Month: August 2012

What Does Abundance Mean to You?

What Does Abundance Mean to You?

Lavender Treasure by Artist L. Diane Johnson, a painter, instructor, author and juror, serving art collectors and artists since 1981. She was the Founding Editor and designer of the of the award-winning monthly, Plein Air Magazine, and travels the U.S. and Europe to paint live on locaton. She has authored many art articles, artist training demonstrations, and books. Visit her website by clicking on the hphoto.

What signifies abundance is unique for each individual. It depends on circumstances, frame of mind, our history, our openness to receiving and so much more.  This was brought home to me last week when I participated in a guided imagery session. It was a very interesting meditation!

As we relaxed and breathed deeply, we were invited to close our eyes and imagine ourselves walking along a path beside an ocean. It was a beautiful, relaxing, and peaceful place. As we walked along the path breathing in the salt air and listening to the sea gulls overhead we came upon a cave, hidden away in the brush. It was inviting and our curiosity drew us in. As we explored the cave we turned a corner and there, hidden out of the way was a room filled with treasure. Suddenly, surrounded by incredible abundance, our guide invited us to really take in what was there; to pick things up, look at them, feel them, etc.

Initially I saw big, beautiful treasures, gold, jewels, sports cars, and quickly I moved on to adorable little puppies, fuzzy kittens, beautiful flowers and so much more. After a time of looking and exploring and enjoying what we had discovered, we were told that all of the treasure was ours. We could take whatever we wanted with us when we left. I searched to see what treasures I could carry with me and what I chose surprised me.

First, I chose a Cocker Spaniel puppy, a happy, joyful, energetic little creature that smiled at me. Next, I chose a cute pair of shoes. Then, a beautiful shawl, a big pot of blooming hydrangeas and a needlepoint kit. I was worried that I could’t carry everything until I realized I could put on the shoes and the shawl and the puppy would follow me, running along happily beside me. When the session was over and I reflected on these items I began to understand that what I had chosen made sense. At this particular point in my life these are the things that represent abundance to me.

Reflecting on how each item made me feel pointed the way. The Cocker Spaniel puppy loved me exuberantly and freely and accepted my love with out hesitation. He represented unconditional love, something we all need. The shawl  wrapped me in its arms and filled me with feelings of warmth, comfort and security. The cute shoes made me giggle and feel happy. They represent fun and enjoyment. The beautiful, huge hydrangea blossoms inspired me. They embody inspiration. The needlepoint is structured creativity. All of these things together are what abundance means to me.

When I allow these things in my life: love, warmth, comfort, security, fun, inspiration, beauty, and creativity, I need nothing more. I am full to the brim with everything I need and more. I have more than enough. I have abundance.

I expect that at some future time, the things I choose might be quite different and I plan to visit my treasure chest now and again to see what’s there waiting for me. I invite you to do this little mediation and see you what you find in your cave of wonder. It’s a magical place. I hope you’ll pay it a visit. You don’t necessarily need a guide, just close your eyes, breathe deeply and follow your imagination where it leads.

The Gift of Presence

The Gift of Presence

As a driver, I cut my teeth on the highways and byways of metropolitan New York. Fear of speed and traffic was not a part of my lexicon. A serious car accident, however, changed all that in a flash. My sense of security and control flew right out the shattered window with the glass that sliced my hand to the bone.

I recently attempted to take the highway to a doctor’s appointment that I always took and felt like I’d been through a war by the time I arrived. Adrenaline running through my body at hyper speed, heart pounding, hands shaking I found myself sitting in the parking log completely disassociated. I had no sense of where I was or what I was supposed to be doing. My body was numb and barely a part of me.

When faced with this daunting trip again, I decided I would take the back roads to my destination. It would be worth any extra time to maintain my peace of mind. What actually occurred was even better!

