrots and radishes.

I also put some roasted red peppers from a jar in the food processor with garlic, a little lemon juice and a dash of olive oil to put it on top the hummus. But only do this if you have a few extra minutes! :)

Hummus with Red Roasted Pepper sauce.

Hummus with Red Roasted Pepper sauce.

“UMAMI!” is all I can say!

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Want to Know The Secret To Better Relationships? Listen!


“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
~Epictetus

Do you know the secret to a better marriage? Do you know the best way to connect with your children? Do you know what will make your friends know that you are there for them and you really care? What is this magic solution?

It’s listening! Listening is an essential part of communication that we often take for granted.

I’m often guilty of not listening. My head is somewhere else, thinking about my shopping list, what I forgot to do on my website, preschool…

Are the rest of us good listeners? Apparently not. At Mind Tools I read that “depending on the study being quoted, we remember between 25% and 50% of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation.” We are definitely heading in the wrong direction if this is true!

In the above picture, you see the Chinese symbol, “Ting”, representing the verb “to listen”. There are 5 elements that make up the symbol. It breaks down like this:

• Ear – We need ears to listen.

• Eye – The non-listener looks elsewhere. The listener makes eye contact.

• Heart – Effective listening involves understanding the underlying emotions in the speaker.

• Undivided Attention – Active listeners focus their attention on the person that is speaking.

• King – True listening treats the other person as someone who is important.

So, how to do you start to actively listen?

1. First of all, give your full attention. Look at the person in the eyes.

2. Ask meaningful questions. I sometimes come up with some questions before I go places since I have trouble with small talk. For instance, I like to ask where someone grew up or how a couple met each other.

3. Don’t be somewhere else in your mind while you listen. It’s obvious when someone isn’t interested in what you’re saying. So don’t plan your shopping list or think of what you’re going to say next while someone is talking.

4. Don’t answer your cell phone, especially if you’re talking to your kids. I know sometimes you have to answer. But try to put it on silent ring. I see many mothers pick up their kids and stay on the phone as they walk to their car. This is an important time to hear about your child’s day.

5. Mirror the person’s body language.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re having a great conversation, you and the speaker unconsciously mirror each others body language? This behavior tells the speaker that you’re on the same page.

6. Use encouraging words.
Say words like “Go on” and “I agree” or “How interesting!”

7. Don’t interrupt!
I’m very guilty of this as I come from a family that all talks at the same time. (My mother calls this singing in harmony.) But active listening involves not putting words into others mouths or stopping them to put in your two cents.

And then there is being a good example for your children. They will do as you do and become active listeners if you model this good behavior.

“Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf… “
~ Native American Proverb

Active listening is a skill. It doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Active listening requires practice and thought. Active listening is engaging and will make the people in your life much happier.

What if the person you’re talking to doesn’t want to be an active listener for you? Then follow Winnie the Pooh’s advice:

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
~Winnie the Pooh (Milne)

** Dog picture from Natural Horse Lovers and Picture credit and reference for meaning of symbol:
The 30 Inch View, Posted by Kent Hatcher.

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How A Morning Of Mindfulness Can Change Your Day

Mindfulness is an important part of life.

Mindfulness is an important part of life.

The other day I took the only day I had free and proceeded to fill it up with busyness. My list had three grocery stores, a craft store and a bunch of other errands. As I put on my shoes and got my purse, I suddenly remembered…this was the day I planned to take pictures of wildflowers and ride my bike. I was taking my least busiest day and making it as stressful as all the others!

On another day, a few weeks ago, while on auto pilot and thinking too many thoughts, I got to my destination without even paying attention to the drive. Then there was one night last week I couldn’t sleep as I made all sorts of lists in my mind of things I needed to do. My distracted mind, or Monkey Mind as Buddhists called it, had taken control! I was falling into the trap of our culture and being too busy. (Do you remember what I think of busy… read more here about the 4 Letter Word, here). I had too much going on in my head. I realized that I needed to take the time to be more mindful!

