Let Go of Holiday Stress With Two Simple Words

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.”

~Buddha

“All that we are is the result of what we have said out loud.”

~the Zen Mama

This is the time of year when you hear people complaining. Stress is usually the reason:
“I’m too busy.”
“I haven’t gotten started shopping.”
“Traffic is terrible.”
“I can’t send out cards this year.”
“I’m out of money and I have hardly started.”

The stress of the holidays are too much for many and the negativity is overwhelming.

Want to know my secret to get through the holiday season? I use my most powerful weapon. My thoughts. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or have read my books you probably know that I believe that your thoughts create who you are. If you have negative thoughts, you have a negative life. If you have positive thoughts, you have a positive life. I also believe that if you change the way look you think about things, the things you think about change. It’s seems too simple to be true but guess what? It works.

Every year I have to remind myself this. That’s why I wanted to repost part of a post I wrote for last holiday season called “Sparkle Twinkle”:

Words are powerful. Remember the old saying “Stick and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Well, it’s just not true! Words can hurt you. But remember that words can make you happy, too.

The Zen Papa and I took yoga for several years with a teacher named Suzanne. She always told us that it is our response to life that can give us stress or not. She got stressed out by her teenage daughter, traffic and the Christmas season. She would laugh as she told us stories of locking herself in the bathroom while her teenage daughter was outside (instead of the other way around). In traffic she would breathe deeply before she had a bad thought for the other driver.

You know what stresses us out at Christmas? It’s the lines at the post office and the stores, Christmas cards, relatives who want you everywhere at once, energy filled children and parties. Suzanne said that we could use our language to relieve our stress at this time of the year. She said that there are two words that you can’t help but smile when you say them: Sparkle and Twinkle.

sparkle – to be brilliant, lively, or vivacious.

twinkle – to shine with a flickering or sparkling light

Sparkle and Twinkle are real holiday words.

These two words conjure up such wonderful images. Sparkle is something new, a little bell, an ornament, or someone’s smile. Twinkle can be the look in someone’s eye (maybe Santa or a young child), a star, or lights across a lake. I see a little elf with a silver, sparkling ornament behind it. The Zen Papa sees Tinker bell sprinkling pixie dust everywhere.

Suzanne would have us breathe in a deep breath through our nose and breathe out thinking “sparkle, twinkle”. But the real power is in saying them out loud. Try it…sparkle, twinkle. You can’t help but smile. I tried it with my kids when they were little. It especially worked with my middle child who really felt the stress of school. He still remembers it today at age 19. He tried a few days ago to say them without smiling and still couldn’t.

Other happy words to think of:

jolly

cheerful

aglow

anticipation

joy

laugh
bliss
wonder

tickle

euphoric

exuberant

rejoice
amaze

love
thrill

merry
dazzle

glitter

happiness

Can you think of any others?

Even though you still have all those holiday chores to get done, say these words, “Sparkle, Twinkle” out loud. Maybe it will change your attitude. You’ll smile and tell your brain to be happy. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin and then you really will become happy. Good luck! And have fun, less stressful holiday.

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There Is Real Magic With Wayne Dyer

I was ready... are you?23 years ago, we were getting ready to take a long car trip to California for the Christmas holiday. Our oldest was a year old. I had become a stay at home mom and we were ready for some inspiration. A friend offered to give us 10 tapes to listen to on our drive. The tapes were Real Magic by Wayne Dyer. The Zen Papa and I loved it all, starting with the first chapter named with the Zen proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. My life would never the same.

Wayne Dyer is the reason we started on this spiritual journey. He has a unique way of putting spiritual wisdom into layman’s terms. And he hasn’t just written Real Magic. Wayne Dyer is the author of over 40 books. Other favorites of mine include: The Power of Intention, Wishes Fulfilled and Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Mind. And now I see he has written a memoir, I Can See Clearly Now. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Wayne Dyer made it through a father leaving the family, a mom having to give her kids up and amazingly came out on the other side to help others. In his his early work teaching college and studying clinical psychology, he discovered the need to make the principles of self-discovery and personal growth available to everyone. His first book for general readers, Your Erroneous Zones, published in 1976, became a bestseller and launched his career as an author and motivational speaker. I have been very lucky to hear him speak twice and even to shake his hand!! It’s as if he speaks directly to you. He taught several great meditations and went well beyond the time allotted. (Read more here: http://www.drwaynedyer.com/about-dr-wayne-dyer/)

Here are just a few of my favorite Wayane Dyer quotes to share and inspire:

Complete peace is always at hand

“It’s never crowded along the extra mile.”

