The 2014 Paralympic Games
Want to feel incredibly inspired and amazed? I recommend that you join me in watching the 2014 Paralympic Games. I’m really thankful my friend Eli Wolff, The Program Director at the Inclusive Sports Initiative for sharing with me the link to watch the opening ceremony for the Paralympic Games. I also watched some of the videos from the first day’s events. Wow. Speaking as someone that is currently using my stationary bike as a book shelf, seeing those dedicated athletes that have had so much to overcome just gives me chill bumps (and not just because it looks really cold there)!
The Olympic village and area around the games in Sochi were created specifically as a barrier free environment. With over 500 athletes participating, representing 45 nations in 72 events it really is an opportunity for the world to stand up and cheer for the idea of not only a barrier free environment for all people but also barrier free minds. These athletes are choosing to overcome so many obstacles that can’t be changed and hoping to open eyes to all the many things we can change to make the future brighter for them and for all people with disabilities. I really hope you will take a moment to watch some of the videos of the incredible strength, dignity, and agility of these athletes:
Ahh, Those Beautiful Blue Bags…
The miniscule town I live in has the best recycling program I’ve ever seen. It is actually one of the things I love the most about my town. I think most people see the value in recycling but it isn’t a habit so today along with taking out my own recycling I made sure to post a Facebook message to remind other people that today was the day to put out their blue bags, and a note about the upcoming schedule for the rest of the year. I honestly believe most people want to do everything they can to make a difference…sometimes they just need a hint, an encouragement, a reminder, the rest they can handle on their own.
One Day at a Time
This morning when I woke up the first thought in my mind was, “Just live one day at a time”. So I made that my focus for the day. All day long when I found my thoughts drifting into plans or fears about the future I would just stop and say, “Today.” Then bring my awareness to what was going on around me, what I needed to get done today. It was a simple enough exercise and I found it helped me be more present with the people I was around.
Tom Shadyac and A Life Path of Economic Integrity
According to CNN money, if you make $34,000 a year (that means per person under a single roof) you are among the top 1% of the the world. According to that definition I am definitely not in the top 1%, but I’m close enough for it to really make me pause and think. Over the past few months after watching the movie, I AM by Tom Shadyac, I’ve been deeply considering what it means to be wealthy, and what it means to live. Since my husband and I have made a conscious choice to live on a minimum amount for most of our married life I have known that my happiness has never depended on having or not having money. Ryan Poe from the Memphis Business Blog has this to say about Tom Shadyac:
"Shadyac is tapping into a core tenant of Millennial thought: That a job is a slice of your life, not the whole pie. That giving back is as important as getting, and should be part of a more organic corporate culture – kind of like the way an oak tree both takes and gives to grow.
That may also sound a little on the socialist side, but he emphasizes that this view is already becoming the new normal, without legislation or the need for legislation to redistribute wealth.
"I don’t want laws to make it happen," he said. "Your hearts will make it happen."
I think what Tom is alluding to is and has been happening in my life for a few months now, especially as I read books like the one I read today, Radical by David Platt, or 7, an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.
It is a fascinating concept. According to CNBC, this is becoming a trendy thing to do even among 5 of the wealthiest men in the U.S. http://www.cnbc.com/id/101439646.
For me personally, it is becoming a matter of peace. I simply can’t be at peace if I’m living at a point of excess, even if my excess is a lot smaller than the excess of someone else. Mahatma Ghandi was once quoted as saying, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.” This doesn’t mean for me that I’m going to put everything I own on Craigslist and start walking across country with only one change of clothes and a tunic like Peace Pilgrim did (although I admit, that is one of my fantasy lives) but it does mean looking around and seeing what I can do each day to move a little closer to a life path of economic integrity.
A Plethora of Peace Choices
It is a big world, and there are a lot of good people in it. Every year in March I have my students do some type of activity in which they choose a person to study that has chosen peace for their lives. Usually it is some type of living history museum, but this year I wanted them to create a book that would be a momento they could keep and remember for years to come. Each of them researched someone they felt had made a significant contribution to make the world a better place and wrote a short biography of that person’s life. I am taking those stories and putting them into a book for each of the students to keep. So today I was able to read through and edit all these wonderful stories.
One of the reasons studying peace has been such a passion for me for so many years is because it can be manifested in so many different ways. Literally everyone could make a choice to promote peace in the world in a way that they find interesting and would make a difference. It’s exciting!
Say you are an athlete, then you might be a part of the 30 year old organization Athletes United for Peace http://www.athletesunitedforpeace.org/home.html or perhaps Peace Players International http://www.peaceplayersintl.org/ or even the Champions for Peace club http://www.peace-sport.org/en/actualites/486-9-world-famous-athletes-sign-up-for-peace.html.
