Life is an Adventure

Aisle at Powell’s Bookstore

“Never be afraid to try a new experience, and keep an open mind about everything and everybody.” ~ Marian Tanner

“Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Mame in Auntie Mame

As I write this, we have just returned from our trip to Portland, Oregon. It’s a kind of ritual for me to take stock of what I learned when I travel. This trip made me feel hopeful and excited for the future. It made me want to be even more whole-hearted in my approach to life. Here are some reasons why.

We got to connect with lots of old friends, and some family. It’s always great to catch up with people and find out how they have been and what they’ve been doing. Interacting with others is a great way to take a vacation from my own challenges.

We stayed with a dear friend, Jean, that we have kept in contact with but not seen in about twelve years. I enjoyed our talks and having tea with her every afternoon. She also took me to have high tea with a woman in her nineties that we used to do Reiki with. She still lives alone in her lovely home. We had a stimulating talk. The thing that impressed me about Mary was that she is still interested in everything and everyone. She was a good example for me. I want to be like that too.

Another person we got to connect with was Barry’s boss at Sophia Center, Sister Kathryn. She’s a story teller and just as we were leaving from our second visit, she told a story about the Sisters of the Holy Names in the 1800s Jacksonville, Oregon that I want to use in my sequel novel. The sisters established a convent in Jacksonville but were not well received until a small pox epidemic broke out. They worked tirelessly to help save as many people as they could. After the epidemic was over, the hearts and minds of the community were changed and the sisters were not only accepted into the life of the town, but appreciated so much that a picture of their founder was hung in City Hall. That reminded me of the movie we had watched with Jean just a few days before, The Letters, about Mother Teresa. Both stories are a testament to the fact that one or a handful of people can make a huge impact on the lives of people around them.

One of the most fun things I did was to take a trip to Powell’s Bookstore. It was a place I loved when we lived in Portland and I had a wonderful lunch, browsed and bought books, and took pictures for an episode of Loving Literature. I’m one of those crazy people who loves having lots of books around me even ones I may never get to read. It’s like having a favorite blanket. Books comfort me, so being in Powell’s was a little like sitting on a comfy couch, wrapped in a throw reading.

This morning I was catching up with my email and social media. I flipped past all the negative stuff and found a blog post by one of my favorite authors, Pam Grout. The title is, “Why I’m the luckiest person on the planet, Episode 23.” Obviously her blog is about the wonderful things that happen to her because that’s what her books are about, helping people learn how to allow great things to happen to them. I liked this quote from the post, “I get interviewed a lot. One of the common questions is, ‘What kind of goals do you set for yourself?’ And sometimes my interviewers scratch their head with my answer. ‘I don’t. Rather, I trust the universe so much that I let it set the agenda. It’s so much wiser and sees so many more possibilities than I ever could.'” Then she goes on to tell about her latest free trip to Italy where she got an invite to meet famous people and stay in fabulous places.

Now that’s that kind of life I want! Today I’ve decided to allow the universe to introduce me to more fabulous people and places.

As I look back on our trip, I find so many things to be grateful for. The beauty of the blooming flowers, (something Portland is known for), the abundance of love we shared with friends and family, Portland’s fabulous public transit system, helpful people at the Oregon Historical Society, unexpected conversations with strangers, and for great inventions like airplanes.

And thinking back on our trip this morning I’m amazed at how much I’ve changed over the almost twenty-one years since we moved from Portland. When I was younger, I was so serious. I saw life as hard. I didn’t ever dream I’d get to live the life I wanted. Paula, another boss of Barry’s that we connected with, reminded me of that. She told us about an artists retreat she attended that helped her see that she had blocked her own creative dreams. She decided not to do that any more. It was so much like my own awakening experience. It reminded me that we are way too hard on ourselves, and eat the same dreary experiences over and over again, instead of partaking of the banquet of life.

I’ve said for a long time that life is an adventure. I finally believe that, and am looking forward to more fabulous experiences.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Journal and candle

Journal and candle

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” ~ Brené Brown

People are like stained-glass windows, they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in; their true beauty is revealed only if their light is from within.” ~ Elizabeth Kübler Ross

“The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness – even our wholeheartedness – actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.” ~ Brené Brown

I hope this post makes sense. This has been a stressful and tiring few days putting the finishing touches on our student written plays. There are always so many little problems to find solutions for to prepare for performances. All that work means I haven’t had time to continue reading Brené Brown’s latest book Rising Strong.

