On Children ~ by Kahlil Gibran


A little boy explains to his mother why he does not want to eat the octopus she served him.

“Out of the mouths of babes…”

[If you can’t see the video, scroll down to the comments — I posted a transcript of it.]

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.

[from Gibran’s The Prophet. Read the remainer of this 1923 poem here.]

retirement? feel no guilt!


I suppose every retired person has their own answer to the questions, What’s retirement like? What does a person do?

Recently I was asked by a soon-to-be-retired person who’s feeling a little insecure about what he might do with all that freedom. I guess the prospect is scary for some people. It never was for me because I’ve always dreamed of having full-time freedom to be creative or expand my non-working-life skills and enjoyment. Anyway, here’s a version of my reply email.

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Hubby has just gone skiing for the afternoon, so I’m catching up on some email, then I’ll go out to catch up on some chore-running-around.

The idea of retiring can bring up those kinds of questions. What do we do all the time? The short answer is, “Anything we want!!!” That’s the best part of retirement. No expectations, no boss or work demands, nothing we HAVE TO do except upkeep of ourselves and home.

I get to do my crafts (or not), read books (or not), sit at my computer for FUN instead of work, get chores and shopping done when the rest of the world is at work instead of having to cope with doing it during the busiest weekend/evening times. I like learning new things, so I try out new crafts from time to time. Currently working on teaching myself “needle felting”. I occasionally have lunch dates with friends, see afternoon matinees at the movies (what a luxury!), enjoy cooking (or not), etc. In the summer, enjoy my small deckgarden and snoozing in the big hammock. I enjoy my walks in the local park. In the colder indoor months, from time to time I still do some document editing because I miss it –but I don’t miss having to do it, having people expect me to get it to them in a timely manner, etc. I did some work researching and writing for the Dalai Lama Center for about 6 months during my first year of retirement. Last year I worked with an Edmonton friend editing his doctorate thesis. I’ve helped our kids and other family, copyediting their papers when they were in post-secondary school. Ongoingly, I’m helping a friend with commenting and/or copyediting her writings, which she sometimes submits to magazines and contests. Oh, and I enjoy occasionally writing articles in my own blog. 🙂

I also signed up with a couple of microvolunteering websites. Microvolunteering is doing volunteer work from home. This weekend I found another volunteering site I’ll work with — Help From Home — doing some proofreading for a group who are working on the Gutenberg Project. They scan in books that are no longer copyrighted, then volunteers work on the books, page by page, to ensure that the scanned pages match the original — quite often, scanned text isn’t entirely accurate, as the scanner sees everything as images rather than words and sometimes gets words wrong. (Example: the word “and”, if it’s on an older or worn page in an old book, might be seen by the scanner as “ahd”.) So the volunteers go through it word by word and correct scanning errors. I did a couple dozen pages this weekend and really enjoyed it.

Anyway, you get the idea…. I keep busy (or not), only on things I enjoy, and when I stop enjoying, I move on to the next more enjoyable thing.

Hubby truly enjoys having an unscheduled life, enjoys having nobody, especially bosses, expecting him to be someplace at a certain time every day, or be responsible for students or lesson planning or the performance of teaching. He loves reading books and catching up on his news — business, science, technology, etc. — via computer. He enjoys his computer games. He’s a master at the art of doing nothing — which sounds weird but he can sit for hours and just think — I suppose it’s like meditating, which is very healthy for us, as you know. His saying is, Everything I need to know about retirement I’ve learned from my cat.”

My saying is, “Human being, not human doing!” (A Rumi quote)

In short, we’re both happy and highly recommend the retired life to all and sundry.

Some tips for you: Think (often) about what you’d rather be doing while you’re doing your current work stuff, and to start making a list of what comes to mind at that thought. Then when you retire you can start working on that list. And of course there are your hobbies — I just know there are some enjoyable activities you’ve been doing all your life, and now you can do them anytime instead of only when you can squeeze in some time. Check online — there are so many free courses, and learning something new is good for our retired brains. If you have a phone or tablet, try out some new educational apps. Learn a new language with Duolingo (just one example).  Get creative, try new things, brush your teeth with the other hand… do one random act of kindness a day…

Most importantly, you don’t have to plan. You can just start out on a life of doing whatever you want, whenever you want, for as long as you want. It’s FREEDOM! to be who we really are instead of the working life of meeting every external expectation others have of us. During our first few months of retirement we went through that phase of feeling guilty about doing nothing! But sooner or later, we all have to remember that we earned this freedom, that we enjoyed life enormously in the days before we HAD TO work to support ourselves, and that this is definitely the time of life to begin reaping the rewards of all we’ve accomplished at work. Everybody who works enjoys their few days/weeks of holiday time — they know they earned it and deserve it and it’s a relief to be away from work. A retiree just needs to start thinking of retirement as a well-earned holiday… one that goes on and on and become anything we want it to be from day to day, and can change to anything else we want if it starts to feel boring.

