Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Gift of Fatigue

Sitting here on my couch with a sleeping pug to each side of me, I am doing my best not to feel grouchy about my progress in life as of late. Yes, I know. Who's the judge of my progress? Who's defining what is good use of my time? Who's defining success? I know who (and I'm sure you all know the answer to that one as well). And she can be very judgmental crab.

I am not a person who has a lot of energy. I am working with a body that has very low adrenal function and I am tired/exhausted most of the time. I wake up tired. It's very frustrating. Little daily stressors send me over the edge in terms of energy drain and I often find it difficult to concentrate. Often something will strike me as interesting and I'll think to myself, "I'd like to explore that but I'm just so tired." I do have energy bursts depending on a number of factors but mostly, I literally have to force myself to leave the house to go do things that I'm incredibly excited to do. Like I said, very, very, frustrating.

I have tons of interests and things that I'd like to explore but what I have been doing most often is listening to others teach. I am a huge podcast junkie and my absolute favorites are Nan Akasha and Lisa Hayes. I also enjoy David Neagle and interviews from Conscious Media Network. Hundreds of hours of interviews with some of what I believe, are the most amazing minds on conscious living. I am sure there are more and if you have a favorite, don't hesitate to post it here. I'd love to have more to explore.

In any case, as all students of the Law of Attraction know, there must be a gift in everything that happens to us. I'd never really thought about the gift of adrenal fatigue...until today.

The severe lack of energy that I've been experiencing for a few years has caused me to be ok with being still. I've learned to be ok with just sitting and listening to my own thoughts. I've learned to be ok with sitting outside on a summer day watching how blades of grass respond when there is a slight breeze. And there is another gift. I am quite content to listen to others teach me what they know for extended periods of time. The previously mentioned list of individuals has helped me through a number of situations in my life and also helped me to rewire my thinking. I feel I am becoming a better person from the collective knowledge of all of the many teachers in my life, from podcasts, to books, to friends.

And so, that "forced" stillness has indeed benefited me tremendously. I have been able to be taught and had time to ponder these teachings and absorb them into my life. I've been "forced" to draw boundaries for myself. Fairly strict bedtimes and other times to rest are something that I've had to honor and make a priority in my life. I am not someone who will ever be answering emails at midnight, no way, no how.

I have to believe these years of "downtime" will serve me well. I feel through nutrition and energy work (and any other suggestions), I will be able to regain that lost vitality. I think I was just meant to take it all in for a while instead of running around like a crazy person, trying to multitask and juggle 50 different things in a day. I simply can't. I guess I am just supposed to be a patient student for a little while longer. Lucky me :-)

Monday, November 22, 2010

AEDM Day #22

Today's inspiration comes from a child's holiday drawing. My friend's daughter, Tiana, always draws a holiday themed picture for her mother's cubical wall and they always make us smile. This time of year a "hand turkey" made it's way to our office and we all smiled at it's whimsy. Bright colors, happy clouds, the drawing of a joyful six-year-old little girl. Earlier in the month, another co-worker had mentioned that we never do any fun, group, cube decorating anymore. In the past we've done things such as everyone bringing in a childhood photo and hanging it outside our cubes by our name tags. It served as a reminder that every one of us was once sweet, innocent, and unencumbered by doubts in life.

As I looked at Tiana's drawing I thought about the first time a grade-school teacher showed me the magic of using my own hand to draw a turkey for a Thanksgiving project and how talented I felt with my new tool. It came to me what our new, silly, cubical project should be, everyone make their own hand turkey.

So far no one else has done it and I haven't been so great at promoting the idea but I still have two days to get the ball rolling :-)

Even with such a simple project I still fought the judge of my adult self. Do male and female turkeys have the red gobbler? I started to Google and was instantly disgusted with my need to know for sure. I made my drawing, simple, colorful, and with kissing turkeys. I am a hopeless romantic. What can I say?

If you are so inclined, let your inner child out and indulge in a carefree hand turkey of your own. If you do, I'd love to see it. It doesn't matter if you are a child or an adult. It's almost impossible not to smile in the presence of our four-feathered friends.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

AEDM Day #20

Ok, so my Art Everyday Challenge has turned into Art Every Several Days Challenge but I just splurged on a new laptop so it is my intent to blog more often now that I'm no longer confined to my spare room. So it's Saturday at 1:00pm and I have not created any art as of my last post. I did however venture out to Kaarma Last night for Indian food and to watch my belly dance teacher, Shannon, and the Pepper Lotus Tribal Dance Troupe perform. One word...exquisite.

Dancing is one of my favorite art forms and I have been involved in dance of some form all my life. My mom has always loved to dance and still does. She used to dance with my friends and I in our living room and teach us some of her favorite moves. I started at nine years old taking tap and jazz, later getting involved in ballet, admittedly predominantly for the shoes. I spent fifteen years with the same teacher and during that time, joined her local dance company. I was involved in that for several years and during my last six months in that area, I substitute taught dance to children for her school. It was extremely rewarding. And I suspect it's much easier to teach children who are doing something they love to do.

So when I moved to State College, there was a little bit of a hole in my life where dance used to be. Sure we'd go out and dance but it wasn't quite the same. Three years ago when I was going through a divorce, I decided it was more important than ever to bring dance back into my life. I started taking salsa and tango lessons from the Penn State Ballroom Dance Club and met so many amazing people, from all over the world, who are now my friends. We became a little family for a while. It was an amazing time in my life. We still keep in touch but most have moved on. Which is something that always happens living in a college town. It's very transient. Thank goodness for Facebook so I can keep track of them.

So for three years, salsa has been a staple and I love it. It's energizing, sexy, and just plain great fun. It's simply not possible to be crabby while salsa dancing. I loved tango too but I left that behind for a while. It may make a comeback. But let's bring it back around to my latest dance fascination, belly dancing.

I've been curious about it for some time. I wouldn't say I'm overly girly but I definitely love plenty of girly things. I truly do not mean to oversimplify it's meaning or cultural history, but for me, belly dancing was one of those art forms that had it all, sensuality, beauty, and costumes that jingle and sparkle. I think I was a crow in a former life. I also found that it was a dance form that women often did together and I loved that. In salsa, an opposite-sex partner is pretty much a requirement but in belly dancing, you can be alone or in a group. It's very empowering and great for bonding with other women. I've only had two formal classes in my friend's yoga studio but I've already been bitten by the belly dancing bug. I have to admit, as my friend Jen put it last night, it appears deceptively simple in it's beauty. We purchased finger cymbals (zils) and started to practice. I can walk and use them, but I cannot turn my wrists, walk and use them...yet. Such is life. Sometimes things seem deceptively simple but they require a little more effort than we previously believed. And that is good. It's good for us to be challenged.