Last week before the last minute frenzy began, I was struck by a section in the book about how when we fail at something, or some negative event, big or small, happens to us, we make up a story about why it happened, how everyone else is to blame, and that we are the victims. In fact, she says that we’re wired to tell stories. She cites Neuroeconomist Paul Zak who “has found that hearing a story–a narrative with a beginning middle, and end–causes our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin. These chemicals trigger the uniquely human abilities to connect, empathize, and make meaning. Story is literally in our DNA.” (pg. 6 Rising Strong.)

So when we have an argument with a loved one, or someone at work, we tell ourselves their side of the story so we can get that rush of chemicals and feel better. The thing is, we’re probably lying to ourselves. We can’t possibly know how the other person was feeling, or what they were thinking during the argument. We tell ourselves stories about all kinds of encounters. Yet, if we want to grow, we have to deconstruct our own emotions over the encounter.

One of the things I love about Brené is that she tells stories about her own life struggles. She just puts her own process out there for her readers. She’s vulnerable. That’s something I’m struggling to be, open, honest, and transparent.

So, here goes. I sometimes encounter people who want to tell me how to do my writing process. That irritates the heck out of me, especially if they aren’t writing themselves. Going back to another Brené Brown book, Daring Greatly, if you’re not in the arena, then I don’t want to listen to your criticism, or helpful hints about how to do my job! In my opinion every artist has their own unique process, which should not be interfered with. As a teacher, I seek to guide students to find their own creativity not make them cookie cutter extensions of me.

So, when someone, who is not a writer, gives me advice, I make up all kinds of stories in my head about why they do that! I want to blame them for being controlling, or superior when I have no idea why they feel the need to “help” me. But what I’m really doing when I blame them, is avoiding something inside myself, or failing to set my boundaries.

These are the things that are going on in my head, “I’m new to writing. I’m not an expert. I flying by the seat of my pants and following some invisible creativity muse that only I can hear. Or maybe I’m just crazy.” I mean, I make up all kinds of stories about me, and the other person when they try to HELP me. When I should just calmly set a boundary and say that if you’re not an artist of some kind, then I would appreciate it if you didn’t tell me how to do my job. No blame, no shame. I won’t tell you how to live your life. I’ll be there for you if you need me and I may ask for your advice from time to time, and within those guidelines, we can still be friends.

The interesting thing is, I don’t tell myself stories when my writer friends make comments on my work. They are in the arena with me, struggling just like I am, so any help they can give me along the way is welcome.

Brené suggests you get a journal and investigate your negative feelings when they arise. They are sign posts pointing you to something vital that you need to deal with. I’ve been keeping a journal for almost forty years and I can say without a doubt, it is one of the most valuable personal growth tools I’ve got in my self-help tool box. I use my journal to examine the stories I make up in my head for big devastating events, and small irritating ones as well. Lately, I’ve been writing about my issues with people who are trying to help me. I understand you want to help. But sometimes creativity is a solitary process and the best way you can help an artist is to allow them to do their process and just support them with silence and good thoughts sent their way.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Feminist Traitors?

Working Mom

Working Mom

“Solitude is strength; to depend on the presence of the crowd is weakness. The man who needs a mob to nerve him is much more alone than he imagines.” ~ Paul Brunton

“There’s just as many different kinds of feminism as there are women in the world.” ~ Kathleen Hanna

“My feminism is humanism, with the weakest being those who I represent, and that includes many beings and lifeforms, including some men.” ~ Sandra Cisneros

I came home from teaching on, 2/11/16, and my husband was watching the pundits dissect the Democratic debate. I sat and listened for a while, and then was shocked when they mentioned the disparaging comments by Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright chastising young women who don’t support Hillary. I’m a Baby Boomer who doesn’t support Hillary, at least right now, and I was disturbed. I had to go listen to what they said but had to stop listening when Madeleine Albright said, “Just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” All night I dreamed about this situation and the next morning I sat down to write the post for this week. Needless to say it was filled with angry retorts. When I calmed down, I realized that true feminism isn’t about yelling and calling each other names. It’s not about coercion, or emotional blackmail.

