Default to Happiness

Pumpkin Possibilities
Pumpkin Possibilities

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.” ~ Tecumseh, Native American Leader

“The simplest way to say it is that I think we’re all dealt these cards in life, but the cards in and of themselves don’t read one way or the other. It’s up to you to home in and cultivate whatever you’ve got in your hand.” ~ Pharrell Williams

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

This past week I had a big “AHA” moment. Even though I think of myself as a mostly happy person, I’m not. Or at least, my first reaction to things is negative rather than positive. The thing is I thought I’d taken care of this 30 years ago. But as with any healing process, you have to revisit the issue and do more work until the change is complete.

This new aha came by doing the first experiment from the book E Cubed. In this, and the first book E Squared, Pam Grout teaches the reader how to change the way we look at the world by doing thought experiments. This latest experiment that I’m doing has to do with setting my day for happiness and calling for amazing things to happen to me.

This first experiment is accomplished by playing a series of games. This first one is called “The Right Side of the Bed (or Start You Day with a Laugh Track).” For the first five minutes after getting out of bed, you throw a “feel-good party” for your brain. You listen and even dance to one or more joyful songs. The first one on her list is “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. It happens to be one of my favorite songs. The second thing you do is to pump your fists in the air with complete glee, repeating this movement five times. The third thing is to pretend you just made a goal in the finals, when the score was tied. Fourth do the Harlem Shuffle on your way to the bathroom, (I don’t know what that is, so I just do some kind of dance as the song plays). The fifth thing I haven’t done outside, but it’s to stretch your arms wide to salute the sun that comes up everyday without having to pay for it.

This is what happened the first day. I found and hour long version of “Happy” on YouTube. The song is looped. The first time through, Pharrell is singing and dancing to the music, then regular people follow. As I watched and sang along, I started to cry at the line, “Clap along if you think that happiness is a truth,” and it hit me that I want to think happiness is a truth, but I don’t. I’m one of those billions of people who thinks that happiness is always followed by something sad or bad. Yikes! How did I become that person?

The truth is things in my outer world often set me off. Like hearing all the stupid things Trump does, or sometimes personal circumstances set me off. I feel frustrated and angry that this or that keeps happening. Just today, I’m working really hard to keep my equilibrium. I want to be happy all the time and see my life changing for the better. I want to see things in a positive light first, rather than complaining. Maybe it’s just part of human DNA that we assume the worst first. But somehow I feel that’s wrong. I don’t believe that God sent us here to suffer. I never believed that, but somehow those ideas wormed their way into my thinking.

That’s why I bought Pam Grout’s books and started doing the experiments because I want to get rid of negative thinking and bring happiness and amazing things into my life. As Pam, quantum physicists, and so many spiritual teachers point out, our thoughts create our reality. When I look around at the world we’ve created, I’m sad and dismayed. I don’t want to live in that world any longer. So, I’m  going to continue to work at changing my personal reality.

I know some people think that’s magical thinking, or that I’m a Pollyanna. And I say, “Yep! I’d rather be Pollyanna than someone like Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, certain politicians, or religious leaders.” I want to see the world as a beautiful place full of happiness and love. I want that way of seeing the world to be my default setting. To that end, I’ve decided that when things look bleak or I’m out of sorts for any reason, I’ll plug in my headphones and listen to “Happy” or some other uplifting song until my mood has changed. I did that yesterday and this morning while I was working in the kitchen. It was fun. I may do that every morning until I wake up feeling like every new day is going to be amazing and fun. So, with that in mind, I’m off to do more writing and working on my soon to be launched video series.

I hope you have an amazing day. Thanks for reading.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

How Writing Is Like Life

April Morning Rose
April Morning Rose

“That’s why I write, because life never works except in retrospect. You can’t control life, at least you can control your version.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Stranger than Fiction

“I have spent a good many years since – too many, I think – being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

“If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act – truth is always subversive.” ~ Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Today I’m feeling reflective. I finished yet another round of revisions to my novel, The Space Between Time. I’ve been working on it for six years this summer, more if you count the months I spent on it in 1999 when I first began writing it.

Eight years ago when I quit teaching to write full-time, the first thing I did was take a writing course. I wanted to be a writer, but I lacked experience. My degrees are in religious studies and theatre not creative writing. But I felt drawn to writing so I took the course to help get me started. I nearly quit after that course.The instructor said that my writing was guarded. She suspected there was deep feeling behind what I had written but I needed to strip away the layers and get down to the raw emotions that I was trying to express. After I recovered from my hurt feelings, I made that my goal. I reminded myself what I told my students, that it takes time to learn a new skill. After all they didn’t learn to walk the first time they got up on their feet. So, I did as I had told them, I began writing every day. That was the only way I was going to be able to peel away the layers.

