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As I Look for Peace as my intention, I wish to actively seek joy.  I’ve been seeking joy lately in the simple things: My work, family and friends, a beautiful day . . .

But too often I find that joy dampened.  Some days the work becomes frustrating, the possibilities dim, and people let me down.  A beautiful day can turn gray and sour in no time.  Seeking joy becomes as fruitless as chasing after  that damned elusive pimpernel.

Stan Gale, in his forthcoming book “A Vine-Ripened Life” tells us that joy cannot be found in the changing circumstances of our lives.  But that we can rejoice even when things are dark.

This got me thinking that I could find joy in everything.  I know that there is always something to feel joyful about – a glimmer of hope, a sliver of light, an undercurrent of gratitude or a seed of faith.  With enough practice I could release my choking grasp on those circumstances that are easy to love.  When I know that I will find joy tomorrow, even if it rains, I can enjoy today without all the tension which drains joy like an uncorked bathtub.

Circumstances will continue to change.  It’s a fact of life.  We will die, things will decompose.  In 250 years, everything that’s here will be gone. There are those who say we all long for something solid we can count on.  But there is no such thing in the life we lead.  Only God is unchanging.

As Dr Gale advises, I will seek joy in God and His love for me.  Find joy in the life He has given me, and in our friendship. And rejoice in that.  For it is available to me every minute of every day.  No matter the weather.

When writing we are often told to use authentic detail.  It brings a piece of writing alive.  The butter colored daffodils, the bright blue sky peaking out between the white pillow clouds, the ripples of cool water swimming across her arms.  Instead of saying, “The man said,” you might choose to write, “The heavy set man with a mustache spoke in a thick German accent.”  These details bring the reader in, invite him to take a closer look, and maybe see what you’re seeing,  feel what you’re feeling.

And so it is with the details of life.  It’s those tiny moments, the ones easy to overlook that really make life special. The soft touch of a loved one, the crackling of the fire and the warmth on your skin, the perfectly prepared potatoes, the crisp speakers delivering such an accurate rendition of Dan Fogelberg’s “Beggar’s Game.”  It might be the sultry Sunday afternoons, spent with your great aunt Sarah, on her pristine white porch, sitting on soft green cushions, sipping mint-infused iced tea.

It’s important to pause and take notice of the small things in our lives. Savor them in rich detail and bold color. They may even reveal insights and gratitude we might otherwise be too busy to notice.

I just love Pandora.  I have 10 or so stations of my favorite artists.  They are on Shuffle and can keep me entertained for hours!  95% of what it plays, I like.  Why shouldn’t it?  It’s so much easier than doing my own programming and it gives me a surprising variety.  Since I pay more attention, this method also increases the chances of hearing guidance.

I love that in the Loving Universe, messages can come to you from all kinds of sources.  I am partial to the song lyrics that jump out at me.

Al Green has been in my heart since I was a young girl.  Sexy and religious.  I like that combination.  The original Reverend Al.  He has a song called “Livin’ for You.”  I believe it is also the title track.  It sounds a bit like he’s Livin’ for a woman.  But it could be God, too.

It got me thinking about what I was living for.  Woody Allen, in his landmark film, Manhattan, has a scene where he’s stretched out on the sofa with a microphone in his hand, attached to a small tape recorder.  He asks himself, “What makes life worth living?”  He lists a few things – works of art, music, and then stumbles into “Tracy’s face.”  Tracy is the lovely girl he’d been keeping at arm’s length since he was twice her age.  Knowing that she was packing to leave Manhattan to go to school in London, the realization propels him off the sofa and into the streets of Manhattan, running to catch her before she goes.

That’s what I call action!  And inspiration.  What is it that can get you up off the chair and out there, running for what you want?

Am I living to pay the bills or for spending quality time with my loved ones?  Am I living to support someone else at the expense of myself?  Am I living for my artwork?

It’s always helpful to review your priorities regularly.  It puts fuel into whatever you do every day.  Letting you see how it fits into your life, moving you closer to your intentions.  It infuses gratitude into everything. Shine the light of what you’re living for!

As my 30 days of giving closes I’m pondering what I learned from it all ~

I have to admit, I wasn’t successful in all my attempts.  I was pleased to find, however, that many of the spots at food banks and such were already filled. This is a popular time of year for these things.  In some cases, I had to step out of the box of traditional giving.

