Can You Feel It?

Painted Colorful Hands
Layers are becoming necessary. Socks too. Foliage is beginning to brighten and transform from deep green to golds and reds and oranges.
 
Tonight begins the turning of a new year for me and my fellow Jews. {L’shanah Tovah if that includes you!} We usher in a sweet year by sharing apples dipped in honey, gather for the warmth of traditional foods and each others’ company.
 
I am hearing from so many people that there is also an internal shift, a quickening toward deeper levels of purpose and meaning. This coincides with a sense of weariness generated by the unending busy-ness of modern life.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this glorified, almost cult-like status of busy that permeates our culture.
You see, it is both true and not true. Yes, there is lots to do all the time for most of us. And no, we are not without the power to shift how we respond to it, or how much we honestly need to show up for. What pieces are truly necessary so you can end your day and put head to pillow with a feeling of satisfaction?
This is one of the things I addressed in last week’s “I’m Too Busy To Meditate!” teleclass. Time happens on two levels at once — there is the literal, 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour level, which as they say “waits for no one.”
And then there is the ephemeral, internal passing of time, which expands and contracts based on a variety of factors. How is it that the same amount of minutes can pass snail slowly one time, and whoosh by in a flash another?
We have so many ways of relating to time: we lose track of it, we kill it, we waste it, we treasure it, we measure it.
Want to expand your sense of time?
Take time to stop and feel it. Sounds simple, I know, but how long has it been since you did just that? Relate to the next moment with all of your senses open and alive — not hyper vigilant, simply alert, like an animal responding to the sound of your approach on a quiet path.
Every moment you can do that is a moment of healing. It’s a moment of being awake to reality. It’s an opportunity to begin again and disconnect from the cult of “too busy.” Practice stepping in and out of that flow to liberate yourself from getting caught in the rapids!

Look Up!

glass ball
Look Up!
That’s what my dad always encouraged me to do when I was in Manhattan. He grew up there and we lived close by, so of course we felt and acted like natives.
 
“Don’t be afraid to look like a tourist awed by the tall buildings,” he’d say. “You miss seeing the most amazing architecture if you only focus on the street level.”
 
I think of those words a lot lately, with everyone’s eyes trained on their phone screens. And yes, guilty as charged myself, of course. The World Wide Web might open a lot of things to us, but it also has a way of narrowing our view — down and away from what is in our immediate world.
 
A large part of living in the now and being present to what is requires exactly that: opening to a broader perspective. Such as:
  • Looking up to see what treasures you might find…or what ugliness, like peeling paint, graffiti or neglect. All part of reality too. I could curse the power lines or be grateful for the light and warmth they generate.
  • Truly seeing and engaging with the trees, the bricks, the stones, every part of the landscape you are driving or walking through.
  • Remembering that everything that exists contains a spark of life, which shares the same Creative Force as the spark of life in you.
Mindfulness is built one small action at a time. Any moment in which you wake from your reverie of busy, distracted, or consumed is an opportunity to look up and take note of the ways in which you are always connected — no wi-fi needed.
 
Look up more often. Look around and truly see what can be so easy to miss: the squirrel darting from limb to limb. The way your teacup is resting perfectly in its saucer. The affirmation that you tacked up above your desk last month that has blended into the wall, no longer noticed.
 
Revel in all that you see, and the fact that you are able to see it. Revel in all that you feel, and rejoice in the skin and nerves that receive it. Revel in all that you taste, the tongue and tastebuds that allow you to, in the words of the late, great Warren Zevon, “enjoy every sandwich.” 

Your True Beauty

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Your True Beauty
Yes, that’s me at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I returned late last week from a most amazing journey throughout Israel, and the time spent at this holy site was just one highlight of many during our twelve day trip.
Of the many things I experienced and learned while I was there, one was totally unexpected and has given me much food for thought.  
 
I am vain. Maybe not Carly Simon vain, but still. 
 
It’s not that I think I’m such a great beauty, but I always try to put my “best self” forward. Especially when I’m going to teach or speak to an audience, or be on video. I fuss with my hair and delight in my natural curls. I cull J Jill’s sale racks far too regularly. And perhaps I really have watched one too many episodes of What Not To Wear
 
But on this trip, there was no place for vanity, no time and no need. It was hot and I’m especially sensitive to the sun. So many times each day it was hat on, hat off (and goodbye curls). Get all sweaty and dusty walking ancient ruins, then cool down on the tour bus. The mascara was put on the first morning there, then never got picked up again.
 
And yet, in every photo from this trip, I look ecstatic and utterly present…and see my generally not-so-photogenic self as beautiful. It is a thoroughly inside out beauty that has nothing to do with what my hair looks like or how sweaty I was in that moment.
 
I want to feel that way more of the time, and less concerned with whether my curls are just so.
 
Generate Your Inner Supermodel
 
In this overly Photoshopped world, how do you compare to those outer standards of beauty? You don’t. If the best offense is a good defense, the inside/out route is going to serve you well — emotionally as well as physically.
It’s not about not caring how you look, but cultivating the rich pool of joy and presence that is deeper than physical beauty. And yet, oddly enough, promotes it, like those compelling images of elderly monks whose clothes are plain and heads are shorn. They are radiant because of their focus on their inner life. What’s called for is more monk and less What Not To Wear…
As Joni Mitchell put it in one of her later songs, “Happiness is the best face lift.”
I’ll bet you already have some great beauty secrets of your own — prayer, walking, playing with your pet. If somehow life’s gotten too busy and they’ve fallen by the wayside, let this be your gentle reminder to re-enroll in your personal beauty school.
And may that beauty within you be reflected in the joyful smiles you share with others.