Thank You

rose2

“One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.” ~ Lewis Carroll

Many of you have read Awakening to Awareness for several years. You have thoughtfully offered your ideas, views and understanding. It has been previously communicated that I value the content on your blogs more than the messages shared herein.

Acknowledging this, I am choosing to express my gratitude in a small way.

Six months ago my first book was published. It reflects much of what has been shared on this blog. In appreciation for reading some of these eclectic messages, I am gifting 30 copies of the book… with a couple of guidelines.

A2A Book Cover

To qualify for a copy (which will be mailed) I invite you to be one of the first 30 to:

  1.  In comments, identify the one blog that most inspires you and briefly tell us why. You may link the blog if you so choose.
  2. Subject blog cannot be mine, yours or any affiliated with you.
  3. And… you cannot cite a blog that has previously been mentioned (hint: read the comments).

There is a purpose here and I hope it’s obvious. It’s to introduce those who follow this blog to others who take considerable time to write posts with genuine meaning and significance, often accompanied by delightful images of their own creation. Via this exercise we open doors and come to appreciate even more of the incredible talent within this community.

rose3

Melody Beattie, an author whose insights I admire said,

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

To get the ball rolling, the blog that most inspires me is China Sojourns Photography, a brilliant collection of written wisdom and extraordinary photography by Randy Collis. This ought not surprise many readers as Randy guest authored here with this post in January, 2015.

Thank you! for choosing to add to our collective growth and blogging experience.

Patience Patients

277768582_f9590ae212_m

It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting. ~ Elizabeth Taylor

“The years.” How significant those two words. They reference a manner in which we score time. They are also an expanse that provides us space to assess and test ourselves.

This past Fall I took my mother on an Eastern Mediterranean cruise. We spent time in Rome both prior to and following beautiful seaborne excursions. While she is still amply able-bodied and of sharp mind, I wanted to share more time and experiences with her.

I also wanted to test my own patience.

flawless-patience

As do most children, I love my mother. She is responsible for countless aspects of my grounding, my growth and my character. She also tests my patience. 🙂

Patience is the ability to tolerate waiting, delay or frustration without becoming agitated or upset. It is also the ability to control our emotions or impulses and proceed calmly when faced with challenges. It comes from the Latin word pati which means to suffer, to endure, to bear. Needless to say, patience does not come easily for many of us.

In today’s world of instant everything, technology, and a readily available universe, we can obtain, experience, and consume practically anything we want – almost immediately. Some wonder, do we even need to be patient anymore?

Time with my mother helped me to better understand and appreciate how we wait alongside and accept others. As a grown man, I needed to reassure myself that I possessed and embraced this capacity. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” In the spirit of this quote, planning and measured growth take time and taking time takes patience.

he-waits

Eknath Easwaran, a spiritual teacher and author once said, “Patience can’t be acquired overnight. It is just like building up a muscle. Every day you need to work on it.” It makes sense then that the more we can remain patient, the easier it gets. It’s a muscle we build over the years; a muscle I am still developing.

To those who acknowledge patience as a virtue, these three considerations may be worth your time and practice:

  1. Accept the reality of your humanity. You are going to need time, effort and energy to change and grow. There will be natural resistance to altering long-standing habitual ways of acting, reacting and believing. Simply give it time.
  2. Plan a day to make patience your goal for the entire day. Take your time and think about everything you do. At day’s end, reflect on all the ways you made conscious choices, got along better with others and actually understood what took place.
  3. Be patient with yourself. Keep this kindness reminder in mind when it comes to life. Things don’t always go as planned. You will do things you know you ought not have done. Don’t beat yourself up. Or give up.

Consider being a benefactor of patience.

21205255336_cb51b9d1c5_m

Adieu

3274224582_e00b5d4dbe_m

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

I thought about titling this post Bigger Fish to Fry but realized the idiom inferred more important matters to address. And in some respects this is true. But I didn’t want readers (you) to think yourselves unimportant in my eyes because you genuinely matter to me.

However, it is time to bid you farewell; to move on. Not long ago I shared a post in which I asked if any of you had been (or perhaps, are) On a Verge. Its premise was simply to honor your intuition when you know there are other opportunities calling. To those possibilities, I have listened and am aware of ‘what’s next’ and why.