“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”

“Conflict cannot survive without your participation”

Your Choice!!

“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”

“You’ll see it when you believe it.”

“Attachment to being right creates suffering. When you have a choice to be right, or to be kind, choose kind and watch your suffering disappear.”

My favorite quote!

“Upon awakening, let the words Thank You flow from your lips, for this will remind you to begin your day with gratitude and compassion.”

“When you have the choice between being right and being kind just choose kind.” 

“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” 

What's inside you?

 “When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”

“I am realistic – I expect miracles.”

“There is no stress in the world, only people thinking stressful thoughts.”

“Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.”

“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”

You can discover Wayne Dyer in his books, audio tapes and all over Youtube. I highly recommend his PBS specials. In honor of all that I’ve learned via Wayne Dyer, I am giving away a copy of Real Magic! To qualify for the giveaway, all you just have to do is leave a comment and tell me which quote you like the best and how Real Magic could help you in your life. I hope you find the same inspiration I’ve found!
Cheers!

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7 Ways To Practice Gratitude This Thanksgiving and All Year Long!

Zen Tips Gratitude Beattie

Message to my all Zen Mama Readers: My three Kindle books will be free on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Click here on 11/27 – 28 for free Kindle books. Now on to the post!

Looking for Happiness?
Of course you are! We all are.
What is the key to finding it?
Could it be gratitude?

It is amazing we have a holiday that is set aside to be thankful for the abundance in our lives. I love Thanksgiving for just that reason. We celebrate family and the things we are thankful for. No craziness, no buying sprees….just gratitude. It’s become my favorite holiday over the last few years. And now, I want to live Thanksgiving everyday!

In 2001, I wanted to experience gratitude. I had been reading The Artist’s Way. I was reading about the many ways to bring abundance into your life. One way was to write in a “gratitude journal”. So, I began to write in one. However, after 2 or 3 weeks I stopped. I kept being grateful for the same things every time I wrote. Even though I was very appreciative and thankful for my life, I didn’t get gratitude quite yet. I wasn’t ready. Next I read Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I just loved this and got a little closer to the meaning of gratitude

So now, years later, I’m contemplating gratitude again. I know it’s easy to feel gratitude when everything is going your way. What is difficult is to find gratitude during the hard times. I’ve had four friends with cancer over the last few years. They’ve all felt a huge shift in their lives, more joy and peace and a great appreciation for what they have to lose! I realize that I don’t want to wait for something like cancer to happen or a family tragedy to feel gratitude for the life I have.

Many of us are thankful for the things in our life. Yet, gratitude is much more than being thankful. Thankfulness is an expression of happiness. Being thankful is telling someone you appreciate what they have done. Being thankful is being glad it didn’t rain on picnic day. Being thankful is happiness from a gift.

Gratitude is thankfulness taken to the next level. It is a heart-felt and intellectual acknowledgement of all that is good in your life. It’s embracing uncertainty. To feel gratitude towards the bad things that have happened to us knowing that will lead you a new opportunity.”

In our society we’re taught to concentrate on what we don’t have. I call this “Scarcity Thinking”. Scarcity thinking is the opposite of gratitude. What you think is what you bring into your life. If you think scarcity, then you have lack. When you practice gratitude, scarcity thinking disappears. You concentrate on what you do have. Remind yourself that you are not lacking. You have such abundance in your life! Did you know that? I love what Oprah said in a recent life class about scarcity and gratitude: “Focus on the $3 you do have in your wallet instead of focusing on the $50 you don’t have.”

Epictitus Lack:rejoice quote

There are many benefits to practicing gratitude:

• You will experience peace of mind and more optimism, suffer less stress, be more satisfied with life, less materialistic and often feel more spiritual, regardless of religion.

• It’s great for your family or children to see your positive attitude and that you appreciate the little things. Did you know that everyday you’re teaching your children to be good parents? Did you know that they will copy your behavior as adults? A study showed that “children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families” (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008). Last year at our preschool we had “Nice Wednesday” where everyone complimented each other. You should have seen them smile when they got compliments, even though they thought it was like a game. They still felt warm and loved.

