What Is Your CALLING?

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“Listen (doo dah doo)

Do you want to hear a secret? (doo dah doo)

Let me whisper in your ear (da di dah dah)”… (McCartney and Lennon)

Your Vocation Is:  _______________

So, what is it for you? What is your greatest CALLING in this lifetime so far?  Are you a Writer, an Artist, a Dancer, a Musician, an Actor, a Scientist, or an Athlete? What activity or “hobby” are you most passionate about? What lights you up and grounds or centers you in your deepest sense of personal identity of Self and/or of Service?

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Also then, WHY? What is it about your Calling, your Vocation, that resonates so deeply with the core of your Being? Is it what calls  you to Adventure or gives purpose and/or passion to your time on Earth?

Are you giving enough time and nourishment to your Calling? Or is it more in the background now for you? What qualities and Strengths has your vocation helped you to develop? How can you MAXIMIZE these Strengths in ALL you do?

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As a personal example just to get YOU thinking or journaling about these questions, I am (though not currently practicing) “a Fencer.” (If you have ever fenced competitively or with any sport, you will understand immediately.)  Fencing taught me so much, trained my Mind/Body synchrony so deeply that every day I am grateful in some small way. If I slip or stumble physically (or otherwise!), I am grateful for having learned from fencing not only “how to fall” without overdue injury but also how to get back up again and keep going forward. I remember once before an intercollegiate tournament, I slipped on some ice and slashed my right (foil grip) hand.  But I went to the event and overcame the pain by concentrating that much more on each bout. I remember it was a very successful competition for me and our team.  

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images are from pixabay.com

So again then, What Is YOUR Calling? How does it define you and bring Strengths and happiness to your life every day? Please use this as a contemplation and journaling tool.

 

I invite YOUR Comments and STORY!

Say Yes!

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Lawrence: Say yes!

Linda: Yes. What did I just agree to?

Lawrence: Fencing! There’s a ten week class starting at

the Community Arts Center this Thursday.

So, at 17, began my adventure of becoming a Fencer and of meeting a dynamic, unusually talented person who would become a close mentor and a friend for life, the fencing teacher who taught and opened my eyes and heart to allowing adventure, spirituality and love of Life into my world. Until that opening conversation with Lawrence, my life was sheltered and small.

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images are from pixabay.com

This was my Call to Adventure. It opened opportunities and exposed me to ideas and adventures that have shaped my life’s journey ever since.

 

Say Yes! to YOUR adventure, whatever it may be.

 

“Yes I said Yes I said YES!”

(Molly Bloom, from James Joyce’s Ulyssses)

Wordplay as Swordplay: The Communicator’s Artful Sport

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As writer-Communicators, we engage in wordsmanship. This week while playing some games of Words-with-Friends and Scrabble, I got to thinking about my former days as a competitive fencer in relation to “wordplay/swordplay” or “wordsmanship/ swordsmanship” and realized the two have much in common.

As a wordsmith (swordsmith!), playing word games certainly mirrors swordplay. You need to scan the field of play (cf. the piste or the game board) to discern where your opportunities appear, then plan your attack and implement effectively (et lá!). If your attack has right of way and lands on target (I was a foil fencer), then touché, you win the point. If not, and your attack lands off target or misses altogether, your opponent may have an opening to take an advantage.

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Writing is like swordsmanship on a grander scale as well, not only in word games. Writing, like fencing, takes practice-practice-practice! You need to hone your skill at whatever genre you are composing within, editing-editing-editing.

Both writing and fencing reward creative contemplation and envisioning, too. As fencing is in large part a mental or Mindful sport, I would spend a lot of time between lessons or between practices and tournaments mentally envisioning fencing strategies and possible responses. In practice we often even shadow-fenced against a phantom opponent. Likewise with writing, you may craft whole sentences or dialogue apart from pen and page. You might envision the structure of a chapter or play a whole story out in your imagination, crafting alternate storylines or voices, then delight in placing the envisioned episodes into your narrative form.

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images are from pixabay.com

And so, in wordsmithing as in swordsmanship, enjoy! Keep at it. Gain new skills, try new approaches. Writing is such a satisfying, constructive activity at every level and at each stage from envisioning and preparation to execution and revision that it will never fail to support and reward your effort, regardless of extrinsic outcomes.