The “back roads” are actually among the most beautiful roads in this part of North Carolina as they meander through the wide open, rolling farm lands. It’s quiet, peaceful and filled with natural entertainment and a blast to drive in beautiful weather in a convertible! Bending and turning and singing my way into the quaint little artistic and bustling streets of a neighboring town, I reach my destination relaxed and even on some mornings invigorated!

Today, on my way home I noticed up ahead a stopped car and what looked to be birds crossing the road. When I came a little closer what I saw was a gaggle of geese traveling very calmly and without care from the corn field on the right to the corn field on the opposite side of the street, stopping traffic in both directions. (Traffic was me and the other guy already stopped!) They just made me laugh out loud! They were so nonplussed! Enjoying the moment and indifferent to any problems they may have been causing. They reminded me of a little group of old ladies,who are so often so totally present in themselves that they are indifferent to any stressed out goings on around them. Weighted firmly in their hips, round and rolling, these geese did not care that they had enormous wings that would quickly carry quickly out-of-the-way. They were enjoying their stroll and being together. It was all that mattered.

Wise old women often carry themselves in just such a way. No longer vexed by day-to-day scurrying about, they know what’s important. They know what matters. They know that now is the moment to savor and enjoy. There is no particular place to go that is any more important that what is. What a gift! The image of these geese crossing the road will forever be an image I carry in my mind of who I want to be when I’m a “dangerous old woman”!

MONEY – THE ELEPHANT IN THE CLOSET

MONEY – THE ELEPHANT IN THE CLOSET

money issues
Elephant In The Room Painting by Leah Saulnier

Women, particularly women over fifty, have an uneasy relationship with money. We experience guilt or shame whether we have more than enough or not enough. To make matters worse, we don’t like to talk about these feelings.

I am a perfect example of this dynamic. For as long as I can remember I have said “I don’t care about money. It’s not important. Higher values took precedence. I’ve since learned that this is a fine philosophy if you have enough to meet your needs, and if you understand what enough is.

My relationship with money has been volatile at best over the years.  My husband and I started life together with meager but sufficient means. We both worked good jobs and managed to purchase a starter home. We began our family in a place of self-sufficiency.

Like most newlyweds, we watched our pennies. We worked hard and we believed we would be successful. The America Dream would happen for our family. As a product of the 60’s, I deeply questioned this dream. Its subtle influences, however, were programmed into my thinking. As a result, I lived in a different sort of conflict.

OUR FIRST FINANCIAL CRISIS

Our first serious financial stress began when I decided I wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom. I did not doubt for a minute that this was what I was to do, for the sake of my children. Willing to sacrifice my career and monetary gain to spend these precious years with my children, I would give them something money can never buy. I remember being embarrassed to say I was a stay at home Mom. Even as I was committed to the process, I felt out-of-place and out of step with the world at large. I was what you might call a conflicted idealist, but my actions followed my heart.

My husband made the appropriate decisions to advance his career and he accepted a job that plunked our family of four into a military region of the country at the time of Desert Storm. Before we had even seeded the front yard of our newly built home, he lost his job. When the troops left, so did the need for employees. There was no work in the area, for either of us except low paying jobs. I worked three retail jobs and he took over the care of the children while he searched for employment. We hung on in this way as long as we could. A week away from foreclosure, we put our house on the market and sold it at a loss. We walked away empty-handed and brokenhearted. Somehow things had gone terribly wrong.

SHAME AND HOPELESSNESS SETTLE IN

I know what it’s like to go from having a sense of financial control over one’s life to overwhelming debt. I know the feelings of shame and hopelessness that flourishes in a person who has to stand in line for food stamps and then hand them over to the clerk at the checkout counter. It was mortifying. We were educated, capable people, but the wound to our self-esteem made it harder and harder to see ourselves as redeemable.

