Tag Archives: Catholic

Attitude of Gratitude–Day 3–Productivity

With all of the winter weather we’ve been experiencing these past few weeks, it has felt impossible to accomplish anything. This week was the first week we haven’t had a disruptive snowstorm to throw a wrench in my workweek since the end of January. It took me a week to catch my breath from the full throttle around the clock work schedule I have been working for nearly a month, but today was one of those days where I planted myself at my desk and got some actual work done.

There is nothing as satisfying for me than the feeling of being productive. The last few weeks have taken a toll on my emotional health, and I was about to throw my hands in the air, and say to hell with this. But things moved forward today in a manner that I can truly be grateful for, and I am glad to feel some relief from the emotional havoc and fatigue caused by the massive disruptions to my routine.

Today I am grateful to my laundry list of things I’ve been wanting to get around to, and even more grateful to say that I have made some good headway into them. I can thoroughly enjoy the weekend with a light heart!

productivity

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 2 — Soul people

I’ve always thought myself lucky to know so many good people. I have a family that extends far beyond my blood’s limits, to whom I can always count on for a genuine affirmation, a listening ear, a love-filled hug. From one corner of the globe to the other, I can reach out at any time and tap into my network of soul mates.

When someone hears the term soul mate, they automatically think in terms of a romantic life partner. In my experience, however, my soul mates are people, both men and women, wise with age and ripe with youth, that have connected with me on a molecular level. People with whom, when we’ve looked into each other’s eyes have recognized ourselves within.

This recognition is more than just our commonalities. Of course we share interests, but what I am trying to describe goes beyond that. They are the kind of people you feel you knew in a past life, and who, with no explanation, understand and accept your entire being.

Tonight I am grateful to have had the privilege of spending time with James and his wonderful girlfriend, Anne — fellow beautiful soul people. Mr. James Birney came into my life a few years ago, and our soul connection was evident from our first conversation. James told me soon after we had met each other that we were going to know each other for a very long time. I, however, knew we had already known each other for an eternity.

Soul mates are people who unite you with Source. They are human reminders of the divinity that lives within us all, that which unites us all together as one.

Tonight was a night filled full with soul. Just a few truly good people sitting together around a table, blessed with good food and a healthy conversation.

I am especially grateful for this connection and to all of my soul mates past, present and future.

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Amen, right on shalom, salaam, namaste!

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Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return — 40 days of gratitude, a renewed lenten promise

Today marks the beginning of the Lenten season in the Christian faith. A common tradition for this time of fasting is to give up one (or many) of your vices as a reminder of your humility and devotion to God.

Fact: I was born and raised Catholic. I was baptized in the Catholic faith, I received First Holy Communion and was EVEN confirmed in the Catholic church. I have given up everything from chocolate and candy bars to Facebook for Lent, and yet somehow I know next to nothing about the significance behind this important Catholic tradition. What I was doing during my 16 years of Sunday School is beyond me… I was mildly interested, and that’s a generous statement. But in the latter part of my life, I can say in all honesty that I have have struggled to claim this part of my identity that I was brought up with.

So today, as the priest on our campus offered the traditional blessing, the marking of palm ashes in the shape of a small cross on one’s forehead, I hesitated. I felt a mix of Catholic guilt and my new agey beliefs overwhelming my decision making processes. Was it possible to reconcile my Catholic identity with my spirituality? Part of me feels that I can have a relationship with God without having to smear a big black cross on my forehead as a symbol of my devotion. Yet another part of me felt particularly uncomfortable not receiving the ashes.

I waited until the very last minute and dashed forward to say that I would like to have mine. All the while I was making excuses to myself and those around me as to why I hadn’t come forth earlier. The priest marked my forehead and I mumbled an unconvincing “Amen,” not sure if I was supposed to even say that or not. And then I stood there in the middle of the school cafeteria with my big-black-smudged up forehead, feeling a mix of humility and shame. I felt humbled by my ego and ashamed that I had no clue as to why receiving ashes was even a tradition.

So, like any unknowing fool, I promptly wikipedia’d the significance of the Ash Wednesday.

#ashtag

My search quickly unveiled most of the uncertainties I had about the significance of Ash Wednesday and left me with this tidbit that my new age spirituality could really vibe with:

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.

It struck me in a very non-denominational way, and cut straight to the point.

To me this read: you, human being, are made of the universe — hydrogen, helium and other trace elements. You were created in this form to live a human experience, and when you die, your body will return to where it came from.