 

“So She had Outdanced Thought”…Go with the Flow

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I was listening on National Public Radio this past week to a discussion about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk theme of “Flow” (http://www.npr.org/2015/04/17/399806632/what-makes-a-life-worth-living).  The neuropsychologist explains that the brain can process no more than something like 120 bits of information at a time. The more closely we focus on some activity, the less we are aware of many surrounding conditions or facts that might otherwise vie for our attention. When we are working with great concentration on something we dearly love—like a work of art, giving a performance onstage, writing, or competing at a sports event, we enter “the Flow,” effectively transcending space and time altogether while absorbed in this all-consuming activity in the Now.

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The NPR journalist associated this transcendent experience of “flow” with Abraham Maslow’s notion of a “peak experience.”  I know this concept quite well both as a writer and from when I was a competitive Fencer. I recall quite well one fencing tournament in Tucson, Arizona. I was so focused on being centered and fencing from that Center at that particular tournament that when I fenced, I won every bout 4-0 (and the tournament) and yet I hardly even knew what had just occurred when I stepped off from the fencing strip. The actions themselves had become almost “automatic”: advance/ retreat, attack / parry-riposte, etcetera were not consciously engaged but happened spontaneously from that Center. …”What a rush!” one might say, when this happens!

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Poetry is a medium that brings out my own artistic nature or my ARTIST Archetype Ally, that part of Self that I gratefully share consciousness with to better appreciate form, color, balance, and Nature.  One of my favorite poems from my favorite poet, W. B.Yeats, expresses poignantly the transcendent Flow of the Artist; in this case, in his dream of three Figures: “A Buddha, hands at rest / Hand lifted up that blessed; A Sphinx, head erect, in triumph of intellect… ; and “right between these two a girl that danced”.  Here are the relevant verses from part II of “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes” (from http://www.yeatsvision.com/Doublevision.html ) :

II
On the grey rock of Cashel I suddenly saw
A Sphinx with woman breast and lion paw,
A Buddha, hand at rest,
Hand lifted up that blest;And right between these two a girl at play
That, it may be, had danced her life away,
For now being dead it seemed
That she of dancing dreamed.Although I saw it all in the mind’s eye
There can be nothing solider till I die;
I saw it by the moon’s light
Now at its fifteenth night.One lashed her tail; her eyes lit by the moon
Gazed upon all things known, all things unknown,
In triumph of intellect
With motionless head erect.

That other’s moonlit eyeballs never moved,
Being fixed on all things loved, all things unloved,
Yet little peace he had,
For all that love are sad.

O little did they care who danced between,
And little she by whom her dance was seen
So she had outdanced thought.
Body perfection brought,

For what but eye and ear silence the mind
With the minute particulars of mankind?
Mind moved yet seemed to stop
As ’twere a spinning-top.

In contemplation had those three so wrought
Upon a moment, and so stretched it out
That they, time overthrown,
Were dead yet flesh and bone.

III

I knew that I had seen, had seen at last
That girl my unremembering nights hold fast
Or else my dreams that fly
If I should rub an eye,

And yet in flying fling into my meat
A crazy juice that makes the pulses beat
As though I had been undone
By Homer’s Paragon

So what about you? When are you most in the Flow? How can you use this experience to channel your inner Artist and to accomplish your deepest ambitions?

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images from pixabay.com

Surviving the Storms of Winter

 

All: I was going to just put in a quote today (will in a few days, that of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky poem). But today is a snow day in Colorado Springs, and it has called forth a memory for me to share:

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As I sit at home on a snow day from teaching, I am reminded of the many storms I have encountered and survived in this life.  I realize there is a principle here of survival that we develop every time we successfully negotiate “stormy weather,” whether that be of the climatology type of storm or situational storms in our work or relationship life, or even the stormy nature of world affairs.

So as a metaphorical story of confronting the stormy weather of life, allow me to recount one experience, from many years ago. This happened around 1978 during a road trip with my fencing team. We fenced several teams at an intercollegiate tournament in New Jersey at Fairleigh Dickenson University and then our coach, Roxanne, gathered the team and our equipment into our university van to begin the 8-10 hour journey home to Buffalo, New York; but we knew from the beginning we would be facing the onslaught of a major blizzard along the way.

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There were six of us fencers plus Roxanne, our coach; she was the designated driver of our van. We had a hearty breakfast in New Jersey then set out to travel interstate highways for the bulk of our trip. The storm started early in our voyage, such a blizzard that we were in “white out” conditions by the first two hours of our adventure. Around four hours along, we still could not see as far ahead as the vehicle whose tailgates we were trying to follow in order to stay on the highway. Then, we heard a pop and felt the uneven lurch forward of the van; we had a flat tire!

