Inspiration of the Self-Reliance 30-Day Writing Challenge

To celebrate Ralph Waldo Emerson's 208th birthday (May 25th, 1803), Self-Reliance urges us to trust our intuition rather than conforming to the will of the majority.

Beginning on May 31st, 2011, The Ralph Waldo Emerson Self-Reliance website*** will post a daily prompt. This will continue for 30 days.

This is my unique creation of personal reflection and responses, based on those prompts.

***See link below for the site.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Call to Arms

DAY 26 ~
Call to Arms

The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Prompt:
What if today, right now, no jokes at all, you were actually in charge, the boss, the Head Honcho. Write the “call to arms” note you’re sending to everyone (staff, customers, suppliers, Board) charting the path ahead for the next 12 months and the next 5 years. Now take this manifesto, print it out somewhere you can see, preferably in big letters you can read from your chair.
You’re just written your own job description. You know what you have to do. Go!


To make sure I understood the term “Call to Arms”, I looked it up on Dictionary.com, and here’s what I found ~

call to arms
–noun
a command to report for active military duty.
Origin: 1840–50


For the context of this prompt, I’ll convert it to a
memo from the boss (Hey, that’s me!).

Here is my memo:

It’s been brought to my attention that a plan of action is needed, in order for all to combine our energy to harmoniously chart the path ahead, for the benefit of all.

Whether it’s within the next twelve months or the next five years or anywhere in between, there is absolutely one thing we must get right – nothing else matters.  The timing isn’t what’s important, but the action is what’s required.

Gratitude is what’s most essential.  Without gratitude, we have nothing.  This is why nothing else matters.

Gratitude is often misunderstood.  It is our responsibility to band together to spread the real meaning of gratitude, one “thank-you” at a time.

The misconception is that we should appreciate our blessings – in other words, be thankful only for all the good in our life.  But, that is only a small part of it.  It’s easy to be grateful for all the pleasant and enjoyable parts of our life.  The true test of gratitude is to be able to genuinely appreciate ALL parts of our life – even the challenges we encounter, regardless of how overwhelming or disturbing.

If this is your first introduction to this mindset, it will take some adjusting to understand how valuable this approach is.  However, once this belief modification is practiced and becomes routine, you’ll be amazed at how simple and automatic it can be.  Once you experience this epiphany, the result will be total comprehension, as well as joy.

Effective immediately, your daily assignment is to list five things for which you are grateful each day.  Yes, this is to be done daily.  No exceptions.

There is always something for which to be grateful, even within life’s troubles, frustrations and complications.  When you experience a challenge, try turning it around into a blessing for which to be grateful, instead of focusing on how difficult the challenge may have been.  This practice, along with the five daily blessings, will minimize and limit suffering.

These exercises will help you find the path and guide you to the purpose stated above – to combine our energy toward harmony, for the benefit of all.

Please feel free to inquire within – (within your heart,
 that is), regarding any questions or concerns you
may have.

Your help is greatly appreciated,

Regards,

Ginny G.
The Boss



Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Most Ordinary

DAY 25

"Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it."      – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Prompt:
We are our most potent at our most ordinary. And yet most of us discount our “ordinary” because it is, well, ordinary. Or so we believe. But my ordinary is not yours. Three things block us from putting down our clever and picking up our ordinary:
false comparisons with others
false expectations of ourselves
false investments in a story

Each keep you from that internal knowing about which Emerson writes. Each keeps you from making your strong offer to the world. Put down your clever, and pick up your ordinary.

What are your false comparisons?
What are your false expectations?
What are your false investments in a story?


What are your false comparisons?
I’m not as skinny or in shape as I used to be.
I’m not as good an artist as others are.
I’m not as good a writer as some of my friends are.

What are your false expectations?
I should be eating better and exercising.
I should paint anyway, even with my limitations.
I should write, because I have stories to tell and may be an inspiration to someone.

What are your false investments in a story?
I probably can’t tell this story as good as someone else can.
A publisher isn’t going to want what I write.
My type of style doesn’t “fit” into guidelines of how it “should be”.


The knowledge I’ve gained from this prompt is that it’s okay to be ordinary, average and common.  In other words, it’s okay to be ME.  And, when I am being my ordinary self, this is when I am most powerful.  This is when I allow my light to shine.  This is when I am filled with strength.  This is when I’m inspired to do my best.  This is when my writing will be most effective, and may be a positive influence when I share it with others. 

I’m not quite sure if I’ve followed this prompt the way it was meant to be.  But, this is how I give myself permission to accept my very ordinary self.

Being ordinary is anything but ordinary.

