Thursday, April 19, 2018

When Nothing Else Works

I want to let you in on a little secret....I need to remind myself what works for me when I enter into a new stressful period.  I have joked that the reason I wrote Sprouting Spiritual Growth is so I may have my own resource guide to remember what works for me and that if I were to buy thousands of copies, I would be golden!  But seriously, I also know that what works for me works for a lot of people, but if these suggestions don't work, the most direct answers can be obtained by asking for God's* guidance.  In fact, that's what I was doing over a recent stressful period.  At night when I couldn't sleep I still did mental gratitude lists, coming up with up to 36 things that I was thankful for, sometimes not getting to that number because I've fallen asleep.  But on a few occasions, I could not get up to 36 things because I was too distracted.  That's when I just let go and said, "And I ask God to help me."  I said this repeatedly and any time that my mind wondered, until I could get back at the task at hand, whether it be gratitude lists or some other necessary task.  What I'm happy to report is that this has helped tremendously.  As a result, it's another tool!  So, whenever I can't handle things on my own, and especially during the middle of the night when I'm the only one awake, I can give my stresses, worries, concerns to God with the simple phrase "And I ask God to help me."
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Reflective questions:
1.  Do you manage stress by handling everything on your own, or do you seek the help of others or God*?

2.  What does God* want you to know about this (ask directly, "God, what do you want me to know?")

* I use the term God as a universal term.  You may decide that Great Spirit, Allah, Higher Power, Sensibility, etc. better suits you today.  It is not for me to decide.

Photo by MH 

Note:  These posts are part of a broader call to do spiritual journaling which is simply journaling what's on your heart and mind and then asking God* what else you should know (read more at CardinalTouch.net).

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Poetic Gratitude

I am so excited to write a blog post, it's been a little bit.  It's because I committed to doing 4 speaking events each month from last July through this June.  June will then complete the one year book launch period.  And while my debut self-help book, Sprouting Spiritual Growth, is about an amazing journey and spiritual journaling, it also includes a story line about the poems I wrote from gratitude lists.  The poems are my favorite part of the book, because their creation and quality were surprising to me.
Not surprising then, is that a lot of my talks have morphed into teaching people how to come up with a list of 36 things they are grateful for from the day before, and then secondarily, how to write poetry from it.  What's so awesome is how thrilled people are about their own poems.  It's because they come from the heart, from gratitude.
Also, each time I give the talk, I write along and create a poem too!  As a result of this, and the year of launch being almost up, I've written up a course for independent study that moves someone from gratitude listing to poetry writing.  If you'd like to try it, email me at cardinaltouch@verizon.net and I'll send you a complementary copy of the course!
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Now for the reflective questions which you can journal about or if you'd like to share your story, the community and I would love to hear from you!  Your comment could have a major impact on someone else.  Most likely it will be just the right thing at the right time for one of the readers. For me, God* wanted me to know that helping even just one person is wonderfully impactful.
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Reflective questions:
1.  Do you want to write poetry or some other creative endeavor from gratitude? 

2.  What does God* want you to know about this (ask directly, "God, what do you want me to know?")

* I use the term God as a universal term.  You may decide that Great Spirit, Allah, Higher Power, Sensibility, etc. better suits you today.  It is not for me to decide.

Photo by MH 

Note:  These posts are part of a broader call to do spiritual journaling which is simply journaling what's on your heart and mind and then asking God* what else you should know (read more at CardinalTouch.net).

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Splitting Wood For Peace and Justice

If I could teach the world, and myself, one thing, it would be to come to stillness.  I feel that this is where the relationship between the Divine/God* and self can be readily felt.  It is, however, very difficult to get to this space because there are so many distractions, including social media, social justice and organizations asking us to do more, to react more, and to do more and more.  For me, this is where guilt lives and I'm working hard to move away from it.
I'm a Type A personality and to be asked "where can you give more time and more money?" can make me consider that I'm not doing enough.  But maybe all I need to do is what's right in front of me.
Right in front of us are specific things.  Examples might include...driving by a rehab facility where a friend is recovering from surgery may remind us to send a card or stop for a visit; making conversation with those around us at a ballgame, being available to our children as they come and go, a call to keep a tidy house or employ someone else to do so.
I find that the Buddhist philosophy has a lot to teach about stillness and about doing, so I'm taking what works for me in this regard, and then moving on to the daily living of it.  This is not to say that doing for others is not right for us, it just means that we can be called to it in the stillness instead of from pressure from others. 
In preparing for meditation class, I pulled out some materials and found the February 2017 article from Sun Magazine about the late David Budbill, a poet and playwright.  Parts of the article were from an interview with him from 2003.  He said this:  "In my day-to-day life I play a Japanese bamboo flute.  I play long tones, which is a form of meditation in itself.....What I've put in the place of religion is the way I live my life now....I have a Buddhist friend who says, 'What I do for peace and justice is split wood.'  I respect that.  To do no harm is a great service to humanity."
This material is what's right in front of me.  I know it's meant just for me.  So don't take my solution as your solution, but go to your stillness place for it.
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Now for the reflective questions which you can journal about or if you'd like to share your story, the community and I would love to hear from you!  Your comment could have a major impact on someone else.  Most likely it will be just the right thing at the right time for one of the readers. For me, God* wanted me to know that helping even just one person is wonderfully impactful.
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Reflective questions:
1.  Are your peace and justice initiatives coming from within?