So here's a little homework if you so choose, find a new art form that empowers you. Try several in fact. I like to have some that challenge me to practice and gain competency through experience and others I love because I can let my mind wander as shapes and colors pour out of my pencils and paints. Most importantly of course, have fun and let me know what you come up with. Maybe I'll give them a try myself :-)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Art Everyday Challenge-Day 14

Day 14? What happened to the other 13 days?
Yes, I know. I'm getting a little bit of a late start on this. November is Art Everyday Month is hosted by Leah Piken Kolidas and is a way to challenge yourself to be creative, in some way, everyday. My friend Marie had such a great time with it last year and is doing it again this year. With her encouragement, I am getting in on the fun :-)

So I will mostly be blogging about this challenge this month.

I signed up Thursday, Friday I got some strange flu that lasted through Saturday. So here I am Sunday ready to go! The humorous thing was that what I was most inspired to do was draw mandalas using the Reiki symbols that I have learned in training. But because they are sacred symbols, I cannot post them. *sigh*

So I drew a pattern for my intent to have positive forward movement in my life. It was not my favorite but that's ok. The other two were done a couple of weeks ago.

The first one is to inspire love in all areas of life to flow freely to me and the second one was to inspire abundance and prosperity.

I love to draw mandalas, at least that's how I think of them. They are a way to let my mind wander and let the intention guide me to choose the colors and shapes that I put to paper. It is so calming and therapeutic.

Give it a try if you never have and let me know how it felt for you. What came up? What emotions or blocks surfaced, if any? And most importantly, HAVE FUN with it!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Expanding My Creative Comfort Zone

Gosh, I've been busy. Since my last post, I started working on some new, dare I say a little "out there," ideas in my art, started a store (Pandora's Gallery) on Zazzle, and have joined my dear friend Sylvia in co-authoring a book on crystals which will most likely be out by spring of 2012. How exciting! I've really been focusing on actually DOING all the things that I'm drawn to do rather than dismissing them to the, "I'm not good enough to do that," or the "I don't have the time," category. It's really been difficult for me to train my brain to override all of those limiting beliefs and just say, "What's the worst that could happen?"

And yet, oddly, I still feel as though there isn't not enough forward movement in my life. I keep looking for something to create some vastly different lifestyle change, knowing that I would probably panic if it actually happened. It's funny how we try so hard to avoid experiencing change and yet we crave it so desperately. I once heard someone say, "It's not that we hate change, it's that we hate BEING changed." I have to agree. When change happens in a way that causes us to feel out of control, we fear it. The funny thing is that we never know what's around the corner and the only healthy way to handle it is to calmly accept it. Ugh.

I used to be terrified of change. TERRIFIED. Change always meant something bad in my mind. Change meant I was about to experience lack in some way. But as I continue on this path, I've seen so many amazing things happen. Things that I originally labeled as "bad" grew into beautiful opportunities to learn, grow, and gain. It was a magical realization to find that change could mean abundance.

Sure. I am a graphic designer and I do write this blog. But the idea of co-authoring a book or coming up with a strange art idea and putting it out there for the world to see, and ultimately judge, was really stressful for me to wrap my brain around. In July, I took a four-day workshop with Jim Donovan (formerly of Rusted Root) called the Summer Rhythm Renewal (I promise to write a post about this amazing experience). As an affirmation during one of our drumming/chanting sessions, I vowed passionately that I would not be afraid of life anymore. Now realistically, I can't get rid of all fear but I can however be more conscious of what I'm afraid of and why. Can this thing that I'm afraid of really hurt me or is it my ego trying to keep me safe? Meaning of course stuck with the same familiar behaviors that are classic me. A friend of mine posted something on Facebook about learning to move out of your comfort zone. I replied that I'd have to check with the borough, but I was pretty sure I was zoned for comfort. But in truth, I am pushing myself out of my comfy nest little by little. Verrrrry gently.

What little steps have you been taking to move yourself out of your comfort zone?

Baby steps are still steps and so I'm proud of myself for taking a little bit of a plunge here and there. Speaking of getting wet. Why don't I tell you a little bit about my new artwork

I'm really interested to hear your thoughts. Be nice ;-)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Following the Feathers

Either I heard or read somewhere that feathers were a sign or a gift from the Angels or guides that are watching over you. So feeling a bit displaced as of late, I've been collecting feathers when I see them on my walks. Many blackish-grey ones, small to medium in size. They sit on my desk and around my home. When I look at them, they remind me that I am guided and protected.

But as of late, I've been asking for quite a bit of guidance and the feathers started to show up more often. This past Sunday, while practicing drawing a sacred symbol for my Reiki ART class, I received a message. I was looking for a place to sit outside to practice drawing the symbol and prepare for my level three attunement and decided to sit in the shade over by some rocks and trees. As I sat there drawing, the wind began to pick up and I felt the instructions, "There is something behind you that you need for your attunement." I have learned at this point to pay attention to such instructions and so I began to stand up to look. As I was turning around, I felt, "It's a feather." So I looked around at the ground and almost directly behind me, under some little plants was a large black feather! I laughed and thanked the guidance and kept the feather with me the rest of the day.

A day or two later, I was walking the trail behind my office building and spotted another feather. Dusty and black but this one was 11.5"x2.25" in size. A big one! I thought, "Wow, they keep getting bigger." "Maybe soon I'll see a white one." Thinking more of traditional Angel imagery. So now we come to today.

Normally I walk with my friend Marie, but she was unavailable so I was going to be walking by myself. Another friend volunteered to go with me but I very strongly received that I was supposed to go alone today so I decided to listen. I gave myself a spray of my Angels of Light aromatherapy and I was on my way. As I was walking, I started getting that I was supposed to go off the path I usually take. I took a sidetrack to where a semi-permanent structure used to be but that felt incorrect. As I continued to walk, I was asking for guidance and signs and little pushes to get me where I need to be to reach my life goals. I told them all, the Angels, guides, everyone, that I believed they were looking out for me and that a way would be made.

