Sunday, December 20, 2009

Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are, for what you could become. ~ Unknown

NYC 1st Big Snowstorm In A While

Well, 12 inches of snow in Manhattan is plenty. Last night when the snow really picked up, I was actually impressed by how much accumulation had occurred. Getting around the city was no picnic at all. Fun to play in the snow, though!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wrapping Up Year 2009... 12/18/09...

I felt it would be good and cathartic to jot down some notes about this last year...

This has been a very eventful year. So many things have happened, good, bad, exciting, painful... no whatter what I have experienced, I am grateful for multiple reasons.
Love grows and shrinks. Feelings rise like the tide only to come crashing down like a tsunami on the beach. Such is life and it may not always be easy, but it is never dull.
And you can't fight the tears that ain't coming
Or the moment of truth in your lies
When everything seems like the movies
Yeah you bleed just to know your alive
- from Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls

The Song Remains the Same

The Song Remains the Same | Houses of the Holy

I had a dream. Crazy dream.
Anything I wanted to know, any place I needed to go

Hear my song. People won’t you listen now? Sing along.
You don’t know what you’re missing now.
Any little song that you know
Everything that’s small has to grow.
And it has to grow!

California sunlight, sweet Calcutta rain
Honolulu Starbright - the song remains the same.

Sing out Hare Hare, dance the Hoochie Koo.
City lights are oh so bright, as we go sliding… sliding… sliding through.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Blessings in Disguise

Blessings in Disguise
by Nadia Ballas-Ruta

“An obstacle may be either a stepping stone or a stumbling block.” ~Unknown

The first twenty some years of my life were rooted in intense emotional pain. My childhood was filled with one painful event after another. I grew up in a neighborhood where I was the first ethnic kid and to make matters even more complicated, I had a birth defect that made my head look like it was on crooked. This only brought more ridicule and torment from fellow classmates.

When I was nine, my birth defect was corrected and for the first time in my young life, I looked normal. However, my soul was scarred by all the humiliation and pain that I experienced. In my eyes, I was a victim and deep in my heart, I truly felt that I had done something wrong to garner such painful experiences.

Wasn’t childhood supposed to be all fun and games? Maybe for most children but not for me. My teenage years were somewhat better to some small degree but there were some very painful experiences in that period too.

By age twenty, I was a miserable human being. I wore my pain as if it were a burden on my back. The baggage of all the tears and suffering felt like a ton. Ironically, despite all the misery, somewhere deep in my heart I knew that things would eventually get better. All that kept me going was hope.

However, despite the hope, I looked at my mistakes and failures with shame. I felt so horrible for all the bad things that happened. For some reason, I blamed myself for all the agony I had endured. That was until I read A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson.

In that book, she wrote about how nothing in life happens by accident. All the things that we experience happen for a reason. We may not see that reason at the moment but there is a hidden purpose in any given situation. With that philosophy in mind, we can recognize that each situation is a blessing in disguise.

That book turned my life around and for the first time, I was able to look at my past and see the beauty in all that suffering. It would take me another ten years to make my peace with it but at that moment, I let go of all the self-blame.

The minute I made that decision, all the weight that I had been carrying disappeared in an instant. I felt that I could breathe and with that new found freedom, I was able to see my past with greater compassion and wisdom.

I realized that my painful past was really a blessing in so many ways. It made me compassionate. It made me develop my creative abilities and so many other wonderful things. Ironically, I may not have had a childhood as a child but I have one now and that is awesome in my mind.

So much of life boils down to how you deal with what you have. You have the choice to take the lemons that life throws you and turn them into lemon meringue pie or you can lament the situation and be paralyzed by it.

In Buddhism, one of the main concepts is the idea of the Four Noble Truths. The first Noble Truth is that there is pain and suffering in life. No one is immune to that truth. We all have had experiences that created feelings of misery. That is part of life for that is how we grow. There is no need to lament the reality of this fact. Complaining about your pain will not change the pain or make it go away. If anything, all that does is keep you stuck in it.

It would be wonderful if we grew only through joyous experiences but we usually don’t. The greatest learning occurs when we are faced with an obstacle. Actually, if it were not for the resistance of obstacles, many people would not make an effort to get better.

Of course, this is all easier said than done but it is doable. The next time you are confronted with something that has the illusion of being an obstacle, simply just realize that that obstacle is not the boss of you. You are the boss of it and view it as being a stone in the right direction. For one of the many beautiful things about being brought down to the ground is the realization that there is only one direction to go, and that is up.

Nadia Ballas-Ruta maintains her own blog at, and is a regular contributor here and at Elephant Journal. She is a free spirit who believes in being happy & green and eating as healthy as possible. You can follow her on Twitter @HappyLotus. Photo by Quack the Wooly Duck.