2.  What does God* want you to know about this (ask directly, "God, what do you want me to know?")

* I use the term God as a universal term.  You may decide that Great Spirit, Allah, Higher Power, Sensibility, etc. better suits you today.  It is not for me to decide.

Photo by MH 

Note:  These posts are part of a broader call to do spiritual journaling which is simply journaling what's on your heart and mind and then asking God* what else you should know (read more at CardinalTouch.net).

Monday, March 12, 2018

What Pooped Into My Head (No Complaining Discipline)

One of the recent blog posts included the reflective question, "What 10 words would I use to describe my life?"  Quickly typing them up in an email via my iPhone, one of the words which surprised me was "melancholy."  When it happens that a thought pops into my head that doesn't feel like mine, I consider that it's God*-inspired.  That's how this felt.

The interesting thing is that when I typed out "melancholy popped into my head," I either misspelled popped and it auto-corrected or I actually typed "pooped".  So what was in front of me to consider is "melancholy pooped into my head."

This definitely fit, even amongst the other 9 positive words that I had listed.  It's because I have all these amazing, wonderful pieces and still I have thoughts "poop" into my head.  They bring me to a melancholic place so it is important to recognize that melancholy really does describe part of my life.

The amazing God-filled part of being slapped with this truth is that, upon further reflection, it was a reminder that my Lenten Discipline is to not complain and I hadn't really given this discipline its due.  This pointed me towards it.  I began to recognize that my word choices make some statements complaint-filled ('finally', 'always', etc).  I also recognize that I could have a different tone if I more carefully select my words (in other words, think before speaking).

Recognition, of course, is the first step in changing behavior.  Thanks to "melancholy" "pooping" up, I'm stepping into recognizing the words which move a statement to a complaint.  For example, I first typed "I'm finally stepping...", but "finally" moves the statement into the complaint realm. 

In 2017, my word for the year was "awakening."  Looking back, I think it has to do with having awakened to my thoughts.  This year, my word is "harmony" and I'm working towards reflecting or pausing before I speak.
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Now for the reflective questions which you can journal about or if you'd like to share your story, the community and I would love to hear from you!  Your comment could have a major impact on someone else.  Most likely it will be just the right thing at the right time for one of the readers. For me, God* wanted me to know that helping even just one person is wonderfully impactful.
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Reflective questions:
1.  What are you working towards?

2.  What does God* want you to know about this (ask directly, "God, what do you want me to know?")

* I use the term God as a universal term.  You may decide that Great Spirit, Allah, Higher Power, Sensibility, etc. better suits you today.  It is not for me to decide.

Photo by MH (a glacier tunnel)

Note:  These posts are part of a broader call to do spiritual journaling which is simply journaling what's on your heart and mind and then asking God* what else you should know (read more at CardinalTouch.net).

Monday, February 19, 2018

Thoughts Think Themselves so Direct Them While You 'Sleep on It'

If you meditate in a sangha and have group discussions afterward, you've might have heard the phrase, "thoughts think themselves."  What this refers to is that our brain wants to be "on" all the time and will initiate thoughts, some true and some untrue.  Fabricated thoughts are ones in which our brain takes information and thrusts it in an unsubstantiated direction.  For example, we might wear an outfit during the day, clean it that night, and wear it again the next day because we are going somewhere different.  If we coincidentally see the same person both days, our brain might give us a thought like this one:  "she thinks I don't wash my clothes" or "she thinks I wear dirty clothes."  The brain just came up with a thought that isn't what you think at all.  In this case, your logical thinking tells you, "I don't know what this person thinks unless they tell me what they think."

I've mentioned before that meditation helps us to recognize these aberrant thoughts, but it's not really my focus here.  Today I am writing about using the brain to our advantage.  In other words, if our brain thinks thoughts that we don't control, why not set it in motion.  Give our brain some fodder and have it work while we are sleeping.