As I continued to walk, I heard a screech from a hawk, I looked up and there was a hawk, screeching and soaring as if trying to get my attention. I looked and where the hawk was circling, the fence to a cow field was open where it's usually closed and locked. I asked the hawk if I was supposed to go down into the field. I felt a "yes" so I walked down in this field in 90 degree weather wearing a long hot-pink gauzy skirt to the place this hawk was circling. By now it had disappeared. I looked around for why I was called there and on the other side of an electric fence was a beautiful white fluffy feather.

That was it! But the problem was it was just out of reach. I walked a little further in search of a way to reach the other side of the fence. But the electric wire ran all the way down and the grass was uncomfortably high at that point as well. So I asked the wind to blow it over to me if I was supposed to have it (being too specific about how I wanted the Universe to handle the problem). But no wind came. So I thanked the hawk for the feather and the sign and thought maybe it was a sign that things were coming to me but just out of reach for the time being. Maybe I was supposed to go back later with more tools to get it or maybe it would be blown on the other side by then. That conclusion felt off but I gave up and left the field and started walking on the path toward the woods. I noticed another fence I could have climbed over but that felt wrong and unnecessary too so I kept going.

Half-way toward the woods, I saw another tiny feather and I felt, "What you want is available to you now." "That feather was a gift and is available to you now." "Go back and get it." I protested saying that it was too hot to walk all that way back and that there wasn't a way for me to get it right now anyway. But the "voice" quoted my favorite wealth affirmation from Nan Akasha saying, "I follow my bliss and the Universe opens doors where there used to be walls." "I know out of nothing and no way a way will be made."

I groaned, hot and disgusted by the thought of having to go back but I listened. I picked up a stick thinking maybe that was the way to reach it. I also noticed that the other fences seemed to have plenty of space under the final electric wire. Maybe I could stick my hand under and get the feather. So I walked down to where it was and I quickly realized that the stick wasn't going to help and there was an extra bottom wire on this fence. UGH! I stood there trying to think. All the things I had rationalized that I needed to receive the gift were not going to work. Just then, I looked at the piece of fencing that was just to the right of where the feather was. And there was, a perfect Stacy-sized hole, big enough for me to climb through. So I squeezed through and upon reaching the other side, I picked up the feather and began to laugh. I reluctantly squeezed back through to the other side. Oddly, it seemed tighter, as if I were going back to a world I would have rather left behind.

As I was walking back to the main path carrying my gift, I began to laugh like crazy. All the ways I could "think" of were not the right ways. And then right in front of me, a way that I hadn't previously seen before, was made known to me. A solution that was right in front of the goal, in a way that was the perfect fit for me. I said to whoever was listening, "You guys are funny."

I walked the rest of the trail feeling energized in a way that seemed divinely guided. The colors of the forest seemed brighter and I thanked the hawk, the forest spirits, and the Angels for the gift and the lesson. And I lovingly spread Reiki energy giving back to all of them and beyond.

Think about similar signs you may be receiving in your life. If you feel divinely guided in some way, even if it feels completely silly. Follow it, see what happens, and share your story with me. At worst you may come back to the office drenched in sweat and dusty from crawling around under fences in a cow field, but no one seemed to notice. Not sure what that says about me but I suppose I can live with it ;-)

Monday, August 2, 2010

The New Face of Pandora's Compass

What's the best you can hope for in creating an image to represent your newly forming holistic identity? How about having one of your best friends, who is also a phenomenal artist create an image that perfectly represents what you've envisioned? Well that's exactly what happened to this lucky girl.

Joan Koester who is my beloved friend of 14 years is an amazingly gifted artist. Her work features a range of mediums including paint and graphite and the subject matter varies from expressive human form and faces to animals and natural settings. Her art is ever changing. Always flowing with what is moving her at the time. My favorites are those of female faces with quiet, contemplative smiles. The women, in particular, always seem to have a beautiful strength. The other side of her work also has a marvelous humor. I have to laugh when I come across the occasional "mad dog" when looking through her portfolio.

There's a little back-story behind the new lovely image that I am honored to have representing Pandora's Compass. It involves manifesting and allowing the Universe to provide. It's also a lesson following your own intuition and being open to receive.

As I was pondering a visual to represent Pandora's Compass, I spent a lot of time online looking at images of Pandora, stories and even tried my hand at drawing something myself since I am a graphic designer. But comically and perhaps sadly, I am not really a fan of my own drawing style.

So about two weeks prior, I said to my friend Marie, "You know what would be perfect? I would LOVE to have Joan draw something for me. Her style is exactly what I'm looking for." Marie encouraged me to ask but I did not feel that I should. I remembered several years ago, Joan mentioned that, in general, she didn't care for trying to create work that she wasn't feeling drawn to create. She is more of a spontaneous artist. So I of course wanting to honor the way an artist works, said to Marie, "Maybe the perfect image already exists in her portfolio." I checked on her Facebook fan page and she had a couple beautiful choices that I was instantly enamored with. And this was just small representation of her portfolio.

Joan and I later had lunch with some friends and she graciously said that I could use one of her images and we made plans for me to look through her portfolio soon. I shared with her what I was looking for which was a loving, woman with some sort of earth gift or spirit.

New Year's day in the evening, we got together to watch The Secret again. She brought her work and I looked through it unable to choose because I loved so many. Then we got to the image you now see in my blog. She explained she'd been thinking about Pandora and had drawn three versions. They were all beautiful. I ended up purchasing three different images. I couldn't help myself.

So in the end, the perfect thing that I had hoped for in the very beginning manifested. A beautiful drawing of Pandora from my beloved friend. And from her side, she had been hoping for some extra money to come her way. She wanted to purchase some equipment for her computer. So she had also manifested what she needed as well.

It was a great beginning to the new year. Both of us feeling revitalized with a new sense of resolve all over again from watching The Secret. Art, abundance, successful manifesting and a nice cup of hot peach tea with my dear friend. Now what could be better than that?

If you would like to see more samples of Joan Koester's amazing artwork, please check out her Facebook Fan Page.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sometimes all you Need is a Little Bit of Flute Energy

Cape May is filled with plenty of historical richness and that includes spirit energy. Although I was unaware at the time, I was being directed in advance by intuition, to prepare for a particular experience during our trip to Cape May. The higher self, Angels, Guides, the Universe? Not sure as I am relatively new to this. But the result of the guidance has definitely encouraged me to pay closer attention to the messages that I receive.