Watercolor by Abby Diamond

Watercolor by Abby Diamond

For me, it’s always been about following my heart… helping, healing and sharing. To continue contributing in these and other ways, I am choosing to pair my ‘next set of priorities’ with abundant time, renewed energy and unbridled inspiration.

Many of you know, sustaining a blog and actively interacting with many writers can be time-consuming. And the experience has been thoroughly enjoyable! I’ve acknowledged this once before, but it bears repeating… I have gotten more out of what’s been shared in your posts and comments than with my written offerings.

9250949334_c153ac92d0_m

I’m excited about this next life chapter. I’ve been looking forward to continuing to realign with what really matters to me. And I suspect some of you are leaning in, whispering, what is it you’re going to be doing, Eric? 🙂 Well, I hope this doesn’t disappoint but there’s little noble on the radar screen. There are some nearer-term and some longer-term activities that will receive due attention. Once they’re completed, time will avail to do more — yet to be determined, good things.

8319833127_954facd484_m

For those interested, here is what’s on the forward leaning plate:

  • I will be committing a hefty chunk of time to rehearsing for and competing in the (my now, fourth) Toastmasters International Speech Contest. While still untitled, my speech this year is about compassion creating connections.
  • I will finally, finish and publish my first book which will reflect much of what I have shared in this blog.
  • I will be creating more time to be in and with nature. Solitude rejuvenates and is immensely healing for our mind, body and spirit.
  • I am going to learn to speak/read Italian. This ought not surprise many given my professed fondness for nearly all things Italian.
  • I am going to travel. A lot. 🙂 I keep encouraging my Mom to do whatever she wants while she is of sound mind and body. An advocate for ‘walking our talk,’ I will practice what I encourage others to consider doing.
  • I intend to find a cause or organization that will welcome my time and services – in a volunteer capacity. I have mentored and been in service to others for decades, just not at the level I can now. It’s time for me to augment my contributions.
  • And perhaps most important, I will be spending much more time creating and rekindling connections with people. Live, in-person, connections which for me, are the most authentic and fulfilling.

I may someday return to this amazing WordPress Community; time and passion will tell. Know that I will cherish this mutual adventure and you… many of you more than you will know. I am privileged to have shared our connections.

With appreciation, respect and love,

Eric

10628384_10204461894443071_8998007267656859673_n

Untethering

“If experience is the best teacher, there’s nothing that comes close to the experience of life.” ~ Michael A. Singer

I’ve not discovered a cure for a major disease nor have I invented something that radically changes how we live. And it’s probably fair to say that neither have you. Still, we are significant; why else would we be here? Each of us is making a contribution to humanity simply by living in full expression of who we are. For whatever or however you are contributing, I honor and respect you!

Life is about continuous progress; the ability to move forward and achieve your own version of greatness. To get there, however, some of us need to let go of things from our past and listen to our inner voice that can urge us toward a space that seems both unclear and at times, crazy.

When we listen to our voice we begin to imagine and dream about following this higher knowing and the possibilities that lie ahead. Sometimes though, when we start to believe in such prospects, the ego-mind interjects itself and we find ourselves doubting our dreams and desires. And we retreat. You’re familiar with this, right?

So, why do we self-sabotage? One reason for inaction can be understood when an individual not progressing is viewed as part of a larger social situation. When one has to marshal the herd and get others to move, there is some risk that accompanies that. It is much easier to not lead the way, blend into the crowd, and wait for somebody else to assume the risk and be responsible. In social psychology this is called the “bystander effect.” But when others are not involved, it becomes justly about you.

