Saturday, January 29, 2011

Live Like You Were Dying

Imagine how our lives would change if we spent every day living like we were dying. Would we savor each moment a little more? Would we feel more grateful for the blessings we enjoy? Would we be a little kinder? Would we hold onto grudges?

For many years, I have served the elderly and dying, and they have taught me so much. They have taught me not to sweat the small stuff, to celebrate the good people in our lives, and to not take myself so seriously. They have taught me how to love.

When I visit my elderly friends, they hug me and kiss my cheeks. They think I am beautiful. They belief I am smart and amazing. Why? Because they recognize the value of a human soul. They have discovered that each one of us is a child of God, a miracle.

Although my husband’s father, Bill, was an angry and abusive parent, my husband, Ken, forgave his dad completely before his dad showed remorse. Living with fear, my father-in-law beat Ken mercilessly as a child and youth. On Bill’s death bed, he asked Ken for forgiveness. Ken replied, “Dad, there is nothing to forgive.”

Even before my terminally-ill father-in-law recognized his mistakes and feel deep remorse for his parenting errors, Ken let go of the pain and sorrow of his childhood and truly loved his dad. Ken is a happy, peaceful man because he forgives, and Bill died peacefully because he knew he was loved. Truly, with love all things are possible, even forgiveness.

I love Tim McGraw song, “Live Like You Were Dying.” In the lyrics a man tells how he lived differently after he learned he might be dying. He says:

I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying.

My dad died when I was 19, but he had two precious years to enjoy each day before cancer ended his mortal life. He savored every crocus that bloomed in the spring. He listened deeply to everything I said. He told me he loved me often. And I listened to him more intently and treasured the time I spent with him.

I learned a lot from that experience.

This week try to see life through the eyes of those whose days on earth are limited. (And, in truth, aren’t all of us dying—some just a little sooner that others?) Call a friend. Visit your sister, your mother, your neighbor. Send a card. You will experience greater peace if you do.

As we savor each precious moment of life and the privilege of being with those we love, life is richer and sweeter. We find that peace was inside our hearts all along, waiting to be discovered.

© Carol Brown

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Choose Love

Each moment of our lives, we either choose love or something else. When we choose love, we experience peace. We feel confident, serene, and happy. We recognize that as children of God, we are born to love. Love is our nature. Love is our mission. Love is our gift.

When we choose anything else, we may feel sad, bitter, angry, or apathetic. When we lose sight of love, we may succumb to self-pity, addictive behaviors, or selfishness. Although those habits may bring temporary pleasure, they will not give us permanent peace. Only love does that.
In a world filled with conflict and violence, it is possible to choose love. We do it by doing the following:

• Fill your heart with loving thoughts. Replace and eliminate those that are not. When a contentious, judgmental thought enters your mind, recognize it as a non-loving thought and refuse to entertain it.

• Surround yourself with loving friends, people who truly love God, themselves, and others. Our power to love others increases when we access the energy of people who love.

• Surrender to the power of God’s love. Spend time daily praying and meditating on His love. Ask Him to show you how to love yourself and others better. He will.

• Accept the fact that no one is perfect. Allow others to make mistakes just as you do. Celebrate the good in others, even those who seem unlovable, for those people are hungry for love.

• As you focus your thoughts on love, speak words of love and encouragement to others. Smile often. Allow yourself to become an instrument of God’s love.

• Become an active listener. When others are speaking, seek to understand them and edify them.

• Seek to serve as your energy and circumstances permit.

Prayer is the heart of love. Kind words are the expression of love. Compassionate service is the instrument of love. When we love others, that love returns to us multiplied. As we sow thoughts, words, and deeds of love, we reap a rich harvest of peace and joy.

Love gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Learning to love God completely and to love ourselves and others unconditionally is the secret to finding peace amid sorrow.

Love, some day, will heal the world.

Soren Kierkegaard said, “When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world—no matter how how imperfect—becomes rich and beautiful; it consists solely of opportunities for love.”

© Carol Brown

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Slow Down

Our culture moves fast. Fast foods, fast cars, fast sex, fast Internet access. Speed is killing us! The average TV show moves between shots every three to six seconds to keep us engaged.

Dr. Daniel Siegel, author of The Mindful Brain and a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA Medical School found that multitasking can release stress hormones and adrenaline into our systems. In addition, when we try to do too much at once, our brain “doesn’t have the time to make the neural connections in the cortex humanitatis—the part of the brain that makes us civilized creatures.”

We experience greater peace when we slow down and enjoy the journey. Inspiration comes best in solitude. My life has been transformed during times of gentle reflection. I came to know God walking to school and praying for guidance. I have never experienced greater love. I decided the best major for me, whom I should marry, and my life’s path during times of quiet reflection.

So how do we slow down in a fast-paced world? Here are a few suggestions:

• Ask yourself, “Will this really matter in 100 years?” This question makes in so much easier to prioritize. For me, next to my love for God, loving relationships with family and friends matter most, so I make them a priority. It then becomes easier to decide between two attractive choices.

• Take time to worship. Whatever your religious beliefs are, take time each day to access a Higher Power. Ask Him to guide you in paths of peace and to help you carry your burdens. I know God hears and answers all of our prayers, although sometimes He responds in unexpected ways. As we place our lives in His hands, He blesses us in ways that we cannot anticipate.

• If you must choose between fear and love, choose love. Choose to honor your marriage covenants even when the world glamorizes infidelity. Choose to be a survivor and not a victim when life is unfair. Choose to release your worries to a loving Creator and enjoy the gifts of each moment. Our minds are powerful tools. We can choose love.