Even though I was extremely disappointed that two such outstanding members of the feminist movement had lost sight of what it is women have been fighting for, I had to allow them the benefit of the doubt. We learn from our mistakes and maybe given the negative reaction to their statements, they’ve learned something. In any case, they are entitled to their opinions.

To me, feminism is all about empowering women to make their own choices, on any issue they face. Gloria Steinem has even said, “After feminism, I suddenly realized (sic): not everyone has to live the same way. Imagine that!” They don’t have to think the same way, or even vote the same way either.

Fortunately, Hillary stated during the debate that she thought women should be able to choose any candidate, even if it wasn’t her. I liked that and I will definitely vote for her if she gets the nomination. But for now, Bernie’s plans and policies are more in line with the changes I want to see happen in this country. Because I support a man, doesn’t mean I’m not a feminist. I guess what it means is that I’m a humanist. I’m for the advancement and enlightenment of all humanity.

Often when I write these posts I feel like I’m a broken record writing about how we’re all in this together and we should be working on ourselves so that all of humanity can expand. Today I have to confess that many times I’m trying to get you, my readers, to see things my way and act accordingly. That’s not ethical. We all have an inner journey that is ours alone. No one should interfere with that. So, I’ll continue to share my thoughts. If they touch you and spur your thinking, great. If not, that’s great too.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Mind Shift from Amateur to Professional

Shakespeare - There's a Professional

Shakespeare – There’s a Professional

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” ~ Steven Pressfield

“Fairness is not an attitude. It’s a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.” ~ Brit Hume

“At 20, I realized that I could not possibly adjust to a feminine role as conceived by my father and asked him permission to engage in a professional career. In eight months I filled my gaps in Latin, Greek and mathematics, graduated from high school, and entered medical school in Turin.” ~ Rita Levi-Montalcini

About a year or so ago, I read the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and it changed my life. Six years earlier I’d retired from teaching public school to follow my dream of being a writer. I thought it would be easy to work from home, another dream come true, but it wasn’t. Every morning I found all kinds of excuses and tasks to do INSTEAD of making writing my first priority. I don’t know why we do this to ourselves, but I’ve seen lots of people do the same thing when they attempt to follow their dream. What is it about humans that makes us sabotage ourselves? Anyway when I read Pressfield’s book I realized that there was a switch in my head that had not been flipped from amateur to professional. By the end of the book, I’d flipped the switch and I’m immensely happy that I did.

Steven Pressfield’s concept of what it means to be a professional is very simple. A professional puts the work they want to be doing first every day no matter what. For me that means that I have to set a time to be in my office everyday with my hands on the computer keys working on my latest project. Writing is my work, and I must treat it like any other job even on the days when the ideas don’t come easily, or when there is a shift from one task to another. At the end of the writing day, I may throw out all that I’ve written, but at least I stuck to my commitment.

Being creative is like anything else in life, sometimes it flows easily and other times we’re faced with difficult challenges and feel like we’ll never create anything wonderful again, we’ll never be happy again, and we’ll be stuck in our misery forever. Yet, if we are willing to do the work, we always come through to a happier situation. Our muse comes back and we find the solution to the problems we’d been struggling with.

I’m in a little bit of a lull period in terms of my fiction writing right now. My novel is in the hands of writer friends and I’m waiting to get their comments back so I know whether I need to do more work or if I can have my manuscript edited and published. That’s a completely different set of tasks. My fingers itch to be working on something creative, but so far all I’ve been writing are this blog and pieces I hope to use in marketing my book. It’s good to work on those types of writing too, but I don’t find as much joy in writing them as I do creating characters and the worlds in which they live.

As I was typing that last paragraph, I remembered a story Pressfield shares in the book about finishing his first novel. When he’d finished the first draft, he went to tell his mentor that he’d finished the book. He felt a great sense of accomplishment, but his mentor said, “Good. Now go start the next one.” Remembering that little story helps me realize that I’ve fallen down on my commitment to myself. I did what Pressfield’s mentor said when I finished the rough draft of The Space Between Time. I sat down immediately and started the sequel. But then I got caught up in revisions of the first book, which were rather extensive. I haven’t gone back to the second book even though I’ve got this span of time while I’m waiting for feedback. That’s not good. I need to be working on the sequel in addition to my promotional materials.