2909801893_76a1e8f941_m

If you are On A Verge, listening to your inner voice, perhaps sensing opportunity and an associated need to untether, these considerations are important to remember:

  1. Appreciate what you have. Rather than focusing on what you think may be missing from your life, reflect on that with which you are blessed. It’s too easy to look at the people you surround yourself with and want what they have. Just because someone has material possessions doesn’t mean s/he is internally happy. Be grateful for what is most important to you instead of what you perceive as lacking.
  2. Take full responsibility. Near always, you are responsible for the quality and condition of your life. Sometimes we choose to do nothing when we get hit hard because it’s just easier (and less painful) that way. But disappointment is often only deferred. You have to live with that inner voice that says you didn’t try hard enough in pursuit of your dreams/desires. It’s your choice to plow through and keep moving forward.
  3. Do one simple thing. To move forward; start moving. One step, small steps, in the direction of your goal or vision is progress. Determine one (simply one!) area of your life where you have wanted to move forward. Spend time visualizing what it would take to get you started. And act! Take that first step. Then, move on to the next step.

Peace and Joy

When you’ve seen beyond yourself, then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there.” ~ George Harrison

Shopping today, I finally acknowledged the background music which was, predictably, Christmas themed. I know it has been playing for weeks yet I simply heard it as premature holiday noise, given my elsewhere focus. I’m unsure what triggered my ‘tuning in’ today but it was an anticipated and welcome shift.

One of my favorite vocalist groups is Pentatonix. Their medleys are amazingly creative and soothing. And since I’m now, officially, in the seasonal spirit, I am sharing one of their holiday harmonies. Their words and thoughts of cherishing, candles glowing, the joy of family, and love that the holiday season brings, are special to many of us. I hope you appreciate the piece.

8292496990_1e0194130b_m

We’re heading into a bustling time of year; a time when peace can (and does) reign in our hearts and minds. While a bit early, yet with heartfelt warmth, I want to wish each of you a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, a Happy Kwanzaa or whatever you choose to celebrate. May your time with family and friends be filled with overflowing joy.

4970923272_3b2e84c40d_m

It’s About the Smile

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” ~ William Butler Yeats

I got half way through typing a post and thought, nope, not today. It seemed too heavy a message to start or conclude a week, depending on which way you view Sundays.

Instead, I am sharing the above three minutes video. It’s four years young yet today was the first time I’ve viewed it. It easily brought a smile to my face and a lift to my spirit. The clip is a voice only, live orchestra, welcome home greeting. And it obviously accomplished its goal of pleasantly surprising arriving passengers.

3386629036_0b929ebb7f_m

As inspiring moments often do, this got me thinking about the impending, year-end holidays. And what each of us can do to make someone’s day uniquely memorable. Be it Thanksgiving in the U.S., Hanukkah, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa – whatever one celebrates – many people will plow full-steam ahead into the next two months without giving fair thought to how and what they can do for those not anticipating anything.

We don’t need to stage elaborate productions as in this video. We can create and present small acts that may well be emotional and unforgettable for others. Simple things like a pair of gloves or a scarf, a small gift bag, a blanket or (gasp!) an invitation into your home or a restaurant for a meal, can generate an endless smile, even tears of appreciation.

294752146_602fb44d63_m

I’m going to flip my post format today. Rather than offer three ideas for you to consider, I’m inviting you to share one act (in comments) that you intend to perform in the coming weeks to create a special moment for someone, especially a stranger.

Of course, it is my belief that we ought to be doing this continuously. But that’s an opportunity for you to mull. 🙂 Let’s see what we’re capable of doing to pleasantly stun a new, even if momentary, arrival in our life.

6988690943_b6793ed846_m

Inspiring Others

“Have you ever been stopped in your tracks? By a stranger who affected you profoundly?” ~ Eric Tonningsen

Months ago, I briefly mentioned a woman named Rose. I committed to writing about her in a later post. Now I am. Rose served as the inspiration for a story I shared over a three-month series of progressive speech contests. This video was the last time I told the story in May.

If you watch the video, you’ll better understand where this post is going. And yes, it has to do with how we inspire… and how people like you, inspire me.

Fifteen months ago I launched this blogging journey. Truthfully, I get more out of reading and viewing your posts, than I do crafting and sharing mine. I’ve (virtually) met an amazing, creative cadre; people who take time to share what’s on their minds, in their hearts, seen through their lenses, and created on their unique easels.  To each of you, for enriching my life, a respectful hat tip.

We don’t all follow one another’s blogs. Ergo, I want to acknowledge four bloggers whose work has inspired me and in doing so, invite you to visit their site. You may find yourself comparably inspired. Yes, there are countless more than these four people who move, motivate, and inspire me to think, act, laugh, and cry. I appreciate how each of you chooses to contribute to our community.

