Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Please do me a favor ...

Seriously, would you please do me a favor?  Yes, it's true -- I've written a meditation book (similar to my meditation booklet, but longer and much cooler) and I am now diligently working on The Book Proposal, which is similar to writing a thesis, Lord help me!  Then it's off to the publisher and we'll see what happens.

So, this is where you come in:  if you've gotten something helpful from one of my columns, or my booklet, or one of my classes or talks, or from my humble presence on the planet, please take just a minute now to write me a Glowing Testimonial of some sort.  Just send an email to mjinsync@yahoo.com, or simply click here.  Please include your full name, as well as your town/state/country.  I hope to overwhelm the editor with pages and pages of outrageous endorsements, making it very clear that they would be entirely crazy not to publish my book.

Fingers crossed.  I'll never ask anything from you again -- except to buy the book, ha ha!

And, just so you don't feel cheated out of a column this month, consider this:  If you make your goal the journey (instead of the endpoint), you will have instant success.  Think about it.

Love & thanks,
MJ

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Wonders of Worrying

The fabulous and insightful Mark Twain once said, "I've had many worries in my life, most of which never happened."

Think about it.  Most of the worrying we do never comes to pass -- thankfully, I might add.  And certainly, no good ever comes of worrying.  Ever.

Here's another angle on it, if you'd like to bring the Law of Attraction and physics into it:

Worrying is not only pointless, if we do it persistently enough, it's highly detrimental to our lives and our dreams.  Worrying is using your imagination to create what you do not want.

Again, for good measure!  Worrying is using your imagination to create what you do not want.

That's pretty much it.  Here's to using our imaginations to create what we DO want!!  Yeah!

Big Love,
MJ
p.s.  Adventures in Meditation is now FREE!  Next meeting will be Thurs. Oct. 11th at 7:15 pm, The Shoreline Center for Wholistic Health, 35 Boston St., Guilford.  See you there!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Being Present

I read something recently that basically said:  If you are sad or depressed, your mind is in the past.  If you are anxious or worried, your mind is in the future.  If you are peaceful and content, your mind is in the present moment.  

And that, my friends, is why we practice meditation.  When we meditate, we are practicing being in the present moment.  Just for this hour, just for this minute, just for this second, everything is really okay.  If we can string a bunch of those moments together, life starts to feel and look pretty damned good.  All it takes is practice.  Simple, right?!  

Sometimes we may have something happening to us -- work, relationships, finances, health -- that is so overwhelmingly out of control, we'd like to just jump off a bridge.  At those times, all we really have to turn to is the present moment.  If we can give ourselves a five minute break from trying to figure it all out while in a state of upset and panic, our lives can begin to heal and blossom in ways that are no less than magical.  We can take that jump off the bridge -- but let's do it in our mind and spirit, yes?

Just a reminder, 'meditation' can look like anything you want it to:

Singing, chanting, dancing, cloud-watching, petting the dog, exercising, gardening, appreciating anything, cooking, cleaning the house, driving to work while listening to your favorite album, counting your steps while taking a walk, making art, making music, making love, making eggplant parmesan.  It's anything at all that lets you practice Being In the Present Moment, where all is well.

It may be annoying, but it's true:  practice does make perfect.

With love & giant hugs,
MJ

p.s.  In the spirit of good-will and harmony, my monthly Adventures in Meditation group is now free!  Yippee!  Bring your family and friends!  See you on Thurs., Sept. 13th at 7:15 pm. The theme this month will be Grace.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tornado Appreciation

Everybody's got a story, right?  Well, I've got a good one that I'd like to share.  A few weeks ago was the 23rd anniversary of the Hamden Tornado -- a significant event for me, because I lost my house during it.  Well, not the whole house, just the top of it.  And I suppose it wasn't exactly lost, but it was redistributed around the neighborhood in a very disconcerting manner, for sure.  It was an F4 tornado, with 300 mph winds that came down the chimney and sucked the roof right off.  While we were in it.

That experience turned out to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me.  Seriously.

