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Category Archives for "Self Improvement"
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Why Veterans’ Day just isn’t enough

This Veterans’ Day post first appeared November 7, 2012. I felt it deserved a repeat.

To me, Veterans’ Day, celebrated this Monday November 11, just isn’t enough to honor what our veterans have done for this country.

Although I am a pacifist, and was an active anti-war activist during the Vietnam War, I was ashamed of the way our veterans were treated when they returned home.

And I am still deeply saddened by the lack of support and care our veterans receive today.

Yes, war is horrendous, and perhaps if women were running the world there wouldn’t be any wars. But those who did their duty and fought for us deserve better than one day to celebrate them.

THE CURRENT CRISIS IN OUR MILITARY CARE

Suicides

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When elephants grieve

In 1998, prize-winning conservationist Lawrence Anthony purchased 5,000 acres of pristine bush known as Thula Thula in the heart of Zululand, South Africa.

He then transformed what had been a run-down 19th Century hunters’ camp into a wild animal preserve and a center for eco-tourism.

In 1999, he was asked to take in a herd of “rogue” elephants from another game reserve. These wild elephants were going to be shot if another home was not found for them!

Knowing he was their last hope, and against all odds of success, Anthony took them in.

The story of how Anthony rescued and rehabilitated the elephants by winning their trust, becoming their friend, and learning to communicate with them is described in his best-selling book, The Elephant Whisperer.

But the most remarkable part of his story may be what happened after Anthony died.

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Life lessons from autumn leaves

Autumn is in full swing here in the northern U.S. And the colors are spectacular.

They are also a wonderful reminder of the circle of life, the passing of time, and how the earth always renews itself.

Indigenous peoples didn’t use a linear calendar; the year didn’t start with January 1 and end with December 31. And there wasn’t an old man carrying a scythe and hourglass to symbolize the gloom of another year over.

Native people noted what’s going on in the natural world by the change in the landscape around them and the movement of the sun, moon and stars.

And that in turn helps them remember the circle of all life; everything dies and returns.

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What you focus on expands!

“What you focus on expands.” Most of us have heard that phrase. It’s the principle of the “law of attraction.”

Sounds so easy. Yet it’s also easy to forget.

Years ago when the film “The Secret” was all the rage, a friend of mine said she refused to watch the film because she’d known about the Law of Attraction for years and years.

Yet she didn’t practice it! She was someone who always focused on the negative. And when you focus on the negative, you just get more negative stuff happening to you.

Because what you focus on expands. Period.

Applying the principle to relationships:

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Were you Crazy Horse in a past life?

“I was Crazy Horse in a past life.”

No, that’s not me saying that. But it’s a statement I’ve heard several times from people I’ve met through my years of walking the Native American spiritual path.

Sometimes they say they were Sitting Bull or some other famous Native American Holy man, but never a shepherd or pony boy or woman.

It’s not my place to judge whether they’re right or wrong, but I always have the same thought when I hear it: “But who are you in this life?”

Because that’s the only thing that’s important: who are you now.

Not, what’s your title or job. Rather, what is your character?

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We come from the stars

Do you ever look up at the night sky and feel a longing? A familiarity? As if perhaps you came from the stars?

I do.

Whenever I look at the Pleiades I feel a calling to home. And there’s a reason for that.

We come from the stars. The carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms found in all life on earth, including humans, was produced originally in stars billions of years ago.

That is scientific fact.

The universe is in us. The universe is us.

Stars that collapsed, exploded and scattered over the universe became part of gas clouds and formed the next generation of solar systems.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars.

“We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.” Carl Sagan, in the 1980 PBS series “Cosmos.”

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Do you celebrate with them?

When people are full of joy because they’ve succeeded or won an award, do you celebrate with them?

Or is there a part of you that’s resentful and jealous?

I hope you answered yes to the first question.

This is on my mind because Sunday night I watched the Emmy Awards [for excellence in television] here in the U.S. And even though I watch so little television that I had seen only a fraction of the nominated shows, I enjoyed it. And I was happy for everyone.

For me, joy is infectious. And celebration of achievement inspires us.

Every one of the winners was once an unknown who struggled, possibly starting out barely able to pay their rent or buy food. But they stuck with their dream and succeeded.

That’s inspiring.

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Learning how to think

This is an excerpt from The Wind Is My Mother about learning how to think. Bear Heart speaks:

Native American children got a very well-rounded education from our elders. We didn’t just learn about hunting and legends.

One elder once sat down three of us boys who had just reached puberty and asked a theoretical question: “Suppose you were married and your wife and child were about to drown in the river. Which one would you save?”

