A Book Review of Thrive by Arianna Huffington

I recently had the privileged of reviewing Thrive by Arianna Huffington through Blogging for Books.

(Did you know that people will send you books for free if you write about them on your blog? That’s enough to make a book worm set up a blog right away!)

In short, I enjoyed the book very much and would recommend it to friends. It got a little long toward the end, but it was chocked full of both information and stories which were all on target and helpful.

For my full review, read on:

I found Arianna Huffington’s Thrive to be a breath of fresh air. Not necessarily because the suggestions she gives are novel. As a yoga teacher and active practitioner of mindfulness meditation, I have read and practiced many of her suggestions before. I already sleep 8 hours, meditate, try to get walks in, and cuddle my dogs each day. (Okay, can I say how much I loved that having a pet was included in her chapter on well-being?).

However, hearing these suggestion come from the mouth of the editor in chief of Huffington Post as opposed to my hemp clad yoga trainer gave them a new sense of legitimacy and normalcy. It was refreshing to have someone so mainstream advocating practices that have not so long ago been on the margins of society.

That being said, I did learn many new tips and tricks while reading Thrive. I began to practice time abundance instead of time famine and found myself much less rushed throughout the day. I also appreciated the collection of apps and websites she listed in her Appendix to help manage time online. (Yes, it is ironic to use technology to lessen our addiction to technology, but hey, if it works . . . .)

So even if you are already are passed striving for power and money and have jumped on the Third Metric track, there will be reinforcement for what you already know and probably some new info to boot.

Huffington breaks her book down into four parts: Well-Being, Wisdom, Wonder and Giving. Each section builds on the other, which can sometimes seem repetitive, but ultimately brings the reader to a fuller understanding at the end.

My favorite parts of the book were easily Huffington’s stories of her Greek mother and her references to the myths and literature of her homeland. These enabled me to see the practices I already knew from another culture’s lens.

Thank you Arianna for strengthening our resolve to find a third, more whole way.

 

Have you also read Thrive? What were your thoughts?

When Did We Lose the Art of Civility?

As you may know, I underwent one of my initiations into the world of being a writer/blogger yesterday. I had a post featured on BlogHer, a national clearinghouse of women’s blogs.

At first I was super excited. The words I so believed in were being read and shared.

And then the comments started rolling in.

Mean, disrespectful, and not even entirely on topic comments. People maligned me and argued nastily with each other.

I was heartbroken. It was my first time for all of this and I was totally unprepared. (Now I know, NEVER read the comments).

It got me to thinking. When did we lose the art of civil discourse in this nation?

My dad spent most of his life in politics. Over the years of his career, I heard him speak up and out about many things. He was not afraid to voice dissent or argue a point strongly.

But you know what I never heard? Him speaking poorly of another person. Not even his political enemies. And let me tell you, he certainly could have if he wanted to.

But he had the wisdom to know that issues are to be discussed. Not people.

What happened to the days when people from different viewpoints could argue vehemently over ideas and policy and then go buy each other a drink?

When did we lose respect for our fellow human being?

And why are women the worst at being mean and hurtful to each other?

In a world where women constantly have the short end of the stick, shouldn’t we band together and fight for our common good instead of fighting each other?

We won’t always agree, but that is no reason to tear each other down.

Lets stop being so threatened by each other and learn to work together, to support each other through it all.

The same goes for all the red and blue people in this great country of ours.

art of civility

I am reminded of Abraham Lincolns words, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Let me tell you people, I think the legs underneath us are starting to get a bit shaky.

I’ll admit to licking my wounds a little today. I have had fantasies of moving to Norway where the people are kind and the societal benefits exceptional.

But I’d rather stay here in the USA and see our country have a reawakening of civility.

Treat everyone with respect. EVERYONE. You do not know their story. You do not know their heart.

If nothing else, you’ll be able to look yourself in the mirror at night and respect yourself.

A Stay at Home Mom’s Reaction to the State of the Union Speech: What if your childcare happens at home?