I found out a whole bunch of things about myself that I might never have known otherwise.  I found out how I react in a true emergency -- I ran into the cellar with my 3 year old son and shielded him under a doorway until it was over -- about 5 very long minutes.  I was the fierce mother lion protecting her young until a few hours later when we drove our shattered car up my mother's driveway to safety -- and I became completely hysterical for the only time in my life (so far).

I found out that losing nearly everything you owned was not such a bad thing.  I experienced enormous gratitude for the fact that no one was hurt -- not even my cat, who hid inside the dryer.  The fact that we had no home, little clothing, that most of our possessions were either sucked away or imbedded with glass, meant very little.  We were alive!

And -- my apparently relentless positive nature came to the forefront.  Within about two days of the event, I became irrationally excited.  I felt like I'd won the lottery!  If something this big and unexpected could just happen out of nowhere -- well, surely something fabulous was going to come of it.  I just knew it.  It was just too big to be meaningless or random.

As a result of the tornado, we were able to finally buy our own house with the renter's insurance money we received.  That was a dream come true for me, a dream that had been, until then, completely out of reach.  My son then grew up on a little Beaver Cleaver street and we walked to school together every day.  I met friends that I have to this day, that I likely wouldn't have met otherwise.  I learned really quickly that we don't need to be attached to our possessions at all -- there is always more stuff out there.  And that it doesn't hurt you a bit to lose nearly everything you own, it's actually quite cathartic!  Plus, I have enormous respect for the weather, and defer to it at all times.

Without the tornado, my life would likely have been very different.  Is it better?  I'll never know, but I think so.

The biggest life lesson from this event turned out to be:  it's not what happens to you that counts; it's what you DO with what happens to you that really matters.  I may not have had any control over that event in my life, but I did have a choice about how I reacted to it.

Twenty-three years later, I'm still working on applying that to everything else in life!  Simple, right?!

Right now, I'm choosing the hammock!
Love, MJ
p.s.  For those nearby, my monthly guided meditation group, Adventures in Meditation, begins again on Thurs. August 9th at 7:15 pm, at the Shoreline Center for Wholistic Health.  Please visit my classes & events page for details!  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Food Meditation

Yesterday, I picked the first peas from our garden.  There were only about twenty pods ready, not much more than a big handful when shelled, so I threw them in the boiling water with the linguine near the end, and cooked them for just a few minutes.  I put a huge amount of basil (also from the garden) in with a fresh chunky tomato and onion and garlic sauce, and another fabulous dinner was born.

Some of you may know that I have a huge vegetable garden -- it measures 40 x 30 feet and takes up most of my backyard.  We also have a little barn, and now jokingly call our place "The Farmette".  At this point in the year, there's not much ready for eating yet -- a lot of greens; collards, kale and chard -- and we're trying to eat up all the various lettuces before they all start bolting in the heat.  Many plants, when left to their own devices, will make flowers eventually, unless you interrupt the process by eating it, and lettuce is no different.  Once lettuce starts shooting up to the sky and making flowers, it turns bitter.  Fortunately, my husband doesn't care; he eats anything.

This year, we got a really good handle on the weed situation and put down newspaper with salt hay on top, over every bare inch of soil.  This is a miserable job to do, but then you can basically sit back with a glass of wine for the rest of the summer and watch everything grow and daydream about what wonderful meals you'll be flitting about the kitchen concocting spontaneously, depending on what needs to be eaten that day.  

When I buy veggies at the supermarket, I just don't have the same respect and reverence for them as for the ones that I grow myself.  If I forget about them and they start rotting away, I just throw them out or give them to the dog to gnaw on.  It was completely different with those peas yesterday;  I wanted to eat them appreciatively and reverently, which may sound kind of flakey and dramatic -- but how can you help but acknowledge the entire life cycle of something that you've watched exuberantly growing from day one?!  It's no different than any other living thing.  

Time in the dirt is essential for our well-being, I think.  Observing life cycles reminds us that we can't force things to be complete before they are ready.  Everything simply takes as long as it takes.  Can't pick the peas before they're ready.  We just have to trust the process and let go of trying to control everything.  So far, we've got cabbage worms galore (courtesy of those cute little white butterflies you see everywhere), one of the artichoke plants just disappeared without a trace, and about 95% of the apples inexplicably fell off of both apple trees when they were the size of golf balls.  So, we'll read up on things and maybe next time, it'll go a little better.  Meanwhile, I'm dreaming about basil, tomato and cucumber salads; grilled eggplant; pesto; and eating our own corn on the cob.  Fingers crossed.