I’m convinced that every creative person has to find their own “voice”, their own method of creating and being a professional. Maybe it’s more about finding their own rhythm. I’m still new to this writing thing and still learning how to juggle the various parts of the process. For now, I plan to go back and do more work on the sequel to my first novel. Who knows perhaps parts of the sequel novel can be things I include in the promotional materials for this first book.

Thanks for reading. I hope you don’t mind that I used Shakespeare’s picture again this week. He’s my idea of the ultimate professional. If you’ve got ideas about how I can improve my creative process, feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Why I Left Organized Religion

Grace Cathedral Window

Grace Cathedral Window

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.” – Dalai Lama

“True religion is real living; living with all one’s goodness and righteousness.” – Albert Einstein

Rarely do I talk or write about my break, twenty-five years ago, with organized religion but recently two things happened that made me feel the need to tell my story.

Recently, former President Jimmy Carter announced he is leaving the Baptist Church behind because it has lost its message of love and the Pew Research Center released a report about the decline of all organized religions in the U.S. You can follow the links to read the articles for yourself. When I read those stories, I wasn’t surprised.

My quest for a deeper connection to God began the day I was confirmed into the church. Several generations of my family had been members and that is the reason I joined. I was eight years old. My father, a lay minister in the church, had baptized me the week before and on that Sunday, my father and Al Gardner, another minister in our congregation, placed their hands on my head to bless and confirm me as a member of the church. The moment they touched me, I felt a loving presence surround and permeate my body and I knew it was God. I felt such peace. There was no question in my mind that God and I were friends and would have or perhaps already had had a long relationship with each other.

As I grew up, I forget my connection with God often getting caught up in the events happening around me. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, a very turbulent time. My ego sometimes convinced me that its message was better or stronger than God’s. However, God was always there with open loving arms whenever I remembered S/He was there. Every valuable thing I’ve learned throughout my life is because of my conversations with God.

Over the years I grew to understand that I’m connected to everything that exists, but that each individual must make their own discoveries about who they are and what their purpose is in the grand scheme of this thing we call life.

When I began college, I decided to study religion. I wanted to know all I could about the relationship between humans and the divine. My studies were both joyous and deeply distressing. Each religion began from a pure message that we must love ourselves and one another, but then power hungry men developed doctrines to control the members of their particular brand of religion. Each religion claimed to be THE ONE TRUE FAITH and the original message got distorted causing great conflicts. Many terrible acts of violence throughout the centuries have been committed in God’s name. I didn’t understand the purpose of it all. All I knew was I had to keep my connection to God open and I had to keep searching.

After my husband finished his degree and we moved to Portland, Oregon we were happy with our church duties for a time. We’d chosen Portland because it was one of the more progressive areas of the country and within the church as well. But things changed within the church and our local congregation and my husband and I began to feel like round pegs trying to fit into square holes. The only way we could describe how we were feeling at the time was that we wanted “more” out of our spiritual life. More than the church encouraged and more than any religion that we knew of seemed to offer.

A member of our congregation suggested we read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. Reading that book was the beginning of the end of our commitment to the church. After that we read in rapid succession, Out on a Limb by Shirley MacLaine, Quantum Healing by Deepak Chopra, Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav and Awakening to Zero Point by Gregg Braden, which he later rewrote and I think is now titled Fractal Time.

In our deliberations about leaving the church we waffled a great deal. First of all, there was the tradition of our family connection to the church. Then there was the uncertainty of where to go from there? Attending church every Sunday morning, going to church camps and retreats and having a spiritual community were compelling reasons to stay. But two things happened to help us break the ties that held us once and for all. First, we attended two or three spiritual growth retreats developed and offered, ironically, by a minister in our church. He had been a dear friend of our parents and we were so hungry for spiritual connection and answers to our dilemma, that we gladly signed up.

The spiritual growth retreats were designed to be silent for the most part. There were short sessions where we were taught various journaling techniques designed to enhance our skills in listening to God’s voice. We learned meditation and were encouraged to be silent out in nature and wherever we went as often as possible. In fact, each participant had a cabin all to themselves so we could have a quiet place to meditate and contemplate at the end and beginning of each day. Silence during those retreats healed some deeply wounded places in my soul and I will be forever grateful for the various practices I learned during those weekends which I still use today.

The other thing that happened was we had an amazing session with Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversation With God books, who was working as a psychic in Portland at the time. The actual sequence of events leading up to my disassociation with the church is now a blur in my mind because one aha led to the next in such rapid succession, but I can say without question seeing Neale was the most profound experience of all.