Over the years I’ve come to discover that my writing was guarded, because I had spent a lifetime hiding my true feelings. It wasn’t that I didn’t have deep emotions, quite the contrary. It was that for the most part, I didn’t express them. However during a particularly painful time in my life, I used journaling as a way to heal. Three years ago when I began this blog it was another attempt to become more vulnerable in both my writing and in my personal life.

Many years ago, Mary Manin Morrissey, said something in one of her sermons that has been of great comfort to me. Life is like a spiral. When something happens to us we do the most healing we can in the time period right after the incident. Then at some point, the issue will circle back around and we get a chance to do more healing work. The problem, or wound, will continue to circle around until we’ve completed the work. We get many chances to improve our lives when whatever it is we’re working on comes back around. Writing is like that. We write the first draft, but the work is not finished. We must allow the characters and story to circle back through our consciousness so we can see new facets, deeper emotions and nuances of motivations. That’s why revising is so important.

During this latest round of revisions, I have finally allowing my characters to make mistakes, be vulnerable, to feel pain, be confused, and to not know how to find their way. I think I still have a way to go before they are well rounded and more like real human beings, but it feels good to be digging deeper into how they cope with their pain and their mistakes.

The thing I’m most grateful for about being a writer is that I’ve become more vulnerable. It’s helped me dismantle the walls I hid behind thinking that they would both protect me and keep me from making mistakes. Writing has helped me accept myself as a flawed human being who is just trying to figure out how to live and connect with those around me. It’s allowed me to learn through my characters and thus discover my own personal truth.

Like what Stephen King expresses in the above quote, sometimes I feel apologetic that it is taking so long to finish this book. However, I don’t feel like I’m wasting my God-given talent. And as the Anne Lamott quote states, I’m using my talent as God intended to write toward vulnerability and to tell the truth as I understand it. The way I, and all artists do that, is to plumb the depths of their humanity to bring some reflection of themselves to light. I think we need more people to do that and that’s why I’m proud and excited to be able to do this work.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share with a friend or leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

*Go Set A Watchman* – A Review

Go Set A Watchman Cover Art
Go Set A Watchman Cover Art

“One of the most powerful tools for transformation is the willingness to ask ourselves, ‘Could I be mistaken?’ “ ~ Marianne Williamson

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; As I have loved you, That ye also love one another.” ~ John 13:34 The Bible

“Go and love someone exactly as they are. And then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered.” ~ Wes Angelozzi

This week’s post was going to be about a completely different subject. Well, not so different I suppose. I was going to comment on my feelings about politics, and not just the elections. Then last Friday morning I finished reading Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman and my plans changed.

When I began reading the book, even though I had tried not to, I was comparing it to To Kill A Mockingbird. Somehow I got through 12 years of school, college, and graduate school without ever having read the book. I’d seen the movie numerous times, but I didn’t read the book until about two or three years ago. When I read To Kill A Mockingbird it affected me on a very deep level. Few books have affected me that way. Go Set A Watchman is one I will be thinking about for many years to come.

When the book first came out, I’d read reviews about it. Some people condemned it for ruining their love of the character of Atticus Finch. I loved him too, because the way Gregory Peck portrayed him in the movie was very much like my own father. I wasn’t sure I wanted that image destroyed. Yet, other review comments intrigued me, so I bought the book. I’m glad I did.

One of the main themes is that often we worship one or both of our parents. We think they are perfect. It’s part of growing up to understand that human beings are complicated. Often we have to learn to love and accept our family and friends as they truly are, not as we wish them to be.

Jean Louise Finch finds out some things about her father that make her sick because they convince her that who she thought her father was is a lie. But as the events of the book move along, she learns that the new information she discovered is not quite right either. The point of view about everyone being equal that she learned from him was partly her own interpretation of who he was. Every human being is a mass of contradictions. Jean Louise and her father Atticus are no different.

Near the end of the book, Hank, a life long friend of Jean Louise’s says that he’s trying to get her to see past her father’s actions to his motivations. I was so struck by that statement, because that’s what my father used to try to get us to do. We can’t always know what is in another person’s heart, and sometimes appearances can be deceiving.

By the time I finished the last page, I was grateful for the courage Harper Lee demonstrated in writing the book. Through the events and characters I came to understand the nature of the extremely complicated relationships and long held beliefs many Southerns hold on to. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I had no idea how tangled the layers of not only race relations, but the staunch belief in states rights, the class system, and even the proper roles of the sexes are in the South. Then, of course, I realized that’s the truth for the entire country. The issues of race relations aren’t going to be healed until we are willing to take a new look at our long held attitudes about people who happen to be of a different race or social class than we are.