What is Mindfulness?
It’s paying attention “on purpose”. It’s being aware without judgement. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism. It’s the 7th part of the Eightfold path. Let on its own our mind wanders back into the past and forward into the future. These thoughts can include worry, anger, disappointment, fear, grief and self pity. You suffer with these thoughts because the past is gone and the future a fantasy. Letting go of these thought, paying attention without judgment. This creates a stillness and peace in the mind. When using mindfulness in your life you tend to be here now. And now is usually filled with contentment.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, brought mindfulness to the attention of Westerners (click here for some more about Thich Nhat Hanh). Others, like Jon Kabat-Zinn, the author of many books on mindfulness and the creator of the 8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course – MBSR, have brought mindfulness into the limelight. His course is now offered at hospitals as part of their healing plans. He teaches mindfulness to help people cope with stress, anxiety, pain and illness. Mindfulness has become quite popular. It’s no longer considered to be “new-agey” or “woo-woo”. In fact there was an article in the Costco Magazine this month! Mindfulness is recognized as a way to alleviate stress and live more peacefully.

Why practice Mindfulness?
There is scientific evidence that practicing mindfulness can brings peace into your life through your body and mind. Mindfulness can rid the body and mind of stress, anxiety and worry. It can keep related illnesses at bay. It helps the immune system and with the healing process. It can enhance relationships. I think mindfulness, like gratitude, can lead to contentment.

Are you ready to try Mindfulness? There are a few things to do before you start… put any device away. Next don’t think about the past or the future. Mindfulness is all about living in the present. Lastly, remember to breathe. It’s amazing how often we hold our breath. Ok! Here are 6 ways to bring mindfulness into your life:

1. Use Your Five Senses Regularly – We often find ourselves in our mind with our 5 senses muted. When your senses are on, your are aware. And if you’re going to be mindful remember to turn on your senses.

2. Be Mindful First Thing in the Morning – quietly wake up, pause, do some deep breathing or stretch. Have a positive thought. Do not pick up your phone or check your computer. Do not watch the news. Have a quiet ritual that can include smelling the coffee, listening to the birds, meditation or just sitting quietly.

3. Be Mindful During Your Regular Routines – I try be in the moment when I am:
• washing the dishes
• driving down the road
• showering
• brushing my teeth
• walking
• tidying up
• even simply breathing

4. Be Mindful In Nature – This is one of my favorite ways to be mindful. I go sit in my garden and watch the insects. Or take a walk. It’s an instant energizer for me!

5. Be Mindful While Eating – take time to really smell and taste your food. Put your fork down between bits.

6. Practice A Mindfulness Meditation – Many people practice meditation to reduce stress, worry and anxiety. It even helps with illness. Sit quietly, breathe, observe, accept and let go during a mindfulness meditation. Your mind will wander, gently bring it back. Here is a three minute meditation that is often taught with the Jon Kabat-Zinn’s MNSR method:

7. Be Mindful With Your Family – Be mindful when in the presence of your family. Be mindful when you are with others, even people you don’t know. Put down the phone, shut the computer and really listen. Look in their eyes. Have a meaningful conversation! This is what you’re here on the earth for… to be with people you love.

Life is a series of experiences, good and bad. Those experiences are often worries about future and depression about the past. Let go of that, at least for a little while. Come out of your head and give living in the present a try. Give mindfulness a try. Observe, accept and let go. It’s a positive way to react with your day to day life.

By the way, I decided not to make that day, a few weeks back, into a busy day. I dropped all my plans, grabbed my camera, the zen papa and my bike and rode off to be mindful in nature. I still got a lot done in the afternoon but not with stress and worry. Having a morning of mindfulness changed my day into something special. Here are a few of the pictures from that mindful morning:

Raindrops #1

Ladybug:leaf

Mexican Hat Wildflowers

Yellow:Black Dragonfly

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn

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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