We’d found Neale’s card on the bulletin board in the dressing room at Common Ground Communal Hot Tubs. A church friend of ours cleaned the place and got free tickets, which she shared with us. Our friend and her husband, my husband and I would go soak and talk every two or three weeks or so. I remember on one visit I saw Neale’s business card, pointed at it and Barry nodded. We took down the number and made the appointment. This was really going out on a limb for us. We felt like we were entering woo woo land. But, Neale’s voice and manner of speaking was so kind and gentle. He was open and accepting and the things he said to us rang true in our hearts. The main thing he said was that we were wasting our talents and that we were embarking on an exciting spiritual journey. That was the confirmation we needed to hear. It wasn’t long after that that we relinquished all our responsibilities within our congregation and stopped attending church.

For awhile we searched for a new spiritual home. We attended Silent Friends meetings, the local Unity Church, and a mega New Thought church. None of them felt like home for long. One of the ministers at the New Thought church once said in a sermon, “Religion should be in the business of putting itself out of business. It should give each individual the foundation to establish their own personal spiritual practice.” That’s what my husband and I came to understand was what we had longed for all those years. We wanted a deep personal relationship with God in which we could shed all the things that don’t serve us or the world. We wanted to allow ourselves to be instruments in God’s hands.

I’m deeply grateful for the foundation I received from my spiritual upbringing in the church of my family. It was within the church that I understood that I could have a personal relationship with God. My daily spiritual practice is deeply enriching to my life, however, I know now I don’t need all the trappings of religion to be the conduit between me and God. It seems to me that the Pew research might indicate that there are others who feel the same way I do.

Thank you for reading this long post. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Joie de Vivre

Calla Lilies

Calla Lilies

“People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.” – Tony Robbins

“Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.” – Joseph Campbell

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

Tuesday is the day I write my weekly blog. Sometimes it’s a struggle to express the things I’ve been thinking about over the last week. Today is especially difficult because it’s the day I’ve finished the grading for the classes that just ended yesterday. Some semesters go smoothly and all my students receive passing grades but as with this semester, sometimes I have students who fail. When that happens, I am tempted to blame myself for their failure. But, the other day I watched the Super Soul Sunday with Dr. Christiane Northrup and something she said was particularly appropriate for how I’m feeling today. She said something like, “If I feel the need to fix other people, that’s my addiction. Each person must find their own way.” Sometimes I want to fix my students and force them to succeed. I felt like that this semester. But that doesn’t help anyone.

I guess I come by it naturally because for most of my life I’ve been a fixer. In fact that was my role in the family. So when my students, friends or family struggle, I’m tempted to help them find their way out of the darkness. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve learned that the best way to help someone through their dark times is just to be there for them. If I do the fixing for them, it never lasts because it’s as if I don’t trust them to be strong enough to fix their own lives.

It’s interesting that I have such a deep pull toward helping others when most often I keep my own council. For most of my life I’ve felt I had help beyond who or what I could see and I’ve trusted it to guide me. When I was quite young, I felt that one day I would find a deep love of life even when what was happening on the outside wasn’t so very happy.

Now my life is becoming more and more joyful. I wake up every morning excited about the day ahead. So, when Dr. Northrup also said, “Getting older is inevitable, aging is optional,” I felt like she was talking about my life. We choose whether or not to shrivel up and become old, or we choose to learn from the things that happen to us and find a joy in life. Other times we choose to give up and fail. But that’s never the end. We can always make a new choice and transform our lives. That’s grace.

I hope that my students who failed my class will understand that one, two or even twenty failures doesn’t define who they are. There is so much more to each of us than anyone, even we, can see. Digging deep inside to find that larger part of us is what will eventually bring joy to our lives.

This post feels like it’s a bunch of gobbledeeguck, but if there is one thing I hope you get out of it, it’s this: keep plugging along. Keep looking for the things that make you happy. Keep choosing to love, rather than be angry, hurt and upset. Keep telling yourself you’re worthy and one day you’ll find joie de vivre, the joy in living as I have done. When one person finds that, they leave bread crumb clues for those who come along behind.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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A Thirst for Silence

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence … We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa

“Silence is a true friend who never betrays.” – Confucius

“The quieter you become the more you can hear.” – Ram Dass

Lately I’ve had a deep desire to be home, be silent, and work on my writing. Actually for most of my life, I’ve loved being alone, thinking my own thoughts and forging my own path. I’ve never been a joiner, and there have been times when I was misunderstood because I didn’t ascribe to the accepted point of view on a subject. For the most part that’s been okay with me because somewhere deep inside I felt connected to something much greater than myself. This isn’t a feeling I can articulate very well. It’s only been in the last few years when more and more spiritual teachers and scientists are espousing silence as a stress reliever and way to make sense of our lives, that I feel vindicated in my life long search for silence.

