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Archive for November, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today’s post is a reprint of an article I wrote that was published in

Coaching Interactive in 2006.

Gratitude is an attitude of gratefulness or, as I love to play with it, great fullness. It derives from the Latin “gratus,” pleasing. Gratitude creates awareness for that which is pleasing us, even while we may be standing in the shadow of our unhappiness. It is receiving and luxuriating in the richness of the warm sunshine upon our shoulders, the breath-taking display of a starry night, and the lingering embrace with a loved one.

These joys are gratis (free of charge), from the Latin “gratia,” favor.  They do not require great busyness, doings and struggle. We do not have to earn them. We need only stop, notice and allow ourselves to receive them. It’s a simple exchange of energy; like breathing out and breathing in. We give the world around us our exquisite attention and it gives us great fullness.

As we move toward that which delights, we begin to give to ourselves those experiences which bring us joy. We give them to ourselves and in so doing, we create a foundation of trust in ourselves.

I want to be clear about something here. Not all receiving is blissful. The willingness to be with the depth of our grief or remorse is also opening to great fullness. For the moment, I am writing of the abundance we can receive from the world around us.

The Universe offers us a feast, a banquet of richness, and we come to the table starving and saying, “Oh, no thanks; I couldn’t really,” as if we have to check some internal gauge of worthiness. Sometimes, our hunger is so great that the ensuing downward emotional spiral and intensity of our internal dialogue can cause us to resist great fullness. We lose our heart.

In conversation, a friend and I waded into the murky waters of self-sabotage. He said, “Decent hard-working people deserve a good life.” I asked him, “Who would you say does not deserve a good life?” There followed a predictable list that included criminals, riff-raff, cheaters, abusers and the like. It soon came to light that holding the belief  that “decent hard-working people deserve a good life,” was self-sabotaging. He knew he was not a bad person, but he could never know for sure what was good enough or hard-working enough.

He then asked me, “Why do you think you deserve a good life?” and I responded,“Because I was born.” There followed a pregnant pause broken by hearty laughter and smiles all around. He exhaled. He began to experience his inherent worthiness; his great fullness.

It seems so much happens when we stop trying. Making an effort is antithetical to receiving. There is irony in our working to prove ourselves worthy of receiving abundance. When we think we have to earn, because we hold ourselves inherently unworthy, we create an even greater gap, an ever greater emptiness.  While we are striving, we are closing ourselves off to receiving. We are holding our breath. It is allowing and receiving that fills us up and has us experience our natural worth. When we are full we spill over and giving is the natural outcome. The paradigm becomes “allow and receive” rather than “prove and earn.”

fall leaves 2009

(c) Kathy J Loh

Consider this Buddhist Koan:

No thought for the hereafter

Is cherished by the wise.

For on this earth they truly live

Always in paradise.

Desire, from feeling lack, creates the polarity of abundance and scarcity; of paradise and hell. Without desire, the polarity disappears. Breathing in and breathing out is one breath.  What is abundance but great fullness?

When we deflect an acknowledgment, we simultaneously project and create, within ourselves, a greater void of worth. When we truly receive, we simultaneously give and create, within ourselves, an experience of love and self worth. We deflect by metaphorically holding our breath, with armor around our 4th and 3rd chakras. Practice dropping out of your head into these centers when you are receiving. Bring healing to the very centers that have taken so many painful hits over the years.

There are many practices for focusing on gratitude. People find it helpful to create a gratitude book in which they record all for which they are grateful. Others begin and end each day with simple prayers or meditations upon that for which they are thankful.

Here is a practice I created for receiving and experiencing great fullness, which I regularly assign to clients with wonderful results.

Take a walk.. You do not need a destination and you can do it anywhere. As you amble along, notice everything you are sensing. Say to yourself “I get to receive _____________” and start filling in the blank with everything you notice. I get to receive the song of that bird. I get to receive the warm breeze on my face. You don’t have to be name the bird. This is not about information. It’s about experience and sense. If you don’t have words for the experience, simply allow yourself to have it. I get to receive this. You might like to add “For no other reason than because I was born, I get to receive….”

See how many things you get to receive. You may find yourself greedy for more. You are at the Universe’s banquet table and you are saying “Yes, thank you!” You  exhaled and you are breathing in. I especially like saying “I get to receive” rather than “I am receiving” because it adds a sense of fun and gift. There is less opportunity for resistance (as in the “I-am-receiving-oh-no-you’re-not” dialog with the Saboteur)

And speaking of banquet tables, this Thanksgiving, take a moment to remove yourself from the conversation and  look at each person around the table, saying within, “I get to receive ___________ from ______.”  Fill in the blanks with something wonderful, quirky, even ordinary about,  but unique to, that person and their name. Let me know what happens for you.