One answered, “I’d save my wife.”

“Why?” He had to give a reason right there.

“The child is innocent and in its innocence it can go on. My wife and I could always have another child.”

Then the elder turned to another. “What about you? Which one would you save?”

“I’d save my child.”

“Why?”

“My wife and I would already have had our life together and the child needs a chance to live its life.”

“What about you?”

I answered, “I love my child in a very special way and in another special way I love my wife. We might all drown together but I’d try to save both.”

None of these answers was right or wrong. What this elder was doing was teaching us how to think, set priorities and give reasons why.

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What’s the latest miracle drug? Sleep!

Sleep gets short shrift in our society. Health advocates promote the importance of diet and exercise, but sleep is seldom mentioned.

Yet it’s the third leg of the health tripod.

We spend over one-third [36%] of our lives doing it. So if you’re 90 years old, you’ve spent 32 years asleep. Sobering, isn’t it?

The latest research shows that sleep is a bit of a miracle drug and we should all be taking it more seriously.

I’ll admit that I have spent a fair amount of time in my life fantasizing about how much more I could get done if I had more waking hours. I’ve even written posts on how to be more productive.

But no less a power player than Arianna Huffington, in her TED talk, sang the praises of getting enough sleep. That’s a position she moved to after fainting from exhaustion, hitting her head on her desk, and breaking her cheekbone requiring five stitches on her right eye.

Getting enough sleep improves your life in so many ways that it could be considered a key to success, in spite of Margaret Thatcher saying sleep is for wimps and Thomas Edison’s proclamation that it’s a criminal waste of time.

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There’s a little bit of Chernobyl in us all

I’ve been reading with alarm the stories of radioactive fish being caught in the Pacific Ocean as a result of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan in 2011. Including radioactive bluefin tuna caught recently off the California coast.

Fukushima is the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, both measuring Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

Even after the initial radiation leakage that occurred in 2011 as a result of the earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima plant has continued to leak radiation into the Pacific Ocean.

There are no signs of it stopping because Japan can’t even figure out why it’s leaking.

All fishing off the Fukushima coast has been banned by the Japanese government, though restrictions were eased in June 2012 allowing fishing of 16 types of marine life.

But here’s the thing: fish swim. And they can swim from Japan to the U.S. coastline. A bluefin tuna tagged by scientists was found to have crossed between Japan and the West Cost of the U.S. three times in 600 days.

Japanese and U.S. officials claim that the amount of radiation found in the bluefin is safe. But the overwhelming scientific opinion is that there is no safe level of radiation.

So there isn’t a consensus. But here’s what you can rely on: governments will lie to us and downplay the danger.

So we’re on our own and have to fend for ourselves on what to eat and how to stay healthy.

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Need more hours in a day? Here’s how to get them

If you’re like me, you often think, “oh, if only there were more hours in a day, or another day in the week, then I could get it all done.”

Even if there were, I probably wouldn’t get it all done.

We don’t really need more time, we need to make better use of the time we have.

The trick is not to get more done. The trick is to decide what you really need/want to be doing and eliminate the rest.

Successful people know how to focus their time and energy. Being productive relies on the ability to distinguish between tasks that move you closer to your goals and tasks that don’t.

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Do you think God is male? Think again.

Do you think God is male? Think again.

If we go back to the original words spoken by Jesus Christ, God was not male; God was “Abba” or parent – non-gender specific.

God is not male. The world needs to accept that. And soon. Because the belief that God is male has caused more tragedy on our planet than perhaps any other notion.

Women are still struggling their way up from the subjugation caused by this male-oriented concept.

After spousal/child/animal abuse and bullying, nothing gets me more irate than hearing God referred to as “He.”

“The Lord’s Prayer” is a particular pet peeve of mine because it is not even close to what Jesus Christ would have said.

Before you get upset with me and stop reading, hear me out. My evidence goes back to the Aramaic language spoken by Jesus Christ.

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On anger: What would Crazy Horse do?

When the great Lakota leader Crazy Horse was getting ready to go into battle, he would review his warriors and, if any were full of anger, he would tell them to stay behind.

Only when they had conquered their anger could they rejoin him.

That’s surprising, isn’t it? One would think that such a dedicated and successful warrior on behalf of his people was motivated by anger, but apparently not.

Anger can point us in the direction of what’s important to us, but anger often controls the person instead of the person controlling it. And that’s where the trouble starts.

Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Buddha

DO YOU CONTROL YOUR ANGER OR DOES IT CONTROL YOU?

