Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wall-to-Wall Inspiration

I have been on a spiritual quest most of my adult life. I have considered affirmations to be among my favorite tools for cool living ever since I first heard of them. I thrive on inspirational quotes, too.

As for dictionary definition, an affirmation is: Something declared to be true; a positive statement or judgment. These positive sayings recognize how the mind and spirit work to help create in synchrony with Higher Power. They are like magnets of attraction—positive thoughts and beliefs attract positive experiences. Most of us have had life-long training in how to find what’s wrong with things—or ourselves. How ‘bout declaring a whole day where you only look at what’s right? I’ve been amazed at how many situations have taken a U-turn toward much better outcomes when I have done this simple attitudinal turnabout.

Inspirational Quotes
Being a “word bird,” as one friend used to call me, I am probably more inspired by written language than most. I use a Franklin Planner, and I love the daily quotes. This year I’m using the Simplicity filler. (Simplicity is something I’m desperate to have more of!) Here’s one: The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are. –Stephen R. Covey

I feature Simple Inspirations here on Hot Flashbacks, random quotes that pop up on the bottom of my blog. If you’ve never scrolled down that far, check it out! Sample quote: Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking together in the same direction. –Antoine de Saint-Exupery. This saying has long been one of my most trusted measures of right relationship.
One of my favorite sources of words that keep me on track and often amused are the Quotes of the Day that I have activated on my personalized iGoogle page. Example: Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business. - Tom Robbins

There are mountains of quotation sites online. Try some, if you haven’t already: The Quotations Page, Think Exist (my personal fave to date), or Quotations for Creative Thinking.

On and Off the Wall
We are living in a time of economic distress. Favorite stores and businesses are closing by the droves. My own State of California has been hovering on the brink of bankruptcy. Several cities here that have already gone under. During this kind of bad-news bombardment, affirmations and inspirational words are more important than ever.

Wanting to take time for more of those pump-me-up words, I figured what better way than to “clock” them! I was in dire need of constant inspiration, so I visited Pop Art Diva’s Store at Café Press and bought the clock in the picture on this blog post. It reminds me to take the time to: Imagine, Trust, Believe, and Receive. Affirming these realities and feeling their truth activates the invisible stuff from which all substance flows. Our creativity helps draw to us ways to meet our needs through a variety of sources. We were given such blessings of ability, made in the image of the Creator. When we focus on universal abundance rather than believing that the latest distribution issue has to be our personal experience, we remain in the flow of divine substance. Substance comes in many forms, and it all begins with an open mind to tap into the source of all creativity and solutions.

God Helps Those …
The expression God helps those who help themselves could sum up the purpose of this post. Those who are less religiously inclined can think of it as, Good begets good.

What a piece of work is man. How noble his reason. How infinite his faculties. Shakespeare wrote it, and the cast of “Hair” sang it to us. When we can unite our minds with divine order or that which is good in humanity—the natural desire to seek our own perfection—we can really go places.

We can also get out of some really bad places like a blue funk, self-pity, poor self-esteem, and the down-spiral of a day going downhill or one pessimistic thought leading to another bad thing happening. Bad luck multiplies when our magnet is sending out bummer signals.

So, I say plaster the walls with good words … paper them, plaque them, clock them. Don’t be afraid to wear them on your person, even! I love word jewelry. When I turned 60, my friends and I created a croning ceremony as a positive rite of passage. During this acceptance of my sage role, I received a necklace that says on one side, Heals, and the other, With Words. You can order a necklace customized with anything you want on it from my friend JoAnna at Light Drop Jewelry.

When it comes to seeing the writing on the wall, Café Press is just once source of an abundance of products and ideas. It’s one of my favorites. Here’s one good reason why. In my post, Cool ‘Phinsights about my experience swimming with a dolphin named Eva in Hawaii, I mentioned what a baby boomer diva she is—the oldest at Dolphin Quest (38), but also the spryest because she is the highest jumper among her mates. My blog readers were all ready to adopt her as our dolphin diva mascot. I discovered that Café Press has a whole line of “Dolphin Diva” products. After that, I figured you could find just about anything there!