For example, before you want to accomplish something specific, give your brain an opportunity to do the work while you are sleeping.  Here's one example of how I take advantage of this:  I utilize the gratitude lists written in my journal to create poetry, looking at the list during the day, sleeping on it, and then writing the poem the next day.  For example, on Monday, May 20, 2013 I wrote this gratitude list for what happened the day before:  zero guilt about not going to church, up early to read, good book about bird behaviors, the author of that book, encouragers, publishers, book store, comfy sofa, comforter, blankets, pillows, touch, enough food in the house, lazy day, gray, rainy day, God in my life, God in my pantry, call from Patrick, decision making skills, etc.  In 2017, I found this list in my 2013 journal with the expectation that I would write a poem.  I read the list and then set it aside to sleep on it and write it the next day.  Here's the poem I wrote:
RISE DOWN
The call to rise
is stalled by the gray clouds
which hold me in place.

The laze of Sunday
lasts even longer
when it's raining.

I get up to sit back down,
greeting my spot on the sofa.
It hugs me back.

I've asked for a simpler life.
It's come.

A recipe in a magazine 
sounds delish.
All the ingredients are on hand, 
dinner is planned.

The magazine was first,
but now I curl around a book
about bird behaviors,
thankful for the keen eyes
of its author.

My eyes break from the page
because my  phone rings.
I assume an even more relaxed posture.

Crossing my legs on the coffee table,
anxious to hear about the space
between the last call and today.

© Marie Higgins, page 135 Sprouting Spiritual Growth
     
The point is, use your brain muscle while you are sleeping, it's the easiest way to get things accomplished!
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Now for the reflective questions which you can journal about or if you'd like to share your story, the community and I would love to hear from you!  Your comment could have a major impact on someone else.  Most likely it will be just the right thing at the right time for one of the readers. For me, God* wanted me to know that helping even just one person is wonderfully impactful.
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Reflective questions:
1.  What can you give your brain to do tonight while you are sleeping?

2.  What does God* want you to know about this (ask directly, "God, what do you want me to know?")

* I use the term God as a universal term.  You may decide that Great Spirit, Allah, Higher Power, Sensibility, etc. better suits you today.  It is not for me to decide.

Photo by MH

Note:  These posts are part of a broader call to do spiritual journaling which is simply journaling what's on your heart and mind and then asking God* what else you should know (read more at CardinalTouch.net).

Monday, February 12, 2018

Creativity is Spirit's Gift, So What Are You Doing With It?

When I was in elementary school, I enjoyed my English classes, specifically the creative writing assignments.  I even remember some of the poems I wrote.  Then in high school I won a city-wide essay contest.  In college, an essay or paper was most-often an easy A.  Now in business, I write many a newsletter, but now I'm also back to creative writing.  My favorite type of creative writing is probably poetry.

Last year I was asked to run a monthly forum called Writer's Roundtable, specifically for holistic practitioners.  It's a blessing to speak to this group because I can speak about Spirit/God*. This past month I was asked how to begin writing.  This is not an easy question to answer because there are so many facets to it, but here are a few thoughts that I shared that I've actually rewritten to not only include writing, but whatever creative endeavor has been calling to you.

I believe everyone is creative, but I also believe that there is work involved in exercising our creative side, especially if we have let it go dormant.  Here are a few examples of the work that might be necessary to launch something creative:

1.  If you are blocked by something such as procrastination or fear or something else, it might be helpful to work with a life coach or spiritual director to find out where your blocks are happening.
2.  Prefer to work alone?  Then a self-directed program might be right for you.  The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron is a good place to start.  I used her ten-week workbook for an entire year, feeling I had exhausted all blocks after completing it 4 times in succession (I had flow afterward, writing my first book in one month).  
3.  Get the creative juices flowing by doing something creative every day.  If it's painting, then paint.  If it's interior decorating, then decorate.  Here are suggestions of daily writing assignments if you are called to write:  A.  Journal your thoughts.  B. Write poetry or a short story.   C.  Write letters to the editor of any magazine or newspaper you're reading.
4.  Attend workshops or events that relate to your project (for writing it might be poetry readings, writer's conferences, public relations classes, etc.)
5.  Do any or all of steps 1 to 4 and then start on your project.

Doing things related to writing has moved me in the direction of becoming a professional writer.  Last week's Poetry Reading by the current Poet Laureate, Yolanda Wisher, gave me the idea to write a collection of poems using this method:  come up with a topic and write all the descriptors down for that topic.  With those words, write a poem about something that is not the topic.  For example, her descriptive words were all about cooking, but her poem was about her love.  One of the poems I just wrote is about my grandmother using diamonds as the topic.  I'll debut it here and wish you lots of luck with your own creativity!