This practice of receiving creates presence. Being present, in the now, we are free to experience the great fullness of life, something we deserve simply because we were born.

After all, the best things in life are gratis.

Copyright © June 2006 and November 2009, Kathy J Loh, all rights reserved

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I remember sitting on the beach in La Jolla doing the beach-bunny thing while my boyfriend surfed the waves with his friends. I was in high school at the time. I was full of my youth, full of myself. I was lookin’ good and I knew it, even if I did get insecure from time to time. Youth rocked (so we thought).

I remember a woman walking by who caught my attention and the words I said to myself:

I hope I’m like her when I get older.

She was probably in her 50s or 60s. Hard to tell. At 16, everyone over 30 looks old. She was very tan, wrinkly and very round like an apple on two poles. She had a long gray braid down her back and she wore a bright orange one-piece swimsuit. She was walking with no noticeable trace of self-consciousness.  She was out there, hiding nothing. She was absolutely beautiful in her ease.

“She wrinkled, but she lovely” (1)

I wanted to be like her when I grew old, to feel free and comfortable in my own skin, happy to walk along the beach in a swimsuit. I wanted to keep my long hair. In those days, I held the assumption that you had to cut your hair short after your 20s, because all the magazines advised us that short hair “lifts the features and gives women a more youthful appearance.”

grand canyon late 2002

Grand Canyon 2002 (K Loh)

I remember a moment out of time during one of my many hikes in the Grand Canyon. We’d just spent two nights at Phantom Ranch and were coming up the Bright Angel trail. At one point, nearing the last portion of the hike, we rested, taking in the stunning view of the Coconino sandstone walls rising toward the rim. Standing at their base, feeling very small, I felt their grandeur suck all the air right out of my chest. I was mesmerized, immobilized.  And then I heard myself utter:

This is so beautiful! God made this and God made me, so I must be beautiful too!

The tears rolled down my face and I felt the first healing of the wounds of years of self-denigration as I received the truth of Beauty with a capital B. It was an epiphany, a moment of insight. It was one moment to combat the constant bombardment of cultural youth worship.

“You are so beautiful" (2)

I remember standing in line at a drug store looking at the faces of models and celebrities on the magazines filled with make-up tips and the latest diet craze. I’d just come back from a mirror-free week of camping in Baja. I was still in travel-daze, that feeling of having been to another planet and back. I remember wondering, “what is this all about?” I also remember that a week later, it was all too familiar again.

I remember hearing a woman in the gym locker room say to her friend that, although she had smile-lines around her eyes, she felt lucky that she didn’t have that sagging jaw line that other women get. I remember the first time, 10 years later, that I looked in a mirror and realized I was one of those less fortunate ones. I remember when the first age spot showed up right near my left eye. I can’t fathom how many times I’ve used my fingers to pull my face taught in an attempt to see what I might look like without all those wrinkles and sags. I walk around feeling 25 and then catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and wonder “Aak! Who’s that?”

“...man you're old
 Getting old
 Old
 Getting old.” (3)

I say that I want to age gracefully. I used to think that meant aging slowly and remaining youthful in my appearance. You know, the kind where people are amazed to find out how old you really are because they think you are 10 years younger.

Now, I hold aging gracefully as being filled with grace.

Something has washed over me in recent days. Something about surrender. Something that snake is teaching me. (The second striped racer crossed my path this week) Snake is about transmuting poison. I want to transmute the poison of comparing myself with air-brushed women in media or women half my age into the golden grace of self-acceptance;  loving myself exactly as I am: curvy, sagging, with cellulite, healthy, strong and wrinkly, and ok, with a lot of blond highlights.

“Will you take me as I am, will you? Will you take me as I am” (4)

I am beginning to know my Beauty:

The Beauty we all are and can’t help but be

The Beauty that can’t be bought by dialing a phone number scrolling across the bottom of the screen during an  infomercial.

The Beauty of our stories of triumph and grief.

The Beauty of our scarred, courageous hearts and wild, winged souls.

The Beauty of being completely and wholly ourselves, loving and nurturing ourselves.

OK people…listen up!

No more holding ourselves as problems in search of the next solution.

No more berating and shaming.

Stop it!

Everything is our mirror; the soaring redwoods, the majestic mountains, the silvery moon, the deep brown earth, the billowy clouds. I want to be that kind of Beautiful. I want to stand tall, know my majesty, light up the darkest of nights, be a solid place to land, and dance across the sky on a windy day.

I want to hear myself say to me, “You are Beautiful” and receive the gift and grace of that in every cell of my being.

Something tells me I don’t need botox to do that and I think my thighs can walk the path of Beauty without liposuction.

Who will walk this path with me?