I found this elegantly simple and in line with the natural cycles we experience all the time. It is as if to say that the daily rising and setting of the sun or the 28 day moon cycle or the turning of the seasons is as much an innate part of our experience as our life cycle–ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

As I began to reflect on the cyclical nature of life, I found myself contemplating the renewal of a cycle I began last year during Lent. Last year I made a commitment to my writing and to an attitude of gratitude, and I wrote for 40 days, each day outlining what I was most grateful for during that day. It was one of the most rewarding challenges I ever set for myself, and it genuinely changed the way I perceived my daily level of happiness. Not every day was perfect, but I was so focused on what I was going to be grateful for that day, that I learned how to transform my hardships into lessons, my lessons into gratitude, and my gratitude into happiness. Things such as loneliness and heartbreak became positives, and I learned of my capacity to turn the smallest moments of my day into powerfully meaningful blessings.

There have been scientific studies demonstrating the power that gratitude can have on a person’s happiness, and I truly believe that it is not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy.

And so, I recommit myself to this cycle. Another Lenten season, another 40 days of gratitude.

Today I am grateful for my kickboxing class. Not only do I leave feeling the benefits of a good workout, but I am also able to interact on a social level with members of my community. It is a time of day where I can focus all of my attention into the present moment, to dance around a punching bag, to inhale and exhale, and to focus on my form. I get to be serious and to laugh at the same time and to allow all of my external worries melt away.

I am grateful for this channel of expression that allows me to tune into the present moment. Instead of being an escape, it is an hour and a half of complete awareness. Thus, I would like to offer up my gratitude today to the confidence, power and energy that I receive from this class, and to the people with whom I share those sacred 90 minutes.

#attitudeofgratitude

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 8 : Taking the Time, Savoring the Moment

When I cook myself dinner I usually tend to want the whole meal to miraculously appear before me so I can get my eat on as fast as possible. As a result of my impatience,  I cut corners and toss a whole bunch of vegetables into some oil on the wok, mix in some spices and stir.  The end result is a mildly satisfactory meal, as the zucchini usually over cook or the garlic burns from having to sit on the heat long enough for the squash to soften. Tonight, however, as I cooked, I reflected on a valuable lesson I’ve been learning this year — take your time.

I thought back to a few moments in my life where I was encouraged to take my time. One of them was a day of mindfulness at Thich Nhat Hahn’s Blue Cliff Monastery in New York, the other was my journey along the Camino de Santiago. At the monastery we took our meals in silence, chewing our food slowly, enjoying every bite, savoring every flavor, and reflecting on the hard work and the chain of people it took to get that food onto our plates. A meal that I could have eaten in a few minutes took over an hour. The satisfaction that I got out of every bite was tripled, and I realized how full I became half way through a typical portion. I then thought back to the Camino, where everything from your physical being to your mental and emotional state crucially depended on your slow stride. I specifically remember one evening on the trail that I spent sleeping in a small church called San Nicolas. One of my fellow pilgrims offered up some advice in a form of a song from the musical Brother Sun, Sister Moon. He sang,

If you want your dream to be
Take your time, go slowly
Do few things but do them well
Heartfelt work grows purely
If you want to live life free
Take your time, go slowly
Do few things but do them well
Heartfelt work grows purely

I try to remember these lyrics when I catch myself rushing through things, and seeking  immediate results. I was reminded today, as I slowed myself down and took the time to brown my tofu and cook each vegetable properly, that each moment is a moment worth savoring. And that doing things slowly allows us to be fully present through the action. Not only does it enhance our over all satisfaction, but it also makes the end result more enjoyable as well. The practice of being present is difficult, and I, like many, have a tendency to want the quick route to perfection specifically with relationships, food, body image, work etc.

Thus, today I am grateful to myself for slowing down when my reflex was to speed up. I’m grateful to the beautiful meal that I enjoyed as a result, and I’m also grateful to all the people in my life who have encouraged me to challenge our societies norm regarding perfection and quick results. I will try to incorporate this value into my daily life as much as possible by practicing presence and gratitude for each beautiful moment.

In the words of Tich Nhat Hahn,

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 6 : Mentorship

Today was the first day of my new job as School Director of the Au Pair Training School. Taking on this role, it is very clear that I need to step into a leadership role and be a boss, mentor, and friend to my new staff. Though this role will ultimately evolve over time, I know that it is paramount that I observe every small detail of the day to day life on the campus, so as to best set myself up for captaining this ship. 

As I reflect on my leadership style, and perhaps how I will tailor it to fit the needs of my new team, I think of the mentors I’ve had in my life and how their different styles have impacted my personal growth. Each mentor of mine has been unique, and the lessons they’ve taught me have varied in a multitude of ways. However, what is apparent as I reflect on each of my role models is that there is a common thread in each of their styles, and none of them have lead by putting themselves in a position of hierarchy.