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Coach Roxy pulled over as far as she could off the highway to avoid being hit by snow blinded drivers. We found a red tee-shirt and tied it to our radio antennae on the car and another red piece of scarf we tied to the rear to signal our state of distress. Coach tried to get us to a next service station, first by letting the van limp forward very slowly, but after about 45 minutes of this we realized we were only incurring more damage to the vehicle, so she pulled over further again and we stopped.

While we were stopped along the shoulder, a vehicle pulled up from behind. Two helpful African American men offered to help us. Two of my teammates decided they would ride with these men to the next service area and send back help. They departed.  After about another hour, another vehicle pulled up and a middle-aged man and his wife offered their assistance. Two more of our team members went off with them; it was too much of a blizzard to try to change the tire ourselves so we needed one of these two groups to send back help. Worried about both separated parties, the one other remaining teammate, myself and Coach Roxy waited nervously in the gusting, snowy dark with the van.  We used the van’s heater only sparingly, as we were also low on fuel.

Eventually, the first two teammates returned in the company of a tow truck driver!

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All five of us (still with two teammates missing) packed into the tow truck cabin after the driver chained the van to haul, and still in slow, white out conditions, we lumbered along in the frigid van uncomfortably to the next toll booth station, where the driver let us out and went to work on repairing our flat tire. This was before the days of cell phone convenience; we stood out near the road by the toll booth, hoping we would see our missing members going back to find us where we had been!

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It was very late at night (early AM the next day actually) by this point; our 8-10 hour journey had become a nightmarish 18 hours or more already. Police officers at the toll station sent out an alert to try to locate our two separated members. We waited and fretted for another couple of hours; cold, bedraggled, and worried. FINALLY, the whole ordeal shifted, as if miraculously!

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Suddenly, it was as if the test or challenge of the gods had been passed. Within about 15 minutes, our separated pair was returned to us in a police car from where they had been left off at a town up ahead. Our tire repaired and back on the van, we were back on the highway; it was by now about 5 AM. As if to honor our ordeals, in a beautiful relief, suddenly the snow stopped, the dark cloud cover passed, and overhead was a beautiful, sunstruck morning with a full, glorious rainbow to herald the final hour or two of our trip Home!

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So much could have gone “more wrong” even than it did. What if we had been too trusting of either of the two cars of helpful strangers?  What if in the blizzard we would have been hit from the rear by a driver blinded by the snow?

The success of our survival through this Blizzard came partly from our Coach, partly from our individual resolve to see this through, but mostly through the team effort we relied on. Using the buddy system of two at a time departing and the rest staying together, each sub-team had decisions to make and risks to take that would contribute to the survival of the whole.

What I will always remember most about this experience is that team camaraderie, but also the symbolic layering of THE ORDEAL itself. This was a challenge or a not so subtle Test of the highest order, as it felt. If we could get through this intact, without compromising the safety and well-being of any of our members, we could survive anything! And then, after gradually negotiating every step of the way through the ordeal, solving new problems as they arose, the rainbow that blessed our successful emergence from Darkness was palpable. I remember almost crying or maybe I even did to know that we were going to be okay and Spirit was gracefully blessing our trials with nourishing sunlight.

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images from pixabay.com

This story represents a Descent and Re-emergence; a Dark Night of the Soul ordeal. Though it may seem a light travail in comparison to the harsh journeys of refugees today or the fighting of warriors in battles of their own and their nations—or the bitter travails of the injured and the aggrieved who have lost family and loved ones in battles or to incomprehensible, inhuman terrorist attacks!—the story of travail and survival is universal, Archetypal, even potentially Alchemical, regardless even of the ultimate results.

It is in being challenged that we reach deeply, together and alone, into the deep recesses of Universal Spirit, to manage solutions, to band together and resolve the difficulties that confront us. This is the beauty of life, for any species even. We strive to overcome and to transcend our survival challenges; we attain to greater spiritual strength and harmony along the Way!

I welcome YOUR comments and Stories!

Vinci cum Amor, or, Act on your Dreams!

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This week I have had two dreams, the second of which this morning was clearly a blog gift dream for this month’s theme of partnering with your Lover archetype Ally to Live Your Dream, Now!

