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What Are You Grateful For Today?

Did you take a moment to be grateful today? Gratitude consists of being fully aware of your current circumstances with all its worrying details, both big and small, and being able to recognize the good.

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In our modern daily lives, it is easy to take for granted the gifts we have been given by the many thousands of people who have gone before us. It is mind-boggling to try to fathom the effort that has gone into giving us the lives we enjoy simply by virtue of having been born in the 20th century.

Consider the desktop computer, laptop, handheld tablet or smart phone on which you are reading this post. Only a genius could fully comprehend all the details, the intricate science, engineering and technology used to develop and manufacture it. Try to imagine the time and effort that went into making each item of clothing you are wearing now – how the cotton was grown, and picked and spun and then woven into cloth, and dyed into interesting fabric. Think of the designers who envisioned the cut and style of the garments. Ponder the work of the people involved in creating and sewing the patterns. Contemplate the last meal you ate—even if it was only as modest as a can of beans or a bowl of ramen noodles. What about the  transportation you take each day? Could you reproduce any of these items completely on your own?

Reflect on the brilliant minds over thousands of years that devoted themselves to inventing and perfecting the modern comforts and luxuries we take for granted. Innumerable men and women cared enough to make their lives count for something, so that we can all enjoy better standards of living today. Life has given us so much more than we can ever return to it.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

I encourage you to spend just a few moments now and each day in quiet reflection on the good things in your life.
All day long, make a habit of noticing all the gifts around you, the people, companies and technologies that serve you. Think of your health. It may not be perfect, but focus on the miracle of the things that work – your eyes to see, ears to hear, skin to protect all your internal organs, legs to take you were you need to go. Take responsibility for consciously feeling grateful for all the gifts life has presented to you. Express your appreciation. Say “thank you” as often as possible, to as many people as possible.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” — Meister Eckhart

I spent my time in gratitude this morning with my dog, Frisky, on Ffreyes Beach—just three minutes from my home. I stood in awe of the natural beauty that surrounded me, and felt overwhelmed with appreciation (as I always do), for this little island of Antigua, which I call home. I snapped a few seconds of video. Enjoy!

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See Beauty in the World

Today’s powerful affirmation:

“I accept responsibility for seeing beauty in my world.”

There is beauty all around us, if we will but choose to see it. It is easy to wake up on a Tuesday morning, still feeling tired from the weekend, and grumpy from Monday, rush to the shower, rush to get the kids ready, perhaps guzzle down a cup of coffee, and maybe even spill it, all without taking the time to recognize anything beautiful in your world.

Did you stop to notice that your husband winked at you while saying goodbye? Did you notice how cute your daughter looked with her oatmeal smeared face and a twinkle in her eye? Did you notice the brand new hibiscus flower near your driveway?

Stop. Take a moment, and commit to seeing, finding, noticing, recognizing, creating something beautiful in your world today. You’ll be glad you did!

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A Century of Wisdom: 34 Quotes from the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor

Monday, November 26, 2012 – Alice Herz Sommer celebrates her 109th birthday. Living alone in a small London apartment, this amazing woman is the world’s oldest living holocaust survivor. A former concert pianist, Alice has been playing the piano since she was five years old. Using only eight fingers, Alice still practices for hours every day. Alice’s story is a testament to the power of the human spirit. She and her six-year old son survived two years in the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt, escaping almost certain death. She has witnessed unspeakable cruelty, watching hundreds go to their deaths in the gas chambers or through sickness and starvation. And yet, this living hero has never stopped smiling. This ever-laughing centenarian credits her longevity to a lifetime of optimism.

In commemoration of Alice’s 109th birthday, I would like to share with you some of the wisdom of Alice Herz Sommer – gained from living nearly 40,000 of the most richly textured days.

 

Alice Herz Sommer – On Education

School is only the beginning; we can learn all our lives.

No one can rob your mind.

Education of the children is the most important family value.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Friendship

I love people. I am interested in the lives of others.

Understanding of others can lead to peace.

We do not need things, friends are precious.

Be kind, kindness is free, it costs you nothing, and the rewards are great for everyone.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Laughter

A sense of humor keeps us balanced in all circumstances, even death.

Laugher is wonderful. It makes you, and everyone else feel happy.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Life

We need to treasure time. Every moment that passes is gone forever.

Only when we are old do we realize the beauty of life.

Everything we experience is a gift. Everything is a present.

I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son. Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Marriage

In marriage, friendship is more important than romantic love.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Motherhood

How can any woman ever be unhappy after she has seen her infant’s first smile?

It was my greatest privilege to raise my son.

A mother’s love is a child’s only fortress against the world, come what may.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Music

I am richer than the world’s richest people, because I am a musician.