What I discovered is that if you hold the intention to give, if you go at your whole life with an eye for ways to give, things will magically appear for you to do. Sure, it helps to have a plan.  It pays to sign up and get on lists, but sometimes the most wonderful opportunities are the ones you simply stay open for.

The giving attitude can grow. This intention gives you room to acknowledge when you give. This has the effect of increasing good feelings on both sides, but also, more opportunities to serve. Just noticing is an amazing expander.  It works well for gratitude, as well.  You can feel good by giving, by seeing the effect of that giving and in the reliving of it as you write it down and notice all the ways there are to give.

Giving is like a bunch of roses. Susan Jeffers, in her most elegant way, suggests pretending someone gives you 50 roses.  From her book, End the Struggle and Dance with Life,” you are instructed to find people you can give these loving roses to.  She also adds to write down and keep track of the 50.  She says you won’t need to be given any more. By the time you’ve given away 50, you’ll be on a roll and just continuing to look for recipients of your kind and loving roses.  I like that!

I hope that I can continue my attitude of giving into the New Year. I’m going to start the year with 50 roses and see where it goes!

Gratitude is powerful stuff. It can transform anything it touches. Anything. In addition, it is always with you.

It doesn’t matter how sad, mad, hurt, scared, lonely or nervous. There is nothing a drop or two of gratitude can’t ease.  In situations most people would call intolerable, others have found the sliver of gratitude and often been able to pull themselves back, even from the darkest times.

Its truly magical power is its accessibility.  It’s never farther away than your next thought.  All you have to do to turn it on is rest your mind into one grateful thought.  Just one.

There is no one I know who couldn’t, with a moment’s thought, rattle off countless things to be grateful for.  Being alive is a start.  Breathing. Standing or sitting. Listening or speaking. Most of the people I know, wherever they are, no matter what they’re doing, they can look around and find something to warm their hearts.

Discovering how many things you can be grateful for is a delightful game with a huge payoff. Just thinking of music, sunshine, fresh water, abundant food, computer and/or smart phone, friends, family, pets, a nice home to live in, children . . . you can feel your mood lifting immediately!

I saw a documentary on the Dust Bowl.  Those people lived in constant dust, always had difficulty breathing and soon found it was killing their youngest family members.  How much we have to be grateful for with our myriad of  “mod cons” like showers and multi-layered windows, fresh air outside our doors, refrigerators.

As I take a look around me, I can see my computer, colorful pens, water, some more time ahead to write, gifts from friends, pictures of loved ones, tons of paper, pretty candles, phone numbers for all kinds of people I can reach out to.  As my eyes and mind sweep over the sundry items around me, my spirit is lightened, my mood is brighter.  Just like magic.

But even in tougher times, when I’m weary or frustrated, scared or sad, if I can just seek the jewel in everything.  Find the one thing.  At least I have _____.  There’s almost always something.  The more I can find, the more there is to find.  One thing leads to another and before I know it, I have a lapful of gratitudes!  Just the act of seeking can help see your way clear of the negative and drowning emotions.  As if we’ve just tapped our heart lightly with a wand.

As this Holiday season winds down I urge you to remember to notice all you have to be grateful for and feel its magic working in you.

I believe in Gratitude.  I think it’s just about the most powerful thing in the Universe.

Gratitude can make something horrible into something tolerable.  It can turn a washed out picnic into a delightful afternoon.  It can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.  Not a lot of things can lay claim to all of that!

It upsets me that we only celebrate gratitude one day a year.  In some countries, not even that. I need to be grateful that the country where I live, at the very least, does have one day.  But I am sorry for the rest.

Gratitude listing is part of my daily activities.  I often wish I did it more often throughout the day.  Grace before meals can help that.  And perhaps some gratefulness at the end of the day, before going to sleep.

What might happen in our world if everyone took the time to be grateful several times throughout the day?  I’d venture a guess that there would be fewer (if not 0) wars, as everyone would be too happy to wage it.  One of the other powers of Gratitude is that it can wipe out greed. The feeling that a particular country needs or wants a certain piece of land might just become mute.

The same principle might apply to criminal acts.  If everyone’s wallowing around in being grateful for everything they have, chances are they’d be less likely to be interested in yours.