There’s nothing wrong with anger provided you use it constructively. Wayne Dyer

Use it to motivate you to make change.

But if it twists your heart into knots and makes you vindictive and out of control, it hasn’t served you. You have served it. I believe that’s the kind of anger Crazy Horse didn’t want in his warriors.

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Sacred drumming – why it’s for everyone

I have been facilitating a Full Moon Drumming Circle for the past six years and I always get the same comment/question when new people inquire about joining us:
“I’ve never drummed before and I don’t know how to do it.”

The fact is: everyone knows how to drum. It’s in our DNA and is one of the oldest means of communication, meditation and musical expression.

So I just tell them to have courage, keep a steady beat and follow the leader. Nothing could be simpler.

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A meditation on weeding

When I purchased my first house over 15 years ago, I was pretty darn excited. About everything, even weeding.

I do know that, in the bigger picture of things, weeds are simply plants that we don’t know the use for. . . yet.

But sometimes they grow where we don’t want them. And what’s to be done, but … weeding!

Being in Southern California, I studied drought resistant plants and took pride in doing all my own landscaping.

I remember a friend being over one day and as we sat on the patio I saw a few weeds in the flower bed and reached down to pull them out. She made some comment about weeding and I said, “Yes, I’ll be weeding the rest of my life.”

We laughed at the time, but it was an off hand comment that was truly prophetic.

So what does it mean to be weeding for the rest of our lives. I’m not going to go into the esoteric teachings of removing negative thoughts and habits from our lives, though that is a good analogy.

I’m really going to talk about weeding an outdoor garden and how to make the best of it.

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The Importance of listening and tomatoes in Zambia

Do you know how to listen? I meet new people all the time through my work and travels and I’m amazed at how many of them just don’t listen to anyone else.

Having been taught good manners by my parents, and being Irish, who are a hospitable people, I always attempt to strike up a conversation when I meet someone new.

I ask their name, and where they’re from and what they like to do. Whatever it takes to build rapport and learn something about them.

But I have noticed how many people just talk about themselves and show no interest in learning about me. It’s astounding to me how many people just don’t seem to know how to listen.

Read on to find out what can be learned from listening and how to do it.

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The Power of Observation

Native American youth were taught the power of observation from an early age. Good observation can have many benefits in our life, as demonstrated in this lesson from Muskogee Creek Elder Bear Heart in The Wind Is My Mother.

“As part of my training, one of my teachers had me spend an entire day doing nothing but observing from early morning to evening. I had to sit in a field all day long without moving my body — he told me to just move my eyes very slowly from side to side.

“What was I observing? What direction is the wind coming from? Does that cloud seem to contain any large amounts of moisture? Is it dark on the underside and light on top? If so, perhaps it’s going to rain.

“If you see birds flying, are they circling or going in a straight line? Are they water birds flying to where there might be some water? If you’re looking for water, perhaps you should head in that direction.

“There didn’t have to be any particular significance to all the things I observed — the point was not to let anything escape my awareness, to master the difference between looking and seeing.

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Competition and the pink ribbon

Quite some time ago, when I subscribed to Horse illustrated, I read a letter to the editor that brought home the lesson of how much children have to teach us about competition.

It never fails to bring a tear to my eye; I hope you enjoy it, too.

Here it is, in its entirety, as written by Rhonda Goddard of Louisville, CO:

“Competition is essential. We learn from it, our characters are shaped by it, and we crave the rivalry. This competitive spirit is quite evident in the horse show world; few participants are unaffected by its influence.

“I am one of many who experience the thrills, woes and obsessions that accompany showing. Like my competitors, I coordinate my season zealously, selecting the right judges, attending the correct shows, and accumulating the most points in order to achieve my self-imposed goals – high point awards, year end placings, regional and national show qualifications.

“I am driven to attain these accomplishments by nothing more than my own desire to ‘succeed’. It took a child to remind me, however, that participation, good sportsmanship, and just plain enjoyment must always be my highest priorities.

“For several years I have judged the annual show for the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center in Lafayette, CO. The show hosts a variety of events, including English and Western Equitation, Trail, and Dressage, as well as fun classes such as Egg in Spoon.

“Each time I judge this show I am reminded that I do not have problems, but rather minor inconveniences, in comparison with the difficulties these students must overcome.

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If we could see inside other people’s hearts

“If we could see inside other people’s hearts” is a moving 4-minute video from the Cleveland Clinic, one of the most renowned medical centers in the United States.

I see it as a visual version of the Native American saying, “Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins.”

Enough said. Have a hankie ready.

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