A little backstory first: I have been waiting for nearly three months on a stipend check from an international university, for service I have given on a Masters committee for one of their students. Lately there has been  some angst on my part because their financial office is telling me I need a “swift code” for my bank in order for them to complete the transaction, and my bank does not use swift codes.

So the first dream, which I had a few days ago after having sent a rather stressed out email to the international university’s  staff who had informed me about the glitch mentioned above, presented me as being too demanding and overbearing, standing at a banker’s window. I was making the clerk there very nervous. He sirred me (I get that sometimes because I have a low voice and might interact in a “masculine” manner just from being a professor): “Excuse, Sir!” (My retort: “I am a woman!”) then the clerk turns the whole matter over to a superior, who does not seem at all inclined to be helpful.

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I woke from this dream aware that I had better ease up on this guy by email. So I sent another email, this one thanking him and simply expressing my concern over the situation.

Second dream then, this morning:

Someone who is a student I am working with in the dream is taking fencing lessons from me. (I was a competitive foil fencer in college and for many years after.) An older person says to the student:

“Follow your Teacher’s (my) famous words, “Vinci cum Amor!”

I woke with that fine phrase turning over and over in my mind:

“Victory with Love!” (or, ‘Conquer with Love’)… Vinci Cum Amor. 

When I looked up the Latin word for ‘love’ today to try to be accurate in sharing (Amor? Amore?), online I found this site (click here), about Virgil’s very similar famous line:

“Amor Vincit Omnia,” “love conquers all things.”

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And so it does. Victory with love; approach your goal with love. Sometimes we must compete or act assertively, but we can—I can—do so with impersonal, detached Love instead of aggression.

In fencing I found that loving the sport, bouting for the sheer joy of heartful competition–to hone and gracefully engage my abilities–was always more successful than ‘fighting’… because it issued from and expressed a mindful Balance!  Sword-play trumped a ‘battle of wills’—or, blades—any day.

Besides, it was so much more fun!

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How can you apply the credo of VINCI CUM AMOR in your own life?

I believe in paying attention to and learning from my dreams; this allows me to work in tandem with Spirit and my Inner Guidance according to my own higher consciousness…with support from my Archetype Allies!  Today while reflecting on this dream theme, I read a signpost along the roadside that said: “WE FLY WITH YOU!” THANKS, inner Guides and Archetype Allies!!! I fly with and for you, too!

I welcome your own stories and insights!

Follow Your Mystic Guide

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This year at Life Paths for Better Endings we are conjoining twelve universal archetypal figures with twelve positive, goal-affirming Life Metaphors. This month we are focusing on The MYSTIC archetype in connection with the metaphor, Life is an Epic Journey. For our third week of the month, we bring these two ideas together, and it is natural to recognize that since life is an Epic Journey, the Mystic serves as a Guide.

I am very familiar with this fortuitous awareness of being able to follow a mystic Guide, as on my own spiritual path I recognize an Inner Master who appears often in my dreams and contemplations to offer his amazing, loving guidance, insight and protection. For me, acceptance of this inner guidance has been a major blessing in my life. I am deeply grateful to have discovered that life is so much more than outer appearances and that there are other-dimensional guides available always, for everyone, at any time.  While I work in a very worldly job outwardly as a professor, I feel extremely fortunate that this sphere has not confined my awareness or limited my perceptions of spiritual realities, and I will not deny nor apologize for my acknowledgement of the wonderful experiences this spiritual awareness has afforded me, time and time again.

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The Mystic Guide—however else it may appear to you—is available as an archetypal persona that is a part of your Self and that you can call upon for clarity and direction whenever you are wondering what your next step could be.  Allow me to share an example.

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When I was an undergrad in college many years ago in Buffalo, New York, I was on a quite successful intercollegiate fencing team. The last college tournament I participated in was a nationals qualifying event during my senior year of college. Our team had placed 9th of over 125 universities (by two touches we would have been 7th) the previous year, but two of that team had graduated, and two less experienced, junior varsity teammates had joined me and my friend Ro (we had been the strongest fencers at that previous nationals, placing highly ourselves as well). Our coach, Denny, became overly aggressive in trying to force our younger teammates to step up beyond their level of skill, and he was also becoming overly forceful and aggressive with these teammates at meets. So at this last event, I did well as did my friend Ro; the rest competed as well as they could yet came up short of our coach’s demands. I found myself at that tournament at Ohio State University cheering on every good ‘touch’, whether by a teammate or by an opponent or by myself. I congratulated if an opponent won a bout as much as if a teammate did. Something was turning in me; my sense of competitiveness shifted to an appreciation of the sheer beauty of fencing as an art and of the endeavors and talents of each individual.

