LINEN AND LIES

The afternoon sun embellished the threads of my linen shirt as it dried on the rooftop clothesline. This was my chance to snap one of those ‘artsy’ photos. I raced down the stairs of my daughters apartment to grab my camera.

Not the actual photo as I never made it back to the rooftop.

Not the actual photo as I never made it back to the rooftop.

In my haste and enthusiasm, I missed the last step tumbling to the landing without the slightest hint of grace. The last stepI’d hurt myself and despite the tantrum seizing my foot, my mind was screaming this one objective: “I’m going to Paris on Friday-I am GOING to Paris on Friday, Pleeeeeezze” Fortunately, it was only a sprain and the following 4 days, I treated it with the tenderness and respect it demanded.

Friday arrived, I was grateful for minimal swelling and only a slight limp. I made a last-minute decision to wrap my ankle in the tensor bandage I’d abandoned the previous afternoon. Barcelona to Paris is a relatively quick trip, however I knew I had a considerable distance to cover on foot. Rest-Ice-Compression-ElevationEntering the Barcelona airport, I was thrown off-balance by hundreds of impatient passengers standing in line after line. The terminal was experiencing electrical difficulties with computers, lights, telephones and self-check kiosks. My heart sank – after all my stringent pedi-care….Paris bistros, croissants and quiet afternoons along the Seine seems to be slipping through my fingers.

longing for Paris What to do, what to do? Without considering possible consequences, I headed toward the check-in counter playing up an exaggerated limp. I scanned the faces of the frantic staff and decided a tall gentleman with a walky-talky was my best chance of making the flight.

walky talky

A pang of guilt griped my throat as he reacted with kindness to my unrehearsed theatrics. I knew I was on a slippery slope when I overheard him radio ahead for a wheelchair. Seriously, all I wanted was an opening near the front of the line. I was desperate people, I NEEDED to get to Paris. (Ok so ‘need’ is a slight exaggeration)

In my own defence, I never park in handicap zones, or occupy the large stall in the washroom. Over the next 3 hours I systematically forfeited any brownie points I may have accumulated in my lifetime. sillateyder-150x150Within 10 minutes, a lovely young lady arrived with a wheelchair. I was now committed to this performance. Meryl Streep had nothing on me as I lowered myself to the waiting chair.. She wheeled me for 5 min across the terminal to an X-ray machine designed for passengers with strollers, wheelchairs or oversized luggage. My only hope of absolution, once on the plane, I could let my guard down and take shelter behind my Oscar for Best Lead in the Duplicity category.

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And The Oscar Goes To…

After the customary security pat down, my escort rolled me the 10 min to gate D42, she handed me off to a cheery gentleman in a green onesie with matching reflective vest. He wheeled me in the opposite direction to a service elevator where we descended 3 floors to the tarmac below. After loading me into a wheelchair van, he drove to the base of the stairs of the waiting plane. To make maters worse, the able-bodied passengers had been delayed boarding until I arrived. They were crammed into a humid transfer-bus, waiting on my arrival. The jumpsuit clad chaperone graciously offered his arm and guided me up the stairs to my appointed seat.

Finally…… This charade was coming to an end.

Vueling To my embarrassment, the flight attendant upgraded me to the second row. Catholic guilt reached epic proportions when they informed me assistance would be waiting for me in Paris.

OH MY GOD…. I’m going to hell for sure Gates of hell ***Have you ever told a “little white lie” and found yourself in the middle of a self-imposed drama?

Posted in Barcelona, Enjoying Life by Slowing Down, Gratitude, PARIS, Spain, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

EYES ON BAH-THA-LONA

Four weeks in Barcelona to write, decorate, absorb a new language, and visit with my daughter & her boyfriend. There’s not a single reason to shield my eyes from the Spanish-Splendour surrounding me… then again the day is young.

Barcelona Beaches

Adhering to a strict schedule and not wishing to miss the spectacular sunrise, I spring from my cozy bed, slip into running gear and head for the promenade adjacent to the beach, for a 20 minute run. Afterward, I meditate for 30 minutes at waters edge.

I return to the apartment refreshed and Zen-like, sprinting the 68 steps to my daughters 4th floor apartment. The three of us sit down to a nutritious breakfast and discuss our plans for the day. I skip off to the Chiringuto (a beachside restaurant) and order, in quasi-acceptable Spanish, the first of two iced coffees and write for several inspired hours under a red umbrella warmed by the hospitable Spanish sun.

Barcelona

That’s how my day looks in my imagination….In reality, this is my wake-up call in Barcelona.

Jet-Lags extensive grip torments every muscle, including eyelids ~ I turn my back on the glossy 6 am sunrise. Two hours and several deep sighs later, I inch, sloth-like, into cropped leggings, that seem to have shrunk in my suitcase. I stumble down the 68 steps in the direction of the beach walkway, for what I hope will be an invigorating run…. I settle on a restorative walk and scope-out a tranquil spot next to the water for my intended 30 minutes of meditation. (seriously Shauna, 30 minutes?~that’s never going to happen)

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A near empty beach soothes me as I sit crossed legged facing the unusually calm sea. Despite the welcoming and compliant sand, I twitch and squirm as my right foot insists on falling asleep. My marginal concentration is challenged by boisterous masculine voices, as five elderly gentlemen, in undersized speedos, have chosen this exact spot, despite miles of empty beech, to suspend their walk and socialize.

Generally speaking, Europeans over a certain age, tend not to waste unnecessary material on beachwear. The particular angle of the sun catches and emphasizes an aspect of the male physique that should never, EVER, be compressed under such a thin layer of spandex.

I take a deep cleansing breath and turn my head in the opposite direction.

Taking my mind off the men to my right I focus on 2 mature ladies in bathing suits, walking along the breaking waves. The women seem to be carrying partially filled sandbags suspended with a thick layer of fabric draped around their necks. The taller of the women is burdened with the larger sacks and they oscillate awkwardly over her navel as she speed-walks along the sand. The only thing I can think of is this is some kind of neck strengthening exercise

While focusing on the heaviest part of the flesh coloured sandbags, a shiver of realization runs through me. Those aren’t sandbags, I’m staring at exceeding low pendulous breasts. As they pass, one of the ladies furrows her brow and gives me an inquisitive look. It would seem, I’m the only person out of place on this beach!

With little appetite, I forgo breakfast and head directly to the beach restaurant for a much-needed shot of caffeine.

After butchering the Spanish language ordering espresso, I sit quietly under the red umbrella, allowing the soothing mediterranean sea to heal my scorched retinas.

Red Umbrella

 

 

 

 

Posted in Barcelona, Beachwear, Enjoying Life by Slowing Down, Gratitude, INSPIRATION, Mens Speedo, Spain, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

MINDFUL EATING ~ What’s that?

Mindful Eating Practice by Lorraine Driscoll

* I stumbled upon Lorraine Driscoll’s website BOHEMIAN NUTRITIONIST (don’t you just love that name) a few days ago and wanted to share her approach to Mindful Eating. Today I sat at my table and gave myself the gift of savouring my food, my life, my family, friends and opportunities. Thank you Lorraine for helping me to slow down and enjoy life.*

Mindful Lunch

My Mindful Lunch ~ I feel so healthy..

Eating mindfully, helps us to slow down which in turn makes us more conscious of what and how much we are eating. Slowing ourselves down is a process; making mealtime an opportunity to form meaningful connections with our loved ones as well as ourselves requires effort and intention.

Set the Stage

1) Eat at a Table – Make a point to eat only at a table. Years ago I read the book “French Women Don’t Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano. The author points out that in France people do not eat in their cars and on their couches. They sit at nicely set tables to eat. In fact, unlike North Americans the French do not even have cup holders built into their cars, at theatres and every other possible location because eating and drinking is reserved for sitting at a dinner table.

It is almost guaranteed that if you are eating anywhere but your table, then you are definitely not eating mindfully. How can you eat mindfully when you’re sitting at your desk working and eating or standing at the counter playing on your iPad? Sitting at a table to eat with no distractions is the first step towards making eating a mindful experience instead of a chore.

2) Jazz up the Dinner Table – Mindful eating will seem less like a chore if the dinner table isn’t stacked with papers and magazines. Take the time to set the tone by tidying the kitchen before you eat: clear the kitchen table, set out the nice dinner plates and light some candles. You may find this is an extremely effective way to unwind from the day. The quiet peacefulness of your new found dinner table may end up being one of your new favourite times of the time.

3) Feed Your Ears – Be aware of what you want to listen to when you are eating. One technique that has proven to be extremely effective in reminding our brains to calm down and to improve digestion is listening to slow-paced, relaxing music during dinner. Listening to relaxing music at dinner can make all the difference in making dinner time a meaningful retreat from the day. On the flip side, if you work in a noisy environment, sometimes listening to nothing at all is preferable. Need I even say that TV does not count as food for your ears?

The First Course

Once you have made the preparations for mindful eating take a moment to engage with your body and how you are feeling before actually eating.

1)Just Breathe – Taking a moment to take a few deep, slow breaths before you eat will flood your system with oxygen and turn down the stress hormones. This simple strategy is very effective for portion control because the act of pausing and breathing brings you back to centre and reminds you to be mindful. Try taking six deep belly breaths and allow yourself to feel your body progressively relaxing with each breath.

2) Eat Your Feelings – Eat the way you want to feel. My mother always said ‘Garbage in, garbage out’. It took me years to understand what that really meant. So ask yourself how this food is going to make you feel and if you want to feel that way. If not, then consider if there is a better option. Try to shift your perception of eating healthy to one that sees yourself as nourishing your body when you eat healthy instead of depriving yourself of junk food.

3) Check-In- This is a key element in mindful eating. Before you put one bite into your mouth ask yourself why you are eating and how hungry are you? Rate it on a scale from 1 to 7 ( with 7 being hungriest). As you continue eating, continue to rate your hunger—stopping when it has reached a 1 or 2. Ask yourself how you are feeling emotionally and physically.

4) Gratitude – Taking a moment to focus on all the blessing in your life regardless of your spiritual beliefs is an excellent way to dissolve stress. No matter what you are going through gratitude has been found to be one of the most powerful ways to alleviate stress and depression, even among those who are facing the most difficult of times. This helps to create calm and prevent emotional over-eating.

5) Engage in the Elements – As an addition to gratitude, you can also become a more mindful eater by considering before or while you are eating, the connection between your food and nature. You can even turn this into a before or during dinner game.

• Ask yourself and your children if sunlight, rain, and soil were involved in the growing and harvesting of your food.
• Consider who might have planted, cared for and harvested your food and how long this took. Where did your food come from?
• How will you save leftover food or and dispose of containers and scraps? Compost? Garbage? Recycling? Ensuring we have a small ecological footprint is another aspect of mindful eating.