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So I watched the State of the Union Address last night with my husband. It is a miracle I made it over half of the way through as most years I bail after 10 minutes. This has nothing to do … Continue reading

The Art of Taking a Sick Day

I have been battling a bad upper respiratory virus the past few weeks. I felt it coming on one Friday night, all scratchy throat and tired muscles.

What did I do? I just kept going, of course. We had plans Saturday after all.  I just kept drinking hot tea, sucking cough drops and went to bed a little early.

The cold worsened and I began to leave out optional activities. But still I plowed ahead. During meetings I sat at a distance with a box of kleenex by my side. I refrained from giving physical adjustments to my yoga students.

But day after day I felt worse. More tired. More achy. More stuffy.

It took almost a week for me to cry uncle.

I finally called in sick when I felt so crappy I feared I might actually have the flu and didn’t know it. After all I had no fever, but I just felt so bad. After a quick call to my doctor’s office describing my symptoms, they confirmed I probably had a bad virus that was going around.

Their best advice:

Rest. And drink lots of fluids.  

Yep.  That was the best that modern medicine had to offer.

So you know what I did?

I rested.

I laid on the sofa with my dogs and my cup of tea and watched Jane Austen movies. You know what happens when someone gets sick in Jane Austen movies? So much as a sniffle and they go to bed for like a week. No matter whose house they happen to be in at the time. (How else will one fall in love with a handsome stranger?)

I began to wonder if the Victorian English were onto something.

Of course a few days later my son fell ill as well. He ran a little fever and had the same scratchy throat and tired muscles going on.

So what did we do?

We totally rearranged our schedule as a family, let him anchor himself on the “comfy green chair” and began to serve him Powerade and jello.

Art of taking a sick day

 

For almost three days he lay on the chair in the same set of pajamas and watched Netflix with the dogs (Although he chose Cosmos and Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. over Jane Austen. Imagine that ;-)). And let me say after three days he was feeling much better than I did after two weeks.

Sometime during all the virus fighting and recovery, I began to wonder when American adults lost the art of being sick?

Are things really so stressful that we can’t take three days out of our lives to rest and recover?

Are we really so important we must keep on with our routines, all the while coughing and sneezing our germs on others instead of letting the world go on without us for a while?

What causes our inability to just let ourselves rest, be sick, and then recover?

During all my thoughtful ponderings (another benefit of having a sick day, you have time to ponder) I remembered back to my first year of working a real job.

I was 25 years old and was working as an associate pastor at a largish United Methodist Church. One Sunday morning I woke up pretty ill and called my boss to let him know I wouldn’t be at church that day. I’ll never forget his response, “I usually just take some medicine and press on.”

Right, because no one else can pray the Lord’s Prayer and give a children’s sermon quite like I can. And church members might get mad if I am not fulfilling my duties. And God wants us to suffer for the sake of the cause. Message received.

Our church office proceeded to give each other a nasty case of bronchitis that year also. Out of four ministerial staff members I think I was the only one to spend most of my illness at home. A fact that was probably made known to me as well.

Slowly as I matured in age and experience I bought the lie. Even when I was put on partial bed rest during my high risk pregnancy I would at least make it to church every Sunday. I would kick my robed legs up on a milk crate that I kept behind the pulpit so I could take some of the pressure off of my incompetent cervix and sit instead of standing during hymns.

Now I look back and wonder how my small contributions each Sunday could have been worth even the chance of putting my unborn child’s life at risk.

So what do we do with this protestant work ethic gone bad?

I don’t know about you, but I am going to try and bring back the sick day for adults. After all, it is not like I work some high profile job. I teach yoga to seniors and write for a living. My students will get over it. The internet will go on.

I know not everyone has the luxury of sick leave and that is a justice issue all unto itself.

But for those of us who have the ability to take sick leave, FOR GOODNESS SAKES, USE IT.

It will be good for you. And all those around you. You will have both the joy of being missed and the relief that you are not essential to the world’s survival.

And when you do, might I recommend spending some quality time with Netfix and some a mug of your favorite comfort drink? It will almost make being sick worthwhile.

 

How do you handle getting sick? What is your favorite “get better” traditions?