Before the trip, in preparation in our own way, friend Sylvia said, "ask who/what wants to come." Usually speaking of rocks, crystals or some other personal object. So honoring my Reiki Master of course, one night early in the week, I asked, "Who wants to come to Cape May?" What I received was, "Bring the flute."

To give you a little background, I had purchased a Native American flute at a Pow Wow that is held locally every year. Having learned a few years ago that I had a Native American great-grandmother and recently developing a strong draw to traditional instruments of various cultures, I decided that this particular flute needed to come home with me. Sometimes they choose you. I would play my flute often and loved every minute of it. I have no training in playing but the simple wooden flute was perfect for just relaxing and allowing the notes to just flow as guided.

This flute was not inexpensive, and I said to the guidance, "I am not bringing that flute. It was expensive, I'm not going to have any reason to play it, and I don't want to deal with traveling with it and worrying about it." That was that. The guidance simply replied, "Bring the flute."

All through the week I would receive messages, mostly before bed, to bring the flute. I would mentally reply that I, in fact, had no intention of bringing the flute so stop asking. The messages were not actual voices. More like just nagging thoughts that would pop into my mind. As if you had to remember a birthday and a "'voice" would keep reminding you to get that person a card. Anyone who knows me, knows I almost never send a birthday card on time to so this tactic rarely works. Again, I brushed the message aside.

The day of the trip finally arrived and I was fully packed with all my necessities and ready to hit the road. The voice in my head said, "Don't forget to pack the flute."

ARRRGGHHHHHH! Fine! Fine!!!! I will pack the flute.

I had recently heard that sometimes when the Universe speaks to you, the message can be so absurd that if you listen, follow the instruction, and something actually comes of it, you will know, without a shadow of a doubt, it was divine guidance. And so I brought the flute, just…well…just in case.

We arrived in Cape May and I learned that it was full of spirit activity, which I will tell you, is not my thing. Cape May in general is absolutely lovely and our room was no exception. I unpacked and told Sylvia that I was guided to bring the flute, I had no idea why, but it's here and I'm going to play a couple notes just so I can say that at least I did play it. She is a big supporter of following guidance so she was totally fine with me producing about three notes.

The next evening, we were sitting in our room and Sylvia mentioned she was feeling uneasy about the space above her bed. There was a low hanging, box-like portion of the ceiling with cross grid lines with metal bars like a false ceiling would have. She mentioned that the Feng Shui seemed really off and she felt like the lines were chopping up the energy over her head and it was the perfect place for entities to inhabit. That instantly gave me the creeps but also at that moment, I turned toward my flute. "I still don't know why I brought this." Sylvia perked up and said, "Play the flute at it." Meaning the box in the ceiling. "Maybe it needs some flute energy." I thought, "What could it hurt?" So I picked it up and began to play. I played until it just felt finished. She looked at me and said, "Where did you learn that?" I said, "I just made it up, I really don't even know how to play." She told me it was lovely and that I needed to bring it to my next Reiki attunement and of course I agreed. "I feel better," she said. "It feels better. I think that did it. Thank you."

The next morning Sylvia said she slept fine under the ceiling-box and we packed up and left for a local store that we'd been excited to check out, "The Guardian." Sylvia's a huge fan but I had never been. We walked in and there was cupboard full of hanging pendulums which are something I have a real resonance with. I was standing in front of the case and they were swinging. She walked over to me and said, "You know, you are doing that. They didn't do that for me." So very cool.

As I stood in front of the case, making my choice who was coming with me, Sylvia came over to me with a bag containing two flutes. She simply said, "Read this." I looked at the bag and the writing approximately said, "To correct the imbalance of Feng Shui energy of bisecting ceiling lines, use flute."

I almost passed out I was so blown away. How specific?! How, impossibly, specific?! Sure we felt what we think of as bad Feng Shui but neither of us knew enough about it to know that about the flute. We could not believe it! I have since read that, flutes are supposed to help if a person feels unsafe or insecure. I was told, a week in advance, to bring something that I would need to help my friend feel safe and to clear the energy of the space where she slept. What an amazing gift. Wow.

So as you may expect, now I really pay attention. If I get a nudge, I act. I does take some practice and some faith. It is difficult to start listening to intuition after a lifetime of ignoring it. But I encourage everyone to try it for themselves. Something little and not very scary at first if it suits you. Just see what happens. And if something incredible does happen, tell me the story. Don't worry about sounding crazy. I promise I will believe you.

If you have an interest in purchasing a flute from the same artist, here is the info:
Collectors Kingdom Native American Culture Center
1632 Main Street, Cardiff, MD 21160
Or you can visit the Pow Wow here in State College, PA in the spring.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Shark Reiki followed by Dinner and Drinks: Girl's Trip to Cape May

Last weekend was our girl's trip to Cape May. Friends Sylvia, Genny, Genny's sister Karen, and I were planning a relaxing weekend away. Little did I know that by the end of the first day, I would be gifted with an amazing experience. Sylvia and I, along with the help of Reiki, would be assisting in saving a stranded baby shark.

Sylvia is a beach-girl through and through and her excitement to be near the water was contagious. After our late arrival in Cape May and hotel check-in, we hastily made our way to the beach to soak in the powerful energy of the sea. I was wading in the water with my head down, scanning the shoreline for beach rocks. As I walked toward Genny with my treasures, I heard her say something about, "Sylvia" and "shark." I looked up and there was Sylvia along the water's edge trying to help a one-and-a-half to two foot baby shark who was stranded on the beach. It seemed as though the current was preventing him from being able to get back into the deeper water. I rushed over to Sylvia. When she looked up and saw me, she hurriedly gestured toward the shark, who was currently making another attempt to return to the sea, and simply said, "Reiki." She walked along the water sending an energetic barrier to try and keep the little shark from getting caught in the turbulence while I beamed Reiki in it's direction. But the shark came tumbling back to shore. Still in our travel clothes, we repeatedly tried to push the shark under the water to keep it breathing. We aimed it toward the safety of the ocean, only to have the baby quickly tossed back to us by the waves. We made a couple more attempts with equally frustrating results. Sylvia stood over the shark with tears in her eyes speaking to it sternly but with love, saying that if it was not it's destiny to die on this beach, then it needed to try harder to survive. Caught up the the emotion of it all, I said, "Let's just grab it and haul it out past where the waves break." But Sylvia reminded me that she was not a strong swimmer so this was not an option. She also mentioned there was a fairly quick drop off. With the strength of the waves, it probably wouldn't have been a great idea for either of us to attempt. Admittedly, upon later reflection, I would be slightly alarmed that I was ready to grab a two foot shark and strong-arm it back into the ocean while fully dressed in clothing that would have made swimming in general challenging. Adrenaline is a funny thing.