In Lorraine’s post Mindful Eating: Your Relationship with Food, Your Waistline and You… She wrote; “we are eating spiritually when we are eating mindfully. Eating spiritually or mindfully does not begin and end at the dinner table. We do this when we purchase food that supports a sustainable and eco-friendly world, when we support companies that provide safe, fair wages to their employees or when we opt to pay a little more to support organic or local family farms”.

Breaking Bread – Making Connections

In a time when people are so busy driving their children to hockey practice and dance lessons, completing homework and working shift work it is little wonder that many families do not sit down to eat dinner together. However, whenever possible, make the point to sit down together and to eat as a family. Tell your children to put the electronic devices away and turn the TV off. Make dinner time an opportunity for everyone to connect after a day of hurried schedules.

Start a Tradition
There are too many games, traditions and rituals to mention that can be practiced at the dinner table and while at first they may seem silly they can be powerful in reminding us of our connection with food. The sooner you start this with your family the more they will eventually ‘buy into’ it. Younger children are particularly responsive to this.

1) Gratitude/Prayer – As I mentioned earlier taking a few moments before you eat to breathe and offer thanks can greatly shift your attitude. If you are not religious then try demonstrating some simple gratitude for all the individuals and elements that were involved in the creation of your meal.

2) High/Low – This is a relatively simple exercise and offers a great opportunity for meaningful and connected discussion at the table. Essentially, each family member takes the time to share their ‘high’ and ‘low’ of the day. This is a great way to keep the lines of communication open with your children.

Example: My high of the day was going for a walk with my mother. My low was waking up late.

3) Mindful Eater – I recently heard on the radio that the French have a long history of being mindful eaters—hence why their waistline is much smaller than the rest of Western civilization. A regular practice at French dinner tables is for parents to encourage their children to describe the different textures, tastes, and smells of their food. Taking time to describe your culinary experience is a great way for everyone at the table to be more conscious of their eating as well as how much they are eating.

4) Politics, Religion and Keeping the Peace – Ever wonder about the wisdom behind not talking about religion and politics at the dinner table? It is because when we are tense, argumentative and or ‘fired up’ our digestion is poor. Even a slightly heated discussion causes the sympathetic nervous system to go into flight or fight mode thus slowing digestion. So save family meetings or heated topics for later on. Keep the topics at the dinner table peaceful.

5) The Final Act – Clearing the Table – I really believe a part of mindful eating is sharing not only the conversation and the food but the clean-up as well. Eating mindfully is about showing gratitude to the person or people who prepared the food by firstly taking only what we are going to eat so that we are not wasting, as well as saving any leftovers.

When we take the time to make food preparation, eating, connecting and cleaning as sacred we cannot help but make better choices for ourselves. By now you should have several strategies and ideas on how to make meal time more mindful, meaningful and pleasant. The shift is to see eating as an experience to reconnect with yourself and your body. If you have not been doing any of the practices that I have mentioned already then you may even feel overwhelmed with all the changes you feel you need to make. I really believe slow and steady wins the race. Unless you feel particularly motivated to try several of the ideas at once I have recommended, I would suggest adopting one or two each week. Make those a habit and then gradually incorporate more mindful eating habits into your lifestyle until eventually mindful eating becomes second nature.

As you begin try and plan ahead when doing groceries. If you go into the grocery store without any idea of what recipes you plan on making then you will likely find yourself buying the same meals that you may be trying to avoid. Choose recipes that are both nourishing and tasty. Without a doubt, it requires a slight learning curve to initially try a new recipe or to find those new ingredients that you have never heard of. However, after you have made it once you will likely find it a lot easier to incorporate a new recipe into your diet. Even if you try just one new recipe a week, in no time you will have a whole array of healthy, tasty recipes that will be part of your diet.

There are plenty of websites and cookbooks that offer healthy recipes that can cater to any preference. Find a few cookbooks that are particularly appealing to you.

A few of Lorraine’s favorite cookbooks are:

The 21 Day Sugar Detox – Diane Sanfilippo
I Quit Sugar – Sarah Wilson
Meatless – By Martha Stewart Living
Eat Clean – Tosca Reno
Power Foods – by The Editors of Whole Living Magazine

For more articles go to: http://bohemiannutritionist.wordpress.com

***I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did. Lorraine has a passion for healthy eating and a true flare in her delivery.

***Have you incorporated mindful eating in your daily routine and if so how?

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5 LESSONS FROM MAYA ANGELOU by Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt is a gifted writer and business coach. The below post is from his website where he elegizes one of my favourite authors Maya Angelou.  

How to Live a Life That Matters: 5 Lessons from Maya Angelou

The desire to create lasting transformation in the world is what really drives us as leaders, right? Since the news of her death, I’ve been thinking a lot about Maya Angelou. Her legacy offers several valuable insights for living a life of true significance.

Maya Angelou

The odds were against Angelou in her early years. Her parents divorced when she was three, and she spent several years under the care of her grandparents.

Then, when she finally moved back with her mother at age eight, she was sexually abused by her mom’s boyfriend. Within hours of his conviction the abuser was murdered.

Angelou blamed herself for the man’s death. Can you imagine the trauma? It was so overwhelming she became a mute and wouldn’t speak for years. But somehow writing gave her a road out.

She wrote poems as a teen, moved to New York as a young woman and joined the Harlem Writers Guild, and then traveled abroad as a journalist, working in Egypt and Ghana.

At home in the States she was active in the Civil Rights movement and also worked as a singer, actor, and screenwriter. She’s best remembered as a poet and the author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of five best-selling memoirs.

Sure, people will debate the merits of her work, disagree with her politics, and criticize her literary contribution. But whatever your opinion, Maya Angelou has a lot to teach us.

I’m sure others could come up with their own lists, but here are five lessons from Angelou’s story that resonate with me as important for living a life of lasting significance:

Lesson #1: Faith Is a Source of Courage

A foundation of faith can give us the confidence we need to act boldly.

“When I found that … I was a child of God,” Angelou told an interviewer about her faith, “when I understood that, when I comprehended that … when I internalized that, I became courageous. I dared to do anything that was a good thing.”

Look at the long list of Angelou’s accomplishments, and ask what we could do if we could take courage in our faith. I bet it’s more—and better—than we dream.

Lesson #2: Excellence Pays Big Dividends

Everyone today says we should follow our passions, that we should do what we love. I agree. But that’s only a recipe for significance if people care about what we love.

I like how Angelou put it: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”

Whatever our passion and drive, we have to contribute to others for our lives to matter to them. We need to offer something they really need, something they just can’t let go of.

Lesson #3: Success Takes Work

Angelou’s writing is so graceful it can seem effortless. But it’s not.

“Being a natural writer is like being a natural concert pianist who specializes in Prokofiev!” she saidduring a talk at Johns Hopkins. “To write well one works hard at understanding the language. I believe it’s almost impossible to say what you mean and make someone else understand.”

It takes practice, training, and cultivation for talent to become more than potential. A life that matters requires work.

Lesson #4: Optimism Puts Us in Control

Speaking about the South, Angelou said it’s easy to see it as “a repository of all bad things,” but she decided to see it differently.

“It’s beautiful!” she said. “That’s why people have fought for it. The place where I live is lovely.”

Why be so upbeat? I think the key is in a line from her book, Letter to My Daughter: “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

Optimism puts us in control of negative events. Sometimes the only thing we can control is our reaction. And refusing to let the tragic and unfortunate get the upper hand is the best response if we want to rise above.

Lesson #5: It’s Worth Taking a Few Dares

Sometimes others know us better than we do. A challenge from the outside can be just what we need to trigger excellence.

Initially, Angelou didn’t want to write I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, but a friend, James Baldwin, conspired with Angelou’s editor Robert Loomis.

“If you want Maya Angelou to do something,” Baldwin said, “tell her she can’t do it.”

Loomis followed Baldwin’s advice, called Angelou, and told her to forget it—writing the memoir didn’t make any sense. “It’s nearly impossible to write autobiography as literature,” he said. She took the bait.

“I’ll start tomorrow.” And the rest is history.

And thank goodness. Maya Angelou has had a global impact for these and many other reasons. Perhaps the best way to honor her accomplishments is to take what was best in her life and let it fuel our own.

Visit Michael Hyatt website and take a look around.

What has been your experience with Maya Angelou?

 

 

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NOW WE ARE GRATEFUL ~ Day 21

We are at the 21 day mark. Tell me, have you grown or acquired new Gratitude skills? I know I have.

21 Days of Cultivating Gratitude ~ Italianliving1.wordpress.com

This experiment of mine, born of an impromptu speech which mushroomed into a 21 day challenge, has been a lesson in fortitude and expansion for me. If I’ve held up my side of the contract, you’ve discovered a few techniques and morsels of inspiration to bring you closer to a daily practice of Gratitude. It is my belief, through practicing Gratitude, we increase contact with those aspects of our lives we so love to interpret in poems, sing along with in lyrics and yearn for, through quiet nights of solitude:                                               Love, joy, bliss, happiness, laughter, inspiration, companionship…

** 21 Days ago we learned the 5 Steps of Cultivating Gratitude.

1 ~ Taking Stock

2 ~ Practicing Acts of Kindness

3 ~ Practicing Positivity through your Thoughts, Feelings and Actions

4 ~ Awakening Forgiveness

5 ~ Celebrating Your Blessings

** I loved and learned from Brené Brown to practice Joy & Gratitude by LIVING Joy & Gratitude, through a tangible Gratitude practice. I’ve added a nightly practice of taking 5 minutes as I’m drifting off to sleep, to review what I’m grateful for that day. For example tonight, I’ll be thanking the universe for my Mom. I’m staying at her place in Vancouver Canada, sleeping in her spare room, savouring her cooking, strolling beside her along the water and waking to the sounds of her preparing coffee and breakfast for me ~ her little girl. We are never too old for our Moms…

** We journeyed through The Five Realms of Gratitude.

** We discovered our way to Joy is through Gratitude in  an inspiring talk from David Steindi-Rast. “The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not Joy that makes us Grateful – it is Gratitude that makes us   Joyful…..”David Steindl-Rast: Want to be Happy? Be Grateful.

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** New ways of Practicing Acts of Kindness with the added bonus of the universe having a reimbursement system that returns to you what you give out. Love for Love ~ Honesty for Honesty ~ Kindness for Kindness

** Awaking Forgiveness from a true master Azim Khamisa, who forgave his son’s killer.

** Through my metaphysical mentor Bernie, we discovered the 3 Steps to Asking:

#1 ~ A Request, Affirmation or Prayer, (choose the word which resonates with you) is “The Question”. Once you’ve asked for what you want, stop and listen for the answer.

#2 ~ When requesting for the People, Places or Things you want in life, introduce these ideas to your consciousness through a powerful set-up statement of:                                Please give me THIS _________________ OR BETTER.

# 3 ~ Show Gratitude to the People, Places and Things currently in your life.

** We touched on the below experiment with Gratitude through writing a letter/note to another person for the influence they have had in our life?  An Experiment In Gratitude and I personally find it a brilliant demonstration in the Power Of Gratitude.