 

 

Baptism Stories

I was baptized when I was 12 years old at the Methodist church in which I grew up. It was a part of our yearly confirmation ceremony and was on the whole a very lovely day. The confirmands themselves helped lead the Palm Sunday service.  When my pastor laid his water cupped hand upon my head, I felt the love of the whole church washing down over me. It was easy to take my vows of membership after that.  Why wouldn’t I want to join this group of people who had cradled me since I was a small child?

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The first time I witnessed a baptism outside my tradition I was in college.  I had gone to church with my Baptist boyfriend.  When I saw the white clad candidate be plunged under water, I gasped out loud.  Suddenly the verses about dying and being risen with Christ came to life in frightening fashion before my eyes. That day I learned becoming a new creation is as equally terrifying as it is wonderful.

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My own children were baptized by pouring.  We carried them forward together though they looked and reacted as different as different can be. My son was six months old, dressed in a handmade embroidered baptismal gown as white as his skin. He wailed as the pastor tipped him down and poured the chilly water over his head. He would much have preferred to continue nursing and cuddling in peace and quiet than be called by name and baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We dried him off and I quieted him by snuggling him warm to my chest. My daughter on the other hand took it all in joyfully. She who was dressed in her glittering Chinese gown, all gold-covered red. She accepted the water and her new name, the one that made her a part of our family as well of the family of God that day. Then she waved her one-year-old hand at all the smiling faces when her Daddy walked her up and down the aisles, jingling her bracelet of bells in celebration coming and going. In the crying and in the laughing my husband and I were nothing but well-pleased to have our children be named and welcomed not only into our lives, but into our churches lives as well.

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The first Episcopalian baptism I witnessed was actually that of a family of girls.  Four of them all together in a row renounced evil and clung to Jesus that day. After the water was dried from their smiling faces, they were anointed with oil, sealed by God’s Spirit as God’s own daughters forever. Then each child was given a candle of light from the light of Christ to symbolize the light they were now called to share with the world. Except in their child-like excitement, the flame grew more than expected. One of the sisters leaned her candle too close to another. The child’s hair went from natural auburn red to burning with red and orange flames. Parishioners from the front rows jumped up to tamp out the girl’s flaming hair. I have heard it reported that the little girl’s memory from that day is that the Holy Spirit came down upon her with flames of fire and then the church came up and laid hands upon her as the Spirit fell down. And in many ways, that is exactly what happened. 

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As we celebrated Baptism of the Lord Sunday today, so many images came flooding through my mind:

images of welcome and adoption,

images of naming and being known,

images of being loved and delighted in even in the deep knowing,

images of being stripped of all that is not Christ and being filled with all that is light and love,

and being set on fire and called to go forth to bear that light and love with the world.

Do you have a favorite baptism story you would like to share? Or an image of what baptism means to you?

As always, feel free to share these stories with others.

 

Epiphany: Seeking a Wild Star

For weeks my daughter has been playing, “We Three Kings of Orient Are” on the piano as she gets ready for her Christmas recital. It is ironic really, as she is also one who hails from the East. Although we tell her “Oriental is a word that describes rugs. Asian is the word to describe people.” But tell that to someone writing in 1857.

She often sings along as she plays:

“star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright.”

seeking the wild star

The star Godly Play always called this star of Bethlehem the “wild star” because it shone so unexpectedly and moved as it willed.

It is gorgeous when you think of it.

My sons sits nearby reading through his new 2015 Almanac that he got for Christmas. He tells me this week we will have the first meteor shower of the year. He even tells me what the best times are to see some starfall action.

I keep meaning to sneak out after they have gone to bed or early in the morning to catch sight of a “shooting star.” To see some wondrous beauty bright. But it has been so cold and cloudy here. All I can want to do is hide under warm covers and let my eyes be heavy.

The same son has been binge watching Cosmos on Netflix. As I am making dinner one night I overhear Neil deGrasse Tyson telling how ancient saw comets and deemed them omens of disaster. How human beings seek patterns, meaning. But correlation does not always equal causation. He details the science of comets orbiting round and round the sun.

But as I stir the soup, I feel for the ancients of old. Of course they were seeking meaning in what surely seemed a sign to their ancient eyes.