Another benefit of constant gratitude is the willingness (maybe even the drive) to help others.  So the next guy who buys shoes for a homeless person won’t be lauded as a hero, but simply acknowledged and quickly emulated.

From the book that never was ~

In this section we go into the lab. We’re going to be taking the emotions we discovered in the first section on the Table of Emotions and playing with them, mixing them and seeing what happens when we combine certain elemental emotions.

One of the things about Emotions is that they rarely travel alone.  They are most often accompanied by at least one, but maybe many more.  Combine the wrong emotions and you can have a real mess on your hands.

Mix any two fear-based feelings, like Closed and Insecure, Stress and Pressure, or Hunger and Anxiety. Your potion might start to hiss, boil and then explode all over you, as sure as if you’d opened a pressure cooker at the wrong time!

The same is true for positive emotions. Just imagine what great things can come forth from combining Abundance and Generosity!  How about someone who feels Peaceful and Caring?  Love and Joy; Confident and Excited, are also pleasant Love-Based mixtures.

Some things to note:

*  Choosing emotions from different families on the Table of Emotions can produce a more tempered potion.

*  Adding Doubt or Gratitude can instantaneously change the color of your potion.

*  Combing Love and Fear emotions does not always produce a guaranteed result.

Emotions can arise in you or come out of others.  Blending these two can be especially powerful.  Emotions are contagious.  Have you ever noticed how a happy person can walk into a room and change everyone’s mood?  Lift all the other spirits?

Homework for this section is to observe the myriad of emotion combinations possible. See if you can tell which feelings are going on at the same time within you and without you.

Waiting is a wonderful time to practice allowing.  You are welcome to change your mind, be proactive and say, I’m NOT waiting.  You’re empowered to do that, if you please.  But if you want to see the doctor, get your car fixed, get into the show, you are going to have to wait. That’s just the way it is.

So, I can sit (or stand) here and complain about it.  Keep checking the time, as if that will make the wait end.  I can fuss and be uncomfortable, thinking about all the other things I could be doing.

Or I can switch on the gratitude and enjoy the distant rumbling of the cars, the people around me, the quiet, the view out the window . . .   I can be grateful I have a chair to sit in and pen and paper to keep me company.  I can be glad I have a phone so I can let someone know who might be waiting for me.  I’m breathing.  I’m alive.  And before I know it, I’ll be off doing something else!

Sometimes breathing may be all you can do. But you can do that.  Be aware of your breath. That will slow down the antsies when you are deep in anxious mode.

I’m glad it’s a sunny day and I’m feeling well. It’s great to know my car is getting fixed and will be running so much better!  I’m glad to have water to drink and the money to pay for this repair.  Won’t it be wonderful when I’m finally sprung!

Waiting and getting through it easily – or with a lot less resistance – is very good practice for allowing.  When you can accept that you’re waiting, you can allow the time to pass without fighting it, without squirming in it.

It’s an odd thing: I seem to have a limit to my waiting patience.  I can be patient for exactly so long and then it runs out. For awhile, it’s easy, letting time pass. But all of a sudden, at some point, I find myself questioning what’s going on, wondering if I will ever get out of here, checking my watch, over and over again, feeling my stress level build. It’s at these times, I realize I need to work on it. I start by reminding myself that this is my choice to sit here and wait.  I breathe and find a few things to be grateful for.  I turn my focus on what’s going on around me.  Then I can feel the stress leaving my body.   I’m just here.

Certainly, sitting in traffic is about waiting.  Anything that puts you in a position where you have to be still.  Even if you’d rather not.  That is the key.  Accepting that there are no other alternatives.  It’s sometimes easier to do in these more mundane situations.  Practicing on the smaller incidents in life can help you to accept things like a job change, partner leaving or disappointments of all kinds and intensities, even illness or death.

If you use your waiting time, any frustrating situation you find yourself in, you can practice being willing to go with it. Breathe through it and practice patience and allowing.  You may find a time when you will be glad you did.

What do you do when you’re humming along, moving in the flow and then thwack!  You stub you toe?  You might stub it on an obstacle  left in your foot path,  a hiccup in your plans, an unexpected bill or illness.

If you’re like me, your reaction is to get mad at yourself for not paying attention, not seeing the hazard ahead.  It’s quite easy for me to skip off into other times I haven’t watched where I was going or how things like this ALWAYS happen to me!