With frustration, Sylvia lamented that this was the type of thing she always had trouble with. Maybe it wasn't for the highest and best for this shark to live. Maybe it wasn't supposed to make it after all and we had to be ok with that. But in the end, we were two stubborn girls, not about to walk away and let it suffocate on the beach. We both felt it was just out of energy and couldn't make it past the breaking waves. We would keep trying. If it's destiny was to die on the beach, it wasn't going to be here or now.

It tumbled back to us one more time. Sylvia leaned over, placed her hands on either side of it's head and pushed it under the water so the tide could move over it's gills. And she began to give it Reiki. I placed my hands on it's lower back, giving it Reiki while pulling the negative energy off it's tail and flicking it toward the sand. We poured energy into this seemingly exhausted little shark and finally, together, let it go. This time, it seemed to effortlessly swim out toward the sea. He did not tumble back to us. We did not see him again.

I don't remember if we hugged, high-fived or cheered but I remember the feeling of the moment. I felt fantastically alive and grateful to have helped save a life. We walked up the beach toward the hotel exhilarated and ready for dinner. We ended up at the Mad Batter choosing to sit outside with ocean soaked pants up to our thighs. I ordered some crab bisque and a chocolate martini happily ready to indulge in some vacation treats.

Not quite the first day of vacation I expected but, as usual, the day's gifts turned out to be far greater than the expected. Isn't that always the way it goes?

Blessings to you little shark, wherever you are!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pondering the Present

Finally getting back to writing. I didn't plan for such an extended hiatus. My life has been a little hectic. Between personal challenges and working on my first workshop (only me this time) I have been immersed. I considered my first solo-taught workshop a success. I had four wonderful participants. Each generously sharing personal experiences making the class everything I could have asked for. When I think of where I am now and where I was two and a half years ago, cannot believe the difference in my life.

A couple weekends ago, I took an Advanced Aromatherapy class taught by my dear friend Liz. At lunch I spoke with a woman who told me how much more rich her life had become in her fifties. For the first time in my life, I really believed her. Normally, I'd have lamented over not being in my twenties, and honestly sometimes when I look in the mirror, that feeling does rear it's ugly head. But there is something so much more valuable about being at the point in your life where things start to really make sense. Where you suddenly realize your own power. Where you suddenly realize there is so much more to discover, even in the recesses of your own mind, than most will ever think of grasping at twenty-five. Not impossible, but I do say most. The only things I really have to miss are physical aspects of myself. And admittedly that gets harder every year. I have another friend in her fifties who shared with me that I will reach a point where I will no longer feel the need to "compete" with all the young girls. In a way, I look forward to feeling that freedom. I feel as though I'm in a weird place at 37. I feel like I should be somewhere else. I had always envisioned myself in a perfect career, married to my best friend. Maybe a family. Maybe not.

The other day, a friend said to me, "Did you ever think this is where you'd be at this point in your life?" I told her, "No. But in spite of everything that has happened, my life is so much better than it would have been had everything would have worked out the way I planned."
And do you know what? I meant it. Do I still want those things I mentioned earlier? Yes. And I have every faith that my life will evolve in a way that will ultimately bring me the most joy.

And it truly is an evolution. What I want in life shifts and changes. Sometimes daily. Listening to my intuition is the most important gift I can give myself. Rarely do we go through life wanting the same things year after year. Rarely do our passions persist for one career, one anything for that matter, the entirety of our lives. The basics remain. A comfortable place to live, someone to love and understand us, a sense of purpose in the word. But the details somehow shift. The "how" begins to take other forms. Letting go of the how, the when, the who. Those are the tough ones.

I am co-teaching the crystals workshop again with my friend in August. I am so excited about this turn my life has taken. When I start to panic or think that maybe my life won't turn out as planned, I think to myself, "When has it ever not turned out to be better than I'd hoped for?" Sure, life puts obstacles in your way to prepare you to be the person you need to be to be given the life you seek. I suspect it's a small price to pay for my greatest happiness.

I am excited for the future. Thirties, forties, fifties and beyond. And I'm excited for the present of course. Because ultimately, isn't that all we really have?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My First Workshop and the Many Gifts of the Experience

Two weekends ago, my friend and Reiki Master Sylvia and I co-taught a day-long workshop about using crystals in everyday living. This was quite an exciting day for me because it was my very first paid job in the holistic field! HOORAY! We had a wonderful, small class for a first time offering and the participants were warm, supportive and very receptive. And as is often the case, there were more subtle lessons to take away from the experience as well.

As you can imagine, I was so beside myself the night before, I slept like a five-year-old waiting for Santa. So luckily, I had plenty of adrenaline to keep me going when I got up the next morning. Sylvia and I arrived early to set up the space. We of course had many examples of stones and crystals for the class to touch and pass around and made sure everything looked as inviting as possible with the help of some colorful cloth, white holiday lights, and mirrors for the crystals to sit on. We had two tables full of examples from our collection as well as a couple others for our various workshop needs.

The day seemed to fly by and I had a marvelous time. We received some great feedback and were very thankful to those who were willing to share their opinions about their experience. And I send out a big THANK YOU!!! to everyone who attended, to others who made the day possible and to my sweetie for the roses he brought to tell me how proud he was.

So. The lessons?
After completing my Holistic Health Practitioner certification, my dream was to teach a workshop. But as many of you may relate to, I felt like I had to read one more book or complete one more workshop myself, etc. Always, "I need to complete one more thing" to be ready. Well the one day I decided I would just email Mt. Nittany Institute and ask what I would need to do to be able to teach a workshop. I thought, the worst they can say is no. But the response was, "Sure, send us some information about what you would like to do." "We are scheduling our spring workshops right now." I was stunned, excited, and of course the, "OH JEEZE, now what have I done?" came up. I was expecting a little ease-into-the-idea time. I laughed to myself and thought, be careful what you spend your time manifesting, it could come to you more quickly than you're ready for. Sometimes, when it's the right opportunity, all you need to do is get over your self doubt and just ask. Sometimes it really is just that simple. Now this workshop has yet to come in May, but with wind in my sails and workshops on the brain, I was also talking to Sylvia about them...