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When we left that event, I sat in the back of the team van for the long ride home to Buffalo from Columbus, Ohio. I had recently discovered the practice of mantra singing, and for nearly the entirety of that road trip, I closed my eyes and chanted a single word: IS.  I sang that word as a mantra over and over: Is-is-is-is-is-is-isssss! I was contemplating existence itself, or ISness. And something amazing happened inwardly: I found myself in a round, high, turret like room with library shelves and books all around me, many stories deep, and a dome at the top. I was seated at a round table in the center, and all I had to do to get a book was to think of that and one of the books would come to me. ALL of the books in that round library were about the same subject: Language. I absorbed book after book, studying the titles, drinking in the immensity of the topic; its breadth and depth. All the while listening inwardly to:  IS-IS-IS-IS-IS-IS…

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When we arrived back at our gym at the university in Buffalo, I approached Denny and announced to him that I was quitting the team from that moment forward. I took my own fencing equipment with me, and left. (My friend Ro did the same some weeks later.) But from the deep contemplation experience, I had found my next step in my own journey. That next week I started studying language intensively at the college library, and the next year I entered a graduate program in Linguistics at SUNY Buffalo; this has been the basis of my career foundation ever since.

Book in a library

It was something within me which I can now recognize as my inner Mystic Guide that set me to singing IS that day and showed me my inner passion for language that would become central to my life’s journey.  Something shifted inwardly while at the tournament that day, and this subtle shift in consciousness allowed me to be open to the inner direction of this mystical calling.

You and I only need, ever, to be willing to Listen and Learn!

Hopes & Dreams; and: Touche! What I Learned about Transforming Self-Limiting Beliefs through Fencing (Best of Better Endings, Day 5)

Touche! What I Learned about Transforming Self-Limiting Beliefs through Fencing

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I am 5’3″ and weighed 110 lbs until around 30. I was a rather shy, skinny, short and nerdy sort of kid and I thought of myself accordingly; until, one day at high school in 11th grade, my friend Lawrence opened a conversation that would forever change my life:

“Say, ‘Yes’!”

“Okay! …What are we doing?”

Fencing! There’s a fencing class that starts this week at the Arts Center, and you and I will be there!”

Fencing. Who knew? I would learn more about life and about myself and others that next several years than I could ever have anticipated with that simple agreement with Fate in the form of my friend, Larry. I would come to revise my notions of what is possible in this world, a Life Lesson I would come to apply regularly, not only to my own choices and actions but also by imparting these lessons to those I would ultimately teach, and coach, later in life.

After the 10-week class in fencing I took with an exceptional fencing teacher who became a lifelong friend, I went on to fence on an intercollegiate team at SUNY College at Buffalo that placed in the top ten in the nation in 1975, a nearly unheard of result for our small college team. So, here are some lessons in transforming self-limiting beliefs or postulates that I learned through the art of fencing:

1) Focus. The “peak experience bout”, as I used to think of it philosophically, is one in which both fencers wholly incorporate their opponent’s ‘field’ within their own. That is, they are intuitively in tune with every action and intention of their opponent. This results often in “La Belle,” a very close match in which both fencers are so deeply immersed in the swordplay that they are not even thinking but they are acting and responding unconsciously, in the Moment. Both are winners, here!

2) I learned when to advance, when to retreat; when to initiate, feint, parry-riposte, or revise an attack. I learned how to stand my guard and not be intimidated by bluster or a nasty look. Being in the Moment and trusting your well-trained instincts and intuition leads more often to success than to failure.

3) I can do it!  Put all negative self-talk behind you and “go forth, brightly!” Be mindful, centered, aware, and ACT accordingly. Or as a fencing coach who was a former Olympian would put it, “”Suck it up!” Pull yourself together if you lose one point; focus on the present point only; exhale as you lunge! “Et, la!”

4) Whatever your personal characteristics are, you can use them to your advantage. Being short and lightweight,I was fast. I learned to maintain greater distance than normal from a taller fencer until ready to launch an attack; then I would use moves like a running attack (fleche) or a double-to-triple ballestra (short hops before a lunge) that would close the distance too rapidly for a taller opponent to counter. (An attack is made with the extended arm in foil; the tall opponent would not have room to attack with such a maneuver.)