** Moving Beyond and Releasing Grievance assisted us after the realization each Grievance we hold in life is a “self imposed” burden, similar to a 10 pound rock you carry with you.  A 30 Day Forgiveness Challenge, with Desmond Tutu and his daughter gave us a tool for working through our Grievances.

** Taryn Galewind offered us encouragement through her “Rewards of Gratitude.

** We worked on Gratitude toward Friends, Family and Loved-ones, Bedtime Gratitude and finished off with Gratitude toward ourselves for ourselves.

Finally we have today, our 21st day. Dr. Maya Angelou speaks on Doing Right. She speaks on how “right may not be expedient, it may not be profitable, but it will satisfy your soul.

I love this Gratitude talk by Louie Schwartzberg It’s a view of Gratitude from the perspective of a child and an elderly man. (be sure to watch past the 3:40)

During the 21 Days of this Gratitude blog, I’ve had the pleasure of being present IN Gratitude. The very idea of cultivating ideas for you to read each day, has offered me tremendous gifts in ways I never knew possible. I’ve developed new friendships, renewed a few from the past and experienced the abundance of Gratitude as it grew and passed through me. I can’t thank you enough for your attentiveness and generosity in your responses. I have no idea what’s next or where this will go. If any of you have suggestions I’d be willing to listen and give them a try. Many of you closest to me know I’m working on a book and for those of you who don’t here goes:

My book, Controlling The Sunrise, is a journey of 12 individuals who’ve experienced cancer. Through their diagnosis and subsequent treatment, the interviewees have shared their experiences and how they have grown in positive ways because of the cancer. They have found their Passion or Purpose and have moved forward in that direction. I have had the profound pleasure of interviewing 6 remarkable men and woman from across the world. Canada, USA, Singapore, Australia and Italy. I’m currently searching for 6 others from Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and perhaps Antarctica.

I know the Gratitude lessons I’ve learned from my work here with all of you, will give me the grounding and sturdy base required to navigate this new and exciting direction. I have the support of my daughters, family & close friends. What more could a girl ask?

As for the 21 Days to Gratitude… I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thank you for walking hand-in-hand with me toward Gratitude.

 

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IT ALL STARTS HERE ~ Day 20

IT ALL STARTS HERE ~ Day 20

For close to 3 weeks, we have been Cultivating Gratitude for the sweetness of our lives, our family, friends, inspirational teachers, pets, co-workers, (interesting how pets came before co-workers) as well as the multitude of insignificant and monumental moments which have shaped us, changed us or taught us.

Today, I’d like you to focus on the  indomitable force that comes from within. Your Light ~ Your love ~ Your Spirit.

So often we forget to treat ourselves with the same love, compassion and caring we so effortlessly extend to others. When was the last time you thanked yourself for a kindness you extended to you? Wouldn’t  a word of encouragement for the simple and or complex achievements be worth the 5 seconds it takes to offer it? Consider the moments in your day when you could begin a ritual of being kind to YOU.

 

Suggestions to remind you:

#1 ~ Press pause on your morning alarm and give yourself a few words of encouragement. I can’t think of a kinder way to begin or end your day.

#2 ~ While bruising your teeth, take a look in your own eyes, Cultivate a little Gratitude for the reflection in the mirror. No need to focus on your flaws, you’ve become an expert at negative affirmations, try on a few positive thoughts this morning.

#3 ~ While driving, on a bus, train or bike, take one slow breath in, while holding your breath in your lungs for 5 seconds, think of one kind attribute you know about YOU.  Release and repeat.

#4 ~ Program a positive thought you know to be true about you, into your phone, sent an Alert to go off at 10:00 – 2:00 – and 5:00 o’clock.

Take time today to get to know who you are free of all the labels we place on ourselves: friend, daughter, husband, artist, worker, boss, etc….. For a few minutes today consider your accomplishments, your kindnesses, your attributes. Invest a portion of this day to the most important of all individuals.  Step back and get to know you.

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CELEBRATE YOUR BLESSINGS ~ Day ~ 19

CELEBRATE YOUR BLESSINGS ~ Day ~ 19

What does Celebrating Your Blessings look like to you?   Spending time with family or friends?  Gathering in a sacred space?  Going out with friends?  Enjoying the company of yourself or someone special?

How would a few minutes of Celebrating Your Blessings look to you? Would you express yourself through song, tender words written on special paper, meditation?  A Grateful smile at the end of a long day?

If you knew you had a limited number of days remaining in your life, how would you Celebrate? Who would you celebrate with?  What’s holding you back? Are you too busy, too poor, too exhausted, too angry, is it too soon, or too late?

 

What exactly are you waiting for?

Consider the next 24 hours Celebrating Blessings Day. This day does not require planning, money, reservations or invitations.  You have 1440 minutes to be spontaneous with your imagination on how you choose to Celebrate the Blessings in your life.  That is exactly 1440 chances to make your heart expand. If nothing else, allow yourself just one of those 1440 minutes to slow down and Celebrate the things you are Grateful for.

I’m so very pleased you took the time to stop in, how are you enjoying the 21 Days to Gratitude?

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BEDTIME GRATITUDE ~ Day 18

While attending a conference in Vancouver, Canada, one of the speakers, Caroline Myss, had a brilliant suggestion for restful sleep, and pre-programming for a blissful day when you wake.

Gratidude

She suggested we take 5 minutes before sleep to consider all the wonderful aspects of how we see the upcoming day playing out. Her belief, “Why think negative thoughts and marinate in them for 8 hours?”

Like Caroline Myss, I believe our minds are sponges and through thought, we have the power to enhance or diminish the experiences that are played out in our daily lives. I love the idea of pre-programming you dreams. In this moment, it’s late at night. I’m extremely tired after a busy day, all I can think about is sleep. What better way of honouring today and my tomorrow, than being grateful for one and pre-programming the next?

Tonight take 5 minutes before you close your eyes, consider the qualities of the day and how you see tomorrow playing out. You decide if you want a fantastic day, filled with everything you love swirling around you, or a day filled with issues. This is absolute a decision you can make

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FRIENDLY GRATITUDE ~ Day 17

The above was sent to me by a friend I recently met. She is the embodiment of my understanding of this quote. She breezed into my world and made it brighter with her sunny personality. Being surrounded by lovely supportive people, is one of the fringe benefits I’ve experienced since allowing Gratitude to blossom.

There are times in our lives when we are given precious gifts in the form of family, friends or loved ones. I’ve been truly blessed with remarkable relationships in my life. They have come to me in a multitude of unique parcels, never in the same form and always a pleasant surprise. A few arrived tied with silky ribbons, others bundled roughly with twine, several have been wrapped in shiny gold paper, and still others came stamped with foreign newsprint. Regardless of their exterior packaging, the end result of their appearance in my life has been a rich and diverse understanding of GRATITUDE.

Sit quietly for a few minutes today to consider who in YOUR life personifies this quote.

Think of a way to show your Gratitude to him, her or them. This exercise has no limits or restrictions of the number of people you choose to extend your Gratitude to.

The beauty and magic of Gratitude is when you shine a light on Gratitude ~ Gratitude multiplies.

 

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RELEASING A GRIEVANCE ~ Day 16

Releasing a Grievance is not making you right and the other person wrong. It has nothing to do with the measure of the perceived Grievance. It has to do with YOU no longer carrying around baggage for an event in your past. For many of us, holding a Grievance is coupled with loss and Grief. The act of holding on, is degenerative to our physical and mental health.

With this knowledge we have a smidgen of work to do, so let’s get to it…..

#1 ~ Bring to mind a person against whom you currently hold a grievance—someone other than yourself. Hold the person and the grievance in your mind. Review the situation in which the grievance arose: how it got started, what happened, the aftermath, and anything else that comes to mind. Get in touch with everything associated with this grievance, as clearly as you can. Write it down if need be.

#2 ~ How does this situation resonate within you? Underneath whatever surface feelings of triumph or satisfied self-righteousness you may have. Does holding this grievance really serve your happiness today? See if you can get in touch with the pain this grievance is causing you. Mental pain is the consequence of holding this grievance, however much you may think holding it makes you right, or justified.

#3 ~ Now imagine this Grievance as a 10 pound rock you carry with you each and every day, never having a moments rest from the weight. This rock/Grievance is controlling you, not you controlling the Grievance. Yes, it WAS hurtful, yes it was cruel, embarrassing, unnecessary, excessive, inexcusable, you choose an adjective to describe it. The key word here is “WAS”, it’s in the past and you are living it in your present day. You are giving this person, event, action all your power. The energy required by your body to generate this Grievance causes depression, high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety and a constant state of stress. Among other things.

#4 ~ Now here’s the tough part, your overall health is desperate for you to forgive this person/event. Forgive them for YOU, forgive them for your own physical health, for your future, for your happiness. As long as you refuse to forgive this person, you are carrying that rock with their name on it. It is weighing you down. Degenerating your life. Think about that. Your life, your health, your joy is trapped under a 10 pound rock and you are holding the rock in place. Do you really want another other person to maintain that amount of power over you? Haven’t you given them enough of your energy. Wouldn’t now be a good time to break free of the past?

“Forgiveness is not weak. It is not passive. It is not for the faint of heart”.  Desmond Tutu

If you’re anything like me and require an in-depth explanation and a plan of action, I invite you to join the 30 Day Forgiveness Challenge with Demond Tutu and his daughter Mpho. Everyday you’ll receive a brief lesson to fill-in online. They provide guidelines, suggestions to assist you and encouragement. You work at your own pace and it’s not difficult, (expect the part where you have to forgive someone) Even if you sign up and don’t get around to participating until day 10, (like me) you’ll have the workbook in your inbox to absorb at your leisure.

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MOVING BEYOND GRIEVANCES ~ Day 15

Humans are powerful creatures, we are born with a remarkable ability to discern our environment as well as the  people surrounding us. A small child has no issue conveying his/her needs to their parent. It may take a few attempts however a child will eventually win most arguments and within moments will let the grievance go completely.

Somewhere along our path, we loose this innate ability to ask/insist on what we know will add to our comfort and enjoyment in life. We also develop the ability to hold grievances. Some of us are able to hold these grievances for years, decades, lifetimes. The fundamental drawback of never letting go of a grievance, is the strength they have to cause physical, emotional and financial decay.

If you had a backpack strapped to your shoulders for the remainder of your life and this pack was filled with a 10 pound rock for each and every grievances you currently hold, calculate the excess weight would you be carrying. 10 ~ 90 ~ 280 ~ 5000 pounds?

Each Grievance you hold in your life is a “self imposed” burden. Even if the other person did an unspeakable wrong, holding that Grievance will impact you, not them. I repeat: holding that Grievance will impact YOU, not THEM. The individuals we believe harmed us, are off in their own little worlds worrying about their life, their grievances, their issues. You, on the other hand, are carrying a load only you can release. Imagine how it would feel to unzip your backpack, remove the 10 pound weight with their name on it, lower it to the ground, and walk away. The grievance serves no purpose, it has no function, unless you consider degeneration a function worthy of holding on to.