Go plant something -- it's good for you!
Love & hugs from the hammock -- 
MJ

Monday, June 4, 2012

Community

I had a really interesting experience over Memorial Day Weekend.  My high school music & drama department had a 30 year reunion, spanning over 5 graduating years.  I had not seen many of the people who came (about 25 of us) during that 30 years!

Yet there they were, at Friday night rehearsal in my living room, as if only a year or two had gone by.  I was in utter shock looking around at these (gracefully aging) faces, listening to us belt out the Hallelujah Chorus once again!  (Apologies to my neighbors, although I don't think that we were that bad.)  It was absolutely amazing.

The next day, we gathered at our former high school for the day -- more rehearsing, eating, talking, screaming, laughing, and finally ending with a performance, with two group choir pieces and a number of solos and heartrending speeches.

It was one of the best times I can recall in a very long time.  And I really felt like I wanted to figure out why and bring as much of that forward into my current life as I can.

First, as I was looking around my living room at the now 50 year old faces, I could very clearly see their 18 year old selves there, also.  It really brought home the fact that we are not our ages.  We've certainly bloomed at this point (and hopefully will continue to do so!) -- there's much more to us now -- yet that presence of our younger selves was entirely clear!  I vowed to try and remember that about everyone I meet, not just the people that I've known since childhood.  We weren't born at 30 or 45 or 60 or 80, there's a child still there in all of us!

Second, the sense of community was just fabulous.  Being in a group with a common goal -- doing something to the best of your ability, coordinating that with the efforts of others, and then giving something back to the world -- what's better than that?  I felt really grateful for learning that early on, and it also reminded me of the different ways that I've created community in my life currently.  And it inspired me to be open to some new ways, too!  

Third, I actually sang a solo for the first time in my life -- a parody of "I'm in the Mood for Love" (a la Allan Sherman).  It got a lot of laughs, and I felt kind of like a (very) unpolished Carol Burnett.  I doubt I'll ever do it again, but it allowed me to check something important off of my To Do List.  I'll never have to regret that I didn't try it!

So, I'm really grateful for community -- in my family, in my neighborhood, with my friends, with my pets, in my garden.  At my office.  In my meditation groups, and at my talks.  And for who knows what lies ahead!  I'm open to it!  Without community and connection, I'm not sure we can ever really get a sense of who we are or what we have to offer.

Anybody know of a nice local choir in need of an alto with a good sense of humor?

Group hug,
MJ
p.s.  Community Alert!!  Don't miss the last kirtan (call & response chanting) for the summer -- this Thursday, June 7th, 7:15 pm at the Shoreline Center for Wholistic Health, 35 Boston St., Guilford!  Andrew and Jamie are going to be off adventuring in Alaska soon and we won't see them again 'til fall.  Come share the love!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On Being Self-full

How much time do you spend in a day trying to make other people happy?  Trying to please others?  Putting your own needs and desires aside?  Running around like a lunatic, doing what you think you should?  Or what others think you should?  Running the engine of your soul on vapors because you never put any gas in your tank?  An excellent recipe for resentment and resulting rebellious (and often regrettable) behavior, methinks!  Not what I came here for, thanks!

If you're like many people, you may spend the majority of your time doing this.  And probably, you aren't so happy about it, and ironically, those around you probably aren't so happy either, rendering your heroic (but kinda uninspired) efforts nearly useless.

Why do we do this?  Seems to me that we are groomed for it from very early on -- that 'selflessness' is our purportedly noble goal as human beings.  Selflessness.  Selflessness.  That's a pretty creepy sounding word, especially when you look at the definition closely:

"the act of sacrificing ones own interest for the greater good"

GAH!  How can that be a good thing, really?  Yeah, I know, you can conjure up images of war heroes, social workers, saints and sages, giving their all for the benefit of others.  But, wait ...