Children must study music, it helps with everything in life.

Music saved my life and music saves me still.

There was no food. Music was our food. Through music we were kept alive.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Optimism

My optimism has helped me through my darkest days. It helps me now.

Always look for the good things in life: the world is wonderful, it’s full of beauty and miracles.

When you are optimistic, when you are not complaining, when you look at the good side of your life, everybody loves you.

Every day in life is beautiful – if we only look up from our reality.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Parenting

Reason with your children, never use harsh words.

Patience, kindness and love, this is the food a child needs.

To survive, a child must never, never doubt your love.

Children need unconditional love to grow and develop into full human beings.

School is important, but what children learn in the atmosphere of their homes lasts for life.

Alice Herz Sommer – To Single Women

Have sex. Have fun. Have someone in your life, but don’t tie yourself down in marriage. Cherish your freedom… Take care of your career, your life.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Work

Love to work. When you love your work, you are never bored. Boredom is unhealthy.

When we love our work, we can enjoy a sense of achievement, every small achievement.

Work is the best invention.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post ‘Today I’m Inspired by: Alice Herz Sommer‘ about Alice’s awe-inspiring life, and and some of the lessons we can learn from her. Very recently, I was contacted by Caroline Stoessinger, the author of ‘A Century of Wisdom‘ a touching biography of a Alice’s noteworthy life.

In honor of Alice’s 109th birthday, Ms. Stoessinger will be donating all the proceeds from the sale of her book to the Alice Herz-Sommer Scholarship Fund at the Music Academy of Jerusalem where Alice taught for 37 of her happiest years. Please consider buying and reading this wonderfully enriching biography of an extraordinary woman, and helping a worthy cause.

 

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Love Hurts?

Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds and mars. Ooh ooh. Love hurts. ~Beverley Ross and Neil Fredericks, performed by ‘Nazareth’

Rejected by Cyberspace

Many years ago, newly single, I tried to sign up for an online dating service. The television commercial boasted the site’s ability to find “soul mates” for its members based on “29 dimensions of compatibility”. So, I slogged through the 436-question Compatibility Profile. Apparently, now it has been shortened to 250 questions. To the faceless evaluator, I shared self-descriptions, personal characteristics, important qualities, personal beliefs, living skills, communication style, relationship style and my family background. I answered scores of multiple choice questions such as “If you decided to stay at home for the evening would you tend to: A: watch TV B: clean C: talk on the phone D: read”. At the end of the questionnaire, eHarmony.com informed me that the calculator had concluded that based on my unique combination of preferences and traits, I could be matched to only about 3 – 5% of men in the general population and vice versa. To add insult to injury, the site further informed me that it could not find even a single potential match for me at that time, and summarily turned down my business, curtly suggesting that I return at a later date to try again.

I could have taken that experience as the ultimate rejection. If cyberspace turned me down, what could I expect to find in the real world? Today, it still makes me chuckle. Ironically, the Internet-calculator must have been on to something; I have spent about 75% of my adult life unattached. I’ve endured the “why have you never been married?” questions, as well as the unsolicited explanations for my predicament: “you are too picky”, “you intimidate men.” Those people may have been concerned that during the periods when I have been single, I would be sad, lonely and unfulfilled. A person can never be sad, lonely or unfulfilled when they accept themselves. Whether I am in a relationship or not, I strive to love and respect myself every day.

Silent Agreements. Unspoken Expectations.

Men and women go into relationships searching for love. They feel empty inside and go begging for someone to fill the void. They find themselves moving hungrily from lover to lover, or smothering their partners with a ravenous neediness — “make me feel loved”. They become obsessed about never being alone, willing to give up their very sense of self in exchange for enjoying the company another person. These people are as much controllers, as they are the controlled. Women change the way they speak, act and dress to please their husbands. Men give up their hobbies, change their jobs, and even their friends to fit into their partner’s mold of an ideal husband. Some people leave their countries, their families and even abandon their religions, just to hear three little words.

When we enter into a relationship with another person, we have expectations that are never communicated. Our partners also load upon us unspoken obligations. When they say the words, “I love you”, what they might be saying is “I love you if” — if you behave a certain way, if you are good to me, if you fit my mold, if you fulfill my dreams, if you let me control your life. When we say “I love you, I want to be with you forever”, what we might really mean is: “I have finally found the right person. Now I am going to place all my hopes and dreams in you. Promise to be perfect and to never disappoint me. I am giving you responsibility for my happiness, so you must never hurt me or leave me. If you do, my world will fall apart.”