Today write out a list of those you are holding a grievance against.

Tomorrow we will take steps toward dissolving them. 

 

 

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AN EXPERIMENT IN GRATITUDE ~ DAY 14

AN EXPERIMENT IN GRATITUDE

It has been scientifically proven that your Happiness is in direct correlation to the amount of Gratitude you show. I know, I know just another study right? It seems to me you can’t go wrong on this one though. I doubt they will come back and say they were wrong, considering history has been reporting on Gratitude for thousands of years. Leaders, sages, holy men and women all agree on this one point. Gratitude WILL produce enduring Happiness. Like anything, it takes practice to build your Gratitude muscle.

Have you ever thanked another person for the influence they have had in your life? Below is a YouTube video taking a group of people through an experiment. They had test subjects write down a letter describing a person who they are most Grateful for in their life. As a surprise to the subjects, they asked them to call that person and read the letter. It’s called  An Experiment In Gratitude and I personally find it a brilliant demonstration in the Power Of Gratitude.

 Our lesson for today is to write down one such letter/paragraph and read it out loud to the person you wrote it about. If you can’t bring yourself to read it to the person, send it in the mail. Snail mail if possible. It doesn’t have to be a full letter, it can be one or two paragraphs. Describe how their actions improved your life. Thank them for their contribution. If they are no longer with us, read it out loud as you stand in front of a mirror. Remember to look at yourself when you are reading it.

To me this Experiment is filled with Growth. I dedicate this blog to Mary Moss a truly remarkable woman with a gift for Gratitude. Mary was the mother of a friend of mine Maddie Moss. Maddie is a woman who never lets a compliment slip by, a quality she inherited from her mother. Mary passed away in July of last year and she was a “quote machine”. She found an opportunities for Growth in most every situation. One of my favourite quotes she said to her children, when they were in the middle of a difficult life challenge was: “THERE YOU GO, GROWING AGAIN”.  To me this saying takes what is perceived as a hardship and allows Growth to flourish.

MARY MOSS

For many of us this Experiment In Gratitude will be a challenge. Consider it an opportunity to Grow. Who knows, you might even enjoy it and spread your Gratitude to a multitude of friends, family, co-workers, teachers, parents, siblings, cousins…. the list is endless. Have some fun with it. Start slow if you have to, build up to the one you are most uncomfortable imagining yourself writing to. There is where the real growth resides.

An Experiment In Gratitude

 

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THIS OR BETTER – Day 13

Asking for and wanting a specific Person, Place or Thing is part of who we are as humans. We are set on this earth to move forward, to evolve, accomplish our goals, achieve our highest desires, to give and receive love. There is one tiny-tiny condition when asking for the very Persons, Places, or Things we believe will improve our lives. When we lose sight of the joy of our life journey, by becoming so attached to the outcome, we push those People, Places or Things further away. When we focus in so intently on the acquisition of our requests, the Persons, Places or Things senses our desperation and literally vibrate off in a new direction.

Tonight, I had a conversation with a mentor of mine. I asked him how to advise a friend, who is currently in a state of urgency over the acquisition of a large purchase. My friend is in a position of “Wanting the conclusion to arrive” more than “Enjoying the process” and she is finding the stress uncomfortable. I’ve been there many times in my life and appreciate the anxiety associated with wishing for something so intently, my perception and judgement was distorted.

The sage advice my mentor offered me was two-fold. #1 ~ A Request, Affirmation or Prayer, (choose the word which resonates with you) is “The Question”. Once you’ve asked for what you want, stop and listen for the answer. I guarantee you, the solution IS inside of you, if you are willing and open to it: For some, allowing the answer filters in through meditation, or a contemplative run or swim. Still others, a walk in nature, writing, singing, or creating. Choosing what works for you is key.

#2 ~ When requesting for the People, Places or Things you want in life, introduce these ideas to your consciousness through a powerful set-up statement of:

Please give me THIS _________________ OR BETTER.

I love the “OR BETTER” aspect of this. It softens the request and opens it to new possibilities we are unable to see in the moment of urgency.

I’d like to add a third avenue to bring you closer to your dreams

# 3 ~ Show Gratitude to the People, Places and Things currently in your life. Gratitude is the shortcut to fulfilling your dreams. When you are thankful for what you have in your life, what you have expands in new and unexpected ways.

What am I Grateful for today?  I’m Grateful to you…. for allowing me into your lives for these 21 Days. I am truly honoured by your dedication to this Gratitude process. I know it takes time, effort and some discomfort, in searching out new ways of thinking and thanking. I’m exceedingly proud of your efforts!

 

 

 

 

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THE REWARDS OF GRATITUDE – Day ~ 12

 Better Quality of Life: The Rewards of GratitudeBy Taryn Galewind

You have the daily gift of 86,400 seconds to spend as you will—and you can almost certainly afford one second for gratitude. Meister Eckhart von Hochheim, a German philosopher and mystic born in the Thirteenth Century, calculated the seconds in a day to remind his students that gratitude has rewards. Here are ten for you to consider.

1. You’ll smile as you give gratitude for a favour done, and the doer will smile back. Laughter and smiles extend life and promote good health.

2. Gratitude strengthens relationships by making the thanker and the giver each more aware of their responsibility for the other’s well-being.

3. Expression of gratitude makes the recipient happy, rewarding them for having provided for you and encouraging them to do so at another time.

4. Your attitude turns more positive—think about it. If you focus on something good someone did, how can you think negatively?

5. You grow spiritually by recognizing another person’s gifts and talents.

6. A popular inspirational series, 48 Ways to Wisdom, says that acknowledging spiritual gifts by saying “I am now aware of something very important that I wasn’t paying attention to” helps you to recognize what you’re learning on your path to wisdom and enlightenment.

7. Expressing gratitude leads you to switch your focus from what is missing in life to the abundance that brings real joy. Remember that abundance is not just about what you have, it can be about what you were spared.

8. Saying, “Thank you, I’m grateful,” sets an example that can be easily paid forward by those around you. You’ll plant the seeds of a garden of happy interactions and reap the rewards of finding more love surrounding you.

9. “Thank you’s” and gratitude enhance your vision. You’ll see other people and yourself in a new frame of reference when you take that short one second to acknowledge that it’s a beautiful world.

10. If your heart is filled with appreciation for all that you have and for those who care for you, you’ll be prepared to face adversity, when it comes, with courage and dignity.

**Find a way to keep track of how consistently you feel grateful and how often you express it. You might keep a journal, log your grateful moments on your computer, or just pause and reflect when you’ve remembered to say thanks. A French proverb calls gratitude the memory of the heart.

What a beautiful thought as we go about our days. Doesn’t it seem worth it to tithe one second out of nearly 100,000 on any given day and create a memory in your heart?

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IF YOU ARE GRATEFUL ~ YOU ARE NOT FEARFUL – Day ~ 11

 Today I was searching YouTube for an interesting talk for you on this the half-way point on our 21 Days to Cultivating Gratitude. Something you should know about me, I have a geeky side and I just LOVE TedTalks. I’m even involved in a TedTalks bi-monthly Meetup group.

I found this TedTalk on Gratitude with Brother David Steindl-Rast. I’ve listened to David Steindl-Rast in over the years and have found him an exceptionally wise and easy to comprehend teacher. He was born and raised in Vienna, Austria. Received his MA degree from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and his Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Vienna. He emigrated to the United States in 1952 and became a Benedictine monk in 1953 at Mt. Saviour Monastery in Pine City New Your.

th-8He Co-founded the Center for Spiritual Studies. His writings include Gratefulness, the Heart of PrayerThe Music of SilenceWords of Common Sense and Belonging to the Universe. He also co-founded A Network for Grateful Living, an organization dedicated to gratefulness as a transformative influence for individuals and society.

With his extensive study in the realm of Gratitude, I thought you might enjoy thisTedTalk on Gratitude by: David Steindl-Rast: Want to be Happy? Be Grateful.

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Enjoy your Sunday….. Shauna

 

  

 

 

David Steindal-Rast

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REEVALUATE GRATITUDE Day ~ 8

Today let’s review our Gratitude List.

If you haven’t made a list of what you are Grateful for, I’ll give you a few minutes……

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Consider the words you placed on the original list. Do they resonate with who you are today? Now is your chance to start again, or simply expand your reach. Every minute you live is an opportunity to make a new selection. We mistakenly believe the choices we made last year, last week, yesterday, an hour ago, are the end of the story.

Rummage around your world for people, places or things you are Grateful for. If nothing comes to mind, your focus might be too sharp, squint a little, blur the edges. Relax to the breeze that is Gratitude. It swirls around us like mist in the morning and if we have our protective layers zipped too tight around our awareness, we miss the subtle undercurrent.

 

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THE FIVE REALMS OF GRATITUDE ~ Day 7

Suggestions for connecting with The Five Realms of Gratitude ~ Inspired by a meditation by Davidji

What is one thing you’re grateful for about your Physical Realm? Think of a part of your body you feel grateful for. Bring that one physical trait to the forefront of your mind and be thankful for it. Praise it as you would a good friend, let it know how you appreciate the work it is doing to make your everyday life easier. For example: “I’m grateful for my eyes for allowing me to see my granddaughter take her first step this week”.

What is one response you’re grateful for in your Emotional Realm? All the emotions that you experience: Love, Kindness, Joy, Grace, Bliss, Forgiveness, Gratitude, etc. What are you most grateful for in your Emotional Realm?

What are you grateful for in your Material Realm? As you look around at all the items you surround yourself with, the possessions, the touchstones, the treasure-trove of all the material things in your life… What are you grateful for and why? For example, I’m grateful to my bed for supporting me throughout the night.

What are you grateful for in your Relationship Realm? Consider all the relationships in your life and highlight one in your mind. It may be a particular relationship, or a thread that runs through all your relationships. What relationship are you most grateful for today?

What are you grateful for in the Realm of your Belief System, your Trust in the Universe, or your Higher Power?  It could be as simple as your gratitude to the sun for warming your face as you walk.

I was at my Toastmasters meeting last night and the gratitude my fellow toastmasters offered me for creating this 21 day blog, literally filled my grateful cup to overflowing. There’s a power and strength when we offer a heartfelt word of encouragement to another for contributing to our life experience. An irrepressible sense of accomplishment replenishes you when you know you’ve touched the life another human being.

Your ability to offer gratitude will be mirrored back to you in situations and circumstances you’ve never dreamed possible. Open yourself to the potential of GRATITUDE.

 

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AWAKENING FORGIVENESS ~ Day 6

Florence, Italy

Those who refuse to Forgive ~ destroy the bridge they themselves must cross.