... I would dare to say that by and large, those people are not being "selfless".  They are being self-full, or possibly even selfish, by definition.  The extreme actions that they are taking, which are benefitting many others, are likely benefitting themselves the most!  They are acting from their soul's passions!  In those moments, whether they are giving up their life, or their time, or their money, it is because they are connecting to their Best Selves and putting it out into the world in the biggest, most incredible way possible.  They are acting from their deepest hearts and taking those chances -- speaking out, starting a business, taking a risk, big or small, doing what their heart knows is the biggest thing they can do, that will make them glad they were born, whatever, comes of it all.  And that inevitably benefits others.  As I'm very fond of saying, it's PHYSICS!

Instead of selflessness, let's try talking about oneness instead.  That sounds soooo much warmer and friendlier.  And then instead of just talking about it, let's do it for just a minute or two here and there, eh?  Hee hee.  For more in the spirit of oneness, please listen to this fabulous song, Amazing, by clicking here.  Thanks to Kim Ryan for telling me about it -- it's now one of my Happy Dance songs every day!

Springtime love & hugs to all -- 
MJ
p.s.  For those of you who have attended my group, Adventures in Meditation -- we'll be on hiatus until August 9th, when I'll resume with a monthly guided meditation group, yippee!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Living by Example

     I had an interesting conversation with a friend today.  We both have numerous creative urges in life, as well as a fair amount of visible energy.  At one point our talk turned toward:  the question of sharing your experiences with others.  Can you ever effectively 'tell' someone something (insight of any kind) and have it actually be helpful?  Is there a point in doing this?  After all, you can't make someone be where they're not.  You can't make someone feel or understand something they just don't.  You know the saying about bringing a horse to water!  And -- who's to say we're 'right' anyhow?  It's a quandary when you have urges to help, urges to share. 

     However, that being said -- preaching sucks!  Who seriously listens to someone who is preaching, ranting or otherwise shoving their insights down your throat?  Not me.  I usually view that as an indicator to run away, directly.  Nothing is more exhausting and uninspiring that an exasperated person in your face, lecturing you!

     So what do we do?  I've encountered this issue since I started doing talks about meditation.  At first I thought -- who am I to tell anyone else what to do?  And -- everyone knows that preaching at people never helps!  Thankfully, after my first talk, an awfully nice man named George stood up and reeled off a nifty list of compliments to me, ending with "and it's very obvious that you practice what you preach".

     An AHA! moment for me, for sure!  I realized then (and remember it some of the time) that when we have a genuine passion for something, anything, it is ALWAYS highly apparent to others.  When we live true to our passions, in any area, it is inevitably an inspiration to others, without even trying to draw attention to it.  Hmmmmmm.

     What if the next time we see something that we believe is wrong, or needs to be changed or fixed or helped -- what if we stop and take a breath and remember that the best way -- the only  way  -- that we can really help others and affect change for good is to follow the passions of our souls and live by example?  I think we all know the beautiful quote from Mahatma Gandhi -- 

     "Be the change you want to see in the world."

     Okay, okay, I'll stop before I get too preachy.  Happy spring -- asparagus and strawberries are on the way! 

Love from the hammock --
MJ

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What is a miracle? Or rather, what isn't?

"There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle." -- Albert Einstein

I wonder what the average person would say if you asked them if they'd ever seen a "miracle" in their life.

Of course, I'm unable to answer that question for anyone but myself -- but in my own ongoing experience, I'm pretty sure that a miracle can be found in any given moment, depending on your focus.  We can choose "miracle", or we can choose "oh, I've already seen that a million times".  

We can curse the dandelions and mow them down, or we can consider each one as a thimbleful of sunny miraculousness (and then mow them down).  We can wake up every morning and grumble about getting up, or we can consider the fact that we woke up at all in the first place!  We can look at our parent, or child, or lover, or dog and consider that maybe we don't really know everything about them.  We can turn a new and present eye to everything around us, for just a minute, now and then.

