Why I (Still) Wear A Santa Hat

~To inspire, and witness, the wonder slowly lighting up the little girl’s eyes who is stopped in her tracks as she spies me rounding the corner in the grocery store…along with the ensuing smiles that magically connect us

~To lift up the strangers walking by me on a dark, frigid afternoon, who suddenly emerge from huddling against the weather to warm the atmosphere with a playful remark

~To share a moment of conversation with the elderly couple sitting next to me at the coffee shop who turn and offer good wishes of the season as they pass by

~To listen to people’s wish lists at Christmastime, which more strangers have confided than you might imagine

~To remind myself of the crucial practice of cultivating openness and generosity…and to remind myself of the boundless capacity of the human heart that so often just wishes to be acknowledged

Can you do all of this without wearing a Santa Hat? Of course!

Yet, as I’ve written before, the Santa Hat is a signal for play, for connection, for expansiveness.  Today, a friend told us about the transformative effect her wearing a silly Santa headband to the office had had on previously low or crotchety clients. They were buoyed! And, therefore, buoyant. (Thanks, Miss P)

No surprise here. When she asked if I still wear my Santa Hat, I replied, you bet!

It is my tiny, humble offering of delight, light, heart to this glorious, and hungering, world.

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”~Desmond Tutu

 

 

 

 

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Speaking of Kindness

Why write or talk about kindness? Yesterday, I suddenly remembered a negative comment from many years ago when I first started to write about my Santa Hat adventures through which I aim to expand my random acts of kindness. A reader asked what the big deal was with what I was doing. She claimed that she already performed random acts of kindness, so why was I bothering to write about it?

At the time, I was stung.  Now I remind myself of Mary Oliver’s luminous words:

Instructions for living a life.

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.”

Indeed, experiencing and even witnessing acts of kindness can be so inspiring, breathtaking, astonishing. Combine Mary Oliver’s sage advice with all we know about the infectiousness of kindness and there is even more reason to share our stories about kindness. Shout them from the rooftops!  Both the kindnesses we offer and the ones we are fortunate enough to receive.

While cultivating kindness is ideally a year round practice, it is heartwarming to observe and receive so many generous gestures as I go about my daily rounds. People looking behind them to hold the door for me, rather than letting it slam in my face; people lightening the atmosphere by telling jokes as we stand in long lines; people donating gifts to those in need when I drop off some cookies for an event for recipients.

The list goes on.

If we each do our bit, we transform the world. Reminding me of Desmond Tutu’s lovely and wise words. “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

And then tell about it. I wonder what kindness you have offered, received or observed?

 

 

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Kindness: It’s Contagious!

I’ve been out and about wearing my Santa hat for yet another holiday season, musing even more than usual about the magic of kindness, of generosity, of big-heartedness. As I compose some thoughts about recent Santa adventures, I am reblogging this post from last year. Which says a lot about what I am thinking of right now, most importantly–let’s choose to be kind. Now and always.

Sirena Tales

I read a moving letter in an advice column from a lonely widower who had been the surprised beneficiary of a generous act of kindness from two strangers.  His tale lodged a lump of emotion in my throat and filled my eyes with tears.

His wife of 40 years had died suddenly, unexpectedly.  When he was finally able to venture out for dinner at a favorite restaurant to ease some of his grief and loneliness, the couple at the table next to his had struck up a conversation with him, providing welcome companionship.  He was moved to tears when he learned that they had paid for his meal on their way out of the establishment.

How lovely! It warmed my heart.

And, not surprisingly, it made me want to go out and be kind!  That’s some of the magic of kindness.  When we human types witness others’ displays of compassion…

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The Glow of Flow, or Optimal Experience

I am back on the path of delving into flow. How about you?

Sirena Tales

“….[T]he best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile….”~Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi

It happened again yesterday.

I was chatting with a new friend about a service project we are collaborating on.  The conversation had been going well enough–an interesting, thoughtful exchange of ideas.

When my friend mentioned in passing a new project she is pursuing, I asked her to elaborate.  That’s when the pleasant conversation exploded into a dazzling feast of images, inspiration, aspirations, depth, meaning.  As my friend painted a picture of her vision, something she has been dreaming of for many years, something that has been derailed by tragedy and other obstacles, her whole being lit up, charging the air with excitement.

Her electricity drew me in–I…

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mermaid lessons

Mermaiding again. May your adventures be heroic and lovely!

Sirena Tales

Feed your soul with what enchants you


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Bask

Sculpture: Michael Buonaiuto

Rough seas will pass

~~Ebb~~~ and~~ flow~~~~

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Cultivate beauty and joy

Dive deeply: ’tis where the richest treasures lie

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Play

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Your heart is your true compass: listen

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Fill your sails with your dreams

and

venture forth on your vast seas of possibility

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Be intrepid in your quest

LOVE

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Our Most Vibrant Selves

 

Six or more sparkling Baltimore orioles and a couple of zesty hummingbirds have been feeding in the cherry tree outside our kitchen for much of the past few days.  What a gift!

Dazzling orange is what first caught my sleepy eyes, waking up them up in a flash.  The trailblazing oriole was quickly joined by a bunch of others, followed by the supersonic hummingbirds.  As I stared in awed glee, a bright red form flashed in front of the window-a stunning cardinal hovering for a moment.

This avian kaleidoscope of color and movement took my breath away and boosted my mood with its brilliance.  A simple and wholly miraculous display of birds doing what they do best.