15 Ways to Change the World in 2010

15 Ways to Change the World in 2010
by Tess Marshall

“When I do good, I feel good, when I do bad, I feel bad and that is my religion.” ~Abraham Lincoln

It’s no secret that we live in a world that’s obsessed with wealth, fame and celebrities. Some call it the “age of narcissism.” I’m not sure I want to label or judge our current circumstances. Instead like Gandhi suggests, I’ll put my focus on being the change I wish to see in the world.

I’m planning to mix things up a bit for 2010 and I invite you to do the same. Instead of creating New Year’s Resolutions that are all about me, I’m going to make mine all about others. Instead of trying to increase my own success I’m going to set others up to succeed.

My personal idea was inspired by CNN’s “Hero of the Year 2009” given to one ordinary person making an extraordinary difference. CNN’s panel chose Efren Penaflorida as the winner for 2009. He received $100,000 for his organization. You can read about all 10 nominees here.

Being an every-day hero does far more for you than you may imagine. Some benefits of volunteering include:

Volunteer’s develop a “helper’s high” due to a link between kindness and a gene that releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain.
Volunteers report feeling energetic, warm, calmer and greater self-worth.
Volunteers enjoy being helpful because it’s as pleasurable as eating a chocolate chip cookie.
Volunteers are more loving and less angry, resentful or fearful.
Volunteers increase their own level of happiness due to the law of cause and effect: What goes around comes around.
My husband and I currently support The Smile Train, Wounded Warriors, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. This year I want to do more. I’m still in the process of deciding what more will look like; I’ll have my decision and plan ready to put into action on January 1st, 2010.

The following are other ideas to inspire you to begin.

Provide a box at your school, work or place of worship and ask others to make food contributions. Distribute it monthly.
Daily save the change from your purse or pockets and donate it to a favorite charity at the end of each month.
Begin a warm coat drive.
Join efforts to preserve and protect the environment.
Donate cat and dog food to an animal shelter. (Call and ask what is needed.)
Collect used books and make a donation.
Donate flowers to nursing homes.
Donate professional services including: teaching classes, giving a workshop, consulting and coaching services or professional speaking.
Teach someone to read.
Begin a giving circle with your friends. Every month one person hosts a “girl’s night in” by having a potluck. Each person donates $20 to a chosen cause.
Offer to clean or paint someone’s home.
Donate your time to a preschool. Collect educational toys.
Cook dinner for shut-ins.
Collect prom dresses for underprivileged youth.
Offer to do manicures and pedicures in a children’s hospital.
A final option:

Make the words, “How can I help” part of your everyday vocabulary. Because actions speak louder than words. Because we want to make the world a better place for everyone.

Photo credit
Visit Tess Marshall at The Bold Life. Tess states her job is to show up, have fun, and do as much good as possible for as many people as possible everyday. You can purchase her book, “Flying By the Seat of My Soul” on her blog or download it for free as an e-book.

Interested in contributing? Read our submission guidelines and send your best original content to email @

20 Ways to Give Without Expectations:

20 Ways to Give Without Expectations
by Lori Deschene

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” ~Samuel Johnson

Some people say there’s no such thing as a selfless act–that any time we do something to help another person, we get something in return, even if it’s just a warm fuzzy feeling.

I’ve spent a lot of time playing with this idea in my head. It doesn’t really bother me to know it feels good to help someone else. That, to me, is a completely acceptable type of selfishness. What give me cause for concern are the underlying expectations we often have when we give “selflessly.”

We’ve all been there. You cover for your coworker because you know you’ll need her assistance next month. You give your sister $20, and then silently look for ways she can pay you back, even if not monetarily. You help your friend get leads for a job, and then feel angry when she isn’t as proactive in offering you support.

I’ve found that these expectations cause more stress than joy. They mar the act of giving, which makes me feel slightly guilty; they lead to disappointment if the person I helped doesn’t return the kindness; and they tie my intentions to an internal score card, which places a wedge in my relationships.

Recently I’ve been asking myself, “What is my expectation?” before I do something for another person. The answer I find most acceptable—cheesy as it may sound—is: to feel good and show love. Strangely, when I release the need to control what I get for giving, I get enough, somehow.

I’ve made a list of 20 things you can do to show you care, without needing the recipient to return the kindness—20 ways giving is its own reward. Maybe some of these will resonate with you. Or perhaps you’ll want to write your own list to spur the spirit of giving without expectations. (Although I’ve written you, these are things I try to do.)

1. Give money you can spare to someone who needs it and then pretend you never had it.

2. Let someone tell a story without feeling the need to one-up them or tell you own.

3. Let someone vent, even if you can’t offer a solution, just to be an ear–without considering how well they listened to you last week.

4. Help someone who is struggling with difficult feelings by admitting you’ve felt the same thing–without considering whether they’d be as open with you.

5. Ask, “What can I do to help you today?” Then let it go after following through.

6. Tell someone how you feel about them, even if it makes you feel vulnerable, just to let them know they’re loved and not alone.