Take the fact that if you cut yourself on a kitchen knife right now, the cells in your body immediately begin the healing process, all on their own, without you doing anything.  Consider all the workings in your body that go on all day, every day, for your entire life.  How could that be anything short of a miracle?  Just for a minute, imagine all the oceans of the earth and all the life that is going on there, from whales to tiny plankton.  Look at the tree outside your window, that has been standing there for decades, living it's entire life right in front of you, making new leaves every spring, making oxygen every day.  Obviously, this list could go on ... and on ... and on!  People -- animals -- nature -- art -- technology!  Because truly -- is there anything in the world that you could look at, or hear, or touch, or feel, or experience in some way -- that is not a miracle, if you shift your focus for just a moment?  What if we took a break from wishing for 'signs' from the Great Beyond and saw what is right in front of us, every day?  And amazingly, that is our choice to make.  Yay!  

Ok, Pollyanna is getting off the soapbox now.  And in the spirit of impending spring, please click here to watch an incredible bit of film showing some "everyday" miracles around us.  Thanks to Pete Onofrio for bringing it to my attention!  

And please click here to look at the schedule for Adventures in Meditation and upcoming Kirtan dates!  

Miraculously and appreciatively yours!
MJ

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Why I Love Chanting

Ok, so it's 4 am, and I'm up writing a column.  Something has to be really calling to me to get me up at that hour, let me tell you.  (Well, that plus the fact that I ate a giant bowl of pasta at 9:30 pm.)  And -- I have been singing a Hare Krishna chant in my sleep for the last 4 hours!

Depending on the scope of your life experiences, when I say "Hare Krishna", you may immediately get a vision of people dancing in orange robes at airports.  I urge you to suspend that vision and read on!

Here's my own take on chanting.  My first real exposure to chanting was through a Deva Premal CD that a friend gave to me.  I liked it.  Sort of.  I put it in my car stereo, and sang to a few of the songs frequently while driving.  It grew on me.  A lot.  After a while, I noticed that I was really looking forward to driving anywhere, so I could chant as loud as I wanted, to the same songs, over and over.  It was fun.  It was uplifting!  Nowadays, I can be found chanting while doing dishes, while doing any housework, while walking the dog (quietly), and especially while driving.  It just makes me feel fabulous -- happy, relaxed, uncluttered in my mind.

The tradition of chanting exists in nearly every culture and/or religion in some form, although the kind that I'm hearing about most these days is Sanskrit chanting.  Deva Premal often features chants from different cultures -- Native American, South American, etc. -- in her recordings.  So, it's everywhere.  And yet, why, you may ask, do you want to start chanting?

Chanting is really a form of meditation -- as is anything that distracts you from your own brain chatter for a period of time.  It will give you a rest from yourself.  It will help you get your evil twin out of the way so that your best self can show up more often.  So, there is that awesome aspect -- and there is the aspect of prayer.  I always find out the basic meaning or translation of chants, so that I have a general idea of the intention behind the words.  It is quite powerful to think that you are singing something that has been chanted by thousands of people for hundreds, or even thousands of years, all having the same intention!  I love that!

The good news is that if you'd like to chant/sing with other people, you can go to a kirtan.  (read more about kirtans and chanting by clicking here)  This is basically a call-and-response concert (from very small groups to very large).  Everybody sings.  An amazing experience that I highly recommend, at least once!  You can keep your eyes closed the whole time if you like, no self-consciousness required!  Many yoga studios hold kirtans.  


And the really exciting news is -- at my next weekly meditation group, Thurs. Feb. 9th at 7:15 pm, 35 Boston Street in Guilford, I am pleased to welcome the young, peaceful and talented Andrew Biagiarelli, for a low-key kirtan!!  A perfect opportunity for you newcomers, as well as the experienced kirtan-goer.  Please email me at mjinsync@yahoo.com or call me at 203-444-5625 if you're planning on coming, so I can get a general head count.   And -- if you still just can't bear the thought of it, please do try some chanting in private.  I won't tell a soul!  

And now, if you find yourself a little more open to the Hare Krishna thing, I invite you to click here to listen to samples from Krishna Das' album, All One.  Translations of Hare Krishna, Hare Rama vary, but it basically means "O Universe, please engage me in your devotional services".  I've just decided that for me it means "holy God, holy Universe".  And that suits me just fine.

Happy Valentine's Day from the hammock!
MJ