Awakening Forgiveness inside is rarely an easy task. We mistakenly believe if we forgive someone for a perceived wrong, we are telling the person it was all right in the fist place. This type of Forgiveness is a function of the ego getting in the way of Forgiveness by placing conditions on the Forgiveness. Being unwilling or unable to forgive keeps us stuck on the treadmill of blame and resentment. We punish ourselves with these negative emotions and rarely is the other person impacted by our lack of forgiveness.

Holding on to anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.. Buddha

There is magic in Forgiveness. It opens the soul to possibility.

The Top 10 Misconceptions about Forgiveness ~  by Azim Khamisa

1.  Withholding forgiveness hurts the other person.
The truth is: Withholding forgiveness hurts yourself.

2.  Forgiveness is a passive endeavor.
The truth is: Forgiveness is a very active endeavor, where you can ultimately reach out in love and compassion to the other person.

3.  Forgiveness lets people off the hook, so they aren’t accountable to their actions.
The truth is: Forgiveness and accountability are not the same topic. You can have both. Forgive another by offering empathy and unity; yet still uphold the process of accountability within the social structure.

4.  Forgiving someone tells that person that whatever he or she did was acceptable with you.The truth is: Accepting their actions and accepting their true nature underneath it all are two very different things. You can make that clear.

5. Forgiveness is for the other person.The truth is: Forgiving another is an act we do for ourselves, to free ourselves from the pain or bitterness.

6.  When you are forgiving, you are “pardoning” someone’s bad behavior.

The truth is: There is no “pardoning,” just a clearer perception on who that other person truly is, and what they can still provide to your life, to a community and to a society.

7.  Forgiveness is done by saying the words “I forgive you.” 
The truth is: Forgiveness resides not only in words but also in thought, feeling and action.

8.  Forgiving another person doesn’t do any good really.
The truth is: It not only uplifts you AND that person in ways unseen, but it brings that much more light to a world in need.

9.  Forgiveness is only for religious people.
The truth is: It’s for all of us walking the planet.
10.  It’s too hard to forgive.                                                                                                 The truth is: It can be hard, but not too hard, not when you have the right support and perspective.

Take time today to think of one person in your life you would like/need to forgive. Go through the above listed 10 Misconceptions with him/her in mind and see if you are able to come to a resolution of how to take the first step in forgiving this person. Anger, hurt and an unwillingness to Forgive, are like holding onto the end of a rope, never allowing it to touch the ground. It takes energy to keep that rope in the air. The other person may not even be aware you are working so hard to keep your end of the rope suspended. Even if they have a firm grip on their end, imagine what it would be like if you simply dropped that rope of anger. This is an exercise to allow YOU a step closer to dropping your grip with an emotion that is not serving you. Even if you are not aware of it, the lack of Forgiveness is in control of you.

If you would like additional resource Cultivating Forgiveness, I’ve attached a link for a Workbook on Forgiveness by the author of the above: 10 Misconceptions About Forgiveness.  Workbook: by Azim Khamisa. Azim is a father whose son was murdered and through this tragedy and his remarkable journey, he is now teaching workshops on Forgiveness. For additional information on his courses and his story go to  www.azimkhamisa.com (Just so you know, I don’t have an association to his work or teaching, I simply like his honest way of teaching).

Have you had any experience with Forgiveness? Please share, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in needing guidance where Forgiveness is concerned.

With gratitude…. Shauna

 

 

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PRACTICING POSITIVITY ~ Day 5

                      Practicing Positivity in your Words, Thoughts and Actions

Positive

Positivity ~ is a word that has been overused in our society. Remember when you were young and you’d repeat a word over and over again? The actual word lost all meaning and became ridiculous. It seems to me, Positivity has suffered a similar fate and I’d like to get back to the heart of what it means to be Positive, using a simple 68 second technique.

As with Gratitude, when you toss Positivity around without integrity, you dilute the impact to a state where it has little effectiveness. Have you ever heard a 5 year old apologizing to his sibling at the urging of his mother?  “Joey, apologize to your sister and say it like you mean it”  “I’m SOOORRRREEEEE”. It’s an exchange of words, emphasis is applied on the right vowel, however Joey’s not fooling anyone, certainly not his sister. If you only say the words and your don’t actually feel them physically, you’ve lost the impact. Positivity Your homework for today boys and girls ~ concentrate on those things in your life you feel Positive toward. (it’s easier to expand Positivity when the root strength of the actual emotion is there to start with) Write them down if it helps and work on one Positive thought at a time.

It’s important to relax and not make this feel like work, if you manage once a day, job well done. Of course in time working up to once an hour will change how you experience life. Again, Baby Steps and keep in mind, there are no wrong answers. If the only thing you can find to be positive about today is the fact your dog likes you, go with that. Positive For 68 seconds today try to stay in the realm of pure positivity. Gently move any negative thoughts off to the side, if only for a moment or two. As you inflate the emotion of Positivity you allow yourself to vibrate at a level where you attract more of what you are concentrating on. This is a quick exercise, just over a minute of expanding your Positive thoughts. How this works is: you GET-IN to the Positive feeling, GET Positive and GET-OUT. Quick bursts of Positive Thoughts. You don’t want to spend too much time on this. Reason being is: after a minute, our mind finds negative thoughts and attaches that negative thought to the Positive one, causing us to doubt and negate the Positive feeling.

A thought reaches a combustion point at 17 seconds of pure undiluted focus. It draws another thought to it and it is exponentially more powerful. At the end of another 17 seconds, 34 seconds total, the next thought combusts and evolves to a higher level of energy. Again another 17 seconds to 51 seconds continues the process, and finally, if you can continue a pure thought for 68 seconds on any given subject, it will be on its way to manifestation. The key word is pure, meaning Positive focus, strong energy, no resistance; to not slip into lackful thinking. (Abraham Hicks)

How are you doing? Are you finding this process helpful?

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GRATITUDE QUOTES ~ Day 4

Good Morning Sunday….. I have to admit this Cultivating Gratitude exercise has been a surprising challenge for me. In my mind I thought writing and researching this 21 day project would be a piece of cake. Life is funny how it turns ideas into lesson. It’s difficult to delve deep into the inner recesses of the heart, take stalk of life, practice what one preaches and do the hard work of expanding. I naively thought this would be effortless. Good grief, what was I thinking?

Now that I’ve committed to 21 days of searching and growing and more importantly asking YOU to do the same, I’m finding nothing is as easy in reality as it is in theory.

For today, lets review what we are grateful for ~ Do one kind thing for another person in the next 24 hours: and last but not least ~ be grateful for the gift of experiencing another sunrise.

“Act with kindness, but do not expect gratitude.” – Proverb

“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.” — David Steindl-Rast

“Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Gratitude helps you to grow and expand; gratitude brings joy and laughter into your life and into the lives of all those around you.” — Eileen Caddy

“Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.” — Jacques Maritain

“Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” — Lionel Hampton

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” — Denis Waitley

If you have any thoughts over the last few days, please share as I love to hear your experiences…. Shauna

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PRACTICING ACTS OF KINDNESS ~ Day 3

Practicing Acts of Kindness

Selfless Acts of Kindness ALWAYS have a ripple effect. When you throw an Act of Kindness out without an expectation of reciprocation, the energy you placed into any genuine Act of Kindness is returned to you. Perhaps not from the person you originally gave it to, however it is repaid to you often in ways you never imagined.

The universe has a reimbursement system that returns to you what you give out. Love for Love ~ Honesty for Honesty ~ Kindness for Kindness.

Acts of Kindness grow in volume and intensity. They have the ability to expand in ways you could never imagine. For example, after months of avoiding your grumpy neighbour, you smile and ask him how he’s doing. After your encounter, he is so grateful to be acknowledged for the first time in a year, he secretly buys the coffee of an old woman standing behind him in line at the local coffee shop. She in turn is so grateful to know that chivalry is alive and well, she takes the time to talk to the young teenage runaway who just needs someone to accept him for who he is, tattoos and all.

This ripple effect goes on indefinitely. The strength of one small Act of Kindness has the power to multiply. Imagine the positive energy created by one act of giving to a stranger. You literally have thousands of moments like this in a week to practice even one Act of Kindness to those you love,  the ones you dislike or the individuals you’ve never even notice that surround you in any given day.

Pick one!

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TAKING STOCK ~ Day 2

                                                         TAKING STOCK

Gratitude

Cultivating Gratitude can be tricky business. Two crucial things to know about increasing your gratitude: it requires persistence and absolute integrity. Your mind has miraculous abilities: It knows when you’re not being sincere.

There are a few strategies you can adopt to gain access to the authenticity required to move forward in Cultivating Gratitude. Your mind has a way of breaking down its resistance to forming a new habit when you fill it with constant & positive reinforcement.

gratitude

Writing down what you are grateful for is a good place to start. Once you have a list of the top 10 – 20 things you feel gratitude toward, keep them where you will be most likely to read them during the day. Post them in your home, at the office or better yet, carry them with you in your purse or pocket. If you own a smart-phone with a calendar, add it to your to-do list. Take a few minutes during your day to read it through.

Gratitude

If you find yourself too busy for this practice during the day, keep the list next to your bed and read it over at night and/or when you wake in the morning. The repetition has a way of reinforcing your belief in what you are grateful for. Keep in mind if you don’t believe it in your heart, this exercise won’t be as effective. Search deep within to find what you are truly grateful for, not what you believe you are suppose to be grateful for. This is a process, take baby steps if you need to, be genuine, be truthful and be yourself. There are no wrong answers here.

Gratidude

**I invite you to watch this 3-1/2 minute YouTube clip of Brené Brown on Joy and Gratitude.    Brené Brown on Joy and Gratitude I’d love your feedback as to what you think about this Gratitude Exercise and if you have suggestions please feel free to message me…   Shauna

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5 Steps to CULTIVATING GRATITUDE ~ Day 1

#1 ~ Take Stock of your blessing: Make a list of what you are grateful for today. Keep it with you and add to it through out the day. Consider blessings in your family, your friends, business, people who help you in your day-to-day life.

Taking Stock

#2 ~ Practicing Acts of Kindness: How can you add value to the life of those you know as well as a person you don’t know. A smile, a gesture, a kind word offered to a stranger ~ thank a clerk for a job well done, acknowledge a receptionist with genuine appreciation, say good-morning to someone you pass on the street.

#3 ~ Practicing Positivity in all your words, thought and actions: Try offering one kind word or action to turn a negative into a positive. Instead of criticizing a situation, consider how a positive word or action would improve your day as well as the other person involved.

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#4 ~ Awaking Forgiveness: Allow forgiveness to unfold from you. Forgiveness does not mean you believe the other person was right, only human. When you are willing to offer forgiveness, you open a door to the possibility of lowering resistance to the pain and suffering that blame causes, not only to those around you, but to you as well.

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”(Buddha)

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#5 ~ Celebrate Blessing: Savour life’s joys and allow them to grow through simple appreciation. Imagine receiving a Thank You for a simple smile. Imagine having the opportunity to thank the one person who encouraged you during your darkest day. Imagine celebrating those around you, even if only for today.