This is when the intensity of my “ME”-power is allowed to do great things, without me getting in my own way.

 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Intuition

DAY 24

"The secret of fortune is joy in our hands."   – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Prompt:
If you could picture your intuition as a person, what would he or she look like? If you sat down together for dinner, what is the first thing he or she would tell you?




My perception of INTUITION, the person, is a light mystical sort of image.  Ms. Intuition is sincere, angelic, kind and compassionate.  Her graceful presence emanates tranquility and serenity.  She generates love.  She’s elegantly clothed in long flowing light chiffon, in soft blue and light purple hues.

While we’re sitting down to dinner together, Ms. Intuition would ease my concerns by convincing me that it’s okay to trust her.  In her soft gentle voice, she would whisper sprinkles of honesty.

Ms. Intuition would give me confidence to follow her lead and go with my instincts, knowing she’s with me to guide me through life’s challenges.  She would also give me the tools to be able to recognize the subtle messages she sends me.  She tells me to look into my heart and soul to find the messages.



Courage to Connect

DAY 23

"Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment."  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Prompt:
Who is one person that you’ve been dying to connect with, but just haven’t had the courage to reach out to?
First, reflect on why you want to get in touch with them.
Then, reach out and set up a meeting.






Well, this is another easy one, for me, since I’ve already done this exercise.  There were specifically three people from my teenage days, with whom I had thought about for many years and wanted to get in touch with.  I was able to get in touch with two of them.  Sadly the third one has passed away just a couple years before I located where he had been.  For the sake of this prompt I will tell the detailed story of one of the other two; and just briefly summarize the others.


(Names will be changed to protect the innocent.)  We’ll call the first one Mr. “X”.


I met Mr. “X” the summer before my senior year in high school (1964).  Some friends and I had gone over to his house, and were listening to music (45 RPM vinyl records) on his record player (hi fi – didn’t have stereo yet).  Since we had just met, Mr. “X” asked me a question he said he always asked a girl when he first met her.  The question: “Do you have the record ‘My Own True Love’ by the Duprees?”  When I said “yes”, he jumped up and said “We have to go to your house right now and get it!”  On the way to my house he told me that I was the first girl who had it, and it was a sign that we would get married one day.  Now here’s the (Twilight Zone Theme) eerie part ------ when we picked up my record, he turned it over, and the song on the flip side was entitled ‘Ginny’!  We ended up going steady during my senior year, but broke up at my senior prom.  He kept my record.  Years later, when I bought another copy of the record, it had a different song on the flip side. 


Mr. “X” and I saw each other a couple times after we broke up.  I remember going to see the first Batman movie with him.  But, it seemed we just couldn’t make a relationship work for us.  After I had married my first husband, had a baby, was divorced and engaged to my second husband, Mr. “X” came over, and we went out for coffee.  He was planning on asking his girlfriend to marry him, but he said he had to see me first, just to make sure he was doing the right thing.


Now, fast-forward about thirty years.  I had thought about Mr. “X” every once in awhile.  Now, with the internet, I thought “why not?” and did a search.  I found an address very close to where I was working.  I wrote him a letter, giving him my email address.  As soon as he received the letter, he wrote to me.  We met for lunch a few times.  We had planned on getting together with our families, but the timing was always “off” (sort of like our teenage relationship had been).


After about a year, or so, of keeping in contact, we just stopped contacting each other.  The last time I wrote to his email address, it was not valid.  When I looked on the internet, he could not be found.  I’m guessing he moved out of state, where he had other family.  But, I don’t know, and it’s no longer important.


The important thing for me was making that connection after thirty years.  It was one of those things – wondering what would have happened had our paths ever crossed again.  Reconnecting again after such a long time was a great experience for me – not because there were still feelings, but because after spending just a short time with him at lunch the first time, I felt a sense of relief – relief that we had not stayed together.  It would never have worked.



Briefly I’ll talk a bit about Mr. “Y”.  He was my first “real” boyfriend.  After my parents moved West, he and I had lost touch.  I never stopped thinking about him, and often wondered what would happen if we ever connected again.  Well, we finally did a few years ago, but not in person – only through the wonders of the internet.  We’ve caught up on the events of our lives for the 40-something years we had not been in touch.  We sometimes go a few months without writing, but we still keep in touch.  Chances are, with almost 2000 miles between us, we may never actually reconnect in person.  But, it’s been nice to reconnect online.