Dive in! Consider decorating your personal space with words to inspire. Make it a womb where you gestate the life and feelings you want to create and celebrate.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Information Indigestion

Information overload is the new Alzheimer’s. It makes us fuzzy-headed and mentally bloated. It feels like a bellyache in the brain. We stuff ourselves, day and night, at the All You Can Eat Info Buffet. We are glutted with mental stimulation, luring us with its delicious aromas of fun, friendship, news, games, and get-rich schemes. There’s more information to digest in a day than most of us used to swallow in a month, maybe even a year. If someone can invent an Alka-Seltzer for the mind, that genius will be laughing all the way to the bank.

At least once I week, I think I have entered senility early, a prospect that is very worrisome to a baby boomer. The symptoms: I have misplaced yet another important piece of paper or lost track of some file, on- or off-line. I’m constantly asking people to re-send things or tell me something over again. (I know we have a close working relationship when I’m no longer too embarrassed to ask.) I used to track so well. Now I forget names and details. Where did they go?

If the Industrial Revolution changed our lives, the Information Revolution is changing how we live and process data more than any paradigm shift in recorded history. Supposedly, we use only a paltry percentage of our brains. That’s not only embarrassing to me, anymore; it’s a handicap. The need to process more information faster has me doing daily mind aerobics—word games and puzzles to stoke the fire of my synapses. I’m bent on shaking up a few memory cells and leaping around cyberspace more limber and muscular in my gray matter.

Even the brightest people are having a hard time handling the bombardment on all sides by info, info, info. You’ve probably heard the initials TMI. A couple of decades ago, it sadly stood for Three Mile Island and a terrible nuclear disaster. Now when someone says TMI, it means Too Much Information. The meltdown is a state I call Advanced Overwhelm.

We are not losing it. Now that we have computers, which, after all, are modeled after our own brains, the analogy is easy. We have just run out of RAM! (Would someone please put out a missing person’s report on my Random Access Memory?) By the time we’ve lived three or four, much less five to seven decades, the part of our brains that retrieves stored data and makes all the programs work is nearly full. We need an upgrade!

At the rate info is flying into our lives, we have to store and retrieve it at speeds we never have known before. We’re still operating like antiquated 286 computer, that relic clunker we plunked on before we even used a mouse and everyone was on the Internet. Our machines run at gigahertz speeds so fast, our brains can barely fire in the same range. Am I the only one who’s a little creeped out by this? Remember “2001, A Space Odyssey” and how HAL, the computer, attempted to sabotage and take over the mission?

We are now bionic. Computers are extensions of our minds. But we have to let our heads catch up with this break-neck evolution. (Is this why my neck hurts so much, so often?) We are being overwhelmed with voice mail, e-mail, faxes—websites, fancy phones that integrate this entire communications smorgasbord—and, yes, blogs, Tweets, Face Bookings and more! Ah, for the good old days when there was lag time. (Remember letters? Days to arrive and no one expected an answer for a week or two.)

Now that everything is instantaneous, we expect each other to do 100 more things, right now, all at once. All those requests and communiqués in your face … all those senders knowing you got it right away. No wonder we’re stressed out. Truth is, most emergencies—unless you happen to work as a 911 dispatcher—are of our own making. We are so impatient. Sometimes I feel like we’ve regressed back to the toddler stage when it comes to social graces. Gimme, gimme—want it now!

A new and improved high-tech species will only evolve out of the latest revolution if we exercise our minds a lot, lower our expectations a little, and remember what happens when a system tries to do more than it’s built for—it crashes. Before we have a collective nervous breakdown, go meditate and/or do something mindless ... and remember well-rounded people who play as hard as they work are the most creative and productive. And when we get those extra moments to rethink things a little, bear in mind that “information is not knowledge,” one of the great catchphrases of the New Millennium.