It’s difficult when you’re smacked in the face by an unforseen obstacle, such as a car or computer breakdown, expectations unfulfilled and other such left field stray balls.

This wayward ball  can often throw you off course and leave you feeling defeated, angry, victimized or otherwise closed to the abundant flow.

I find it hard at that point, to bring myself back.  This week, I was flowing along, paying good attention and allowing all the little things to fall away.  I’m not going to get hung up on this and allow my thoughts to go negative, I say.  I’m staying present and happy with life.  No, that’s not going to get me either . . .  What happens?  I find myself in a massive traffic jam.  I get a little crazy when no one is moving at all. “Usual” traffic progresses, albeit slowly.  But when there’s an accident or lane blockage, there is, what feels like, no progress.  Minutes go by and the car only moves a few inches.  It’s at this point I begin to panic and wonder what I’m doing there!  I calculate the time wasted, stress over the wear and tear on the car and end up cussing at my life, along with the other drivers.

Very negative. Very closed.  Very unhappy.

It irks me to know I have such limits.  Why can’t I accept all that happens?  Why are there some things I can’t float through?  I know my fussing does nothing to move me any closer to my destination. There seem to be tributaries of my negative thinking.  Say I accept what’s happening now.  But, I ask myself, how many other times have I been in this situation? Why haven’t I been able to get myself out of this?  What flaw has kept me stuck in this predicament, susceptible to such frustrations?  If I sit long enough, I might even find someone else to blame for it.

It’s true that many walls that toes stub are much bigger and thicker than interminable traffic.  For instance, if I was in the car that caused this jam . . . Surely, sitting behind the wreckage, I have the time to control my thoughts, gain perspective, and put myself back on track.  Before I slam into that threatening wall.

I guess it’s hard when you’re facing the culprit, head on.  But, I feel, this is exactly the time to work on it.  The best tactic seems to be to talk with yourself.  Out loud, if you can.  Tell yourself it’s okay.  Heal the wounds first.  Make sure you show concern for yourself and the situation you are in.  You might slide into gratitude, if you’ve calmed yourself down enough: “I’m grateful it wasn’t my accident. I’m grateful for the cell phone so I won’t leave anyone hanging.  It’s a nice day and the music is humming.”

This is a the time to remind yourself there’s nothing you can do about it  at the moment.  If there are changes to be made, they don’t have to be enacted right no. Assure yourself that it will end and you will be able to clear your head and make a new choice.

This is really good practice. Not only will it make you better able to brush off smaller things, it will also prepare you for those bigger obstacles. Watch your progress and see how often and how quickly you can find that flow again.

In observing my thoughts lately, what I’ve discovered is that they are not so much negative, as they are a constant stream of commentary.  Though it may not be all negative, it is rampant with judgments.

When I’m judging, I’m not accepting.  Without acceptance, it’s harder to change.  You don’t have to judge something “wrong” in order to change it.  It works far better to tell the truth about who you choose to be in relation to this thing you would like to judge.  Telling the truth, as you see it, without the judgment, gives you a broader perspective, a wider berth from which to make any necessary changes.  Acceptance is a far more solid and powerful place.  You can make more conscious and caring choices which reflect who you really are.  Rather than stirring up someone’s ire to fight back.  This allows you to choose what you want, rather than what you do not.

I wish to forgive others their minor traffic violations, as I forgive my own.  Many of my judgments come into play on the road.  The truth is, sometimes, I’m not sure where I’m going and have to make a quick turn.  Maybe I’m tired and cannot be as conscious or polite as I’d like to be. Why can’t I offer the same leeway to others?  I know it’s okay to make mistakes, after all.  We all do it.  And through mistakes you find acceptance, adjustments, more knowledge, and clearer vision.  I do not need to judge others’ driving ability.

When I find myself judging others, it’s usually in a place where I am unfairly judging myself.  Or feel others are judging me.

Woody Allen once said something like, he heard Commentary and Dissent were merging to form “Dissentary.” When judgments are flowing, like dysentery, you need to find medicine to stop that flow.  Acceptance and forgiveness are good pills to take.  If need be, there’s always the magic potion of gratitude. It’s hard to judge when you’re feeling grateful.

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