In my predictable format, here are three ways in which to consider inspiring others, if so inclined:

  1. Untether people. Don’t simply give people your advice. Give them the freedom to figure it out themselves. No one likes a micro-manager or a know-it-all. If you’re asked for help, share a rough outline to help the person move in the right direction, but leave something to their imagination so they’ll have the freedom to fill in the blanks. Self-discovery will show them that they’re fully capable and more powerful that they ever thought possible.
  2. Empathize with people’s judgments and how you’d like to see their life differently. You can often find presence in the feelings and needs that lie behind their world view. Maybe they aren’t changing, but you can create space in which to transform your own judgments and expectations. You have the capacity to shift opinions of others and relationships by simply focusing on yourself.
  3. Acknowledge contributions of others. You’re just one person yet you’ve contributed to your own life successes. What about others who have added meaning and value to your life? It’s not always your idea. 🙂 Acknowledge other’s contributions publicly, if possible, to show people you’re humble and appreciative enough to give them credit for how they’ve affected you.

Friendships & Relationships

                    Lauren Calcote & Dustin Simon

Lauren Calcote & Dustin Simon

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” ~ John Lennon

This past weekend, I was honored to bear witness to the binding of two lives. Their love for each other and their incredible zest for life is priceless. And for we who shared in their celebration, it was an equally memorable blessing.

In the bliss of their day, I reflected on three simple considerations:

  1. Value the people who are there. Sometimes we get so caught up looking for romantic love that we forget to appreciate the friends and family who are always there, offering their support. At least I did. You might be thinking that friendships aren’t the same as romantic affection, and I understand. But we don’t attract romantic love into our lives by focusing on what’s missing. We attract potential partners by radiating love. Take inventory of all the people who care. There are likely more than you realize.
  2. Have a sense of humor, some fun, and a bit of distraction in your life. You can’t spend all your free time “working” on your relationship – don’t make it a hobby. Discuss what you like to do, where you’d like to go, and how you’d both like to have fun. Then go do it. 🙂
  3. Listen and respond. This seems so simple, yet the act of listening with undivided attention is one of the things that sustains friendships and relationships. Just be with the one you love. Ask questions. Show genuine interest. When people fail to respond to each other’s bids for emotional connection, the results can be disastrous. Explore the value in positive exchanges.

My two cents, unsolicited.

Appreciating Health and Years

 “Life is beautiful, as long as it consumes you. When it is rushing through you, destroying you, life is gorgeous, glorious. It’s when you burn a slow fire and save fuel, that life’s not worth having.” ~ D. H. Lawrence

In a recent post I highlighted Ysabel Duron, a news journalist and cancer survivor, as a shining example of someone who has since her diagnosis, embarked on an encore (aged 60+) career. Little slows Ysabel down because she has utter clarity about her mission and greater purpose in life.

Cancer. It’s a ravaging disease. Many of us have friends and family who have battled this scourge. I came across the following (author unknown) piece a while back. I’m sharing it to heighten awareness of cancer or any other crushing affliction.

The Chicago airport was crowded especially downstairs where the United commuter gates are. Sitting to my right a few seats away a man in his seventies was doing business. From what was spoken on several calls he apparently worked for a grocery supply company.

The last call the gentleman made started with “Hi, this is ________ and I am calling to get the results of my tests from last week. Yes, sure I can hold.” He sat quietly and until he spoke I did not know someone else had picked up on the other end.

“Oh, that bad, huh. That’s not the news I had hoped for” was what I heard in a much more deadpan voice than the up-tempo salesman I had been listening to previously. In an even softer voice came, “Yes, I can come see the doctor next week. How soon does he want me to begin chemo again? I’m hoping I won’t have to start until after Christmas.” There was a pause as he listened followed by “I understand you’re just the nurse and can’t tell me. It’s just not the news I was hoping for.” Then came another pause before he said, “Wednesday at 2pm? Yes, I will be there. Thank you.”