7. Apologize when you’ve acted selfishly, even if you don’t like feeling wrong, because it will remind the other person they deserve to be treated with respect.

8. Let someone else educate you, even if you’re tempted to stay closed minded, because you value their knowledge and appreciate their willingness to share it.

9. Forgive someone who wronged you because you have compassion for them, not because you know they’ll owe you.

10. Hold someone’s hand when they feel vulnerable to let them know you haven’t judged them.

11. Give your full attention to the person in front of you when you’re tempted to let your thoughts wander just to show them their words are valuable.

12. Assume the best when you’re tempted to suspect someone for no valid reason—even if they haven’t always given you the benefit of the doubt.

13. Accompany someone to an appointment or drive them to an interview when they need support just to help them feel strong.

14. Change your plans for someone you love if yours weren’t too important without questioning whether they’d do the same for you.

15. Teach someone how to do something without taking a superior position because they’ve likely taught you many things, whether they were obvious or not.

16. Leave a thoughtful comment on someone’s blog, not to build your readership but rather to show them how they affected you.

17. Tell someone you believe in their potential, even if they haven’t always shown you the same support.

18. Say no when it would make you feel good to say yes, because sometimes being kind means pushing someone to step up and try harder.

19. Tell someone you know they meant well instead of using their mistake as an opportunity to manipulate their guilt.

20. I’ve left this one open for you to write–how do you give just to show you care?

Let’s face it: none of us is always kind. Human nature dictates we’ll act with one eye on what’s in it for us, at least occasionally. And I think that’s OK, as long as we make an effort whenever possible to do good for the sake of it.

Releasing expectations doesn’t mean you give other people permission to treat you thoughtlessly. It just means you check in with your motivations and give because you want to; and then ask for things directly when you want them. People who care about you will be there for you in return.

Lori Deschene lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she writers, practices yoga and disappears into the Interwebs for hours on end. She writes about the bright side of life at and tweets as @lori_deschene. Photo by Pink Sherbert Photography.


Do Happy: Start Late
“It is never too late. Even if you are going to die tomorrow, keep yourself straight and clear and be a happy human being today.” -Lama Yeshe

There’s a common misconception that there comes a point when it’s too late to do things you want to do. Maybe one of these statements sounds familiar to you:

“I can’t become a designer. I’m far too old to change my career path.”

“I’ll never get married. It’s too late in the game for that.”

“I couldn’t possibly start yoga. That’s for people much younger than me.”

We choose arbitrary windows of time when we imagine we should have tried something, and then believe it’s not possible once those days have past.

The saddest part of this way of thinking is that we’re generally right. Not because it can’t be done; but because we can only do what we believe we can.

If you don’t think it’s possible to begin a new profession, you won’t take a training course, send out resumes, or make the connections you need to succeed.

If you don’t believe it’s possible to fall in love, you likely won’t put yourself out there, and open your heart to let someone in.

If you don’t think your body can get stronger and more flexible, you’ll stay on your couch instead of trying a class, going to the next one, and being patient with your progress.

Instead of doing the things that would make you feel alive and proud of yourself, you’ll simply sit back–feeling frustrated, regretful, and maybe even a little jealous of other people who make their own rules.

Barring physical limitations, it is never too late–for anything. No matter what you did yesterday, or what type of person you’ve been, you can wake up today and decide who you want to be. Don’t think about as changing. Think about as living this moment as you want to.

You may not accomplish in your remaining time what someone who started decades earlier will. But you won’t accomplish anything if you refuse to start. And more importantly, with each day that passes, you’ll feel a greater disconnect between the life you’re living and the life you dream about.

Get started. Take a small step. What you’re seeking isn’t necessarily the end goal you think you need years to reach. It’s a life aligned with who you want to be. You can be that person right now.

Do happy. It’s something you’re due.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

7 Key Steps to Living a Beautiful Life

7 Key Steps to Living a Beautiful Life

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5 Ways To Take Care Of Yourself...


1. Pamper yourself by getting a mani/pedi, a facial or a massage. It sounds indulgent but who says you don’t deserve it?
2. Plan a vacation or a simple day trip.
3. Get a haircut.
4. Make a smoothie. Throw a whole bunch of fruits in season in a blender and nourish your body and spirit.
5. Start a new healthy habit

How to Deal With Seasonal Emotions...

1. Let the sadness in then let it pass.
2. Pray or meditate.
3. Take a nap.
4. Cry it out. It’s cleansing, it brings a sense of relief and it releases stress hormones that can cause serious damage to brain cells.
5. Think about your favorite things.
6. Practice yoga or do any kind of exercise.
7. Retreat. Be at peace with silence and limit outside stimuli.
Make the words, “How can I help” part of your everyday vocabulary. Because actions speak louder than words, make the world a better place
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ~Dalai Lama