In my opinion, To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman, are companion books and should be studied together. The first describes race relations and how Jean Louise’s father fits into that picture from a child’s point of view. In the second, she is shaken awake and must confront herself, her town and finally her father. When we grow up and realize our perceptions about our loved ones is incorrect, that’s the day we can learn to accept the flaws in ourselves and everyone else. In my opinion, we all need to do that on a personal and national level.

Relations among the races in this country is an unhealed wound. As my father used to say, you can’t legislate morality. Well you can’t pass laws that say all men are created equal and make people honor it either. It’s distressing to me because it seems whites have expanded racial hatred to include anyone who isn’t white. It seems that way only if you listen to the corporate media. There are rays of hope, but you have to be dedicated to finding them.

I’ve written this before, and I’ll emphasize it again, we’re at a crucial point in our country’s development. It’s time for us to grow up and acknowledge our mistakes and find ways to untangle the many threads that got us to where we are today so we can weave them into a beautiful pattern. That to me, is the theme of Go Set A Watchman. Those of us who are courageous enough must be the watchmen and stand up for caring for ALL people wherever and whenever we can in our day to day lives. If enough people do that, then we can truly become the melting pot we’ve been purported to be.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share any of my posts with friends.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

We All Have Scars

Chapel of the Red Rocks
Chapel of the Red Rocks

“Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities … always see them … for they’re always there.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” ~ Maya Angelou

After nearly three years of writing this weekly blog, I have to make a confession to you. I get impatient with people who are bonded to their negativity. I don’t often talk about it, or show my irritation outwardly. After all, you can’t change another person’s mind. They have to do that themselves. However, it has been difficult for me to be around people who only see death and destruction when I’ve worked so hard to seek out evidence to the contrary. Just recently I became aware that I’ve felt superior to anyone who’s got a negative outlook, because I can always find the positive side of any situation.

For many years I’ve worked to find the lessons in traumatic situations and difficult circumstances in which I found myself. I’ve made a concerted effort to become more loving and accepting, more peaceful and joyful. I’ve sought ways to heal myself. So when I FELT, during meditation, that I was wearing those terrible events like badges of honor, I had to admit that I was no different than anyone else. It was difficult to acknowledge that I had felt just a little bit superior to people who are stuck in their pain. Believe me, pain is addictive and I have finally admitted that I was an addict too. The good news is that if I can learn such a big lesson and let go of old patterns, so can anyone else who chooses to do so.

As, I’ve written before, this latest self-understanding is the result of a many year process. Last year on January 1, I began studying A Course in Miracles. We bought the book twenty years or more ago, but for some reason, I didn’t feel drawn to study it until last year. Every day I read a lesson and did an exercise. I have to credit the study of this book with helping me shift my thinking about myself. It’s difficult to describe how I felt internally, but it always seemed as if there was a huge barrier between me and what I wanted my life to look like. ACIM helped me begin to dismantle the mental wall I’d built up.

Nothing happens by accident and in November I was introduced to Dr. Joe Dispenza. He’s one of a number of people who are studying the brain. His book, Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One, uses science to explain how we can cut our ties to old ways of thinking and reacting to external stimuli. He shows the reader a step by step process to form new neural pathways so that we can be free to create a new life. Part of his procedure is to get the reader to face up to the unconscious thought patterns we’ve adopted but which hold us back from the happy life we’d like to live. It was while following his meditation techniques that I was blessed with my profound aha moment.

For many years I’ve known, intellectually, that everyone has scars. You can’t live on this planet without having had some traumatic experiences. During my meditation, however, I FELT the truth of that, and the fact that no one’s trauma is more special than anyone else’s. We often think ours is the most special but that’s not the truth. I certainly thought that. But now I’m ready to just get on with cutting away my old way of being and thinking about what happened to me and see myself in a new way. I’m no longer allowing my past to be a barrier between me and the life I’ve always wanted to live.

This is a new beginning for me so I’ll have lots of self-examination to do over these next months. However, I have to say, for the first time in my entire life, I feel free to be the real me. It’s a wonderful feeling and I hope that you can feel that way too one day.

This is my dream for all of us, that one day we will live in a world where, when a baby is born, they automatically know they can create the life of their dreams without going through such terrible life lessons. I know there will still be challenges but I hope that future generations will begin with a more positive mind set. I hope they come into this world understanding human behavior and know how to forgive without allowing the trauma to stick to them like superglue. It may take a long time before we get to that place but I still dream of a world like that.

I hope you have a wonderful year of new discoveries and adventures. I plan on having a few.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with friends.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

We Can Change the World

Earth from the Moon
Earth from the Moon

“Conflict must be resolved. It cannot be evaded, set aside, denied, disguised, seen somewhere else, called by another name, or hidden by deceit of any kind, if it would be escaped. It must be seen exactly as it is, where it is thought to be, in the reality which has been given it, and with the purpose that the mind accorded it. For only then are its defenses lifted, and the truth can shine upon it as it disappears.” ~ A Course In Miracles Lesson 333, “Forgiveness Ends The Dream Of Conflict Here.”

