Sunday, February 13, 2011

To Be or Not To Be

A New Kind of List

It is Sunday afternoon and I can feel my mind and my body slowly moving towards thoughts of Monday. At first, it’s like a tiny speck in the distance. Then, like a slow train that picks up speed, the hours melt by and suddenly Sunday afternoon has turned into Sunday evening and my to-do list begins to take shape at a fast and furious pace. The weekend is coming to an end and I find myself gearing up for the responsibilities and fast pace of a full new week. “It is over”, the brain says and my body responds with feelings of tightness, agitation, and resentment. Our fast-paced living demands a To-Do list. Checking things off as they get completed is a sign of success in our culture. But is this the only way?

I was inspired when I came across the book “Your To Be List: Turn Those Dreaded To-Do’s Into Meaningful Moments Everyday” by Lauren Rosenfeld and James McMahon. The authors suggest that we turn inward and become quiet and mindful. Instead of asking “What do I have to do today?” it is important to contemplate the following: “What kind of person do I want to be today?” The actions on the To-Do list are really secondary. It is important to first create a grounding, a base on which to stand before we proceed with our list of responsibilities and activities to complete. It is this early morning practice that sets the tone for the day.

On a recent morning, I prepared for my meditation with this practice in mind. This is what my To-Do list looked like: finalize lesson plans, teach, make photo-copies, go grocery shopping, walk the dog, take mom to the doctor’s, return library books, respond to e-mails, cook dinner….and the list went on. As I breathed deeply, I returned again and again to the question and asked myself “What kind of person did I want to be on that day?” After a few minutes, I noticed that there a softness began to develop around that question which was not present when I thought about my To-Do list. My To Be list felt warm and loving and my body responded by relaxing and letting go of tightly held tension and anxiety. I wanted to be inspiring. And my lesson plan preparations became less mundane. I wanted to be a loving presence. And the doctor’s visit with my mom turned into an opportunity for a few moments of wonderful, shared conversation. I wanted to be giving and the errand of returning library books became the idea that I would be sharing the wonderful words that I had read in those books with others. I wanted to be nurturing and the preparations for a healthy dinner evolved into a meditation of love and healing for me and my family. The errands on my To-Do list still got completed. But the intention behind the action had changed and quietly shifted the way I viewed my day, my responsibilities, and my life.

Each morning is a brand new day. Why not experiment and ask, “What kind of person do I want to be today?” and notice how the next 24 hours can be transformed. Life is not perfect, but deciding how we want to show up for it can generate a more positive and mindful experience.

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Friday, February 4, 2011


Books have been a dear part of my life for as long as I can remember. They have always been my constant companions and I treasure their company immensely. I remember the secret thrill of receiving my first library card. That laminated little white card that offered me the privilege of borrowing books-what an exuberating feeling! Although my reading was supported by both my parents, buying books was considered somewhat frivolous for a family of recent immigrant status. One of my earliest memories was when I was a little girl and I would go to the Woolworth’s store with my mother. I would sit myself down on the floor of the toy and book section of the store to read a book that caught my interest. When we were due to leave the store, I would fold over the page and place the book behind some obscure toy that no one would ever look at, only to return to the book and continue reading on the next shopping expedition. I had finished many books sitting on that Woolworth’s floor and today I admire the inventiveness of the little girl that simply just wanted to read.

These days, books can be found in every room of my home. I am often astounded how such a seemingly simple invention as black lettered words on a white page can pierce my heart, make me sigh, offer me encouragement, introduce me to characters that become friends and take me to places I can only visit in my imagination. Recently, someone asked me to identify a book that has opened my mind to viewing life through a different lens. I found it challenging to select just one. I also admit that the titles change depending on where I am in my life. The following is a list of a few of my favorites. Enjoy!

Circle of Stones by Judith Duerk- a wise, gem of a book for women that explores the sacred connections and intuitive bonds that women have with each other. It writes to support the ancient rituals of women’s’ circles and the celebration of feminine life passages.

The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron- as the back page of the book says: “…an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life”. It’s a read that gets creative energy flowing in all aspects of living. It offers chockfull of interesting exercises that work to unblock your true, creative, playful nature.

Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana- this wonderful book reveals the myths, realities, and amazing benefits of meditation and mindfulness. As the title states, it is written in simple, clear, plain English that is easy to comprehend. I have not found a book about meditation that is easier to understand than this one.

Taking the Leap by Pema Chodron- a brilliant author and American Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron describes the idea of ‘shenpa’, also understood as the hook that repeatedly gets us stuck in negative response patterns. She shows us how to identify our ‘shenpas’ and the qualities we need to cultivate in order to overcome them.

The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele- explores yoga’s ethical practice by reviewing each yama and niyama and offering practical questions and personal practices that can help us weave these ancient philosophical guidelines into our modern lives.

Holistic Anatomy by Pip Waller- this book describes anatomy in a holistic way by connecting the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of our existence. It incorporates western and eastern thoughts about how our body functions. The author states in his introduction that this book is his way of …”introducing adults to the miracle of the body”. Do you want to know how your body works? This is the book to read!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- this is a classic that I return to again and again. This amazing book has taught me about integrity, friendship, acceptance, education, and courage. I have been honored to name Atticus Finch and his daughter Scout as dear friends and I learn something more about them and about me every time I pick up this book.

So tell me, what are some books or characters that have inspired you in your life? Do share!

With love, Linda

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