The third person was Mr. “W”.  He was my first husband.  I really had no desire to cross paths with him again, but thought it may be a good idea to find him, when my son wanted to meet him.  I had some detective assistance tracking him down, only to discover he had passed away a couple years earlier.  But, there was a happy ending to this story after all.  Mr. “W” had remarried after we divorced, and he had a daughter.  With the help of a surname internet site, I found his daughter – my son’s half-sister.  We’ve met and my son and his sister keep in touch. 


This is a good example of something I say often --- there’s always something for which to be grateful, even in the not-so-pleasant situations.



WHEW!  With all that being said, there’s no one specifically with whom I desire to reconnect anymore.  But, it is sort of intriguing each time I’m reconnected with an old friend or acquaintance.  Part of the experience is to open up opportunities to reminisce, reflecting on the fun times we enjoyed long ago.  With the internet and Facebook, I’ve reconnected with many friends from grade school, high school and from previous employers.



With the incredible reconnections I’ve experienced over the past few years, I know without a doubt, that I will never hesitate to take the initiative to connect again, if there’s someone on my mind (or in my heart).


I’m grateful to have found some special voices out of my past, and bring them into my present moments.


It really doesn’t require courage to reach out.  All it takes is a desire. 

JUST DO IT !





As suggested in part of this day’s prompt, sometimes it might be a good idea to reflect on why you want to get in touch with that person.  However, in my opinion, that’s optional and maybe depends more on your intention at the time.


So again, I’ll say it --- “JUST GO FOR IT”.  Reach out and set up that meeting now, because we never know how much time we have left on this earth.





Thursday, June 30, 2011

Enthusiasm

DAY 22

Prompt:
How can you bring MORE enthusiasm into your work?
What do you have to think or believe about your work to be totally excited about it?
Answer it now.





At the risk of sounding repetitious, I will answer this by discussing mindfulness ---- focusing on each NOW present moment, as it is happening.


By being fully present in the NOW, reaping the rewards of enthusiasm is destined to materialize.


Here’s just one example from last week: 
 I made a big pot of homemade spaghetti sauce.  With each onion, bell pepper and garlic clove I cut and chopped, I was entirely immersed in the process, feeling each ingredient.  Never before did I notice such wonderful scents.  Periodically I’d stir the sauce as it cooked, and I actually felt the movement.  Then I cut up French bread into pieces, added melted butter, garlic and parmesan cheese, all the while savoring each intimacy with each ingredient.  The aroma filled the kitchen as the croutons baked.  And, finally, as I washed the dishes and cleaned the stove, I became absorbed in everything I was doing, as I did it.  The warm soapy water pampered and soothed my tired hands.  This is one of the benefits of mindfully being present in each NOW moment.  I highly recommend it.  If it can make kitchen chores pleasurable, just imagine how gratifying other results will be!


In addition to being immersed in each NOW present moment, maintaining balance in life is another essential ingredient to help bring MORE enthusiasm into our work, and into our life. 






For me, enthusiasm is:   a result of living mindfully in each NOW moment, while maintaining balance.  This combination also aids in preventing stagnation.  Stepping too far away from the present may zap our energy, taking enthusiasm with it.  This also causes imbalance.  The farther we move away from this one NOW moment, we provide the risk of losing our balance.






So, to answer the first question in the prompt, I try to remain mindful and fully present in each moment, focusing on exactly whatever I’m doing, to bring MORE enthusiasm into my work.





And, to answer the question, What do you have to think or believe about your work to be totally excited about it? ~~~


Thoughts become things.  (Choose them wisely.)

  



Therefore to maintain enthusiasm about our work, it would be beneficial to fill our minds with thoughts of excitement.  By doing so, our minds will be stimulated, providing us with inspiration to motivate us to excel in our work.  Approaching our work with positive energy in our brains helps to support an optimistic and harmonious relationship with our work. 

And, by keeping within the confines of each NOW moment, it lightens the weight of the load.  This load is the baggage that comes along with stepping beyond the boundaries of the present, bringing worries of the future and anxiety over the past.



“You can't change the past,
but you can ruin the present
by worrying about the future.”










You Know

DAY 21

"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world."   - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Prompt:
We live in a society of advice columns, experts and make-over shows. Without even knowing it, you can begin to believe someone knows better than you how to live your life. Someone might know a particular something better – like how to bake a three-layer molten coconut chocolate cake or how to build a website – but nobody else on the planet knows how to live your life better than you. (Although one or two people may think they do.) For today, trying asking yourself often, especially before you make a choice, “What do I know about this?”