The other day a college friend of mine, Terry Green, who is an independent film maker and screen writer, wrote an interesting post on Facebook which described this feeling I’ve had for most of my life. He wrote that writers need to have a quiet, private place to write so we can hear what our characters have to say to each other. If we get out of their way, they will speak and all we have to do is write down their conversation. I love that. It’s so true. When I’m writing I have to get into a zone and allow what wants to come through speak to me. If I get out of the way, the voice that speaks is so much more articulate than I could ever be. I love this life of daily silence. What I’ve learned is that when I listen, I hear deep levels of wisdom that I would never have heard if I were still out in the noisy world.

It seems to me that anyone who is creative, and I believe that’s all of us, need silence to regroup and regenerate. If I don’t have silence during my waking hours, then I find it harder to sleep because my mind is too busy with the noise of the day to allow me to relax enough to go into deep sleep which is where we have the opportunity to be renewed. I also wonder if we would have any of the wonderful inventions, scientific theories, or artwork we enjoy today if it weren’t for the inventor, scientist, or artist taking time to be silent and listen to the inspiration that was trying to get through the noise of their everyday thoughts.

There is a great story about Albert Einstein I heard on a biography of him on one of the science channels. When he was stuck on the next step of a theory or mathematical problem he was working on, he’d ride the trolley car. He’d ride until his head had cleared and the answer to his dilemma presented itself. I loved that story because, in essence that’s what I do when I’ve got a dilemma.

The last five years of my public teaching career, I had to drive an hour each way to get to and from school. Though the drive was long, it was also a great time to have silence. There were so many times while I was driving in silence, that the answer to some problem at school with a student, or the play I was directing, or a lesson I was going to teach would come to me. When someone asked me why I didn’t listen to music, or audio books as I drove, I said, “Because driving in silence allows solutions to my problems to come to me.” Our minds need time to process so we can come up with an entirely new solution to whatever project we happen to be working upon.

I’ve found silence to be of great solace and source of my own creativity and I believe everyone, even extroverts need some of it every day.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Focused Attention

Cochise College Roses

Cochise College Roses

“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” – George Eliot

“The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.” – Elbert Hubbard

“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” – Arnold J. Toynbee

Last week I wrote about serendipity and how it has worked for me in my writing career. Trusting that serendipity will happen is a key element to being successful, but you can’t just sit back and let serendipity happen. Some say it takes hard work, but instead of hard work, I like to think of it as focused attention.

The reason I like to replace the words hard work with focused attention is because when we think of hard work, we equate it with stress and strain. However, I’ve learned from being involved in the theatre that hard work can be fun, fulfilling and energizing. If you like what you do, you can be focusing your attention on the task at hand, but it won’t feel stressful; it will be fun.

I’m sure you’ve experienced what I’m writing about. You’re doing something that captures your attention. You love every aspect of whatever it is you’re doing. It might be building a sand castle, skiing, playing with you children, cooking, or gardening. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, it’s your feeling about it that makes the difference. Time slips by and suddenly you realize that you were so absorbed in what you were doing that it seems like only a moment has gone by since you started your project. That’s focused attention.

Our souls rejoice when we’re doing what brings us joy. Isn’t that a much better way to live than dragging yourself out of bed every work day and dreading being there for the interminably long hours before you can go home? Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if everyone woke up excited to get to the work they love? So why do so many people stress themselves out doing work they hate?

Many of us cling to the old idea that we have to support ourselves somehow. Most of the time we think that means sacrificing doing what we love so we can put a roof over our heads and food on the table. I’d like to challenge that idea. Everyone of us can live the life of our dreams. It may take some effort to transition from our old life to our new, but that’s where focused attention and serendipity can help.