Perhaps you love animals or want to promote peace in the natural world, one of my students regularly saves up money to donate to the World Wildlife Fund, an organization that has been around since 1961: http://wwf.panda.org/who_we_are/ .
It may be that you are someone that believes that peace within is the best start to create a world that promotes peace and you want to commit to that idea by choosing time everyday to just stop and spend time appreciating silence, or by practicing a spiritual activity that brings peace to your life.
I loved reading stories today about people that chose peace in all these different ways and many others. For me peace comes through writing, and through sharing the message that peace is possible, that it is a choice, so a day like today when I get to be reminded of all these different people who made that message real in their lives, that is a day that really brings me peace!
What the Body Knows
I’ve been wrestling with a decision for about a year now. Weighing pros and cons until I felt like my head was going to explode, being very determined one moment and completely against the idea in the next. It has been an internal roller coaster of questions about what was the best thing to do. Today I realized all the arrows have been pointing in the same directions for about two weeks and tomorrow is a certain deadline for at least one of the top options on my list. So how do I make a decision when I can’t seem to make a decision that brings me a sense of peace?
I did an internet search about the best way to make a decision. Seriously. This proves what a geek I am. The suggestion I found was to think about a time I made a decision that I wished I would have made differently, then to think about how my body felt when that happened. I remembered that I felt in a bit of a panic, with a sense of my heart beating very rapidly. Then it suggested I think about a time I made a decision I felt really good about and how I felt about it. I remembered that I felt positive with a happy, jazzy feeling inside. Then the article suggested I think about the decision I was about to make and really think about how my body felt about the decision to take this step or not. When I tuned into this idea I realized I felt excited by the challenge and not terrified in the way I thought I would. It was a very different experience to realize my body has a wisdom of its own and could give me such a definitive decision when all my mind had been able to do was make list after list of all the pros and cons. I feel at peace about the decision and look forward to seeing what happens in the future!
A Worthy Job
Need a job? The United States Institute of Peace is hiring. They need people with graphic design skills, hotel management skills, and conflict resolution skills. The USIP was created as an institute to “serve the American people and the federal government through the widest possible range of education and training, basic and applied research opportunities, and peace information services on the means to promote international peace and the resolution of conflicts among the nations and peoples of the world without recourse to violence.” It was first proposed by Jimmy Carter then signed into legislation by Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Their website is actually pretty fabulous with downloadable resources about current world issues, teacher’s guides, simulations, books, online courses, events about peace going on around the world, and even an essay contest. It has short articles from people working to promote peace around the world, and an information about the first ever “peace game” experience that took place last December:
"Governments around the world regularly devote enormous resources to conducting “war games.” On December 9, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and The FP Group (FP) conducted the inaugural PeaceGame, focusing on “the best possible peace for Syria.” With one game in the U.S. and another in the Middle East, the semi-annual PeaceGames will bring together the leading minds in national security policy, international affairs, academia, business, and media to “game” out how we can achieve peace in Syria. USIP and FP intend for the game to redefine how leaders think about conflict resolution and the possibility of peace."
We have such a big beautiful world and there are so many ways we can work together. War is outdated, too costly, and too immature for where we are as a civilization. We don’t have to be stuck in an old model of doing things, we can choose differently. It is time. Time for us to put our focus on the most important job we can do: working together so everyone wins.
Creating an environment of peace
Soft fabrics, calm music, easy flow of traffic, lack of clutter, and scents that inspire, these are just a few of the things I researched today as I read several books about how to create a home that promotes a peaceful life. One great piece of advice was: you have to create room in your home for what you want in your life, so if you want peace you need to find ways to promote that in your physical environment.
Another suggestion was that your time is more valuable than your belongings, most of the time you can replace belongings if you really need something, but the time you waste being emotionally drained by too much clutter, or taking care of seldom used items is time you never get back. I had never thought of it that way. in between reading chapters I would take a break and declutter a few hot zones in my house. I’ve been doing this for several weeks now and I can really see a difference in how it has lifted my mood and provided a boost to do more. Seeing cleared, empty spaces is providing a sense of relief and joy that has definitely been worth the few minutes here and there that it is taking to donate, recycle or toss.
Holding hands and hearts
I felt her energy before I really even looked at her. Energy that swarmed my entire body and said, “I need attention and connection.” I looked down in shock. The sweet little blonde student with the pink bow in her hair didn’t look neglected or uncared for, but she was clinging to my hand as if we were on the Titanic and I was keeping her from sinking. I wasn’t really sure what to do, she was just the line leader of the day and there were no outward signs that she was feeling emotionally vulnerable, but the energy she was sending was overpowering. So I really looked at her and started talking with her about her day. My job was to focus on making sure the line of students I was leading down the hallway was straight or quiet but in that moment I knew without a doubt what I needed to do most was just focus on making sure this human knew she was noticed and mattered.
