If you like to journal, you’re probably a reader too. Chances are there are a few meditation, spiritual or self help books on your bookshelf.
I like to start most mornings off with a page or two from one of my favorite meditation books. Something I’ve also begun lately is to select one or two phrases, or perhaps just a few words, that sum up what I’ve read. I write this on a 3×5 index card and carry it with me throughout the day.
At first, I tried to vary the message each day, but lately I have found this has the best effect if I hang onto one card as long as it still has its ‘magic.’ Each time I glance into my purse, where I keep the card, I am reminded again. The card I’ve been carrying lately has just a few words -“Hopeful and Expectant.” This spoke to me from a reading about four days ago, and the message still holds its shine. When it becomes mundane, I’ll try a new one.
Exercise: Take a browse through a favorite meditation, spiritual or classic book – one you love and return to over and over. Find a phrase or two that resonates, and copy it on an index card. Carry the card with you for a day, a week, or as long as the words hold meaning, then repeat with a different card.
‘What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!’ – Shakespeare
Bet you didn’t know March 14 was National Save a Spider Day. The idea is to honor these many legged creatures who act as Nature’s pest control agents, using webs they spin to trap their prey.
Just as a spider weaves a web from what is inside of them, we can weave a web with the stories we tell to ourselves and others. Question is, are these webs ensnaring us?
It takes a good memory to keep up with an untruth. It’s so much simpler to be real, but true honesty is a daily effort for most of us.
Exercise: Write about a lie you told recently. Why did you feel it was necessary? No judgement or solution needed; this is just an exploration.
In the wild, elephants roam freely, but a strange thing happens in captivity.
Young elephants can be tamed by chaining one leg to a stake in the ground. As the elephant grows, so does their enormous stamina. In time, they could easily break that chain and wander to their heart’s content.
Yet they don’t. Why?
Elephants trained since birth to remain captive won’t try to break their chain, because after a few initial struggles, they found it wouldn’t budge. So they gave up, never realizing that indeed they had the strength to free themselves.
How many of our beliefs were instilled in childhood and are no longer true? In order to release old ideas and beliefs, it’s helpful to know what they are.
Exercise: Write this question at the top of a blank page in your journal: “What is chaining me today?” Keep writing for at least a page and see what comes up. In times of fear, doubt or indecision, this is a good technique to gain clarity.
‘In order to write (fiction), every woman needs 500 pounds a year and a room of her own.’ – Virginia Woolf
Five hundred pounds a year in today’s economy equals about $38,000. That’s roughly the yearly salary of a correctional officer, a chef, or a licensed practical nurse, or LPN.
Many creative folks supported their habit with day jobs. Kurt Vonnegut sold cars, Anthony Trollope worked for the Post Office, composer Phillip Glass was a plumber, and Toni Morrison was an editor.
Creativity, then, seems to flourish even in the cracks. Having a day job can take care of those nagging things like rent, food and clothing, allowing freedom to pursue a passion. A little creative play can always be snuck into a day here and there, if only for ten or fifteen minutes. That’s enough time to draw a quick sketch, listen to an inspiring piece of music, stitch a few rows in a yarn project, or prep a piece of wood, bronze or metal.
Exercise: What one thing is standing in the way of your creative time? Is it money, time, inspiration, or something else? Write a page about it.
How well do you hold a grudge?
Poet and bestselling crime writer Sophie Hannah has written a sonnet to all card carrying grumblers in her book, ‘How to Hold a Grudge.’ A self described champion grudge holder, Hannah presents all her best reasons for finding, and keeping, multiple resentments simmering. If she translated that ability into being, say, a chef, she could turn out half a dozen perfectly executed dishes without turning a hair.
Since she’s a writer, Hannah works with words to show how we, too, can learn to appreciate a really juicy grudge, to keep feuds going for years, and to polish up old grievances until they shine once more.
A witty exploration of the how and why we grudge, with some surprisingly useful tips for those who – horrors! – don’t want to hold grudges any more.
Exercise: Got a grudge to share? Turn to the page, and write all the details you can think of, including how long this particular grievance has been part of your daily baggage. You can do this with as many resentments as you like! Then, add up the weeks, months or years that you’ve been toting this burden along.
‘I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.’ – Winston Churchill
March 1 is National Pig Day in the United States, a day dedicated to that often overlooked animal, the humble oinker. Created by two teachers in the 1980s, this is a day of pig festivals, celebrations and pig-themed barbecues throughout the Midwest and other parts of the country.
Want to celebrate? Hold a ‘pig party’ with pink punch and pork on the menu, and tie a pink ribbon around that tree in the front yard.
2019 is also Year of the Pig, according to the Chinese zodiac. Those born this year, and each 12 years preceding, are thought to be diligent, loyal, compassionate and generous of heart. They are naïve, however, and tend to over trust. Pig people are ‘finishers,’ who will see a project through to the end. Henry Ford (1863), Ronald Reagan (1911) and Hilary Clinton (1947) were all born in the Year of the Pig.
Exercise: Farmers, vets and others who work with pigs know they are highly intelligent and sensitive animals, a fact which surprises some people. Choose a positive trait that you have that would surprise others, and write a page about it.
It’s said that coincidence is the Universe choosing to remain anonymous.
When I remember to approach the day with this awareness, life gets a lot more fun. Things aren’t randomly happening. Each event or activity, every person I meet, has a sort of Divine order. When I start looking for the coincidences, it’s surprising how many show up.
It’s like following a treasure map; there are clues hidden all along the way. It’s up to me to be alert. Francis Scovell Shinn, the early 20th century metaphysical teacher, was ever alert to the powers of chance. She was known to start her day with this affirmation: “Infinite Spirit, don’t let me miss a trick.”
Exercise: Write a page about a recent coincidence you experienced. Did you think of someone, and then they called or texted? Did you happen to look up at a billboard just in time to glance a tagline that seemed intriguing? Did the same book, idea or single word come up in conversation with more than one person? Those are all interesting synchronicities to explore.