A promise to make another person happy is a promise no one can ever hope to fulfill. We will never experience our partner’s thoughts or their feelings, so why should we try to control them? Who can fulfill obligations they are not aware of? Selfish expectations will eventually destroy almost any relationship. When we give love because we feel we have to, then our generosity will soon turn to selfishness. When fun and freedom turn into obligation, then respect turns to hatred. There is no more spontaneity and romance, just a burden and the growing desire to escape. If you do something just because you feel you have to, it is not really love.  Love only thrives when it is given unconditionally. Love should always be an expression that is motivated by desire and free will.

Mastery of Love

True happiness can never come solely from receiving another person’s love. Happiness is your own responsibility. Happiness comes from the love inside of you, that you freely give without conditions. You already have all the love you need. The love you have inside is infinite. Don Miguel Ruiz in his book ‘The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship‘, writes “Love is not about concepts; love is about action. Love in action can only produce happiness… The only way to master love is to practice love.”

You can love someone else when you have learned to love yourself. When you have accepted yourself the way you are, then you don’t go into relationships trying to find the love you’re missing. This is why needy relationships always fail. You have a right to be free, and so does everyone else. When you try to control someone else by depending on them for love, all you really do is become dependent on them and give up your own personal freedom. When you truly love yourself, you will never trade in your freedom.

Being Together. Staying Together.

We can only ever be responsible for ourselves and our half of any relationship. Two people can be happy together in a relationship by entering into a new kind of agreement. This kind of agreement requires you to take responsibility for your own happiness and to love the other person unconditionally, finding a balance that works just for the two of you. There are infinite possibilities for relationships based on respect.

You must know exactly what you want. What are your likes and dislikes? Who are you compatible with? What brings you joy? What are your needs? Feel free to be yourself. Anything less, will leave you feeling disappointed, used and abused. You have to love yourself, and you have to trust your partner. You don’t need to be afraid to be taken advantage of because you guard your own happiness. There must also be compatibility. Both of your needs must coincide in a way that works for the two of you. You both agree that being together simply means that you are both going in the same direction and decided you can be happy together.

When you know that you love this person unconditionally, without any ifs and expectations, exactly the way they are without wanting to change a thing, then you know that they are right for you. If that person feels the same way about you, then there will be no need for false pretenses. Neither of you is trying to fulfill the other’s unspoken expectations. You don’t want to change them, and they don’t want to change you. You can be finally just be yourself, and you are happy taking a risk.

What if you start going in different directions? What if the situation no longer works for you and no longer brings you both joy? You can simply walk away without being selfish. You wish your partner well, because you accept that you cannot control him, you cannot change her. You give yourself a chance to be happy and you give your partner the chance to be happy.

Love Hurts?

Anger hurts. Betrayal hurts. Blame hurts. Conflict hurts. Disappointment hurts. Drama hurts. Fear hurts. Guilt hurts. Gossip hurts. Jealousy hurts.  Judgement hurts. Selfishness hurts. Love does not hurt.

 

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Choose Your Fate

This week, I took advantage of Audible.com‘s promotion for the new Whispersync for Voice feature. The new technology allows readers to listen and read simultaneously or switch seamlessly from audiobook to e-book and vice versa. Up to 22 free Kindle ebooks are available here for a limited time. I shamelessly downloaded 19 of the available 22 titles, even though I’d already read some of them.

Ethan Frome: The Story of a Loser

The first title I read is one of Edith Warton’s best known works. ‘Ethan Frome’ is the story of a poor, downtrodden New England farmer trapped in a loveless relationship with a conniving, invalid wife. The book’s protagonist can’t seem to catch a break. As one bad thing after another comes his way, his story inevitably ends in tragedy. Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed this dark book;  it served as a poignant reminder that each of us shapes his or her own destiny.

The Choices We Make Seal Our Fate

We seal our own fates every day by the choices we make, the friends we choose, the opportunities we don’t pursue. All around us are people brimming with ambition, ideas, talent and promise. So many of these lives end up as sad reflections of what might have been. Within them lie the untold stories of dreams deferred.

How to Lose

When you choose to accept the poor odds and negative labels cast upon you by circumstances, you lose. When you sink under the burden of a few bad grades, a lost job, ill-health or a bad economy, you lose. When listen to the inner voice that whispers for you to go so far and no further, you lose. Losers unwittingly self-sabotage their careers and personal lives. Set-back after set-back, losers trudge inexorably through an increasingly barren wasteland of their own shattered dreams.

How to Win

On the other hand, in business, entertainment, science and sports, winners refuse to live in the land of “almost”. Winners rise above personal setbacks and see failures as temporary. “So close, what a pity” is not an ending winners will accept. Winners recognize that their most formidable opponent is the nearly imperceptible voice of self-defeat. They train themselves to detect and defeat that enemy every day.  Winners refuse to lose sight of their dreams.