And the manifesting continues...
After spending some time with Sylvia over the past year, I thought how wonderful it would be to teach a crystals class with her. But my old friend, self doubt, came sneaking back in. Who was I to ask such a thing of a very experienced Reiki Master and crystal healer? So I decided to take a step back. I said to her one night after a Reiki session, "You should see if you could teach a crystal class at Mt. Nittany and I would love to be your assistant and hand out papers." At that moment, she exclaimed, "We should teach one together!" Of course I said, "YES!" Even though my self doubt was screaming at me to think about it for a few days, I refused to listen. The old me would have caved and decided I wasn't good enough. I really had to force myself to hold fast to the decision, knowing that believing in myself would result in the dreams that I had been envisioning. Amazing. Again, the thing that I had really hoped for the most became a reality in my life.

And there was one last thing I was reminded of during the process of this experience. Yes, sometimes things that seem like obstacles at first can be your greatest allies if you just ask for the highest and best from the situation. Go with your intuition and allow life to unfold as it should. Sylvia and I had originally hoped for 10 paid participants for the workshop considering the time and expense we were putting into it. We had seven. There was talk of canceling and trying again later but we decided that we wanted to go through with it because we felt it was the right thing to do. Later, we learn that a yoga teacher training class was being held that same day. A few students of which said they were sorry that there was a conflict. They wanted to attend ours too. So admittedly, we were a little down about our "obstacles" but very excited and grateful for the participants we did have and we were going to have the best darn workshop we could have.

What happened the day of the workshop was incredible. We had breaks throughout the day that seemed to fall at the same time as the yoga class's and students would stick their heads in the door and remark about how good the energy felt and that they were sorry they had to miss it. Sylvia later told me that at least 7 people wanted to know when we were offering it again and another woman from our class said she knew others that would be interested. Yet another woman offered to let us have it at her yoga studio and we are currently working out a date and other arrangements. So in the end, we had even more inquiries than we would have just from people being able to see and experience the energy of the space PLUS we were able to get valuable feedback from current students to use toward another offering. The obstacles were our greatest asset toward the highest and best outcome. Just as we had asked for.

It really was an amazing experience. And the added bonus is that I now have even more stories to support that manifesting, faith, and gratitude will bring you the results that you seek if you move out of the way and let them.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Joy Without Borders. The Mexico Diaries: Part 2

I am a people watcher. I love just observing the way people interact with each other. But there is something extra delightful about observing that interaction when you cannot speak the language. And this is something that I was able to experience in Mexico. I had to rely less on the obvious which of course are actual words and more on expressions, body language and voice tone.

One particular day, I was able to just swim in the ocean alone without being involved in a conversation of my own. My sweetie was off kayaking and I was left to just be present with my surroundings. There was a happy group of Spanish speaking young adults cheerfully preparing to take a group photo. They all had their arms swung around the shoulders of the friend beside them, the girl taking the photo giving instruction and motioning for them to squeeze together.

To my left a little girl in an inner tube squealed as her father pulled her slowly through the soft waves. He spoke calmly and lovingly to her in French and the little girl laughed in delight.

A young woman in a bikini was beginning to enter the ocean. Her boyfriend coaxing her in Russian to come out into the water. She, on tip toes, shoulders hunched high, trying to keep the ocean water from hitting her belly too soon. Of course as soon as she got close enough, he began to splash her with abandon causing her to screech at him but still laughing. Encouraged by this, he then quickly went to her and gave her a full body hug and drug her shoulder deep into the water, rewarding him with more screeches of protest.

Are any of these profound experiences? No. And that's the part that struck me. There are few people that could have watched these interactions and not felt a sense of understanding. We know how it feels to be in those situations. We don't need to know anything about those people. We don't need to understand the language. But simply, we do know what it's like to pose for a group photo with friends.

We often get very caught up in the politics and religion of the world. We feel the need to protect what we believe is exclusively ours and condemn those that don't think the way we do. The idea of us against them. I do realize there are people that are out to hurt, out for power and control and we do need to be careful. But there are so many more who just want to live life and experience simple, everyday joys.

When you are able to go to a place and watch people from several countries all swimming together, speaking their own languages, having fun, it's really apparent how much we are the same. There were no boundaries. No upset. Just joy. If language didn't exist. These people would not look any different from anyone you'd see in your own town.

It's really refreshing after going through the airport checkpoints, the pat-downs and reading all of the travel horror stories to know that the whole world isn't made up of people looking to take advantage of you, steal what you have, or control the way you live your life. Those people exist. Yes, that is true. But there is the other percent. And that's the one I will keep my eyes on. The ones that speak to what I hold dear, friendship, family, and happiness.

There is something very comforting about knowing that, no matter where you are from in the world, you can count on some things easily transcending borders. Friends will always be joyfully posing for group photos, fathers will be entertaining their children, and of course, there will never be a shortage of young men, willing to splash young girls just to hear them scream.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Extreme Baby Steps. The Mexico Diaries: Part 1

Those of you that know me know that I'm terrified...of everything. Those of you that don't know me, trust me, I am. I just returned yesterday from the Mayan Riviera, Mexico, my first trip outside the U.S. that required a passport. That was itself a challenge. My sweetie's youngest sister was having a destination wedding and although apprehensive about breaching a comfort zone, I signed on for the trip. Luckily I already had a passport. A product of my "liberated single girl" to do list two years ago. I set an intention before I left that I would meet only friendly, kind people and that is exactly what I met. Everyone I encountered throughout the entire week was absolutely lovely, helpful, and kind.

My sweetie is an active, adventurous type. I am the exact opposite of that. So when we looked into going on an excursion and his eyes lit up upon seeing a brochure for "Tulum Extreme" I instantly felt an overwhelming sense of dread. This excursion included a tour of Tulum ruins, snorkeling in a cave, zip lining and rappelling. Guillermo, the Apple Tours representative, quickly attempted to alleviate my fears. He told us a warm and funny story about the time he took his sister on this same excursion. He explained that she too was terrified of heights, of bugs, of the jungle. She sounded like my kind of girl. I offered to go have a beer with her instead but no such luck. According to Guillermo, upon arrival and after some initial upset at her brother, she made it through and managed to enjoy herself. Upon hearing this convincing story, not wanting to be a party pooper, and maybe most importantly, hoping this compromise would earn me plenty of unopposed beach sitting time, I reluctantly agreed.