By the time we talked for a few minutes, zigging in and out of teachers, parents, and other students in the hallway I felt her tension lighten up. As she left me to go to her next destination I knew she was in a better place, but she left me with an important thought. As adults we don’t often reach out to hold a stranger’s hands, to feel the energy that might betray the feelings and emotions that are going on deep inside, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. I want to work on being more aware and intuitive so if I need to, I can find a way to leave people in a higher place of peace when I encounter them, so I can be purposeful about sending them mental hugs even if I don’t say a thing.
Early this morning I marked my hand with a large red X. I wasn’t sure how much of an impact this would have but sure enough within a few hours I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of different people about the #enditmovement and the push today to bring awareness to the 27 million or so people being held in modern day slavery. Bringing this to the consciousness of the world and saying, “This is not acceptable.” is the first step. I have high hopes that if enough people take those first steps it can lead to a path for a stronger world where every life is valued.
Love or above, this is a goal I’ve set for my thinking patterns. I want the majority of my day to be filled with thoughts that are at a level of love, or above…gratitude, joy, and peace. Since this is a goal, you should know there are plenty of times when I fall below this level. There was a moment of my day today where that was the case, where someone had stepped on my emotional toes and I was rather irritated at them.
So I stopped and observed what I was feeling, I knew my feeling wasn’t even rational, but it was what I was feeling, so I needed a way to honor myself but also shift the focus of my thoughts. First I just blinked my eyes a few times (because I needed a new perspective) then I really concentrated on my breathing. Slowing down to focus on my breathing and make sure it was from deep within my diaphragm allowed me the opportunity to let go of my frustration and turn it into a moment of deep relaxation. Within just a few moments I was able to go from super annoyed to completely happy and ready to move on with my day. I have to admit I love being at a point in my life where I realize there are so many beautiful, fun things I want to focus on that I don’t want to waste a moment on negative emotions or thoughts. It makes life so much easier.
Spend time with people that believe in you. Spend time with people that mirror your dreams back to you in a way that sounds even more amazing then when you first told them. Spend time with people that believe that what you are reaching for is a worthy goal. Everyone deserves and needs friends like that. There is a certain peace in knowing the balcony people in your life are cheering you on, and even if you change your mind and do something different, they will still say-it was a great idea, but it is o.k. if you decide you want to go in a different direction. Life is short, make it a wondrous adventure filled with people that encourage your soul.
Sometimes people aren’t going to tell you when they are hurting. Sometimes you have to notice it, and when you notice, you have to be proactive and force them to go eat sushi with you so they will have the opportunity to talk if they want to or not if they don’t want to, but at least they will know someone noticed them and someone cares.
Last week I realized that if I want to live a life a peace I really need to take a look around at my physical environment to see if it is a place that supports the peace that I want to draw into my life. I felt like the best way to do this was to walk around my house and take quick photos of just random spots in my house then scan through to see if the photos were scenes that support the journey of my days with peace. Seeing quick random shots like that really opened my eyes to areas that were crying out for help. Places that I see everyday and had become slightly immune to their disorder. So for the past three days I’ve chosen one small area and just taken about 15 minutes to organize it and clean. At the rate I’m going it will probably take me about a month to get it to where I want it to be, but I’m very o.k. with that.
I know that right now if I felt the stress of needing everything done at once it would paralyze me into not doing anything. It has taken a minute of neglect (and two different people moving but needing a place to “store their prized possessions”) for things to sink into a state of chaotic entropy, and it is going to take a minute or more (and quite a few trips to the donation and recycling centers) for things to be reclaimed into peacefulness. So my task today was to work on shredding papers that needed to go to recycling. The wonderful aspect of this slow purifying of my home is that each small victory gives me a boost to continue with the task rather than my usual trying to do too much at once, losing energy half way through and then becoming completely discouraged leaving a larger mess than when I began.
Today I spent a gorgeous Saturday in the middle of a very dreary winter inside, attending a non-mandatory workshop, that was actually wonderful. The workshop was put on by the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission and the purpose was to familiarize teachers with a curriculum to teach financial literacy from kindergarten through eighth grade. I was really impressed with the program and I can see how exposing students to these ideas will be a tremendous benefit. I think I’ve always tended to shy away from financial topics because it sounded too much like math to me. After today though I can see what a tremendous amount of peace it can bring to understand simple concepts that would help me to make more informed decisions about my life. I liked this quote by Dave Ramsey about the importance of understanding your finances, “You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you.”