5) Fencing is life. For my entire life, I am a Fencer. It doesn’t matter that now, at 59, I am out of shape and overweight. Fencing became and remains a way of thinking, a way of being in the world. I find myself applying the logic and wisdom of fencing daily, in all kinds of life situations.

Fencing–like any sport, musical instrument, art or skill that you hone with ardour and diligent practice (think, Karate Kid, for a more popular example)–can instill a healthy, positive self-concept and a balanced or “centered” point of view, a positive attitude of response-ability to life events. Of course, I often have to remember these lessons, hopefully more inthe mindful Moment; if not, then in retrospect, remise!

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How Quitting Smoking Helped Me Gain Detachment and Spiritual Freedom

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I started smoking in 8th grade, when I was only 15. My father smoked so I emulated him, sneaking cigarettes at first from his packs and then later, from 18 on, buying cartons at a time. By college I was a pack-a-day smoker, with favorite brands I identified with: Old Gold, Kent, Camel non-filter. I had friends who were also smokers since high school and I felt more “cool”—less of a nerd—by smoking. It began to represent me as a habit I thought was part of my persona. I smoked when I drank coffee, studied, wrote poetry, journalled. These all became intertwined as a pattern that I believed identified me as an individual.

But I was also athletic in college; I was on a successful fencing team. These two practices of smoking and fencing clashed. I learned this the hard way when once, at a fencing tournament in Rhode Island that I had worked hard with two of my teammates to qualify for, I literally collapsed on the strip after just a few seconds, unable to get my breath. I lost this bout; winning it would have let me move on to the next round in the tourney. That very evening at the hotel, by synchronicity–and divine intervention–I saw a program on TV about what the lungs of a smoker can look like. I committed that night to quit the habit.

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It took me exactly a year to break the habit. I started by switching to low tar and nicotine brands, True and Carlton. I allowed myself to smoke as many of these as I liked, but no other brands. These were bland and relatively tasteless compared to the heavy duty brands I had used before, so my desire gradually weakened. Then, for the grand finale of a month or so, I switched to salted sunflower seeds. I allowed myself to eat as many of these as I liked, to satisfy the oral fixation smoking had established. I filled glass after glass with the hulls of seeds I ingested, replacing salt and the cracking of seeds for the nicotine and smoke of cigarettes.

It worked. I reached the point where I would rather have nothing in my mouth than another sunflower seed. A few months later I attended a college lecture with a roommate of mine who smoked, Michael. Triggered by a disagreement with something the speaker had said, I asked, “Michael, give me a cigarette!” I took one drag, though, and I felt a nauseating, “negative” charge of electricity that spread in moments from my head to my toes. I put out the cigarette immediately, and I have never had the slightest inkling of  a desire to smoke, ever again. That was 1975.

Quitting smoking was amazing in my life for its results. I could BREATHE again. My head and thoughts felt CLEAR, as if for the first time ever. I could CONTEMPLATE—which I have daily since 1974 as a spiritual practice—and not feel “earthbound” with a clouded mind. I felt FREE to think, to explore, to thrive.

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In retrospect, quitting smoking counted as a success, as a coup, something I have been able to bank upon many times since whenever other negative habits or thoughts have developed in my life. If I could break the smoking habit (and around the same time, drinking alcohol, which dropped away very easily, though), I could detach myself from anything, or anyone, that might otherwise hold me down or hold me back from pursuing my dreams. Quitting a ‘bad’ habit gave me the strength to implement good habits based on self-discipline and freed me to pursue my dreams with passion instead of compulsion.

Your Wellness LifeMap

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I invite you to look back over your life focussing on when you have felt higher or lower on a “wellness scale” of 1-10, with +10 being extreme wellness and +1 being extremely low. (Use your own definition of wellness. To me it is more than just physical health.) You can draw a horizontal line across a page, treating this as an Age line from left (your birth) to right (now). Place 10-year or 5-year marks across the Age line, then you can simply chart your subjective sense of wellness factors, up or down (highest = +10; age line  = +5/neutral; +1 = lowest). After a basic mapping of your sense of relative wellness values in this manner, you can write words or phrases or insert clip art images (as below) to represent what was going on at high or low points, or in between, that contributed to the wellness levels you have charted.