Our preschool has a Grateful Bear this Thanksgiving that we fill with nice notes complimenting others.  My favorite, "You are as beautiful as a butterfly."

Our preschool has a Grateful Bear this Thanksgiving that we fill with nice notes complimenting others. My favorite, “You are as beautiful as a butterfly.”

This year I’ve made a “Grateful Bear”. We wrote little nice notes like “You’re as beautiful as a butterfly” or “You make my day” or “You are a great girl for your mom and dad”. I love what these 4 and 5 year olds came up with. There was a lot of smiles and hugging at the end of the note reading.

• Gratitude is great for all relationships. Feeling gratitude for friends, family or business associates makes your relationship stronger. It may seem like a simple thing but saying thank you really makes everyone feel better! You can be general about your thank you or quite specific.

• There are physical benefits. Grateful people tend to exercise more and experience better health. Author and researcher Dr. Robert Emmons conducted an experimental comparison. Those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)

How does one practice gratitude? It’s a habit like anything else. Just as a negative thoughts can strongly influence your mood, so can a positive feeling of gratitude affect your day.

Here are 7 ways to help you make gratitude a habit:

1. Have a morning ritual before you get out of bed.
• Begin your first thoughts with gratitude before your feet touch the ground. These thoughts will start you off ion a wonderful day’s journey. End your day with gratitude. I believe these thoughts will be with you in your sleep via your subconcious.
Next, start off being thankful for your breath, clean water and shelter. Many of us focus on what we don’t have. This is scarcity thinking. Concentrate on what you do have.
Next, be grateful for your family and friends. Think of all their wonderful traits. How do they make you smile? What are the little things they do for you? What can you do for them?
Next have gratitude for the little things like the blue sky, hot coffee, clothes. Be mindful of all the little things around you, in nature, like a spider’s web or a warm blanket. Then be grateful for the big things, like your health!

2. Learn to identify ungrateful thoughts. Those thoughts might be: “I don’t deserve this.” “What went wrong?” “I’m not appreciated.” “No one helps me around here.” “Why is she so lucky?” Replace those thoughts when they appear. Count your blessings. You can’t be envious or angry when you are thinking grateful thoughts.

3. Write in a gratitude journal. Write three to five things a day that you’re grateful for using mindfulness as a tool.

4. Find time to inspire yourself. It can be quotes, inspiratioinal facebook pages, a video or a book of poetry. Just find at least a few minutes a day to be inspired. Click here to check out my daily Zen Tip on Facebook.

ganasha coffee machine5. Have a Talisman, a little statue or charm that reminds you to be grateful. I have a small Ganasha I found in Thailand that I keep by the coffee machine. Ganasha is the Hindu god of wisdom and the remover of obstacles. Each morning as I make coffee or at night when I cook, the little statue reminds me to take stock and be grateful and know anything is possible.

6. Bring gratitude to the dinner table. Have each family member say something that they are grateful for. We asked our kids to say one thing good that happened that day.

7. Now the most difficult part. Can you have gratitude for the difficulties in life? We all hear about people who eventually feel gratitude for tragedy like cancer in their lives because it’s made them look at life differently. Can you try to feel it about the little things like traffic, bad weather or big things like financial or health problems?

Have fun with it! Gratitude is such a positive emotion. It will seep into all areas of your life. I feel great gratitude for all of you readers out there! Thanks for being part of my dream to be a writer and to help others.

One last quote:
“In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.”
~Albert Clarke

What do you feel gratitude for? How do you experience it? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Please watch my favorite TED video on Gratitude. You won’t be the same after Louis Schwartzberg’s beautiful images and Brother David Steindl-Rast’s narration.

Click on these images if you’re interested in these books:

I have great gratitude of all of you readers!! So my gift to you is that all three of my Kindle books are free on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday! If you don’t have a kindle, download the kindle app for your mac or other devices. Click here!

Interested in my print books for the holiday season? Please email me directly at thezenmama@gmail.com to get a $10 per book deal plus free shipping! Paypal or credit accepted via square.

Love quotes? Read last year’s Thanksgiving post: 21 Gratitude Quotes.

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How Preparing Pinolata Produced A Paradigm Shift

Wayne Dyer's wonderful quote!

So how does cooking an Italian pine nut dessert called Pinolata produce a paradigm shift? And what is a paradigm shift anyway?