• Move a little slower. Eat more deliberately, savoring each bite. Walk more slowly, enjoying the beautiful scenery that delights our senses. Speak a little slower, pondering each word spoken and heard. Remember the Simon and Garfunkle song, “Slow down, you move too fast.”

• Learn how to meditate and enjoy the bliss of mindfulness. It was transform your life!

• Simplify your life. Can you spend less of your time on things that matter least and devote more time to things that matter more? Can you delegate, eliminate, or consolidate some chores so that you can spend more quality time with those you love?

Today I heard the story of a grandfather who stood by the window with his young grandson and reflected upon choices that he has made in his life. That moment of quiet contemplation changed the grandfather’s life. He realized that he had made and was making choices that were not strengthening his marriage and family. He suddenly understood that he needed to make some significant changes in his lifestyle and habits so that he could experience greater peace, harmony and love in his home.

The grandfather changed. He now serves others in significant ways and has discovered God’s personal love for him in ways he had never known before in his life. One moment of simple meditation transformed this man’s life. He can do the same for you and for me.

Start today.

Remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi, one of my favorite sages, “There is more to life than increasing its speed."

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Life Is But a Weaving

My life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors,
He worketh steadily.
Oft times He weaveth sorrow,
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the under side.

Not 'til the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
in the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
in the pattern He has planned.
He knows, He loves, He cares,
nothing this truth can dim.
He gives His very best to those
who leave the choice with Him.

~Author Unknown

© Carol Brown

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Don't Give Up

During January in our part of the world, days are short and smog obscures the sun most of the time. We long to see a glimmer of light, and when the sun appears, even for a moment or two, we rejoice. Light gladdens the heart and lifts the spirits.

This winter has been particularly dark. Although I have tried to practice mindfulness, at times I have felt gloomy, longing for sunny, warm days. Instead of feeling content with the myriad blessings surrounding me, I find it easy to focus on what I lack: sunshine.

Since I’m a person who really needs light, winter can be difficult at times. I spoke with a friend who told me her canaries cannot lay eggs unless they have full spectrum light. I don’t want to lay any eggs, but I’d love to sit outside and bask in the sun. I miss it.

Yet, with time, spring come. Days lengthen. Cold, winter days transform into balmy, summer days. It is the circle of life.

Last year I buried two dear friends. Yesterday I learned by brother is fighting for his life. He is old, and his body is wracked with cancer, but he hates to leave his dear wife, who has been his beloved companion for over sixty years. Life is difficult, filled with good-byes and disappointments, but it has its seasons, too.

Spring, filled with hope and the innocence of youth, becomes summer, a busy, joyful time of gardening, pruning, and weeding. Suddenly, we find we are in the autumnal season, harvesting the bounty of the seeds we have planted. When love is sown, we reap happiness. When kindness is sown, we reap peace.

Then winter descends. The earth in our neighborhood is covered with snow, which sparkles like diamonds in the moonlight. Flowers blooms fade. Plants die. The earth appears barren and cold. But hidden beneath the earth are seeds waiting to germinate. Leaves will soon grow on the stark branches of our maple, aspen, and flowering pear trees. Roses will bloom again.

So, today, for anyone reading this, who feels discouraged, remember just as that seasons continually change, this, too, will pass. If you feel overwhelmed with sorrow or despair, please don't give up. The Light of the world waits to help you. Just ask.

© Carol Brown

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Power of Love

As children of God, we have the ability to tap into His unfathomable power and love through prayer and meditation. Although we may not obtain wealth or fame, we can experience genuine happiness, inner love, and peace of mind as we align our loving thoughts with our words and deeds. As we do so, we can make a huge difference in the lives of others.

There’s a Chinese proverb that says: “When there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. When there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. When there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. And when there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”

Love is a habit which promotes inner peace, and as we learn to control our thoughts and center our hearts on loving God, ourselves, and others unconditionally, we promote peace. Love is the greatest power in the universe. It transforms lives. It heals broken hearts. It makes us whole. Truly, with love, all things are possible.

Our western culture pretends that possessions, prestige, and prominence create personal power, but in reality, they do not. When we align our lives with God’s will and when we radiate His love to ourselves and to others, we discover that we are powerful people, and that power creates in us a sense of humility and awe. We realize that we do not need money, acclaim, or prestige to be content for the state of our spirit brings us perfect peace.

This year you might consider making love your goal. Speak only words of love to and about others. Think loving thoughts about yourself, those with whom you associate, and about God. Forgive, and discover the flood of love that forgiveness brings into your heart.

Every thought we think, word we speak, and action we perform either promotes love or damages it. The path to inner peace is only found through love. So how do we find that path?

• Mediate often on the God’s infinite love for you individually.

• Speak with kindness to and about others.

• Find fun ways to nurture yourself and others.

• Lose yourself in the joy of service.

• Take a few moments each day to breathe out stress, fears, or worries and to breathe in
love, peace, and happiness

• Live in a state of continual gratitude

• Savor the beauties around you, whether it is the smile of a child, the flicker of a candle, or the shape of a tree

• Practice mindfulness

If we sincerely strive to be a peace-giver by loving God, ourselves and others, we will create peace in our own lives, and we will also radiate that peace to others. Emmet Fox: “If only you could love enough, you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the universe.”

Each day think about love, speak loving words, and do loving deeds, and watch the power of love transform your live. I love this quote by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “Someday after mastering winds, waves, tides and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will discover fire.”

© Carol Brown