Well, I sure didn’t mean to have this be so long… first time I’ve actually written anything about what retirement is like. Maybe I’ll write a blog post about it!

And I did. And there you have it. Now I’m moving on to the next thing I want to do today!

forming a healthy habit starts from within


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The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to reflect their inner beliefs. ~James Allen

I recently participated in a 21-day online fitness support group. I needed some external motivation to help re-establish a daily habit of fitness activity. My lazy butt was so reluctant to start this! Nevertheless, by the last day of the challenge, I was enthusiastically back into the habit.

We all know it takes three weeks of daily repetition to form a habit, so my success may not surprise you. What surprised me was why I ultimately met my goal.

It turned out that nothing about my success was about the physical aspects of daily exercise!

When I retired a few years ago, somehow that translated into retiring from regular fitness activity. Retirement meant I could rejoice in not having to do anything. No expectations. No shoulds. Just do what I want to do, every minute of every day.

We’re constantly told we “should” exercise—30 minutes daily, or 3x/week, or 10,000 steps a day, or blahblahblah.

Yes, but I also have a lifetime resolution to eliminate “shoulds” (and “yes-but” sentences J). My attitude toward exercise had become resistance-based because of all the “should” advice. I’d given myself permission to avoid it. Hey, I’m in charge of my own body, right?

But now, a few years later, my body has begun to show the deterioration symptoms of being ruled by my retired, lazy butt. I needed to put a stop to that. I decided I “should” exercise.

Gradually, this 21-day fitness commitment reminded me that my lazy butt is a mental state, not a state of butt!

First, I realized how easily I’ve been letting anything—whatever—thwart my exercise plans. Any excuse was a good one. Grocery shopping to do? Well then, I certainly can’t fit in that aqua-fit class! Rain? Yay, I don’t have to go for that walk!

By the end of the first week, the long-forgotten physical benefits of exercising began to show up, in spite of my daily resistance. Reminding myself about these benefits had been the whole point of my making this 21-day commitment.

Then one day, with my key motivation still being the obligation to report in to my online exercise buddies, I went to an aqua-fit class eagerly. I had the best class! It was fun! I put out more energy than usual. Magically, I didn’t feel any of the usual achy aftermath. Instead, I was refreshed, energetic, and buzzed all day.

A light bulb went on! My attitude was what had been holding me back from enjoying fitness activity.

My retired self had decided that exercise was an externally-imposed “should” and therefore something to avoid. This headspace had made me feel completely grumpy every time I thought about doing a workout.

There was more I had yet to learn about myself and exercise. Something more spiritual.

Since Louise Hay published You Can Heal Your Life in 1984, I’ve used her ideas about the mind-body connection to help heal my body. Whenever there’s anything untoward going on with my body, I explore possible non-physical causes.

During this 21-day challenge, my sciatic hip pain began telling me to stop all this walking and working out. Louise wrote, “The hip carries the body in perfect balance. Major thrust in moving forward.” Ah-ha! It made sense. My hip was certainly showing its resistance to moving forward into a lifetime of daily exercise.

Rather than cutting back on my workouts, I began saying Louise’s suggested hip affirmation to myself during all exercise: “Hip hip hooray, there is joy in every day!”

I said the affirmation instead of complaining about the pain or giving in to my lazy-butt attitude. It seemed to be speeding up the healing.

The mind and the body are so very connected!

Then, in week two, I hit another wall.

It was the inevitable Lazy Butt’s Last Stand. It was the wall of “What was I thinking?! I really don’t want to do all this exercise.”

I spent all morning sitting at my computer, resisting activity. It certainly hadn’t yet become a habit. My intellectual appreciation of the positive effects of regular exercise hadn’t become any kind of emotional or physical enthusiasm.

However, I knew I had to report my day’s exercise to the group. So I pulled out one of my mind-manipulation tricks, telling myself, “Go for just a 10-minute walk today.” That gets me going, and then I always end up enjoying the walk and wanting to continue longer. Isn’t it funny how we can fool our own minds over and over again with the same trick?