Each one of my mentors has stood firmly beside me and encouraged me to spread my wings and fly. Sometimes they’ve taken the leap while holding my hand, other times they’ve jumped and I’ve followed, and still other times they’ve pushed me (sometimes kicking and screaming) off the cliff because they trusted so deeply that I would fly. Bearing this in mind, I plan on using each of these three tactics to help develop my team. 

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I am infinitely grateful to all my mentors — family, teachers, community members, colleagues and friends. Today, I am particularly grateful for Caitlin who is my newest mentor on the job! Thanks for the love and support, as well as the swift kick in the rear when it’s needed! 

Yours truly, 

Lizzie

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40 Days Catholic: My Lenten Promise — Attitude of Gratitude

I’m Catholic.
I’m Catholic?
I grew up Catholic.

Catholicism has been a label attached to my identity since my infantile baptism. It was not a choice I made cognitively. Nor were the wrote memorization of prayers, Sunday school, or First Communion. It wasn’t until the 10th grade that I took any leadership in my Catholic identity. By this point I had been a Catholic for 15 years, and the decision to proceed with my confirmation was one of blind acceptance. No internal questions were asked; I did it because I wanted to, and because it was the next stamp in my Catholic passport.

Church in my family was a regular Sunday event growing up. It was never any fun, but I went and I followed all the rules. I stood up, I sat down, I knelt, I sang, I prayed. After church I got to eat donuts…so that was cool. If I wasn’t scraping the nail polish from my nails, I was playing interior decorator and imagining how the sacred space could house my four-poster bed, comfy plush couches, dressers, lava lamps and a closet that would make Cher from Clueless jealous.

Let’s face it, I was there because I had to be, not because I wanted to be.

As my journey with religion and spirituality progressed I drifted away from the Catholic church. I felt disenfranchised and unsupported. I equated the church with intolerance, patriachy and greed. I disassociated myself with the term Catholic. There was too much guilt attributed with my identity and I wanted to purge myself of it.

This is when I disovered Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco’s Ternderloin District. It was a place of acceptance, tolerance, and most importantly LOVE. Their weekly celebration uplifted the community through song and praise. They talked the talk, and they walked the walk. With liberation theology as their underlying tenet, they work to combat social injustices caused by poverty and social inequality.

Finally feeling connected to spirit and Self for the first time, Glide became my primary sacred space to worship in. As my journey into yoga started around the same time, the two spiritual practices began healing me of my Catholic guilt and began molding me in the spirutal being I am today.

Many years later, the concern about my catholic identity still lingered. Catholicism was my foundation. I can still recite the prayers and take comfort in the hymns, though it has been many years since I’ve stepped foot into my local parish. My journey along El Camino started with the intention of reconnecting to my Catholic identity, and in preparation I attended mass all summer long in France and Spain.

And then I walked.

I walked through all the questions and I came to recognize that my spirit is not Catholic, but that my identity is. My identity is also many other things now. As a result of my travels abroad and my daily practices I now identify as a yogi, a buddhist AND a muslim…and so much more. I see myself as part of everything and follow my own religion, the religion of my heart.

With all that being said, I can now explain my 40 day lenten promise. This practice was something that I grew up with as a Catholic, and I’ve given up everything from chocolates and candy to Facebook over the 40-day fasting period leading up to Easter Sunday.

This year, however, I have a new lenten promise. It’s not to give up anything, but rather to take up something. I racked my brain over and over and came to the conclusion that there are many things I want to do more of. In order to not overwhelm myself and to stick to my promise I’ve decided to write every day for 40 days. But not just to write about anything, I want to write on the theme of gratitude.

So, for the next 40 days I will be posting one blog a day about something that I am grateful for.

Attitude of Gratitude — Day 1: I am grateful for Glide Memorial Church for taking me in, opening my heart and allowing me to see that religion is not about intolerance and greed. Rather, it is about community, solidarity, radical inclusiveness, truth telling, hope, celebration and love. I am eternally grateful for that sacred space of worship as I consider it to be the catalyst of my higher spiritual journey. Thank you Glide, Reverend Cecil Williams, Janice Mirikitani. Rev. Karen Oliveto and all the beautiful souls who regularly accompanied me to Sunday service — Jessica Roach, Allie Thompson, Zannah Herridge Meyer and Erika Myszynski. I am grateful to your sources of inspiriation and your spirit!

lizzie

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