Suggestions for remembering your Beauty:

  • Find a tree, sit beneath it and listen. It will tell you of your Beauty.
  • When you look in the mirror, let your heart be your eyes.
  • Treat yourself as you would the most beautiful of orchids; nurture yourself completely.
  • Listen to your self-talk. Track it for a full day and then a full week. Write down the most common things you say to yourself that are unkind or mean. Change the way you speak to yourself. Give yourself the respect you deserve.
  • Do the “I love you” exercise I wrote about in an earlier posting.
  • Look for Beauty everywhere. It will show itself to you in the most surprising ways.
  • Listen to this song and imagine God/Source/Divine is singing it to you. Let it in. You are So Beautiful!

Songs referenced in this post:

(1) “Trinkets” (Emory Joseph) on Bonnie Raitt’s Souls Alike

(2) “You are So Beautiful” (Billy Preston & Bruce Fisher) sung by Joe Cocker

(3) “Old” on Paul Simon’s You’re the One

(4) “California” on Joni Mitchell’s Blue

 Copyright(c) November 2009, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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Today, my love for mystery is bumping up against my archetypal victim.

Phooey on evolution and new ways of thinking and being.

Phooey on dreams and visions that require me to be more vulnerable.

Phooey on cleaning up, empowered relationships, and mastery.

And double phooey on social media upkeep.

The only thing that soothes me is the comfort of nature. That, and food; gooey sticky tummy-filling comfort food. Oh,  music too.  If I think about it, I’m speaking “womb;”  surrounded by good energy, well held and well fed while listening to the rhythm of the heart and singing of  blood as it’s pumped through the veins.

I’m floating in the void; at one and the same time comfortable and extremely frustrated.

When I am in this in-between space and in the grip of “victim,” I find myself waiting to be rescued. I’m hoping that the next email, the next phone call, the next mail delivery will bring me a pleasant surprise. I’m hoping that this next trip into town will yield a chance encounter that turns golden. Sometimes, it does. I will get an email inquiry from a potential client, checks in the mail or make a new connection. But most days it’s just bills and junk mail and a bag of groceries in the back of the car.

Where is my knight in shining armor?

Where is Publisher’s Clearinghouse with my million-dollar check?

Waiting to be rescued is a sign that I don’t want to take responsibility for my life, my visions, my happiness. Responsibility feels punishing; like really hard work with high odds of failure. Well, at least that’s how my victim sees it.

I’m rattled by the mess that the fallen oak tree left. No one is stacking firewood. No one is cleaning up the limbs that are dangling from the trees that were slammed by oak on its way down. No one cares about the huge pile of dead boughs. To top it off, the wind carried a big bright blue plastic bag into the center of the whole scene as if to garishly announce  “trash heap.”

These thoughts followed me out to the hiking trail.

The view from my window is not what it once was. It’s not what it will be. It is what it is. I don’t want to take responsibility for it and I want it to be a certain way.

My life is not what it once was. It’s not what I imagine it will be. It is what it is. I don’t want to take responsibility for it, but I sure as heck want to control it.

Video still

Snake (Kathy Loh)

And that’s the moment in my rant that a snake and I came face to boot on the hiking trail. It was a striped racer, not a threat, and a great reminder of the process of transformation and rebirth.  When snake sheds its skin, its eyes cloud over. My eyes are clouded. I can’t see. I’m shedding my old skin. It doesn’t feel good.

In my old life, I did things the hard way. I suffered to earn reward, love, and worthiness. Responsibility was a burden. Discipline was like living in eternal boot camp. I was hard on myself. OK, I think I was actually darn cruel to myself at times.

Who I am becoming is self-nurturing, inspired by Love to walk the path of Beauty, a dancer in the Great Mystery, truly enchanted by life. To this evolving me, responsibility is the “ability to respond” and discipline is “being a disciple to.”

I want to remember  (re-member) what makes me happy and be a disciple to my passions. I want to be able to respond to the winds of change. I want to know and speak the language of the heart.

This experience of floating in the void, this bumping up against like the incoming and outgoing tides, that feels like I’m going nowhere, this shedding of skin and waiting for the new to dry; waiting…waiting….waiting…is full of tension.

This tension is pure creative energy.

I know I am in a deeply creative process and I’m itching for resolution.

I suspect that powerful re-solutions arise in their own time and are not especially responsive to control.

So, I set down control and I surrender to creative chaos.

I allow myself to be enchanted by the mystery of it all.

I am grateful to snake for the reminder that I am re-minding from brain to heart and that it is a process that knows its own timing.

So…

Phooey on control.

Phooey on making things hard.

Phooey on waiting to be rescued.

Uhm, except …

I’d still gladly accept that prize from Publishers Clearing House.

Copyright (c) November 2009, Kathy J Loh, all rights reserved

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