He ended the call and just sat there staring down at the floor for what seemed like five minutes. As he raised his head up, he made eye contact with me and his moist eyes met mine. Without a single word, I smiled and he smiled a half-smile back. There was nothing else I could do for this perfect stranger who I imagine had just been told his cancer was back.

I won’t forget this experience. I will remember how good my life is and how blessed I am to have good health. My momentary airport friend will go through the weeks to come, facing the specter of ill-health and the possibility of impending death. I hope for the very best for him and owe a debt of gratitude for being accidentally included in his life for a few minutes. I have so much to be thankful for!

If you and your loved ones are blessed with good health, then the prospect of aging might be something you want to reconsider embracing. Ysabel Duron and others who have lived 60+ years know that now, especially now, is the time to appreciate that:

  • You know that diet is a lifestyle, not a temporary restriction on what you eat.
  • You know that people are more important than things and you now prefer to collect good people in your life.
  • You no longer take bucket lists seriously because you live every day fully.
  • You totally get the value of having kind people in you life.
  • You are okay spending time alone; in fact, you prefer it sometimes.
  • You still use the phone to talk to friends.
  • You have learned how to weed out the users, the time-sucks and the emotionally needy from your life.
  • You understand that being a good listener may be better than being a good talker.
  • You know that elders aren’t the only ones you can learn from; younger people have a perspective worth being open to.
  • You truly understand other people and have gained a real appreciation for all types of personalities.

And… you can wear whatever you choose. 🙂

 

Your Senses: Their Worth

 “Memories establish the past; Senses perceive the present; Imaginations shape the future.” ~ Toba Beta, My Ancestor Was an Ancient Astronaut

Earlier this month I attended an annual gathering of Master Coaches and other Professional Masters. It was held at a beautiful San Diego property. One evening while seated at an outdoor reception (ten attendees to a table), we were provided with random written prompts (as if we were incapable of initiating conversation). 🙂

The prompts were creative and thought-provoking. And they stimulated an interesting range of perspectives and responses. Then our table was presented with an age-old question: If you were to lose one of your five senses, which would you most regret losing and why?

I suspect most of us have fielded this question and have a fairly good idea how we’d respond. And I did, too, until I listened, carefully, to others describe their personal experiences and rationale. Several of the explanations shared, I’d not previously considered. And I found myself being open to yet more ways of thinking about and appreciating our physical senses.

There are many gifts in life that we take for granted. Or at least, that we don’t often reflect upon. Until we lose what is precious to us, we simply surmise that “it” will always be around.

It doesn’t hurt to rekindle relationships with what matters to you. In fact, it may be a timely reacquainting. So here’s an exercise you are welcome to try. It’s about engaging your five senses, for at least one minute each (just estimate the time). The point is to focus on the present moment and how each sense is being activated in that moment.

Hearing: Begin to relax by just noticing all of the sounds around you. Give yourself permission to suspend your judgment of the sounds. They are not good or bad, they just are. Are you now hearing more than you were when you started? Subtle sounds may have previously gone unnoticed. Can you hear them now?

Smell: Now shift your concentration to noticing the smells of your environment. Is somebody cooking lunch in your building or home? Can you detect the electronics smell of your computer or fresh air coming in through your window? Try closing your eyes so you can focus on the subtlest of scents.

Sight: If you closed your eyes a moment ago, open them now and notice the colors, shapes and textures of your surroundings. If you really look, just about everything has color variation and texture that may have gone unnoticed. How many shades of blue and red? Any color missing?

Taste: You can do this one regardless of whether you have food to put in your mouth. If you don’t have food, just notice your tongue in your mouth, your saliva, and your breath as you exhale. If you have a snack, take a small bite and notice all of the flavors and textures that arise. Run your tongue over your teeth and cheeks – what do you notice?

Touch: Where did you place your hands when you first started this exercise? Notice the sensation of where your hands meet something solid like the fabric of your clothes or the surface of your desk? Notice the pressure between your feet and the floor. Try feeling the textures that you noticed by sight a moment ago. To fully ground yourself and bring the exercise to a close, stand up and bring energy and sensation to all parts of your body.

Quite simply, your senses are amazingly valuable. Heightening awareness of them, renews your appreciation for their worth.