On that walk, as I chanted “Hip hip hooray, there is joy in every day,” I realized that if I was going to stick with daily fitness, I would absolutely need to put more focus on the benefits to my spirit, joy, energy, mood.

Forget about the body; I needed an attitude workout!

Within a few days, this focus led to my next insight. I began to recognize that the most significant benefit I was getting from this daily workout was not physical. It was the huge improvements to my whole outlook on life!

I felt lighter, happier, more energetic. I wanted to eat better. I was increasingly more creative, inspired, and had begun planning new art-craft projects. I felt more open to making other plans and other new commitments.

I was re-discovering the fitness of Kate’s Inner Self!

Not just my body, but also my mind, mood, emotions, and spirit had switched over to acceptance rather than resistance.

I had let go of the bad energy that comes with resistance.

Suddenly, this commitment was less about daily physical activity and more about truly recognizing how much this daily activity influences and improves everything internal.

My key to success finally became apparent. I was reviving and renewing and re-integrating my Mind! Body! Soul! Joy! Enthusiasm! Energy!

My biggest obstacle? ME!

ME is the person who creates clever excuses, justifications, rationalizations, for not getting off her butt. ME is the person who resents the fact that she has to stay fit to stay healthy. ME is the person who often says, “Just give yourself a break; there’s always tomorrow!” ME is always trying to sabotage my good intentions about physical fitness.

Those 21 days helped me discover my “cure” for the obstacle-called-ME. The cure was to fall back on what I know absolutely works for me—a focus on the more internal, spiritual aspects of self-improvement. I needed to convince myself that I’m not actually doing those physical fitness “shoulds”—I’m using my body to help accomplish a mental, emotional, and spiritual workout.

I need to let my Spirit, my Higher Self, be my physical training coach!

If the mind is in it, the body will follow.

Maybe it’s just a mind game. But it works for me. Whenever I need a boost of energy or spirit, I can use my body to help me get there. And now I’m happy to have a habit of doing this daily, no matter what!

I’m looking in the mirror these days and seeing a more radiant, positive person from all this activity. I’m feeling grateful to myself. Thanks, Kate!

Keeping fit is a true gift to Self. It’s no longer an externally-imposed should.

And you? How’s your mirror looking these days? I’m not talking about size or shape or weight. I’m asking about your radiant, energetic self. Is she or he there, in your mirror?


Author’s note:
I feel complemented that this is another of my articles selected for publication at TinyBuddha.com. Thanks for reading! All comments very welcome. ~ Kate

make fear work for you!


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“With respect to your Big Dream, what allows you to put fear aside and just GO FOR IT?”

I’m honored to be included among a group of 21 people, wonderfully wise women and men, who have written their personal answer to that question. I feel little among the biggies, but I’m a Proud Little, for sure.

Read this amazing collection of shared experiences and advice at Jennifer Boykin‘s Life After Tampons website:

Still Chicken Sh*t? 21 Game-Changers Share How They Make Fear Work for Them

neat freak: letting go of the stress of obsessively tidying


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“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~ Bernice Johnson Reagon

Have you ever hung up a towel and not straightened it or folded it or arranged it in some way as you did so? Have you ever just casually tossed a towel over the towel rail?

I did that last weekend and it was a big event. I had to laugh at myself for having this obsessive quirk, but doing that was almost impossible. I was in a hurry putting away the laundry, and there were those two clean towels to be hung back in the bathroom.

I thought about just stuffing them over the towel railings—but I just couldn’t! However, when I realized how hard it was to do this, I made myself do it.

I wonder if you are the same as I am about hanging towels “correctly” every time?

When I asked my sister that question, her reply was, “Gasp! Wash out your mouth with soap!” And then she asked, “How long before you went back and straightened it?”

The towel stayed in its tossed position until I used it after my shower that night. After I got away from it after tossing it on the rail, it didn’t bother me. I soon forgot about it—the towel itself wasn’t calling me back in there to fix it.

I went to the bathroom later and managed to leave the towel as it was and just walked away again. It was a good exercise in self discipline.

I’ve learned that I can make untidiness affect me less by doing my ignoring practice, just like during the towel incident.

My partner thinks it’s hilariously obsessive to have to hang towels straight and tidy each and every time. Some people think habits like this (in others) are annoying. I wonder if it’s just as obsessive in another way to be annoyed by somebody who needs to tidy?

My partner hangs his towels nicely most of the time, although not the way I would. I have made myself get used to leaving his towel the way he last hung it—I don’t even notice it any more.