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*These 5 Steps to Cultivating Gratitude were inspired by a guided meditation by Davidji.

 

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21 DAYS TO CULTIVATING GRATITUDE

Last night I gave a speech for a group of open-hearted men and women I called Cultivating Gratitude. What came of this speech was an idea for Italian Living. 
21 Days To Cultivating Gratitude….
 
For me, every lesson that has gifted my life, has encouraged me to look for gratitude in my thoughts, feelings and actions. Usually the “lesson” is painful and causes swelling and a bruise. Then I have to dig deep and search out the positive.
For most of us simply dabbling in a good idea like Gratitude isn’t likely to transform our lives. Dabbling allows you to dip your toes in the stream without completely changing your course. You feel the current, you’re aware of the cool water and gentle flow, however a river, like gratitude, has a depth and character that can only be appreciated from within its all encompassing embrace.
We can stand on the banks for hours, gazing at the river as it flows past. Not until we allow ourselves to wade in, stand on the uneven rocks and feel the strength of the river do we truly EXPERIENCE it for ourselves. Gratitude is like the river, you have to get a little wet before you can embrace what being grateful has to offer you. 
Creating this blog has been a celebration in gratitude for me. When you message me or respond to my posts, I experience an incredible warmth for the remainder of my day. Simply knowing there are people out there who read my words offers me joy and for this I thank you for dropping in.
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With the arrival of spring, I’ve decided to post a daily blog on Cultivating Gratitude. For 21 days starting tomorrow May 1, 2014: I will offer suggestions as to how we can grow and cultivate finding joy in our lives through a daily practice of germinating gratitude. Like a seed we plant in the soil, it requires light, nutrition, water and opportunity.  It takes approximately 21 days to form a new habit. Seems remarkable when you think how quickly we fall into negative patterns. The law of growth is the same for negative habits as for positive.
Habits require a place to germinate (our minds)
Light (a reason for the habit)
Food (thoughts and actions)
Water (the thoughts we continuously place our attention on)
Opportunity (repeating the action over and over)
This 21 day practice will be an opportunity to replace those weed seeds with seeds of a joyful nature. 
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I look forward to hearing your thoughts and how these 21 Days Of Cultivating Gratitude have changed the way you experience life. 
I came across this lovely quote by Melody Beattie:
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
See you tomorrow morning for Day One:
The 5 Steps To Cultivating Gratitude 

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ANGELIC BEHAVIOUR

A lovely earth-angel withdrew from life as I knew it this past winter. Her name was Beatrice Angeli. Yes, her last name was Angel…  She was my landlady the second time I stayed at Residenza del Palmerino.

Beatrice Angeli

Beatrice Angeli

She wore many hats in her lifetime, however when I met her she was managing her family home, the land and the four rooms she rented to travellers such as myself in search of a quiet, comfortable, stunningly beautiful experience in the heart of Tuscany.

House

House and Grounds

My time in her care was angelic to say the very least. She was a woman of strong character, with an idyllic fascination toward humanity. Every year she would travel to India, living in an Ashram to reconnect herself and further her spiritual studies. When she returned home to Italy, she devoted her time to restoring famous paintings, caring for her animals, the lush gardens on the property as well as nurturing the close bond she shared with family and friends.

In her spare time she prepared delicious homemade jams for sale. All donations raised from the funds collected went to help the kids of India. I’m at a loss for adequate words to describe the succulent flavours I savoured, over the years, in jar after jar of the various jams I slathered on thick Italian bread.

Lovely homemade Jam to raise money for the children of India .

Lovely homemade Jam to raise money for the children of India .

My personal mouth-watering favourite was fichi (figs). I will miss the joy on her face as she prepared her special jellies and shared them with those she loved. My thighs are adjusting to life without her succulent and addictive nectar. I swear she added some mysterious dependency forming ingredient when I wasn’t looking. Or perhaps it was simply the Tuscan sun and her loving touch.

Half a loaf of Italian Bread. Behind me the Wall outside her front door.

Me with HALF a loaf of Italian Bread. Behind me the Wall outside the entrance to her home.

In September of 2013, I had the pleasure of assisting her in the slicing of ripe figs for what would be her final collection of jams. Knowing my love of figs, she offered me the perfect ones to nibble over the 3 hours I worked side by side with her on that glorious afternoon, I walked away with a belly ache and had to cancel my dinner plans. Ohhhh who am I kidding, I’ve never cancelled a chance to enjoy Italian food…. not EVER!

Fichi

Fichi – Figs on the Tree

You couldn’t help but adore Beatrice, she was filled with a unique joy and appreciation for every form of life. Her overindulgence of animals was well known to everyone who entered her home. The picture below of her cat napping, in a box on her table, was classic Beatrice. She would do anything for her four-legged friends. As I soon discovered, she expressed her love of friends in a similar fashion, allowing gifts and compliments to flow freely in her home. In addition she shared her disapproval equally generously. One night I had a few appetizers and wine in my apartment. I attempted to serve what I knew to be fried-polenta. Her response to me was, “this my dear is NOT polenta, it’s corn and it’s yellow, but it is defiantly not polenta. You come to my kitchen next week and I will show you how.”  I’m sorry to say I never took her up on the offer to teach me her authentic recipe.

Beatrice loved animals of all types. Cats topped the list of the over indulged..

Beatrice loved animals of all types. Cats topped the list of the over indulged..

Having the honour of spending time with my lovely friend Beatrice Angeli was one of the blessings I was afforded while living in Tuscany.

Beatrice and Shauna- Vendemmia 2010

Beatrice and Shauna- Vendemmia 2010

Below I’ve added a link to the story I wrote about my time in her home surrounded by her loving care and uniqueness of spirit.

I’d love to hear your story of an Angel who touched your world through their life and how they lived it. Please leave your comments below.. Shauna

THINK POSITIVE MOM   

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SPLITTING HAIRS

When one has an out-of-body experience with a master it produces a lasting effect. I had one such moment with an artist here in Florence. His name – Fabio Velotti – a seriously perfect name wouldn’t you agree? I booked an appointment as my hair was in need of a little TLC. I actually love my hair when I’m in Europe. Contrary to the dry climate of Calgary, the limited wave I fabricate for myself back home is forced with more products and hand-held devices than Vidal Sassoon owns himself.  What can be best described as a swish instead of an actual wave or curl, is sparse and tends to look a little like I forgot to comb my hair in the morning.

A RECENT PICTURE OF ME IN CALGARY: when I force my hair to go curly and forget to wax my upper lip.

In the dewy air that surrounds the hills of Tuscany my tresses behave with a gentle flow and manageable frizz. I need only scrunch the ends with a splash of water and I’m set for the day.

WHAT? You doubt I look like this in the morning...

ME, LAST MONTH IN TUSCANY:  It’s true, I look just like this in the morning. Minus the flawless skin, full makeup, seductive clothing and gorgeous face. The split ends and pillow are exactly the same.

With the aim of releasing an inch or two, I book an appointment with Donatella’s current hairdresser. Fabio Velotti owner of Rasoi Hair Jazz.

My beautiful friend Donatella (you know the stunning Italian one) has arguably the loveliest hair I’ve ever seen. She wakes each morning and it looks like she’s just had it styled. I understand that’s “her” hair, however who best to go to for hair advice than a woman who understands the benefits of a Jazzy haircut. She has nothing but praise for Fabio, says he has Jazz Hands. I have no idea what Jazz Hands are, however after reading his profile on his website, I decided to take the plunge.

Fabio

If it’s a disaster no worries it will grow back. I’m feeling particularly generous with my hair at the moment. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’m lazy when it comes to getting my hair done. It’s like I’m not really a girl in this area of my life. I rarely go and when I do it’s last minute and not particularly well planned. I could quiet possibly regret this decision today. Throwing caution to the wind I enlist Donatella to join me on my hair-adventure. She reminds me that he is “creative” and “artistic” in his approach. If he chooses to create a masterpiece with the canvas sprouting from my cranium, she doesn’t want to be held responsible. Having said that, I’d never let him go as far as the disaster that many of us experienced with 80s hair. A coiffeur calamity decade if I do say so myself.

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Not exactly my hair but you get the idea.

Upon arrival at his studio he begins our session with a series of questions: how short? layers? no layers? hair idols? pictures? As he speaks he runs his fingers through my hair and studies the structure of my face. After a skillful washing that includes tactical scrutiny of the length, previous cut and condition of my hair, he walks me to his chair and for the third time reviews in detail the texture of my hair as he partially blow dries it. As he works he continues to examining the angles of my face. Once my hair is partially dry, he leaves my side to peruse his selection of music. He choses an appropriate inspirational CD from his sizeable collection. I now understand the Jazz in Rasoi Hair Jazz, he’s actually cutting my hair to Jazz. Can you imagine? Up until I hear the music I hadn’t quiet grasped the artistry he possessed. It seems I’m in good hands with Maestro Fabio.

Such skill and movement

Such skill and movement

The cutting begins in a flurry of motion. His hands move in directions contrary to the natural flow of nature. Segments of hair find themselves airborne momentarily before descending around me, joining the other fallen solders littering the floor within a 4′ radius of where I’m sitting. I’m mesmerized by his movements that I liken to Edward Sizzorhands, combine them with his facial communication that gives way to either pride or discontent. Snip after snip he smiles or winces until he is satisfied in his work. With each cut he runs his fingertips from root to end, twirling and massaging each tendril until he’s achieved the perfect textural reaction. With the rise and fall of the tempo in his chosen music, his scissors keep perfect time.  My eyes dance between his face and his hands, I can’t decide where to look as his facial expressions are animated and intense. His hands are mystical and fluid, much like those of a painter engulfed in a masterpiece. Glints of light reflect off forged steel as his razor-sharp tools clip repeatedly, creating a halo of activity engulfing my tingling scalp. I find myself intoxicated by his graceful movements, as if hypnotized under a magicians spell.

magical hands

Long story short… You need a hair cut? You want an experience? You’re in Florence? Go see Fabio and prepare for a moment well worth the price of admission. You’ll find him at: Rasoi Jazz Hair

Having some fun. Fabio brings out one of his musical instruments.

Having some fun. Fabio brings out one of his musical instruments.

He was embarrassed after I told him I was writing a story on my time in his studio...

He was embarrassed after I told him I was writing a story on my time in his studio…

Donatella and Fabio on the Street outside Hair Jazz

Donatella and Fabio on the Street outside Hair Jazz

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WINE + OLIVE OIL + AMICI = PERFECTION

Spectacular (Huge) New Winery Built Deep in a Tuscan Hillside. (Link to story on the history of the winery).

I had the great pleasure of visiting the above Winery this week with a few friends from Florence.

The lovely Donatella

Donatella – Shauna

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Donatella and her handsome Italian bookends.

My design-side was captivated by the construction and how they achieved it in this tightly controlled country.

stairwell in the shape of a corkscrew.

