Thursday, June 2, 2011

Emerson Challenge Day Three

One Strong Belief by Buster Benson

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?

I have more than a few beliefs that keep me rather set apart from my friends and the people that are close to me. For one, I am a vegetarian in a meat eater's world. I believe in living my conviction that it is wrong to torture or injure another living creature for our monetary gain or otherwise. In short, it is wrong to exploit. I will not willing take part in the cruel exploitation of animals. I am an animal lover and have spent a decade of my life trying to help and heal animals. I also own several pets and administer daily to their comfort and needs. How could I then support a system that does the opposite of this? A system that hurts, maims, tortures and kills animals before their time. I could not. Not when it is unreasonable to do so and not when there are other choices.

The other belief I have, and this strikes me more deeply, is the belief that I must, (note, not would prefer to, not would like to) but MUST succeed at my craft of Art and Writing. I have done both all my life, from a very young age.

When I was five years old, my ambition was to write the dictionary. I began to copy out the Richard Scary version, until my Dad told me I couldn't do that, it wasn't legal and that I had to make up my own stories. Once I learned that, I began to write my own stories. I wrote stories to read to my family and baby brother at bed time. I wrote reams and reams of poems. I read poems in church, I entered contests, and won. I wrote articles for the web and for magazines. I wrote short stories and then novels and never stopped from that day to this.

Also when I was five, I decided that I would sell paintings to make money. I painted up a bunch and went door to door selling them for five and ten cents each. I received my first commission at that age; a lady who told me that my abstracts were of "nothing" and if I really wanted to sell her a painting I would go home and painting something like a house and come back and sell that. I did and satisfied, she bought it. As with my writing, I went on to paint and paint, entering and winning contests, having exhibitions, having my art published in school annuals and when I move on to adulthood, having my work sold around the world and put in many galleries.

For me, the fact that I needed to be a writer and needed to be a painter were my earliest core beliefs. They are a part of me, like a fingerprint or a hair folicle. Something that one carries with them all their life that never alters. I know many writers and painters that are content to paint and write and nothing more. They might sell a painting at a local art fair or to a friend but that isn't what motivates them. They might write a story for fun or to get something off their chest but being published isn't a necessity. For me, being known world wide IS a necessity. Being widely published IS a necessity. It is a passion. And I know it will be a chief pursuit til my dying day.

I believe this is what sets me apart from my friends. I know of no one else of my close friends or family that devotes as many hours to the pursuit of their passion as I do. Granted, I am extremely lucky that I do have the means to be able to pursue this. I am supported by my hubby who holds down a full time job so I can write and paint and focus on selling my work. We've had to make sacrifices too so that I can. I don't take vacations or drive fancy cars. We have one family car and live in a townhouse not a big house with a yard like I've always dreamed. But there are dreams and then there are passions, and the passions have a soul that takes over everything else. When you let your passions rule, it's more powerful than any dream you can have of owning this or that. It is a fulfillment of the soul. It is magical. It is godlike. I will gladly give up a few frivolous dreams here and there to live fully in my passion. There is nothing else like it. It is mighty. It is powerful. And in the end, I believe it will take you where you need to go. Even if you have to go there alone.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Trust 30 Day Two - Today.

Liz Danzico – Today

Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

If ‘the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tracks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.

Here is my response.

Today is a composite of the energy, trust, love, attitude, compassion and forgiveness you bring to it; each minute of it is your ever-renewed chance to create magnificence.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

#Trust30 - Day One - 15 minutes to live.

One of my writer friends found and posted this inspiring thirty day challenge, and not one to take challenges lightly, I signed up for this.

#Trust30 is an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your now, and to create direction for your future. 30 prompts from inspiring thought-leaders will guide you on your writing journey.

The Inspiration

To celebrate Emerson's 208th birthday, The Domino Project is republishing a work of art that's especially relevant today. Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson urges readers to trust their intuition rather than conforming to the will of the majority.