It doesn’t matter to him that I need to have certain things a certain way. He just thinks of this as one of the many
rules. He knows he can happily live with my rules as long as he gets his way about his own rules. (He doesn’t admit he has rules, but I think he knows he does.)

On his boat, everything has to be done properly every time, not just the towels. He says that’s about living comfortably in a small space. At least he knows what it feels like to need that level of tidiness.

Some people, like my partner, are just not able to see untidiness, not ever. How can that be?

When I told my sister that I was training myself out of tidiness habits, she asked, “Isn’t it less trouble, and less energy, to just go ahead and be obsessed?”

Very good question! Self acceptance, even about our own annoying habits and quirks, isn’t that something to work towards? Is that a better place to be than always having the need to “fix” things that bug us?

I remember exactly when I started my personal training and why. It was back when I lived with my ex, very early in our marriage. That day we had a huge fight just before visitors were to arrive. He had left some personal stuff lying around, like socks, I can’t remember exactly.

Before having visitors over, I always had to tidy everything, even the socks in the bedroom, where the visitors would likely never go. Of course, he somehow couldn’t even see what needed tidying, so he was never much help with that.

He said it didn’t matter to people what the place looked like—they just wanted to visit us, not our tidiness. I said it mattered to me because an untidy house said something about me.

Is that true? Do our habits serve to describe us? I began to doubt myself on that point. If that was true, why didn’t he care as much as I did that our home looked untidy?

After that, I began to try not caring whether the person I lived with did things differently from me. I began to try to “just live with it.” But I didn’t have a real plan to accomplish this.

Years later, when I moved in with my current partner, I knew that I wanted a fresh start. I wanted no more obsessively-tidy battles. I began my personal training to eliminate my tidiness obsession. I started with work on lowering my tidy-standards, much like the ignore-the-towel game above.

Although I draw the line at actual uncleanliness, I can now live with dust bunnies, with untidy bathroom counters, with sloppily hung towels. (I confess that it’s still much easier to tidy a crooked picture than to ignore it. Well, ok, I confess that I cannot ignore a crooked frame.)

I’ve noticed that obsessively tidying creates a kind of stress. I feel like it’s been good for me to learn to relax some of my standards and rules because each time I do, it reduces one more little bit of stress.

“Every day brings a choice: to practice stress or to practice peace.” ~ Joan Borysenko

I have learned to recognize that some things, such as a messily-hung towel, can be left as is. I now realize that if it were just the one thing, fixing it would be fine, but during a day there can be many just-the-one-things that add up to a cumulative dose of low-level stress.

Ignoring some of the untidy things also eliminates unnecessary work. Yes, I can now see it as unnecessary! I now recognize that constant tidying adds up to an overall greater workload.

I know I’m happier when things are tidy, and I accept this in myself and do what it takes to accomplish this for myself. It’s no longer about what others will think of me.

This self-training is also very good for my relationships. I’m not talking about how others view me, but about my learning to accept untidiness in others. I still have a long way to go, but I’m working on it.

Accepting it means not bugging them about their habits and not running around tidying up after them. It requires that I’m able to live happily with less-than-tidy. Eventually, perhaps I’ll be able to completely ignore untidiness, not even see it! (My doubting soul had trouble writing that last part. :) )

So what it comes down to, for me at least, is striking a balance between self-acceptance (I’m perfectly OK when I tidy something that’s not quite right) and living happily with other people (it’s OK if that person doesn’t tidy something and if I don’t do it for them).

If you’re anything like me, I propose a challenge for you today: Go toss a towel and leave it the way it lands. Can you do it? Can you leave it alone? Then explore how you feel and react for the rest of the day. It’s quite a discovery!

Photo by Mason Bryant

Listen To The Moment: Knowing What To Do Now


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“If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.”  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Today, out of the blue, I got two connection-request messages on LinkedIn from two children’s authors. I don’t know either one, personally. I’m not involved with children’s literature. Why was I receiving these requests? I could have thought, “That’s strange” and just let it go. Instead, I explored how this unusual coincidence might relate to what was going on in my life at that moment.

For a few days, I’ve been having the urge to write something new and have done nothing about. When I got those connection requests, they reminded me about my urge to write.

Hmmm. Authors. Writing. More than a reminder, I took this as a call to action. Instead of ignoring the invitations, I decided that these synchronous events were a “message from the universe” encouraging me to obey that writing urge. So here I am, writing this article.