Last but not least, if you can’t slow down and simplify … if Advanced Overwhelm gets the best of you, take an Info-Seltzer and call in sick in the morning … then turn off the TV, computer, cell phone, handheld, and all the communications gismos and listen to yourself think. You might be amazed at how this low-tech, retro practice can heighten spirits and your put your brain back in gear!


Photo Credit: BUBBLING MEDICINE, © Wizdaz Dreamstime.com

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Converse Golden Rule

For some of us, the Golden Rule is not difficult: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. Treat others as you want to be treated.

If you’re anything like me—if you have the Golden Rule nailed—you might be such a giver and so other-oriented, you might want to learn its complement. I call it the Converse Golden Rule: Do unto yourself, as you do unto others. Treat yourself as well as you treat others.

I pour myself whole-heartedly into every job, friend, family member, committee, club, and project to the point that I often drain myself of my own life force. My first job was as a social worker, and I admit, I have always done some sort of social work ever since, whether in my day job, avocation, or part-time work on the side. It might have been called something else and the purpose may have appeared to be something else. But it was still “social work.” I am a do-gooder and helper through and through.

When Giving Hurts
Unfortunately, like anything done to an extreme, excessive “doing unto others” can be damaging to both the giver and receiver. There are often hidden psychological issues behind too much giving. One possibility is a need for love and approval. Another can be that we are mimicking an intense nurturing style from a parent. We tend to do as we are taught until we consciously break the cycle, whether it’s being abusive or smothering a kid with rib-crunching hugs till he yells, “Uncle.”

Whatever the cause—and, if it applies, that’s for each of us to examine and work on—helpers need to learn to help themselves. There is nothing wrong with caring about others, but when it’s at the expense of your own health, accomplishments, joy and fun in life, it’s time to meet the Converse Golden Rule.

I was finally able to turn around some of the more destructive aspects of my Giving Tree behavior by deciding to treat myself like I’d treat one of my closest friends. What a concept! I wish I had thought of it sooner. This I knew how to do—well!

My reference to the
Giving Tree is a book I remember discussing at my women’s consciousness-raising group in the ‘70s. (Remember those?) While many would find Shel Silverstein’s children’s story endearing about an apple tree who loves a little boy so much, it gives and gives till it has nothing left to give; some women on the cusp of liberation were not amused 35 years ago. They were righteously indignant. They felt this was the wrong message to be sending our children—to give and give with no regard for themselves. It touched too close to the bone as the traditional role women were expected to play. They were tired of being nothing in and of themselves and only regarded as valuable in their role as compulsive givers.

On Balance
Boomers have had to integrate some true extremes in our lifetime. Most of us were children in the ‘50s but reached young adulthood in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Could any two eras differ more?
Ozzie and Harriet meets Michael the Meathead and Gloria. My struggles with being pulled in these two opposite directions are full of both humor and pathos when I flash back on my life. I felt schizoid in the ‘70s trying to sort it all. I did not understand who I was or who I wanted to become as the palette of possibilities expanded, thanks to the Women’s Movement.

But one thing I learned the hard way, while stumbling all over my own self-discovery, is that I had to love myself more—a lot more. This is what nurturers ultimately have to realize. If our joy is in giving: we will have nothing left to give once we are completely wrung out … a dish rag killed in its prime by constant overuse, cleaning up other people’s messes. Who gave to the Giving Tree kid once the giving was all gone?

Loving You
Doing nice things for yourself will get easier, once you live by the Converse Golden Rule and become your own best friend. Soaks in a hot tub, days to yourself declared and taken behind shut doors or away from home, weekend spiritual retreats—they are all yours for the taking. Sorry, but most of your excuses are lame. So are mine.

But I think it has to go even deeper than R&R. You have to resonate to and vibrate outward a deep love of your own being. Self-love is not vanity. It’s knowing your own magnificence as a reflection of Creation and Creator.

Whatever you have to do to find that connection with your spark of the divine, give yourself that Valentine.