Mapping my own relative wellness values, I found I could first place high and low events along the Age line, then I could connect these to show general trends. Here’s my map using clipart icons as  an example:

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Now then, what factors turn up in your wellness mapping as “lifting” factors or as more ‘descending’ factors instead? For me, the sport of fencing that I practiced through undergraduate college years, and returning to fencing once during graduate school right before graduating, were very positive factors. Discovering my lifelong approach to spirituality was also a major positive factor. Illnesses (shown by the needle icon) were ‘descent’ factors. Relationships were a lifting factor for several years, then briefly a negative factor with divorce. Career has been a slightly higher than neutral factor for much of the ‘building’ process, and it has become a lifting factor  recently as writing and teaching have both been more productive.

What can you learn from your wellness mapping that can help you to maintain or improve your own wellness ‘quotient’ now? For me I see the value of physical exercise in my life, as a major means for enhancing wellness. I’m thinking of returning in some measure to fencing (as faculty advisor to a fencing club I could participate). Or at least I commit to work out once or twice a week in addition to walking my dog.

So, try it if you like. Use whatever design format you like. What shows up for you? Is there ONE THING you can do in your life to enhance or maintain your level of wellness?

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I welcome your comments, insights, and stories.

Better Endings to You!

“To me, good health is more than just exercise and diet.

It’s really a point of view and a mental attitude you have about yourself.”

-Albert Schweitzer

Touche! What I Learned about Transforming Self-Limiting Beliefs through Fencing

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I am 5’3″ and weighed 110 lbs until around 30. I was a rather shy, skinny, short and nerdy sort of kid and I thought of myself accordingly; until, one day at high school in 11th grade, my friend Lawrence opened a conversation that would forever change my life:

“Say, ‘Yes’!”

“Okay! …What are we doing?”

Fencing! There’s a fencing class that starts this week at the Arts Center, and you and I will be there!”

Fencing. Who knew? I would learn more about life and about myself and others that next several years than I could ever have anticipated with that simple agreement with Fate in the form of my friend, Larry. I would come to revise my notions of what is possible in this world, a Life Lesson I would come to apply regularly, not only to my own choices and actions but also by imparting these lessons to those I would ultimately teach, and coach, later in life.

After the 10-week class in fencing I took with an exceptional fencing teacher who became a lifelong friend, I went on to fence on an intercollegiate team at SUNY College at Buffalo that placed in the top ten in the nation in 1975, a nearly unheard of result for our small college team. So, here are some lessons in transforming self-limiting beliefs or postulates that I learned through the art of fencing:

1) Focus. The “peak experience bout”, as I used to think of it philosophically, is one in which both fencers wholly incorporate their opponent’s ‘field’ within their own. That is, they are intuitively in tune with every action and intention of their opponent. This results often in “La Belle,” a very close match in which both fencers are so deeply immersed in the swordplay that they are not even thinking but they are acting and responding unconsciously, in the Moment. Both are winners, here!

2) I learned when to advance, when to retreat; when to initiate, feint, parry-riposte, or revise an attack. I learned how to stand my guard and not be intimidated by bluster or a nasty look. Being in the Moment and trusting your well-trained instincts and intuition leads more often to success than to failure.

3) I can do it!  Put all negative self-talk behind you and “go forth, brightly!” Be mindful, centered, aware, and ACT accordingly. Or as a fencing coach who was a former Olympian would put it, “”Suck it up!” Pull yourself together if you lose one point; focus on the present point only; exhale as you lunge! “Et, la!”

4) Whatever your personal characteristics are, you can use them to your advantage. Being short and lightweight,I was fast. I learned to maintain greater distance than normal from a taller fencer until ready to launch an attack; then I would use moves like a running attack (fleche) or a double-to-triple ballestra (short hops before a lunge) that would close the distance too rapidly for a taller opponent to counter. (An attack is made with the extended arm in foil; the tall opponent would not have room to attack with such a maneuver.)

5) Fencing is life. For my entire life, I am a Fencer. It doesn’t matter that now, at 59, I am out of shape and overweight. Fencing became and remains a way of thinking, a way of being in the world. I find myself applying the logic and wisdom of fencing daily, in all kinds of life situations.

Fencing–like any sport, musical instrument, art or skill that you hone with ardour and diligent practice (think, Karate Kid, for a more popular example)–can instill a healthy, positive self-concept and a balanced or “centered” point of view, a positive attitude of response-ability to life events. Of course, I often have to remember these lessons, hopefully more inthe mindful Moment; if not, then in retrospect, remise!