Stairwell in the shape of a corkscrew. View from parking garage

steel and concrete stairwell

View from middle of stairwell

Keep in mind the Italian powers-that-be tend to frown upon anything new. I agree with maintaining the integrity of Italy, her hills, her history, however nothing is ever achieved without reaching forward.

vats of new wine

Clean and professionally attended

Clean and professionally attended. All natural products used in construction.

My wine-side was grateful to the Antinori Family for their dedication to maintain the high standard of wine and olive oil production this family is known for. I love the fact 3 sisters run this wine empire.

how they used to store olive oil

These are the vats  they used to store each families  olive oil. In the back you can see how it’s stored now.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil Vats from years ago

Family Name

Your Family Name would be etched into the vat for your years supply of  olive oil

I was willing to sacrifice myself, in the form of a massive headache, in order to sample ALL their wine in stock. This however was not an option, they did however offer three lovely tastings for the group of twelve gathered for the last wine tour of the day.

We start with white and move to the reds

We start with white and move to the reds

Three offered tastings for the evening tour

The 3 selections

My Favourite

My Favourite; Marchese Antinori-Chianti Classico Reserva 2009

I’d highly recommend a visit if you are in the area anytime soon. It’s an amazing building and operation. They won’t be harvesting grapes from this location for several years, however it is their head office as they outgrew their previous location in the heart of Florence, Italy.

The new grapes planted this spring.

The new grapes planted this spring. Entire operation is built underground.

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WEEKEND STREET WALKING

cafe in Paris
It’s Saturday morning, I sit at a café drinking my second café longue (espresso with a little water). As the sun peeks down the street warming my face, the city wakes to a flawless weekend in Paris. There’s a street-market on Wednesday & Saturday mornings on the sidewalk outside Gyorgyis’ apartment.  A hint of fall trickles forth this week as the clothing worn by Parisians changes from flowing summer silks to lightly layered cashmere.
In most communities you’ll find the street-market is a staple of life in Paris. The dedicated patrons roll hand carts for their weekly food transport. Why carry excess bags on your arm when you can ferry them effortlessly with practicality and style?
roll cart
I’ve found the children, generally speaking, to be well-behaved, they seem accustomed to the weekly routine of shopping at open air markets. The vendors share tasty nibbles with the budding Parisians exchanging open smiles and obvious familiarity.
children
The people working the various stands are friendly and attentive, acknowledging shoppers and passers-by with “bonjour” (hello) followed up with “avoir une bonne jour née” (goodbye-enjoy your day).
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The fish lady recognizes us walking by and greets us with an affectionate smile. The exchange between Gyorgyi and her sounds something like “how was your week, are you well?” She fillets our fish and after inquiring if we require anything else she sends us warmly off with;  “avoir une bonne jour née” before greeting her next customer waiting patiently for their turn.
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The market is unhurried as customers understand their turn will come, the ritual of market day is one of patience and community.
olives & assorted nuts

olives & assorted nuts

Gyorgyi is a blossom enthusiast, she buys at least one bouquet a week. Even though she’s only lived her 10 days, the flower man greets her like a lifelong customer.
Flower ManHe is passionate about his craft. I must admit it is delightful watching someone so enthused with their work. He moves comfortably amid the colourful blooms all the while greeting his customers with charm and respect.
Cheese, oh the cheese in this country is an art unto itself.
cheese
From the silky texture of a creamy Brie to the complexity of Roquefort… You could spend months exploring every cheese available in the this country. The French adore their cheese with a passion that borders on obsession.
The croissant is as iconic as the Eiffel Tower. You have the buttery, the flakey, the dry, the melt in your mouth freshness of them. I can’t say I’ve had one that I’d toss out, however if you sample enough you do find your favourites. One for every hour of the day if you like, unfortunately my waist line would not survive that kind of dedication to the beloved French tradition.
croissant
The vegetable stand is a carnival of colour and texture. The meticulousness of their presentation will have you dreaming of a fresh salad with olive oil and lemon.
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Enchantment abounds in Paris. I highly recommend a visit if only for a day.  A week is a delight, a month spent here you’ll find your heart and in a year you’ll be changed forever.

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A SPACESHIP IN PARIS

Moving day in Paris and Gyorgyi mentions to a friend that I can drive a car, a truck, a carg0-van. She adds, its most likely this crazy Canadian can even drive a spaceship.The SpaceshipWith that in mind, she christens our moving shuttle “The Spaceship”.

After years living in large European cities with convenient and reliable underground transportation. Gyorgyi finds it a task driving a car let alone the Death Star-2.

In my life I’ve moved with three kids & various animals fourteen times over the years. My experience in the building and design industry, not to mention owing a trailer, taught me a few lessons with commercial vehicles. Try backing a trailer hitched to a temperamental SUV into a 15’X15′ camping spot. On one end the river, the other two sides fringed by 5′ drops. Throw in three embarrassed teenagers directing and redirecting as I reverse for the umpteenth time in order to get it positioned for optimal camping enjoyment. Now that’s an undertaking worthy of an honorary PhD or at the very least a pair of plastic wings. PANAMWINGSDriving our little spaceship through the melodramatic streets of Paris could be a challenged, however with todays GPS and a focused co-pilot, I’m sure we’ll manage without incident. (famous last words)

Gyorgyi’s old apartment is fully packed devoid of personal ornamentation. The perimeter walls seemingly inching us out with the boxes and overstuffed storage bags used to transfer ones life between addresses.

Out with the Old

Our brawny crew members in the cross Paris move are Philipe a colleague/friend of Gyorgyi and the spry Jonathan, a friend of a friend. As luck would have it Philipe is an experience Spaceship driver and I willingly hand over my command post.IMG_3757

As Captain of the Starship Enterprise, Philipe navigates the intricate streets of Paris in our dwarf galaxy with 2 count’em 2 First-Mates. Our Parisian captains english is excellent however his delivery of one word in particular has us doubled over in laughter on the complex highway orbiting Paris know as le Périphérique. The word in question – FOCUS. As we approach a crucial interchange, Gyorgyi and I, who are in possession of the GPS, are not paying attention to the road and fail to alert Philipe of an upcoming, quiet significant off-ramp. On our second rotation around what seems like planet earth, Philipe reminds us as responsible co-pilots we must “FOCKHAS ladies FOCKHAS”.

I’m sure you can imagine the entertaining tendrils his pronunciation of FOCKHAS produce within the fatigued minds of two easily amused friends. The remaining move through Paris changes from FOCKHASED to hilarious for the balance of the afternoon. By the time we break for lunch I’m sure Philipe is reevaluating his kind offer of helping Miss Gyorgyi and her one woman comedy crew with the move.

Hours later as our hectic day winds down we watch the evening sky as it dances with hues of rose & violet. As if on cue the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur  is illuminated for nighttime viewing. Our exhausted limbs ignore the remaining unpacked boxes scattered throughout the apartment. Victory is ours, Gyorgyi’s Paris move is accomplished…..

Our final mission: to stop giggling over the day and FOCKHAS on sleep.

 

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A MOVE IN PARIS

MontMartre, ParisMy friend Gyorgyi is changing apartments in Paris and I’ve arrived on my design horse to help with the move. She leaves the 15th arrondissement (neighbourhood) relocating to the 18th, Montmartre district, with a peek-a-boo view of Basilica of the Sacré Cœur

1 basilica of Sacre-Coeur Monmarte Paris Hartensteinabroad

Today we are meeting with the proprietor to take a second look at the apartment. Benjamin a well-mannered and sweet young man of 25ish walks us through the four rooms. We inquire as to the operation of appliances, placement of extra bookcases and the general business of how-tos prior to taking possession of a new apartment.

As Gyorgyi and Ben discuss the particulars in the Parisian white living room, I drift from room to room mentally moving furniture, hanging pictures and reflecting on the lives of the previous inhabitants who’ve long since moved on.

Newly painted plaster soothes away years of indentations and cracks, whitewashing fingerprints and hushing shadows behind a glossy white facade. Living in a centuries old city you understand you are only passing through, your imprint on your surroundings reduced to a layer in time.pealing paint

In north America we design state-of-the-art imaginative homes uncluttered by history other than that of the trees used to build the structure.new construction

Don’t get me wrong, I love designing a new home, the freshness of it, the endless possibilities. However in inner-city Paris NEW is not an option. Recycled is a necessity and appreciated for its inventiveness in preservation.

As I walk through the apartment I’m mindful of the history imbedded within these walls. The families that have grown together. The conversations conveyed or problems solved. How many sunny Christmas mornings filled with excited children waking at dawn, or love songs sung accompanied by champagne and spring strawberries?

My philosopher friend takes possession of a slice of history in the recognizable district housing the Moulin Rouge and the numerous artsy squares in Montmartre. How will she fill her corner of time in this apartment? What history will she leave watermarked on the plaster walls of her apartment?

Have you ever returned to a place you once lived? Had it changed from when you lived there?

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CHANGING DIRECTIONS

The Change

Like so many things in life changing direction starts with the first step. It’s not necessary to have ALL the courage required to alter your course, only enough to take one step in a new direction.

After you achieve that one fear filled step, take a moment to breath and smile knowing you’ve begun.

The hardest part is behind you…that first step on an unfamiliar path. Keep in mind, growth is never accomplished without a reshaping-tweaking-or total revamping of where you currently stand, so yes it will feel uncomfortable and foreign to begin with.  If you stumble along the way, if you miscalculate, be secure in the knowledge you can re-access your action steps, ask for directions or recalibrate the dream to fit the new and improved view of your life.

The first step

Modifying a choice is not a failure, it’s a second chance. Why must we have all the answers before we begin our journey? Who decided that nonsense? I know for sure it wasn’t someone who succeeded in life, business, parenting or love.

Our harshest critic lives within us as does an innocent child. The critic fights us with well placed judgements such as should of, could of, what were you thinking? The child laughs, encourages us, even jumps through sprinklers without worrying about the grass being trampled or what the neighbours think. The child within us effortlessly believing in miracles and second chances.

Your inner child

Who are you honouring and taking direction from the critic or the child?

The courage you are looking for is concealed in a small change, in a word of encouragement, in the hope for a better life. You don’t require all the answers upfront only a hint of the dream and the courage to move in a new direction.

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JAZZY MONICA

My dear friend Monica, who happens to hold a PhD in Art History, has invited me to join her for Jazz at Le Murate (The Walled). Le Murate was originally built in 1424 as a convent for Benedictine nuns. In 1807-14, it briefly housed Napoleons finance department, in 1845 it was converted into a prison and finally in 1998 Italian architect Renzo Piano reinvented its use into the main centre of art and contemporary music in Florence. I highly recommend bringing an Art Historian to your next event in Italy!!

Courtyard of Le Murate

Arriving as the sun is setting over Florence. We rest on the concrete benches in the courtyard prior to the doors opening and study the divergent crowd gathered for tonight’s performance.