Make the Choice to be a Winner

None of us have to be losers. Instead, we can choose to allow ourselves to dream and never stop dreaming. We can choose to laugh in the face of every voice that says “you can’t have that”. Choose to be a winner. Never accept the lie of personal limitation. Never accept from yourself less than you know you are capable of. Never be satisfied with living below the threshold of your own limitless potential. Never settle for less than you know you deserve.

 

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21 Inspiring Quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born the son of a minister in Boston, Massachusetts in 1803. After attending the prestigious Harvard College, Emerson initially followed in his father’s footsteps and became an ordained minister. While still a young man, however, he left the clergy to pursue a career as an essayist and public speaker. Over the course of his career, he became one of the most influential nineteenth century literary figures. His two most famous works, essays ‘Nature’ and ‘Self Reliance’ serve to clearly outline his distinct philosophy of life which emphasized optimism, individuality, the unity of all things, the difference between right and wrong and the power of human potential.

Here are 21 of his most inspiring quotes:

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson – On achieving your dreams

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Ralph Waldo Emerson – On optimism

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Ralph Waldo Emerson – On personal growth

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Ralph Waldo Emerson – On using time wisely

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting… Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Ralph Waldo Emerson – On recognizing greatness in others

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson – On friendship and love

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Love, and you shall be loved.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson – On character.

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson – On gratitude

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson – On starting each day anew

“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson – On not taking life too seriously

“Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Today I’m Inspired by: Bob Marley

Growing up in the seventies and eighties on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean, Bob Marley’s music was everywhere. From the soul-stirring “No Woman, No Cry” to the doleful “Redemption Song”, to the militant “War”, to the upbeat “Jammin”, his music will forever be part of the fiber of my being. As Jann Wanner put it, “Bob Marley was the Third World’s first pop superstar. He was the man who introduced the world to the mystic power of reggae. He was a true rocker at heart, and as a songwriter, he brought the lyrical force of Bob Dylan, the personal charisma of John Lennon, and the essential vocal stylings of Smokey Robinson into one voice.”

Although Bob Marley died prematurely in 1981, at the age of 36, his compilation album “Legend”, released posthumously in 1984, has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. His 1977 album “Exodus” was named Album of the Century by Time Magazine in 1999, and his song “One Love” was designated Song of the Millennium by the BBC.

The beauty and timelessness of Bob Marley’s music have evolved him into a global icon of almost mythical proportions. His uplifting messages of love, the power of the human spirit and the unity of mankind resonate with our souls. He was not just an entertainer, but a musical activist, a prophet, who spoke out on themes of morality, social justice, politics, fashion, philosophy and religion. His music stirs our highest yearnings and touches our deepest needs.

Enjoy one of my favorite Bob Marley feel-good tunes, Three Little Birds, and be sure to catch the Kevin MacDonald documentary on Bob Marley’s life in theaters April 20th.

 

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Promise Yourself…

“Promise yourself to wear a cheerful expression at all times, and give a smile to every living creature you meet.” ~Christian D. Larson

Christian D. Larson penned these inspiring words in 1912. They appeared in his book ‘Your Forces and How to Use Them‘ (now in the public domain) and form part of what has become known as the Optimist Creed, adopted by Optimist clubs worldwide. These beautiful words have been inspiring me for years and I hope they touch your life, too.

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Promise Yourself…

“Promise yourself to today to look on the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.” ~Christian D. Larson

Christian D. Larson penned these inspiring words in 1912. They appeared in his book ‘Your Forces and How to Use Them‘ (now in the public domain) and form part of what has become known as the Optimist Creed, adopted by Optimist clubs worldwide. These words have been inspiring me for years and I hope they do the same for you.

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Promise Yourself…

“Promise yourself today to make all your friends feel like there is something worthwhile in them.” ~Christian D. Larson

Christian D. Larson penned these inspiring words in 1912. They appeared in his book ‘Your Forces and How to Use Them‘ (now in the public domain) and form part of what has become known as the Optimist Creed, adopted by Optimist clubs worldwide. These beautiful words have been inspiring me for years and I hope they touch your life, too.

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Promise Yourself…

“Promise yourself to today to talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet” ~Christian D. Larson

Christian D. Larson penned these inspiring words in 1912. They appeared in his book ‘Your Forces and How to Use Them‘ (now in the public domain) and form part of what has become known as the Optimist Creed, adopted by Optimist clubs worldwide. These beautiful words have been inspiring me for years and I hope they touch your life, too.

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Dalai Lama Morning Meditation

Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive.
I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.
I am going to use all my energies to develop myself,
To expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the
benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others.
I am not going to get angry, or think badly about others.
I am going to benefit others as much as I can

-Dalai Lama