Our minds are powerful beyond what we may think. Many people are convinced that events happen TO us, but science and the ancient wisdom traditions tell us that what we think creates our reality. If we think we must stay trapped doing work we hate for twenty, thirty, or forty years before we can do what we love, we’ll be miserable most of our lives. I don’t know about you but I didn’t want to face that prospect.

I won’t say I was always completely successful in my efforts to find work I loved. I loved doing theatre, but it didn’t pay much and took up a great deal of my time. I missed many a family gathering because I was in rehearsal. The day came when I had to decided what was more important to me, my relationship with my husband, or theatre. I gave up theatre. But then a few years later, I got a job teaching drama. Ah, I could do what I loved and still go home at night to my husband. Yet there were aspects of teaching that were stressful. Teaching drama was nearly the right match but not quite. While I was getting my Masters in theatre, I discovered that I loved writing, but not many writers make a good living. So I buried the idea of becoming a writer and moved on.

The thing is that through the years I continued to believe that I would find the work I was meant to do. I kept my attention focused on doing what I loved to do as much as possible. One day, I remembered that I’d wanted to be a writer, but somewhere along the way I’d become convinced I couldn’t make a living doing what I loved most. My mind was split in two and clouded with thoughts that only the most special people are lucky enough to be successful at the thing they love doing. I tried to stay close to my first love. Almost all my jobs throughout the years involved some aspect of story telling, but I was never the story teller and that’s what I longed to do.

Who knows why we block our own happiness. However, something inside me kept prompting me to keep searching for the thing that would make me deeply and completely joyful. One day my focused attention paid off. Something clicked in my head and I realized I just needed to make the decision that writing is what I was going to do no matter what and that’s when serendipity began to work for me.

I haven’t published my first novel yet. Who knows if it will sell millions of copies. If it sells one or thousand copies, my efforts will be worth the years of work. Something else wonderful has happened during this process, I’ve met other authors by writing reviews of their books. I didn’t know that they would contact me when I wrote the reviews, it just happened that way. So, I’m creating positive change by meeting and supporting fellow authors and by allowing myself to tune into something greater than myself as I write my blog and books. Every little positive ripple changes the world. Because I believe that is true, I encourage you to find ways to do what you love even if it’s only in your spare time. Who knows where that focused effort will lead you.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Following My Own Star

Stars

Stars

“The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.” – Benjamin E. Mays

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

I’ve always had a longing to follow a different star than many of my classmates, family and friends. For many years I kept that desire hidden because I was afraid. I was afraid of what others would think, of what I’d have to sacrifice, but mostly I was afraid to trust that all would be well if I threw caution to the wind and followed the guidance I was being given. Oh how I wish I hadn’t wasted all that time.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve stopped caring about the opinions of others. The voice, or feeling drawing me toward complete immersion in joyous creation is stronger than all my petty fears ever were. I’m so much happier now than I’ve ever been in my life. Each morning I wake up looking forward to the day instead of dreading doing work that kills my soul.

This phenomenon of following your own star isn’t new nor is it happening only to me. Every single one of us have our own star to follow, our own purpose to fulfill. Some of us grab ahold and have the ride of our lives. Others are like Ivan Ilyich, a character in the story, “The Death of Ivan Illyich” by Leo Tolstoy. Ivan Illyich has taken pains to build a life that looks great from the outside, but he has never fulfilled the purpose he came to live. Perhaps he was too afraid of who he really was, or he didn’t want to do the work necessary to follow his heart. Who knows what blocks us from fulfilling our dreams. On his death bed Ivan realizes that because he tried to make his life look good, he was selfish. He didn’t offer up his talents to help anyone else. I like the way Wayne Dyer says it, “Don’t die with your music still in you.” The saddest thing is when someone realizes in their final moments, that for whatever reason, they wasted their life doing things they hated. It’s sad when people ignore their calling.

The paradoxical thing is that to be of service to the world, we must often appear selfish when it comes to listening to our inner guidance. It’s only when we listen and follow that we can be in true partnership with the Divine, and bring something extraordinary to help lift humanity out of darkness. There have been many people throughout history that we identify as those types of people. The thing is we don’t allow ourselves to think that we can be one of them too. At least I didn’t allow myself to think that until recently. We don’t have to be Jesus, or Buddha, or Gandhi, or any of the other giants of history to make our contribution. Think of life as a puzzle. If one piece is missing the picture isn’t finished. Not all pieces are bright and prominent, but each piece is needed.