I’m a big fan of reading fiction and watching plays and movies. I say that because there have been so many books, plays and movies that have changed the way I see the world. I believe I’m a better person because I love to be transported by the stories.

This past weekend my husband and I went to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. I had read the books and seen the first three movies. In general I’m not a fan of dystopian books and movies, because most of the time they don’t end on a note of hope. I believe in hope. This series has a large dose of hope at the end. If you haven’t read them, I suggest you do because the main characters must deal with the horrendous mental and emotional wounds they suffered throughout the arch of the story. They must find hope and healing. And they do, as much as they are able.

At the end of the movie, Katniss Everdeen is on an outing with her family. It’s many years after the events that transformed her society. She’s holding her baby, while Peeta, her husband and fellow sufferer, is playing with their young toddler. The baby jerks awake, as if from a nightmare. Katniss then tells the baby how she deals with her nightmares. She makes lists of all the acts of kindnesses she’s seen people do. It helps her remember that there are good and kind people out there and that eases her memories of the horrors she’s experienced.

I can’t say I’ve witnessed horrors first hand, though I have seen real horrors on TV. I’ve never lived in a war torn country, or had to flee my home, but none of us get through this life without scars. According to studies done on the effects of witnessing horrendous events, it doesn’t matter whether we experience them in person or see them on TV or in movies. They don’t even have to be real for us to feel them as if they happened to us. We are affected no matter what the delivery system. The same goes for acts of kindness. If we witness an act of kindness, it’s as if the kindness was done to and for us.

So, we live in a violent world. It’s always been violent. That’s nothing new. However, we’re at a turning point. We have an opportunity to change the world from a violent environment to one of peace. But to do that we have to focus on the problems we face, acknowledge that we’ve allowed them to go on unchallenged and find a way to solve them.

Some of the people I know focus only on the negative. Maybe we’re wired to notice negativity first, but the thing is that people who study the brain, like Dr. Joe Dispenza, and Bruce H. Lipton, have discovered that we can rewire our brains so that we notice the positive first instead of the negative. That’s what I advocate and try to do. That’s why some friends I know want to be around me, because when the conversation turns to all the problems we face in this world, I point out good things that are happening and they feel better.

The thing is, each person must decide to focus on the positive themselves. We each must choose to see beneath the surface behaviors of the people in our lives and in the media as well. That’s not always easy. It’s comfortable assuming we know all there is to know about people we see in the media, or even people we live or work with. But we can’t ever know the deepest hopes and dreams of another person unless they reveal themselves to us. That requires trust.

The media can be our enemy when trying to discover the true nature of people in the spotlight, or it can help us see another side of a person. Not too long ago my husband and I were watching CBS Sunday Morning. It’s a Sunday morning ritual with us. This morning they interviewed Charles Koch. I’ve not been a fan of the Koch brothers because they donate outrageous amounts of money to political causes that I abhor, however, we watched the interview to see if our assumptions about this man were correct. We found that they weren’t. Yes, he supports a large number of causes that I think are destructive. On the other hand, the Koch brothers, Charles and David support causes that I too support. That interview was an eye opener. It made me take a good look at the assumptions I make about people. Each one of us is a bundle of contradictions. What I learned was that I can’t condemn the Koch brothers just because they have billions of dollars and I don’t. Having billions of dollars doesn’t automatically make them evil, as some people would have us believe. And just because they have billions of dollars doesn’t mean I can point my finger at them and lay all the world’s problems at their feet. Oh no, I too have to take responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in.

I often say, and people look at me as if I have two heads, that our thoughts create our reality. Quantum physicists figured that out many years ago, but that idea is just now taking root. Not long ago someone shared this article on Facebook about that very thing, that what we think, creates the events and even the physical things we use in our world. Generation after generation of humans have created the conflicts that have plagued us for millennia and now we have a clue why. Once it got started, nobody thought it could stop. Oh, a few highly enlightened people tried to show us the way, but we thought they were anomalies and we didn’t follow their lead. We clung stubbornly to our old thought patterns because changing was too difficult.

So here we are. We’ve got scientific proof that what we think creates the events out in the world, and that we can change our thought patterns. The question is, will we do it? Will we get up off the couch, figuratively speaking, and actually do something concrete to change the world? Will we notice all the kind things people do for each other? Will be find opportunities to be kind and compassionate? Will we change the focus of our thoughts? Those seem like ephemeral things to do, but they have a huge impact. I’ve been watching it happen. You have to look outside the media in this country to find evidence of change. You have to dig for the stories of goodness happening. You have to lay your assumptions aside and be willing to see the world with new eyes. And then you have to be willing to change yourself to bring about peace. Take it from a Baby Boomer, it’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share this post with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015