Don’t we all want a sign from above? Aren’t we all seeking some pattern in the chaos to make sense of it all? Even if the news is bad?

Star of Wonder, Star of Light, Star with Royal Beauty Bright, Westward Leading, Still Proceeding,

Guide us to Thy Perfect Light.

seeking the wild star on Epiphany

I sit here this Epiphany and feel almost jealous of the magi. In their ancient naivete or wisdom or both, that star led them to what they were looking for and more.

How I wish for some sign, some light to guide my footfalls in a recognizable path.

But the trick is, that would actually require looking. Wiping the sleep from my tired eyes and lifting my eyes heavenward.

Tonight we have plans to burn our Christmas Greens out back to celebrate the 12th night, this the Epiphany of the Lord. Perhaps as our fire burns wild and free, I’ll look up in search of my own wild star and see my own light streaking across the sky.

I don’t know if it will be bring any order into my chaos. God after is all is little more wild and surprising than I often wish. But perhaps it will still guide. Still bring meaning into the darkness.

For if nothing else, it will remind me of the baby king. The one who came in unexpected mystery to walk with us.

And maybe tonight that is enough.

 

 

Remembering John O’Dohohue

Today marks the 7th anniversary of the death of the Irish poet/philosopher/life lover John O’Donohue. In memory of him and in gratitude for his influence on my life,  I would like to share some of my favorite quotes from his works. Although he may never be canonized as a Saint with a capital S, he is surely part of the cloud of witnesses that has enriched and challenged not only my life but so many others.

If you have not yet read him, you are in for a deep, rich, beautiful treat.

If you have had the pleasure of reading his words, let us remember this great man together.

John O'Donohue

A Blessing For The New Year

“Beannacht”
On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.”
John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Love As Ancient Recognition

“Real friendship or love is not manufactured or achieved by an act of will or intention. Friendship is always an act of recognition. This metaphor of friendship can be grounded in the clay nature of the human body. When you find the person you love, an act of recognition brings you together. It is as if millions of years before the silence of nature broke, your lover’s clay and your clay lay side by side. Then in turning of the seasons, your one clay divided and separated. You began to rise as distinct clay forms, each housing a different individuality and destiny. Without even knowing it, your secret memory mourned your loss of each other. While your clay selves wandered for thousands of years through the universe, your longing for each other never faded. This metaphor helps to explain how in the moment of friendship two souls suddenly recognize each other. . . .   There is an awakening between you, a sense of ancient knowing. Love opens the door of ancient recognition. You enter. You come home to each other at last.” – Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
 May your New Year be blessed with beauty and the love of true soul friends.
And if you choose to pick up a copy of John O’Donohue’s works, here is a tip. Spring for the hardcover. You will be flipping through that gem for years.
John O donohue
For more on John O’Donohue listen to Krista Tippet’s interview with him here.

Saying Goodbye to a Hard Year

 

saying goodbye to a hard yearIt is New Year’s Eve and even though the cupcakes we baked look festive, my heart just cannot follow suit.

How do you say goodbye to one of the harder years of your life?

A year when you chased a dream hard and in the end realized you just weren’t ready to make the cut.

A year when you felt about as sick and broken as you ever have in your life.

A year when people you loved died to soon and you learn that kind of heartache doesn’t just go away.

 

As we prepare to countdown 2014, I still really don’t know how to send it off.

I guess all I can hold onto is what I have learned along the way:

Sometimes you have to try and fail and try and fail and try and fail again before a dream is realized. And the failure isn’t even really failure after all. It is growing and learning. Painful sometimes, but necessary nonetheless.

When you pray for complete healing it means you have to dig down to the deep roots of your fear before you can let it go. Also it helps if you ask for help along the way. And taking antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication is not a cop-out, it is a Godsend.

After years of striving and longing and wishing I was in a different place in life, I am finally learning to be content right where I am this moment. Even if it is not where I thought I would be or where I wanted to be.

So as I say goodbye to 2014, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to put no expectations on 2015 whatsoever. There will be no resolutions or big dreams or even fears.

It will be what it will be.

And I will learn to be what I will be in it.

And that is enough.