You might ask, how will I know what my purpose is? The way I knew was by paying attention to my feelings. I asked myself what activities and tasks brought me joy. When I was in the midst of doing what I loved, time stood still and at the end of it I felt energized, not drained. The trick is to put more of your focus and determination into doing what brings you joy rather than the things that don’t. Little by little you will be able to drop what doesn’t serve you and live a purpose driven life.

That’s actually been my goal in life all along, to live in partnership with the Divine, to fulfill my purpose. To listen to that still small voice and follow It’s guidance. Over the years I’ve come to understand that everything I do, whether I’m letting my ego take control, or I’m listening to the Divine whisper, I’m affecting the world. It’s not a new concept, the idea that we’re all connected. The thing is, once I felt the truth of this idea, I was much more careful about what I thought and did.

I know now that Marianne Williamson’s quote above is right. It doesn’t help anyone to play small. That quote is one of my favorites, because it’s as if she wrote it directly to me. Many times I felt the pull to blend into the background and play small. I was afraid of my own light. Not anymore.

It’s long been my mission to empower people. No matter what work I was doing, that has always been my goal, to help people come out of the shadows and shine so the whole world benefits from the light. That’s been my goal because it’s what I most need to learn. Let’s learn it together.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Leaving the Past in the Past

December 2, 2014 sunrise over the San Jose Mountains

December 2, 2014 sunrise over the San Jose Mountains

“Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want.” –Kristin Armstrong

“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” –Aristotle

“If you want to reach out for something new, you must first let go of what’s in your hand.” –Sonia Choquette

I’m in a period of transition. Last month my husband and I made the last payment to our credit card debt, I’m turning 62 this year and the publication date for my first novel is fast approaching. My life is changing in a big way, which I love. Yet, it’s strange to have this new life stretching out in front of me. I don’t know what to expect and that’s at once liberating and daunting. How do I allow new things to come into my life without assuming that my future will be very much like my past?

Part of what prompted this post is the fact that I picked up A Course In Miracles again and was reminded that the past isn’t real. What happened to me in the past is gone and will never occur again. Yet, sometimes I allow it to continue to affect me in a big way. There have been times when I’ve assumed that life will continue on much as it has gone before. A Course in Miracles points out that our minds are powerful creators, and sometimes we recreate what has happened in the past over and over again. But it needn’t be that way. It’s kind of paradoxical that we can learn from what happened to us in the past, but our present and subsequent future is a blank. We can create it any way we want. It’s all in the way we “think” about what is to come.

In the past, when I was on the threshold of a new life, I wanted a new fresh start, but leaving old attitudes and expectations behind was really difficult. First of all I had a hard time imagining how I would feel living my new life. Second, My little ego thought it knew what was best for me and so tried to be the guide. Third, I didn’t trust that I could really let go and let God fashion a new life for me. I was afraid. This time I want things to be different.

As we grow we are taught by our parents and society that we can be anything we want to be if we’re lucky, or that we’re worthless if we’re not. Many of the things we’ve learned hold us back. They clog up our mind and we keep repeating patterns from our past that don’t serve us. We don’t love ourselves enough to allow in all the great things that the Divine wants to give us. Our ego defeats us. This has been my lifelong struggle between being of service to fulfill my purpose, and to be hampered by wanting to be in control of my own life. Maybe you too have experienced this struggle. Over the years as I’ve studied, prayed and worked at letting go of my past, I’ve made some progress in understanding my place in the world.

What I’ve learned is that we are connected to each other and the Source of All that is. We’re all part of something bigger than ourselves, something bigger than we can imagine. Our ego doesn’t see this connection and wants to be in control of directing our choices so we can end up with all the toys. That gets us into trouble.

When we let go of trying to control every little thing that happens to us, and allow our Source to be in charge, there is a joyful bond to our purpose. We know we’re in partnership with our Source when fear leaves us and we feel the ecstasy that comes from co-creating with Her.

Letting go of the past, releasing the old beliefs that no longer serve us and realizing that our ego does not have our best interests at heart is a deeply personal, internal journey. It’s something that we chip away at a little at a time. I believe it takes courage to grow. However, I’m happy to say that for me, it has been worth it. I’m committed to letting the past go and becoming a partner with the Divine so I can fulfill my place in whatever the bigger plan for our world might be.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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