The Pledge Details

  1. The #Trust30 challenge starts at 6am ET on May 31st and runs for 30 days.
  2. Each day we'll post a prompt from an original thinker and doer on You can also sign-up for daily emails.
  3. Fill out the short form below to commit to participating in the #trust30 online initiative.
  4. Blog, journal, or create something on each of the 30 days.
  5. Tweet using the hashtag #trust30 to show your support and involvement.
This is today's challenge

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.


The story that needs to be written is the story of our future. The story of our future is the story of our present, for what we do today will determine the outcome of our future. What you sow, you will reap in the hour of harvest, as a great prophet once forewarned. The way through the challenging times ahead is be awake to what our values are. How do we direct our energy? Do we live the life we value and value the life we live? When I was seven years old I read a statement that has stuck with me through my whole adult life.
"Would the child you were, be proud of the adult you've become?"

What values did you have as a child that you have since lost? Are you proud of the way you've lived your life? Are you proud of the way you have taught your children? Have they walked into life embracing the values of your parents' and of the mentors in your own life that have passed their knowledge onto you? Will the next generation that you have birthed into this world be able to carry forward goodness and respect for the earth and mankind? Whom do they emulate? Do they have the tools to be better stewards of the earth and the whole animal kingdom than the previous generation?

Everyone has duality in their personality. Sometimes we help a neighbour, other times we shun a neighbour. Sometimes we trample and other times we lift up. Will you choose to embrace the higher vibration of your soul and reject the lower? Will you inspire others to do the same? If your life were recorded, would you invite the world to watch it? What choices do you make today to enable others to make positive choices in their life? How will you love today to ensure there is love in the future? The power of the future lies in the now. How will your actions today determine the future?

This is the story that needs telling. This is the story that will matter when we're gone.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Shenpa and Changing Patterns

Do you ever find yourself suddenly in the throes of an argument with someone and the more you talk, the more he or she talks and the deeper the two of you go into misunderstanding, offense, anger and hurt? What happens after this? You walk away feeling frustrated, angry and hurt; feeling like this person is self-centered, unsympathetic and ignorant. You vow to end the friendship, or just lock away a little piece (or maybe a big piece) of yourself in a desperate attempt to get along with that person, and avoid further painful episodes of trauma and drama. If this is done, then the relationship is sure to suffer permanent damage.

Later, when you reflect on the argument, you might be able to locate the exact point in which the conversation turned from friendly and engaged, to something that felt tight and uncomfortable, like suddenly being hit in the face by a strong forceful wind. You are left metaphorically gasping for air as though the natural, comfortable, in and out breath was suddenly pinched off. In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a word for this moment when we feel hooked or triggered in a negative way. It is called Shenpa. At the moment of Shenpa, we feel a gut reaction to revolt, to react in a way that will make the other feel and understand our discomfort. We suddenly feel a boiling need to pounce and tear apart who we now suddenly see as our opponent rather than the ally that stood before us moments before. Whether we say a cutting comment in response to the Shenpa, or we shut down mentally and emotionally, or we cry, shake or whimper, the fact is that this event has the power to suddenly change the course of the conversation in ways that are detrimental.

Once Shenpa is engaged, it can be extremely difficult to gain control and get the conversation back on an even keel. It has been said that with repeated mental and emotional patterns, the grooves in our brain can grow deeper, only reinforcing the negative behavior the more we “play” it. Literally, the only way we can reprogram our behavior is to cut off the old patterns and replace them with new ones. Then those negative grooves that were formed will begin to smooth over and we will have replaced an old pattern with a new, healthier one.

In order to start the process of rewiring your brain, you must first be aware to the Shenpa. That involves keying in to the sensations of the body; keeping your experience in the body rather than in the mind. A great way to practice this is through meditation. Sit in a quiet room, close your eyes and focus your attention on your out breath. Breathe naturally and become aware of your exhale breath. Soon your mind will start to drift off, thinking about the chores you have to do, when the kids need to be picked up, what you will have for dinner, etc. When you catch yourself thinking, just return your focus to the breath, in a non judgmental way, and lovingly label your thoughts, “thinking.” With practice you will be able to feel more attuned to your body rather than dwelling in your mind. With this practice you will start to become aware when you are triggered, as it is first felt in the body. You may feel tightness in your gut, or a feeling like you’ve been hit in the chest or throat. Your cheeks might colour or your fists might clench. With awareness practice you will get to know your moment of Shenpa.