My perception of this prompt is slightly different than the question asked.  For me, this has prompted me to write about people who try to control others by dictating what they “should” do.  For example, “Jane should break up with Fred, because he’s not good for her”, or “George should buy a new car, because the one he drives now isn’t safe”, or “Sheila should lose weight, because she isn’t healthy”, or “Mickey should discipline his kids better, because they’re out of control”, or “Pamela should call her mother more often”, or ………….. well, you get the idea.




Why is it that some people really believe they know what’s best for someone else, better than that someone else knows for himself or herself?  I don’t think that people do this maliciously or even consciously.  Some people sincerely and honestly believe they know best, and are trying to prevent others from making mistakes.
I’ve wondered if those who are consistently trying to control others are avoiding their own issues.  Maybe if they spent more time and energy on their own life, they wouldn’t have time to control others.



I became aware of this about twenty, or so, years ago.  I won’t go into all the details or reason how it became apparent to me, but it had to do with my life and how others attempted to control what I was doing.  A brief explanation is that I was dating a much younger man.  This was before it was cool to be a cougar.    
Ever since then, I’ve developed this radar, which sends a loud signal to my brain, whenever I hear anyone attempting to manipulate the actions of others.  Depending on the situation, often I will speak out. 





Regardless of how a situation appears from the outside, we do not know for sure the exact scenario, where the other person is coming from or what they are feeling inside.  It is not our position to dictate what another should do or say.  We may feel that we know what’s best, but in reality, only the person whose life it is, actually knows for sure.
There’s a possibility we might be able to offer advice that could save another from making a mistake.  But, chances are, if they are deeply involved in a situation that we see only from the exterior, they are not going to follow our advice anyway.
We have good honest intentions in believing we are helping.  But, sometimes it’s necessary for each person to make their own blunders.  Isn’t this how we learn our life’s lessons?  So, the next time you get the urge to “help” another person by giving unwanted advice, think about how you might be preventing them from a life’s lesson to be learned.



On the other hand, if someone invites you to provide some guidance or an opinion about something, it would be acceptable to offer whatever assistance you can.  However, this should be done in a loving unconditional non-controlling manner.  And, understand that, although your advice was requested, it may not be followed.  And, that’s okay.  Sometimes someone just needs to hear some options or another’s idea.  That may give them the spirit they need, in order to confirm an action opposite to that which was offered to them.  Sometimes someone just needs to talk, but not necessarily be soliciting advice.
In any case, we each know what is best for ourselves.  Sometimes our perception may be cloudy or we are confused.  But, in the whole scheme of things, each of us knows our own heart and soul best.
By allowing others the self-confidence to arrive at their own choices, make their own mistakes, and learn, we are being the best friend or acquaintance we can be.
If/when someone asks me for suggestions or advice, I preface my answer with the following:
“This is what I would do, if it was me in this situation.  However, what’s best for me may not be what’s best for you.  So look deep within yourself to find your answers.  It will not offend me, if you choose to do something differently than I would.”




There isn’t always a “right” or “wrong” answer.
          It’s just not that simple.





Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Speak Less

DAY 20

Prompt:
What’s one project that you’ve been sitting on and thinking about but haven’t made progress on?
What’s stopping you?
What would happen if you actually went for it and did it?


So here we are with another inter-related prompt.  Back to my issue of procrastination. 

What’s one project that you’ve been sitting on and thinking about but haven’t made progress on?

I have several – publishing a book – reviewing, sorting, organizing, scanning old family photos – cleaning out the garage – decluttering two extra bedrooms – painting more pictures

What’s stopping you?

Procrastination and just simply getting in my own way

What would happen if you actually went for it and did it?

To go for it and complete it would be extremely rewarding.
 (That’s what would happen if I went for it and did it.)




P.S.  Does my boredom show with this one?

Facing (and Fearing)

DAY 19

"Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may."
 - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Prompt:
If you are facing (and fearing) a difficult life decision, ask yourself these three questions:
  1. “What are the costs of inaction?”
  2. “What kind of person do I want to be?”
  3. “In the event of failure, could I generate an alternative positive outcome?”

The difficult life decision I’m facing is in regards to my health issues. 

The costs of inaction would be greater unhealthiness, experiencing more pain, heart attack, stroke, unable to function and potential ultimate loss of life.

The type of person I’d like to be is healthier, able to be more mobile, pain free and live longer with a better quality of life.

In the event of failure (to the extreme), it’s not likely I’d be able to generate an alternative positive outcome.

So, to what does all of this translate?  In this particular scenario, the only solution is to remain proactive in my quest to regain my health.  This specific exercise validates my belief in fully living mindfully in each present moment, while not placing all the focus on the end result goal; but instead taking advantage of every opportunity along the journey.