HOPE FOR GRANDMA GEM

Round face and pear shaped,
quiet yet attractively bright.
She interacts with fellow patients,
the marquis looking on.

Don’t leave yet. For Grandpa’s sake,
keep your sparkling breath
to cut his ego where you must.
Your words say it just so.

Opposite of a hard-cutting stone,
your belly is untamed now,
like the best grandmas
 who like their own cooking.
Priceless to me,
and a Premier Rose to Grandpa.

Precise artistry fashioned you,
even the nervous breakdown was by design.
It made you stronger,
proportioned and polished.

Now a magnificent return to light,
we cried with the marquis.
He thought you unbreakable,
or at least less than he.

Never again would he say
“Give me some sugar.”
To magma you returned,
scattered into all colors of the rainbow.

Your scintillation dead,
but memory never forgotten.

I think of you often.
With clarity and color, you wrote words.
You wrote a poem for my mom’s assignment.
I believe you were capable of writing more.
Now I adorn empty pages,
My hope for Grandma Gem.
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Now for the reflective questions which you can journal about or if you'd like to share your story, the community and I would love to hear from you!  Your comment could have a major impact on someone else.  Most likely it will be just the right thing at the right time for one of the readers. For me, God* wanted me to know that helping even just one person is wonderfully impactful.
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Reflective questions:
1.  What are you doing creative today (think broadly:  i.e. it could be something as simple as substituting ingredients in a recipe).

2.  What does God* want you to know about this (ask directly, "God, what do you want me to know?")

* I use the term God as a universal term.  You may decide that Great Spirit, Allah, Higher Power, Sensibility, etc. better suits you today.  It is not for me to decide.

Photo by MH

Note:  These posts are part of a broader call to do spiritual journaling which is simply journaling what's on your heart and mind and then asking God* what else you should know (read more at CardinalTouch.net).

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Brotherly Love & Sisterly Affection (God Moments)

On Monday evening, I attended the poetry reading of Yolanda Wisher, Philadelphia's current Poet Laureate at the Free Library of Philadelphia.  There she spoke about Philly being the city of both brotherly love and sisterly affection.  She told the attendees that people forget the sisterly affection part and that we should not forget.  That was the start of recognizing one of my latest God* moments.

But before I get there, I must also admit that while my life is truly amazing (I think yours is too), I don't always realize it.  It's because I might be looking at what I don't have instead of what I do have.  I even had the thought that I haven't had too many God* moments lately, but then I righted myself, recognizing that I should be lightning-bolted to the ground for thinking this.  Here's the back story:

Last summer I really, really wanted to sublet an apartment in the city of Philadelphia for just two or three months. I dreamt of making it my temporary writing studio, a place where I'd write my second book.  I dared God* to 'show me the money,' but the extra 5k didn't come.  (By the way, it turned out that my summer was way too busy to have been able to traipse back and forth between two dwelling places - thankfully, I hadn't wasted the money).

Then in the fall I turned over my car to one of my kids because I didn't need it as much as they did (I work out of my house).  The first month was easy, but then I felt the loss of freedom that comes from having had a car at my fingertips my entire adult life and then not having one.

Fast forward to last month when my walking buddy moved into this city of brotherly love that I'm so crazy about.  Because of her sisterly affection, she has lent me her car and I feel the freedom all the way to the tips of my braking toes and steering fingers.  With this car, but also by train and others, I have been in Philly 8 times since my friend moved there.  I have a place to park, somewhere to crash, and even dinner in her apartment with an amazing view.  What a God moment to recognize that I do have this place of brotherly love and sisterly affection.  Thank you God, I praise your name!       
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Now for the reflective questions which you can journal about or if you'd like to share your story, the community and I would love to hear from you!  Your comment could have a major impact on someone else.  Most likely it will be just the right thing at the right time for one of the readers. For me, God* wanted me to know that helping even just one person is wonderfully impactful.
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Reflective questions:
1.  What do you think about your life (list at least 10 words to describe it)?

2.  What does God* want you to know about this (ask directly, "God, what do you want me to know?")

* I use the term God as a universal term.  You may decide that Great Spirit, Allah, Higher Power, Sensibility, etc. better suits you today.  It is not for me to decide.

Photo by MH

Note:  These posts are part of a broader call to do spiritual journaling which is simply journaling what's on your heart and mind and then asking God* what else you should know (read more at CardinalTouch.net).