Now, let’s come back to the moment of the conversation where you’ve suddenly become aware that you are hooked. You feel that familiar “slap in the face” feeling. You are ready to pounce. You are poised on the precipice of that cliff, where it would feel really good to leap into the chasm of retaliation. Where do you go from here? The answer is, you stay. Yes. You just stay on the edge of that cliff. Your mind will be racing, thinking of all the things you want to say to that person to let them know how they have offended you. You want to fill that space with words, preferably explicatives. But you’ve done that before haven’t you, and did it solve the problem? Did it promote peace and harmony? No, it didn’t.

The key to uncoiling from your ready-to-pounce state is to slow the mind. This can be accomplished by first slowing the body. Focus on your breath. With the out breath, breathe out the ill feelings, let them purge from your soul. Take in the clean, pure air and let it fill up the aching spot. Slow the mind down. It wants to talk a mile a minute. It wants to hold forth, defend, defame, maybe yell, break down or lament “it’s not fair!” Stay present with your self. Stay in the body, slow it down. Think of your brain like a giant sieve about to strain crushed fruit for its concentrated life-giving nectar. At the top of the sieve lies all the detritus; the peels, the seeds and all the other inedible parts that will spoil the nectar. These represent the hurtful words that are circulating your mind. These words could be intended for your partner, such as “What a jerk, I can’t believe he’s being such a prick again!” “He always thinks he’s so right.” “Who does he think he is anyway?” Or they could be aimed inwardly, “I guess I’m stupid.” This just proves I’m unlovable.” Or whatever it is we tell ourselves. Now, imagine that the nectar of truth is filtering down through the muck. Those distorted thoughts get left in your mind, while you allow the truth to drip down. You soften your thoughts and turn them into softer words. “You jerk! You are hurting me on purpose;” becomes “I’m feeling that your comment was unfair.” Keep breathing and filtering the nectar. What is the truth of what you wish to say? What is the heart of it? Soon it becomes “I’m having difficulty with the conversation. I feel some hurt bubble up and I don’t know what to say. I feel I might say something hurtful. Can we pause for a minute and slow down and catch our breaths?”

Asking your partner for a pause break is one of the best things you can do to derail the situation. If you put forth the request in a non judgmental way, it can evoke compassion in your partner. You can agree to return to the topic at a later time or just spend a few moments together in mutual silence. When you choose to do that, you can tap into the other person’s basic goodness. Try to imagine you are them. Have you ever felt how they do? What were your feelings at that time? Try to picture that you are the one having the issue they seem to be having with you? We are All ONE and it is not hard to imagine the basic human emotions of jealousy, self consciousness, doubt, unworthiness, fear and hurt that drive the Shenpa. You can spiritually connect with your partner if you realize that you are both caught in the hook; that you are staring into the eyes of someone who, right at the moment is going through the exact same phenomenon as you are. They feel the same punch in the stomach feeling as you, the same fears and doubts. Then you can extend compassion to your partner knowing that you are actually experiencing a state of Oneness as opposed to a duality.

Armed with the tools of slowness of mind, cleansing breaths, filtered and purified speech and a feeling of compassion and Oneness, you can then return to the topic of conversation with a renewed vision. It now becomes amazingly easy to reconcile and raise each other up.

This process takes a lot of practice before you become skilled at effective communication and problem solving, but with patience you will start to see improvements. Those deep grooves will start to lessen and you will form new, healthier patterns and your relationships will begin to improve. Don’t expect to get rid of the Shenpa. It is a part of life and a part of who we are, but we can experience it, and yet not let it hold a power over us. With patience and practice we can tame this pouncing lion.