The historical impact of countless nuns, solders, and prisoners who would have rested on this very spot in the centuries prior, stirs our fertile imaginations. The infinite life stories infused into this stone edifice produces a rush of respect for the generations of voices hushed by the irreverent progress of time.

IMG_3672Taking our places near the back of the room, we find ourselves entertained not only by the musicians on stage we are captivated by the spectators gathered around us. Neither performance disappoints.

Humans are interesting creatures viewed outside their natural habitat. Living in a foreign country is similar to a scientist observing subjects in an uncontrolled lab experiment. Leaving the comfort of our homes we open ourselves up to the sights, sounds and experiences our world expresses. It’s up to us how we respond those interactions. Do we savour the experience or do we judge with critical eyes and ears? Tonight my Jazzy Monica and I are saturated by the richness of the evening, grateful for this time together and the lyrical freshness of our combined laughter and the pleasing sounds suffused by the characters gathered in this ancient room.
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If you had one night of entertainment at your disposal, who would you share it with and where would you go?

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DRINKING BEFORE LUNCH

The fizz of chilled Prosecco as it sparkles its way to the rim of our champagne flutes, a fitting tribute to the turn of events that gave way to drinking before lunch:prosecco

…Gyorgyi and I are on one of our weekly shopping excursions. Sheltered under a parasol of mischievous laughter and the rhythmic dance off our sisterly bond, we seamlessly navigate our way through the complex maze of streets and avenues in the historical centre of Florence, Italy.

Via dei Servi

Strolling our favourite street of Via dei Servi, we notice a gentleman in a tailored suit leaning awkwardly over the handlebars of his bicycle. He is nervously speaking to a wisp of girl who can’t be more than four years old. Her terrified body language and apprehensive gaze in our direction awakens our maternal instincts. We rush protectively to her side, our zealous arms shielding her from the cars rumbling a breath away from her tiny body, she inches forward sheltered by our makeshift sanctuary.

Florence

The Italian gentleman is caring and apologetic, he’s aware the child is puzzled and frightened by his questions and masculine presence. She is confused by his soft interrogation as to her first name or hometown, leading us to believe she is not of Italian decent.

With her stoic face inches from mine, I smile and calmly request her name in English, then Spanish. When the child shows no sign of comprehension, I turn to Gyorgyi for assistance, she tenderly inquires in French, German and finally Hungarian. Having run out of languages between us, the sympathetic gentleman suggests the two of us take her to the police-stand located near the skirts of The Duomo.

Duomo

A current of faith laced with fear flows from her fingers as we chaperone her in the direction of Florence’s most recognizable landmark.

As we exit the cool shadow of the buildings lining Via dei Servi, we welcome the affectionate spring sun on our faces. From across the square a petite woman erupts from the crown, her empty outstretched arms reach desperately forward as her primitive cries echo off sun drenched buildings. She scoops the child in her arms clinging tightly to her delicate frame. Muffled sobs evaporate as she inhales her daughters sweet scent.

From behind tortured eyes, she thanks us in a language foreign to our ears. A mothers anguished gratitude unmistakable despite the obvious language barrier. We fight back tears, unable to communicate beyond our smiles and gestures of relief.

An understandable need to be far from the pain of loosing her child, she leaves our company and stumbles in the direction of her husband and son. The fathers ashen face is exhausted yet relieved as his wide arms engulf his family in an all-consuming embrace.

The length of time they’ve been separated and the agony endured we can only imagine. What we do know for sure is that our participation requires a celebration.

As the Prosecco swirls in our glasses we toast; spring mornings, reunions and friendship.

glasses

After the second glass we conclude we are superheros in need of suitable apparel… perhaps once we drain the bottle we’ll have convinced ourselves in our ability to leap tall building in a single bound!

superheros

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RED-HEADED ROOSTER

Suffocating under the blanket of noise in the centre of Florence. I flee to the hills of Tuscany indulging in the restorative-air that fills my cosy apartment known as  La Limonaia. The rural location provides the casual elegance of nature lacking in my apartment in the heart of Michelangelo’s hometownFlorence

I trade the enthusiasm of non-stop traffic and teenagers chatting outside my window until dawn, for the downtempo of natures hushed alarm clock. I wake to birds chirping and the distant call of a red-headed rooster intent on taking full credit for a recently laid egg in his henhouse.

My red-headed alarm clock

Garden-fresh air and unfiltered sun replenish my appetite for the uncomplicated taste and texture of Tuscany. Each day Mother Earth seduces me from sleep by gently tickling my senses. This morning heavy footsteps and a breathy snort rouse me from the pleasing arms of my comfortable bed. A voyeuristic horse noses outside my window seeking a nibble of the flowers brimming from a vase on my dresser.

la limonaia

The delicate blossoms are protected by steel bars securely anchored to the window-sash. The resident horse named ARAYA is unfazed by my sudden appearance. He greets me with perceptive nostrils and curious brown eyes rimmed by thick unruly lashes. This sizeable peeping-tom is accustomed to the revolving guests inhabiting the apartments on the spacious grounds of Residenza del Palmerino.  To him I’m just another foreigner on his morning exploration.

Beatrice, my animal loving landlady, permits Araya to roam the property unaccompanied for an hour on sunny mornings. The difficulty with this compassionate gesture toward her 1000 pound child is that Araya has an insatiable appetite infused with unbridled curiosity. His quest for mischief and sustenance is satisfied by devouring figs gathered by Beatrice for her homemade jam, sampling leafy vegetables awaiting trimming, tipping over abandoned coffee cups or glasses of wine left by forgetful tenants like myself, or on occation poking his sizeable snout inquisitively through half-open doors and windows.

trouble makerUnable to nip the buds from the flowers near my window Araya turns to leave and in the process he knocks over several rakes and a small table. Beatrice who is within earshot races toward the clamour, she admonishes and shoos him from his latest fiasco then begins to tidy and reorganize.

Apologizing to me for the disturbance and expressing frustration at the interruption to her daily chores, it would seem her irritation over his antics are infused with love and tolerance.

In my first few weeks getting to know Beatrice I failed to recognize why she permitted this plodding animal to roam free as his misadventures caused her more work and aggravation. What I failed to understand was that her patience with this animal is similar to that of a parent. Caring for a small child or an animal (some would question if there is a difference) begins with allowing. Allowing them to discover the world on their own terms. Allowing him or her to make mistakes or get into trouble. Allowing a few treasured items to break in the name of freedom, no matter if the child is 20 lbs or 1000.

The distilled harmony between protector and progeny is subtle, impossible to gage and unreasonable to judge. My guess is my affectionate landlady loves the interruptions of her bumbling four-legged child as much as I enjoy the unpredictable experiences her gracious personality and engaging home provides.

Posted in FRIENDSHIP, horses, INSPIRATION, ITALY, TRAVEL, Tuscany, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

75 BOLD TIPS TO KICK FEAR IN THE REAR

I was in need of a pick-me-up today, so I’m posting these inspirational TIPS written by TESS MARSHAL who is a bold and fearless woman. Pick one, five or all seventy-five… to kick any fears out the door!

                          75 Bold Tips for When Fear Grips Your Mind

                                                     by Tess Marshal

You can learn to live a bold life by choosing to let go of fear when you feel tortured by your own thoughts.

When you can’t sleep at night, when you are obsessed with failing or not feeling good enough, decide to take action. Sometimes it will take less than five minutes to make a shift. Other times it may take an hour or two.

The following tips to get through your fear may seem ridiculously simple. Simple doesn’t mean easy. It’s important that you do them. Keep the list where you can see it. Put it on your refrigerator or bulletin board. Carry it with you. You have to be willing to do what it takes to calm yourself down and to move forward in spite of your fear .

When you are afraid, take a few moments to implement the following:

1. Notice the beauty in your environment.

2. Treasure the day.

3. Love yourself through your anxiety.

4. Go for a walk.

5. Let things be exactly as they are.

6. Listen to music.

7. Slow down.

8. Sit still.

9. Relax your grip.

10. Remember you are loved.

11. Learn to hold your own hand.

12. Listen to your intuition.

13. Free your mind from the past.

14. Establish an attitude of delight.

15. Plan a bold future.

16. Expect good things to happen.

17. Surrender what doesn’t work.

18. Reach out and talk to someone.

19. Invest time in laughter and play.

20. Speak to yourself with words of encouragement.

21. Take a break from judging others.

22. Let go of grievances.

23. Begin with a clean slate.

24. Change your thoughts.

25. Heal your mind.

26. Shift your perception.

27. Create positive lasting change.

28. Learn to live in a vibration of joy.

29. Keep your commitments.

30. Find one small thing to savor.

31. Make your words matter.

32. Soften your heart.

33. List your successes in life.

34. Train yourself to feel joyful, safe, and successful.

35. Believe the best about yourself.

36. Believe the world is going to send amazing things your way.

37. Determine what your purpose is.

38. Decide that right now is the greatest moment of your life.

39. Fearlessly tell the truth.

40. Take determined action.

41. Develop a profound sense of contentment.

42. Ask for loving assistance.

43. Say prayers of thanksgiving.

44. Believe that you will succeed.

45. Know that there is an unlimited amount of love and good in the universe.

46. Remember one event doesn’t determine success.

47. Be gentle with yourself.

48. Focus on what goes right and repeat it again and again.

49. Remember you deserve to be happy and prosperous.

50. Trust and keep going.

51. Make your life an awesome adventure.

52. Bring enthusiasm to your efforts.

53. Live with intention.

54. Create a good habit.

55. Dare to go against the crowd.

56. Look at the big picture of your life.

57. Share your truth.

58. Make up your mind to change.

59. Confide in someone close to you.

60. Talk back to your fear.

61. Recall happier times.

62. Live one day at a time.

63. Choose a peaceful point of view.

64. Live with a consciousness of love.

65. Choose unconflicted energy.

66. Cherish the relationships you have.

67. Know that most things aren’t as serious as you make them out to be.

68. Know that you can manage even when difficult things happen.

69. Believe you have the talents and resources you need to succeed.

70. Remind yourself of your positive options.

71. Support, encourage, and believe in yourself.

72. Remind yourself that the world is full of endless opportunities.

73. Look for beauty and blessings where ever you go.

74. Remember a small positive change can put your life in a new direction.

75. Practice gratitude. Gratitude. And more gratitude.

*Remember there is always another option when you are feeling, afraid, doubtful, or worried. You don’t have to live this way. Make your journey one of growth, love and adventure. Begin today. I believe in you!

Tess Marshall

Tess Marshall M.A. is a fear-shattering, risk taker, author, courage coach and blogger at The Bold Life with a master’s degree in counselling psychology. Link the bold life tohttp://www.facebook.com/l/yAQGtyp_fAQG20d8_VXSN69y_NsHSZt8CBLqrUbW0KsNhbw/theboldlife.com/courage-coaching-for-a-bold-and-brillian-life/

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Posted in Confronting your fears, INSPIRATION | Leave a comment