The next morning, seven of us load into a van and head for "adventure." Included on this trip were new friends that we met from the wedding, Mike and Judy and my sweetie's, soon to be new nephew, nine year old Noah. I spent the whole 45-minute trip to the jungle visualizing white protective light around me, trying to meditate myself into an acceptable state. Our amazingly gifted guide of Mayan descent, Limbert, or lovingly referred to by friends as "Cricket," kept everything very upbeat with his knowledge and fantastic sense of humor.

We arrived, put on harnesses, and went over to the rappelling tower for instruction. Cricket gave us a quick demonstration of how to rappel on a wall that was approximately ten feet off the ground. In a nutshell, you have to lower yourself, rear-end first over the side backwards until you get into a "V" shape with your feet still on the edge. You then take one step down at a time, resulting in both feet on each step, for a total of three steps down. Then you take your feet off and rappel down. I'm thinking, ok, I'll give that a try. It was then that Cricket said, "Ok everyone. Let's go!" and began climbing the stairs toward the top of a 50-60 foot tower overlooking the jungle. I thought I was going to vomit.

Did I mention that I'm TERRIFIED of heights? It took all my effort to merely climb the stairs to the top of the tower but eventually I managed to make it. It was an open view on all sides with a wooden railing almost all the way around. There were periodic gusts of strong wind and I stood firmly in the middle of the platform. Noah mentioned that I didn't look so good. It was at this point I started to hyperventilate and burst into tears. My sweetie hugged me and told me I didn't have to do it and soon left to take his turn. I stood there in a full-on panic as I watched four of my six tour companions, one by one, disappear cautiously over the edge. Then it was my turn. Cricket smiled broadly and held out his hand. I took a step forward, tears streaming down my face, and accepted it.

Without any fanfare, he casually clipped my harness to the rappelling equipment. He spoke to me in the soothing voice of the most patient parent, telling me that it was all going to be fine. I was gripping the ropes with all my strength as he placed my hands on them where they needed to be, s-l-o-w-l-y turning me around backwards toward the edge, calmly speaking encouragingly the whole time. I shut my eyes, exhaled, and decided to stop fighting and fully trust Cricket. With my eyes shut, I could not see how high I was. I was simply somewhere in space. Listening to Cricket's voice I simply allowed myself to be guided. Cricket said, "Ok Stacy, step backward one inch." One inch. I thought for a moment. OK, I can do that. I took a step backward. Left foot back. One inch. "Ok, two more inches." I gingerly slide the right foot back. Two inches. "Ok, slide your hands down the rope two inches." Two inches...done. "Ok, hands down the rope, two more inches." Two more. I felt myself begin to incline, locked knees, knowing at this moment, I had leaned out backwards over the edge. Keeping my eyes shut, I did as Cricket instructed, one to two inches at a time. "One foot down on the first step...second foot down on the first step...One foot down on the next step...second foot down on the next step. Give yourself a little rope..." Before I knew it, I was rear first in a "V" hanging off the edge of the tower. Finally, Cricket told me to let go with my legs. I did with great caution and finally I was hanging in the air! I then lowered myself slowly to the ground. Death grip on the ropes. But I made it! I was extremely grateful to Cricket for his patience and kindness. I had reached the ground and I was beaming. I was so proud.

Throughout the day, I conquered many fears, including heading into a dark cave, calf deep in water while ducking under stalactites, but nothing compared to what I had already overcome. My sweetie, remarked that he was terrified during the first part of the rappelling and couldn't believe I did it. He joked that I would have never done it for him saying it was only because Cricket was so charming.

And he was right. But not solely because Cricket was charming. Cricket understood the vital importance of the often disparaged baby step. In the most literal of translations. One measurable inch at a time, Cricket managed to get a terrified, 37 year old, crying, hyperventilating woman to step backwards over the edge of a sixty-foot drop. Caring enough to guide a complete stranger from another country to find the strength within.

I learned many things that day. The most important. Baby steps count. Of course I knew that in theory. But after experiencing it in a very literal, tangible way, I could FEEL it. Although very small, they can be very scary too. I now have a very physically translatable sensation of what it means to take a baby step. I can recall its true power the next time I am quick to judge myself while moving toward a goal.

Another was reinforcement of a belief. Be open to show love and compassion for a stranger. You may be the conduit that liberates them from a deep fear. A feat all others may have failed to achieve. This is the third time in my life this has proven itself.

The third. Sometimes the only thing to do is close your eyes, exhale, and let go. Follow the guidance that feels right and stop fighting. The more I fought the guidance that I knew in my heart I could trust, the harder and scarier the journey became. Once I rested in the peace that the guidance was safe, benevolent, and only had my best interest, the journey was easy. The path became smooth and eventually both feet landed safely and firmly on the earth. The destination celebrated with six others who had just practiced the same faith and gained a new sense of trust in the Universe. The result...pure joy.

Did I go again? No way.
But I am ok with that. I tried it and that feels amazing. Not to mention it earned me a well-deserved day of undivided beach sitting. In addition, a brave adventurer such as myself, may have been treated to one or two piña coladas. Hey, never underestimate tasty rewards. They have their own power too. ¡Salud!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Farewell to Mt. Nittany Institute

Last Saturday I received a letter from my school, Mt. Nittany Institute of Natural Health, stating that after this spring, it would cease to exist. I was completely stunned and confused. We had just rallied to save the school less than a year ago. It was one of 2,500 other small trade schools across the nation set to loose student funding and be forced to close. There was a huge outpouring of support and love. 110 support letters were written. 521 signatures signed to petition it's safety. It was a huge victory. In the end it was 1 of four to be reinstated nationwide and survive. A true miracle. And I say, "thank you" to Sallie Mae CEO Jim Eickhoff for that. But in the letter, my teacher, Anne (who I will always dearly love and respect), and owner of the school had chosen to follow her own smaller business pursuits and the school was to be closed and in addition, the building demolished.

I felt an instant panic set in. I LOVE this school. And however cliché, feel it is like air to me. And now additionally, there was the pressure that the first workshop that I would facilitate on my own would be one of the final classes taught in it's 15 history. It is an true honor but very scary as well. Now at this point, I want to add that, as a student, if I have learned anything, it is never to judge another's decision about what's best for their life's path. I stand firmly in that belief. This post is simply me putting to words my emotional journey.