I’ve always liked the word paradigm. A paradigm is the belief system established in your subconscious. A shift is a change in these beliefs. A paradigm shift can be something huge like the printing press or the iPhone. Or the shift can be a fundamental change in an approach or an assumption you make about your everyday life. I think the best paradigm shifts are often the small shifts in the way you perceive something. The above quote by Wayne Dyer is one I say often and illustrates how a simple change in thought can change your world. All my children know this because I’m constantly reminding them that if you change the way you look at things, your life can become wonderful again.

Watch this short video called Paradigm Shift. It is powerful because we’ve all started a day like this.

We all have many perceptions about ourselves. These have been put into place by our parents, our friends and our experiences. So I decided to shift one of my own paradigms. I just had to decide which one! Yesterday it came to me. I’ve always perceived myself to be a cook but not a baker. I say it all the time and I even said it on Tuesday night to my book club. Baking is so precise and I’m the type of cook who just loves to throw in extra spices, add more wine or more veggies into dishes. I love to make homemade pasta, all sorts of sauces and experiment with searing meats. But baking…I can’t even bake a batch of cookies.

So for an Italian wine party this weekend, I offered to do a dessert. This is unusual for me but everything else was taken. I started to drive to a specialty store to buy some cannoli and these wonderful pine nut cookies. But something made me google “pine nut cake”. And there is was… a recipe for Pinolata (a great new blog to discover) at the Rambling Epicure. I even had all the ingredients! I had the feeling I could do it! I was so excited when my pastry dough actually worked! I ground up pine nuts and almonds to make an amazing flour. Then voila! It was ready for the oven. I had to take pictures. Here are the results:

My first try at pastry

My first try at pastry

The pine nut/almond filling is oven ready!

The pine nut/almond filling is oven ready!

Out of the oven and ready to eat!  I can bake after all!

Out of the oven and ready to eat! I can bake after all!

I’ll never view baking in the same way! A true paradigm shift.

How do you help yourself and the kids in your life make paradigm shifts?

With your younger children, use great books. With my preschool students, I shift little minds with the story of the Little Engine That Could. If you recall this story it’s about a train with a cargo of toys and delicious food for the good little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain. The train carrying the cargo breaks down. None of the other trains want to take the toys and food over the mountain. They perceive themselves as being too good or too old or weak to carry the train over the mountains. But the Little Blue Engine believed she could and said over and over, “I think I can.” And she
did! I get kids saying “I think I can” while they’re cutting or trying to write a letter in their name.

Use inspiring stories and quotes with your older children. With my own, older children I use the above Wayne Dyer quote, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. They joke a little about it but the quote usually seems to work. The other one that works is this Gandhi quote, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I also find inspiring youtube videos. We listen to lyrics in songs, too. If you’re older kids love reading, find some inspiring books. There’s one about a wrestler with one leg who became a champion featured on the cover of TIME magazine. The book is Unstoppable by Anthony Robles.

How do you help yourself?
1. First examine your own paradigms. Sometimes you don’t even know what paradigms you have because they’re such a part of your life. I’m constantly examining my beliefs and changing how I view my day. Just by examining your beliefs you start the shift.

2. Imagine you’ve already arrived at the new paradigm. Saying “I AM…” in front of a sentence is a small way to begin a shift. I am sleeping through the night. I am out of debt. I am headache free. I am slowing down. I am a baker! :)

3. Another way to change your attitude is to imagine or realize that life could be so much different. A simple fender bender could have been a horrible accident. A raging cold could be a diagnosis of cancer. You get where I’m heading!

4. Gratitude is a huge paradigm shifter! When you are grateful for everything that comes into your life, good or bad, your world shifts and becomes a more positive place.

5. Meditate. If you want to take the paradigm shift to another level try this Bob Proctor meditation. I listen to it when I fall asleep at night:

(I highly recommend other paradigm shift videos by Bob Proctor… just google them.)

What paradigm would you like to shift in your life?

Posted in Changing Ourselves, Parenting, Positve Thought | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

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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Posted in Changing Ourselves, Connecting, Gardening, Letting Go, Parenting, Positve Thought | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

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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Posted in Changing Ourselves, Gratitude, optimism, Positve Thought | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

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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Posted in Kindness, Marriage, Parenting, Positve Thought | Tagged , , | 8 Comments