Whether it takes journaling, talking to your best friend until her ears burn, or years of therapy: give yourself a gift this year and the same one to your loved ones by creating a wellspring of self-love from your innermost core. It’s a wellspring because it emanates from the Ultimate Source.

Now for my gift to you. Here’s a clip of the most beautiful song I have ever known that celebrates self-love. It’s called
How Could Anyone Ever Tell You (you are anything less than beautiful), written by Libby Roderick and performed by Shaina Noll. The album it comes from, Songs for the Inner Child, is something your own inner child would love on Valentine’s Day or any day.

Now, go hug yourself!


Photo credit: WOMAN SHOWS HEART, ©
Foto.fritz Dreamstime.com

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Journals: The Sort-It Detail

We all talk to ourselves, even if we don’t do it out loud. A journal performs the most important follow-up function to inner dialogue, what I call the Sort-It Detail.

It’s much more difficult to sort what we’re learning and how patterns repeat themselves without annotation—like trying to do math in your head. Journals are spreadsheets. They allow you to “go figure.”

Since I am a writer, the habit of writing my thoughts and feelings is natural to me, but my journal has morphed over time to a custom fit. I invite you to try on some journaling styles until you find the one that’s perfect for you. Like a comfy pair of shoes, your journal needs to fit well but boast a style that’s yours alone and makes you feel like a million.

Since I live at my computer, I have developed a Word template for journaling. I print out the pages in color and prong them into a three-inch binder, the kind with a clear front pocket, so I can make a custom cover. At the end of each year, I reread and relive my 12-month journey and contemplate where I’m headed next. My journal has sections in the back for greeting cards and other keepsakes.

My template header, in a fancy font, says Joyce’s Journal. The subtitle is Learning, Growing, Spirits Uplifted, Stuff Sorted. Below that, I type the date. I insert an ever-changing graphic beside the header to fit the content of the day’s summary. For example, on a day I was angry, the clip art was an explosion. These “icons” show me, at a glance, the quality of my days and how my moods are shifting.

The most important part of my journal is a box on the left that runs the longer side of the page, Things I’m Grateful for Today. Each day, I find at least 10 things. It’s not difficult for me. I have a lot of practice.

I believe that the universe gives back to us as much as we appreciate the gifts we are given. When we send out gratitude, more abundance flows our way. But that’s not why I journal thankfulness. It’s just polite to say thank-you for generosity. It’s who I am, how I was raised. Maybe your custom column is Blessings I Count. Observations I’ve Made. Positive Experiences.

Speaking of the universe and sky, once it turns dark, we dream. I have a different template for my
dream journal, and I mix the pages in my binder—waking and dream accounts. I simply sort them by date in chronological order, the most recent on top. For example, on June 3, there was a journal entry. On June 13, I wrote down a dream. This isn’t strange to me, as I revere the information from the subconscious as much as consciousness. I’ve learned to “play the symbols” in various careers, especially as an astrologer and dreamworker.

Perhaps the most important thing I do in either my dream or journal entries? I give them titles. Whatever we choose to name our entry is an intuitive key phrase for the experience, day or night. You can do a quick review of your journal at any time, just by paging through and reading the titles. You’ll be surprised at the sensation of your whole year flashing in front of you!

Best of all, my journaling technique led me to realize I could use similar techniques for telling my life’s story. What a fabulous discovery while writing my memoir with the same name as this blog, Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights.

May all your insights be cool!


Honorable Mention - This article won Honorable Mention in the 2008 annual essay contest on Be the Star You Are! The mission of this wonderful not-for-profit corporation, is to provide, promote and distribute its library of books and other media to empower women, families, and youth-at-risk to improve their daily lives. I love their slogan, "To Be A Leader You Must Be A Reader!"

Thank you, Cynthia Brian and the judges, for allowing my star to shine in your galaxy!

Photo credit: GIRL LOOKS THROUGH WEEKLY JOURNAL, © Zigf Dreamstime.com