The back story:
In 2007, I was led to the Holistic Health program at a time in my life when I was searching for new meaning. I went to the open house for another curriculum knowing that Holistic Health Practitioner Training was geared more toward people with a teaching, counseling, or nursing background. I was encouraged by a friend to attend that info session anyway. After the presentation, I literally started to cry it was so perfect. I had no idea that anything like that even existed. I asked if there was a chance that I could take the program even though my background was graphic design. Anne, my soon-to-be teacher, looked at me and smiled and said, "I think we can work something out."

Thus began the toughest year of my life. And the most cleansing. Four months into the program, I realized a divorce was necessary. My ex-husband is truly a caring and wonderful man but we needed to grow in our own separate ways. I came to realize sometimes it's better to leave while you still do have compassion for each other. And today we are still very good friends.

Six months into the program, I saw my class, composed of twelve of the most beautiful women I've ever met, emerge into pure strength and joy. Each overcoming personal obstacles they'd chosen to work through for the year. We were required to walk the talk. Every class weekend, we dove into the depths of the deepest, scariest, most unloved parts of ourselves and cried and supported each other through our catharses.

As the stages of my divorce moved forward, I changed back to my former last name, and I began what I believed was my first new relationship in twelve years. It turned out it was not meant to be. It was at that point everything hit me with an unimaginable force. This was my creation. And I needed to take ownership of it. Every last horrible bit. I got up every morning with such despair that I could hardly believe that I didn't simply cease to exist. I was alone for the first time in my life. Most of the labels that I'd identified myself with for 12 years were gone. I'd lost my name. I felt completely directionless and grieved to my friend that I realized that I didn't know how to not belong to someone. He replied, "you belong to all of us." Anne said to me, "you belong to you."

Through it all, my girls were supporting me and I was able to work thorough the pain in class exercises and through personal counseling sessions with Anne. I KNEW in my heart that I'd made the right decision. I just needed to embrace the lessons that go along with fearless living.

I woke up on January 1st, 2008 feeling as though the sun had come back into my life. I became completely euphoric with the idea of being alone. And once I embraced it, I was unstoppable. Everyday was total joy. It was the first time in my life I felt pure freedom and totally limitless. And it was then, after I allowed the joy to return, that I began dating my new sweetie. And I graduated.

My classmates, my teacher, and her assistant were/are my beloved sisters. We knew more about each other's struggles and longings than anyone else we'd known. And it was a beautiful honor. Many of us continued to take workshops there, feeling like we had come back to a loving home each time.

By now, I'm sure you can imagine why receiving that letter was so difficult and why this school means so much to me. I don't know what I would have become without it. I thought of the "Miracle Man" from "The Secret." While in the hospital with a crushed windpipe, he kept telling himself, "breathe deep." Eventually he was able to breathe on his own. Because he believed he could. I thought about Mt. Nittany Institute, my "air" and came to a realization. For the past two years, I've been growing stronger and more centered. I've been confidently learning to breathe on my own. And I've been helping others to do the same. The school had already done it's share of my work. I had taken that knowledge with gratitude and built a new, amazing life. It was ok to say goodbye. I sat very still, with the letter in my hand knowing that this is just one more beginning in a life that's had many. I shut my eyes and said, "Breathe deep Stacy." "Breathe deep."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Never Talk to Strangers? Surely You Can't Be Serious.

Of course we've all heard this from the time we were young. And for a small, unattended child, that's probably good advice. But as with so many scripts in our adult lives, what we have learned or found to be useful or true as young children do not serve us well into adulthood. Just to get this out of the way, of course do use your intuition and proper caution. If a person or situation doesn't feel safe, do not engage. I am not talking about following healthy caution. I'm referring to an aversion to the unknown. And that includes people you don't know.

I have the opposite problem. I love talking to strangers. Love it. Some days I simply cannot help myself if I'm in an elevator or in line at the grocery store. I've been told it's a Pennsylvania thing but I can't say for sure. Last year, my sweetie and I were in DC and I felt the need to stop a man in the metro and tell him he was dragging his coat tie. My sweetie politely told me I really should not talk to strangers there, it wasn't safe. I know very little about DC but I couldn't wait to get back to PA where I was promptly able to have an informative discussion about the best type of Band-Aid with a woman in the first aid aisle at Target.

Here's the beauty of engaging in a short conversation or showing a small, spur-of-the-moment kindness to someone you don't know. You will probably never see them again. There is no pressure from either of you. There's no need to impress. You are also without the burden of knowing that person's history. Sometimes it's hard to show compassion to someone who has hurt you or hurt someone you dearly love. It can be draining to show patience with someone who has let you down over and over. It can challenging to keep an open heart to someone who you've continued to watch make destructive choices. Strangers are free of these transgressions.

You don't know them. They could be saints or swindlers but at the moment you meet them, those labels don't exist. And that's what makes it easy to love them. They are a perfect place to flex your compassion muscles. You don't have to overcome the barriers of judgment that get placed on those you know. That man that you may have helped recover a dropped bag of groceries scattered in the parking lot? He could have just said some very uncharitable remarks to his wife before he left the house. Experiencing a compassionate gesture from a stranger may change his attitude and he may return home with an apology. Someone else who knew this man may have avoided him and left him to help himself. This would have then become a negative experience, reinforcing in his mind that the world is full of hate. Also note that for some, because of previous poor life choices, compassion from a stranger may be the only place for them to remember what it feels like.

You have no idea how you may effect those you meet. And there is a pressure-free safety that comes with that too. There is no way to evaluate your impact. It could be monumental or slight. No one is going to follow up and critique you. As long as you act with love you cannot make a mistake. And I can tell you that I have made changes to my day because of a chance encounter with a stranger who changed my attitude for the better. And I have begun talking to people who started out standing alone with sour faces and left with smiles.

Also remember, strangers could end up being your new best friend, business contact, or the love of your life. They could even provide you with an answer to a problem you're having. Anything! It's limitless. The Universe is always aligning you with people and events that you need to grow so you need to pay attention.

So just try it. Maybe just a simple, "How's it going?" the next time you're in a long line. And be sure to smile and mean it. And try it when you are in a good mood. Some days, you just aren't in the right frame of mind. No need to stress over it. Lastly, remember you will experience life as you perceive it. If you expect the kindness of strangers, you will surely be met with exactly that.

Happy New Year everyone :-)