I believe that the universe always provides us with clues, helpers, prompts, kicks in the butts, hints at solutions to problems—whatever we need to accomplish what we need to accomplish, or to learn something, or to move forward in some way, and so on. All we need to do is be open to hearing/seeing/receiving those messages.

Every day, subtle (and not so subtle) things happen, things that we ignore, pass by, or perhaps don’t even notice.

We need to learn to listen to the moment—to increase our awareness of, and be receptive to, those little prompts, clues, signals, and messages that come up for every one of us.

Synchronicity:

“An apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more similar or identical events that are causally unrelated” (Dictionary.com) and “the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events…that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality” (Mirriam-Webster.com).

I don’t think it’s coincidence at all, nor are they causally unrelated. However, if we receive them as personal messages, these events, messages, signals can definitely be meaningful.

I think they’re actually reflections of our own spiritual, emotional, or mental output. We just need to learn to become aware of them, accept them, and interpret them in terms of our personal situation.

I frequently read evidence of synchronicity here at tinybuddha.com. Almost all of the articles receive reader-comments like the following (with thanks to the readers who wrote these):

  • “Perfect article for me today.”
  • “Your timing is perfect.”
  • “This is excellent, excellent and exactly what I needed to read.”
  • “This article came at just the right time.”
  • “This couldn’t have come at a better time.”
  • “I needed this today! Thanks!”
  • “Your timing is uncanny.”
  • “Just what I needed today.”
  • “Oh, I felt like you were talking directly at me!”
  • “I am always amazed at what comes before me just when I need it.”

It surely is amazing when something we read or experience seems to directly address what’s going on in our life. I’m suggesting that this happens every day, in every place we find ourselves.

If we’re open to it, we will see, read, hear, touch, or feel something that’s exactly what we need.

Tiny Buddha founder Lori Deschene wrote, “People often comment that the Tiny Buddha emails come at just the right time for them, and I think there’s a simple explanation for that. They all address universal challenges—things we all deal with, and often.”

It’s so true. Also, when we come here to read, we have already opened ourselves to receiving our own personal messages.

I think of the flow of my life as a kind of stream. Like the water in a cool mountain stream, I bump along over the rocks as well as the smoother sandy and grassy sections. My personal stream runs through my world around me, sometimes contributing to its ecology and quality, occasionally taking what I need from the shores, sometimes catching and accepting things that are thrown my way by others.

Sometimes I’m bubbling along and other times I’m running slowly. Often there are barriers that I must learn to flow around or maybe even break down in order to continue on my path.

Usually the stream of my life flows along familiar paths. Sometimes it takes a new direction. The new directions can be beautiful, welcome places to flow. However, I wouldn’t have found those if I hadn’t run into one of the barriers we all sometimes face in the flow of our days.

Like any stream, my life receives a constant trickle of input from my surroundings and from “the source.” My life stream originates from, and is fed by, the nourishing waters of the universe all around.

Our days’ events contain messages, whether big or small, from something greater than ourselves.

Lori also wrote, “The key is to listen to your instincts.” 

We get messages from “out there” and, if we accept them, they can help us navigate the stream of our lives through the sometimes rough terrain. Some might even lead our streams toward beautiful new directions.

How did those Tiny Buddha readers I quoted come to read exactly what they needed in that moment? Perhaps some were drawn by Twitter, Facebook, their feed reader, or email subscription. Maybe some friend had emailed the article link to them. None of these things are coincidences.

In each case, some prior action resulted in their seeing the title—they “followed”, “liked”, subscribed, or maybe talked to that friend about a problem. They had felt some lack or need, had some problem or issue to deal with. More importantly, they followed up by clicking to and reading the article. I hope they also followed up with some action that helped redirect the flow of their personal stream.

Listening to the moment requires:

  • Mindfulness. If we practice mindfulness, we increase our awareness of what’s happening in the moment. It may help to meditate more often. It relaxes our bodies, minds, and souls and puts us a little more in tune with our universe, our higher self.
  • Openness. Remember, your signals/messages can be very subtle, so remaining consciously open is an important key.
  • Access to intuition. If we follow our instincts, this helps us take action on the ideas, thoughts, and feelings that arise from any given mindful moment.
  • Intention. One of the keys to perceiving our messages is to be ready, receptive, and observant. One way to set ourselves up is to set an intention—it could be having a plan for the day, or setting a goal, or deciding to seek solutions to a problem, or looking for ways to help a friend in need, and so on.

Listen. Watch. Be open. Then, be ready to take action.

What message(s) have you received today? Are you going to ignore them or act upon them?

Photo by AlicePopkorn