As individuals, our struggles with our “fiscal identity” is unique and multi-faceted.  Exploring this issue, in order to remedy it, requires that we go deeper than we like to go. It’s not comfortable, but it’s worth it. Taking the risk to talk about our relationship with money, whether it be with a friend, mentor, or therapist, is the first step in coming out from the shadows of shame.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Brené Brown

OWNING OUR STORY ABOUT MONEY

As we begin to tell our story, letting out the hurt, the shame, the fear, we will begin to recognize our hidden beliefs, the ones that keep us locked in our suffering. We will see more clearly how we sabotage our efforts to reach a place of financial comfort internally and externally. Separating what’s true for us from what’s true for our culture will enable us to align our actions with our deepest beliefs and do so without fear of judgement.

The economic pressures that have become more common in recent years is no lightweight matter. It may just be the pressure we need to begin a thorough self-examination of our attitudes and underlying beliefs. My experience described above did that for me.

I have deep compassion for those experiencing financial misfortune for the first time. It took me years to come to terms with the humiliation I felt during those years and long after. My husband and I did not talk about our plight. We did not ask for help. At that time, financial misfortune was tied to irresponsibility, laziness, and stupidity.  Only the lowest of the low declared bankruptcy.  Culturally, it’s more acceptable now, but personally it is often still a nightmare.

LESSONS LEARNED

I learned many valuable lessons during that time in my life. For instance, I learned that using cloth napkins, emptying and reusing vacuum bags, shopping yard sales for everything from clothes to household necessities made it possible for us to pay the bills and put food on the table for $300 a week. I learned about the pain of not being able to give my children even the simplest gift on their Christmas List and how to make it exciting and happy for them anyway. We all learned, our children included, to make do with the barest necessities. I learned to live without waste and to enjoy the simplest things in life. It took me much longer to learn to live without want in a world of abundance.

Many women now entering their fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties are facing a financial future without retirement, without health insurance, without savings, without a sense of confidence in Social Security or our financial and political institutions, and without confidence in their ability to improve the monetary status. From the very beginning, I have used this website and my social media connections to support small businesses owned by women. Authors, artists, crafters, coaches, and all who make the world a better place deserve our support.

Many women sell products and services online to help make ends meet. All are artists, of one sort or another, committed to their craft and committed to following their purpose in life whether it be to paint a canvas or teach about doing taxes when you are self-employed. The world needs what we have to offer. Let’s open our arms, our minds and our pocket books to one another and support each other financially as well as emotionally. Let’s not assume that everyone else has more than we do. They do not. Let’s also accept that there is enough for everyone and everyone deserves enough. Above all else, let’s open our hearts to one another, and most especially ourselves, without judgement.

The Gift of Age

The Gift of Age

Living just for today can be a real challenge for those of us who have lived our lives immersed in western culture. Every where we turn we hear messages, reminders, and indicators that unless we are moving forward at break neck speed we are not really living. Buddha, and others, understood the disservice we do to ourselves, and our lives, when we do not see and appreciate what is ours in the present moment, the gifts that are right in front of us.

One of the greatest awakenings I have experienced in my lifetime has been to finally see with great clarity how much I was losing today while worrying about tomorrow and fretting about the past. It took reaching midlife and fifty years of beating my head against a wall to finally get it. As a good “hippie”, I read years ago, and understood at some level the value of living in the moment, but I could only sustain it in moments when I was feeling particularly carefree. But living it in my soul? Ah, that would take years, and many, many hours and days of living mentally in the future, encountering road blocks to my best laid plans, and then reaching midlife and immersing myself in the heartbreak of the past.

Midlife presents an enormous opportunity to make great soul strides, to learn from fifty years of living that we can shed our misconceptions and get back to the basics of who we really are. We can choose to ignore the messages of our culture and hang on to what we know to be true in our hears.  Therein, lies one of the true wonders of aging… to at last not only be able, but willing, to see things more clearly…see things as they were meant to be…to see things as they are for us and to accept life with all its ups and downs, as good, and right and true. It’s a gift of aging. Embrace it.