Which got me thinking about two of my old favorite quotes.  From the late visionary, Joseph Campbell:  “The influence of the vitalized person is that he vitalizes.”  And from the late visionary Howard Thurman: “Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”

When we are like those birds, cultivating and then displaying our unique gifts to their fullest, we live vitally, and the richest life possible. And then there is the boon we supply for others: a boost of inspiration, excitement, joy.  Just as those birds showered me with positivity, putting a noticeable bounce in my step and motivation to get going to the studio to dance!

Self-help coach and guru Jen Sincero puts it succinctly in her insightful, inspiring book, “You Are A Badass.” Urging us to go for broke with our lives, she wisely notes that we need people who are “…out of struggle and living large and on purpose so they can be an inspiration to others who want to rise up, too.”

Whether your gift is the art you create or your terrific sense of humor or your commitment to your workout routine or your kind soul, feed that gift!  Expand it till it’s the most energetic, dazzling, spirited version of itself.   The world needs you and your vibrancy!

 

 

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Seeking Transformation? Then Dance!

 

Same for: seeking inspiration, wellness, mood boosting, grounding, healing, energizing, relief, release?

Again, give dancing a whirl!

I was reminded once again of dance’s abundant juju after teaching class yesterday. First, through a new dancer’s story, which she shared with me after class, a story which was all too familiar.

She had planned to come dance, and was disappointed to feel a little under the weather the night before.  After awaking still not being in tip top shape, she finally decided to attend class, figuring she could stop if needed.

She didn’t stop, though. And after class was feeling like a completely different person. No longer green around the gills, hungry for breakfast, energized.

While I didn’t feel ill, I had been a wee bit low on energy.  And, ta-da! Dancing revitalized  me.  As it has countless times.

Obviously, when we move physically, we shift everything around.  Our bodies, of course.  And also our minds and souls.  We move things through us.  And with the addition of endorphins, we lift our spirits, as we ground ourselves by connecting with the earth through our legs and feet and on up through the rest of our vessels.

So, if you want metamorphosis– of emotion, physicality, spirit, outlook, energy level–get up and dance! Or even do some toe tapping and torso wriggling and head bopping in your seat.  Roll your eyes and do face dances–smiling, scrunched up, surprised.  It doesn’t matter what you look like, just that it feels good.  Whatever you can move, move!

Dance will gather you in her embrace…work her magic…and transform you.

Never stop moving.”~Luigi

All that is important is this one moment in movement.  Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.“~Martha Graham

 

Photos: Top, courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2016; Middle, courtesy of Rich Davis © 2018 (http://davisphoto.smugmug.com)

 

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Welcome: The Priceless Gifts of Hospitality

Hospitality. A simple enough notion. And a priceless one that helps weave and strengthen the luminous “web of belonging” insightfully identified by the late, brilliant John O’Donohue as essential to our meaningful existence, our meaningful and love-filled co-existence. Still hoping hospitality finds you. ❤

Sirena Tales

Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.”~Julia Child

Julia’s wise, evocative words have been echoing for me lately as we prepare to host some gatherings at home and as I’ve just helped run a large breakfast event at a local school to raise funds for its benefit.

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In the frenzy leading up to the latter, I kept trying to focus on the key for me, which was hospitality.  I.e. “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”

Yet, in the bustle of logistics and organizing, how easy it can be to lose sight of the essence of what we are trying to do when we receive people as hosts! Accepting.  Welcoming. Connecting.

True hospitality is a gift that, in the words of Kathleen Norris, is “…marked by…

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Spaciousness: Life Lessons from Dancing

 

Having abundant space or roominess. Being large in range or scope.

These qualities have been my focus for quite awhile for my dancing and teaching dance.  Taking up more space when we move and constantly striving for the most expansive range of movement within our bodies–those are two ways to create exciting dance that is full of possibility.

Spacious dancing.

Recently, I’ve realized that this somewhat obvious notion of capaciousness is only part of the picture.  That roominess in our minds, in our thought processes, are at least as important.

For instance, when we take dance class, if we keep our minds and hearts more open, more available, we can learn new ways of moving, of both “the steps” and how to execute them.  We are also more efficient in our learning because we haven’t boxed ourselves into a smaller place, a place of “no” or “I can’t,” which we then have to work to extricate ourselves from. Or, worse, we stay trapped in that limited space and don’t grow in our art.  Spaciousness allows ideas and emotions room to breathe and multiply.

So, lately, when I teach and talk about spaciousness, I make sure I invite the dancers to sustain a roominess in their approach to class.  I remind myself, too.

These reminders came back to me today when a loved one was digging her heels in on trying something new that was likely going to make her life easier, more pleasurable. Looking back on the conversation, I can even see her body language reflect restriction, constriction.

I know how challenging and even scary it can be to cultivate expansiveness.  We’re not sure we will like something or be good at it or will understand it or recognize ourselves in our new territory.  In dance, I’ve seen time and again dancers build a wall, whether consciously or not, where no wall was needed.  And they ended up walled off, walled in, instead of bursting out into the sunlight and fresh air of possibility.

You can sense the limitations in dancing like this.  It’s small, somehow.  Whether cramped spatially or conceptually or soulfully.

I’ve come to understand that the same can be said of living.  Sure, it takes courage and doggedness and awareness and practice to plumb vastness.  The result is a greater vibrancy.

Challenging? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely!

Photo credits–2nd from top courtesy of Nikki Cararra © 2016; bottom–Christina Goldberg; Sculpture–Gil Boro

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Kindness: It’s Contagious!

I read a moving letter in an advice column from a lonely widower who had been the surprised beneficiary of a generous act of kindness from two strangers.  His tale lodged a lump of emotion in my throat and filled my eyes with tears.

His wife of 40 years had died suddenly, unexpectedly.  When he was finally able to venture out for dinner at a favorite restaurant to ease some of his grief and loneliness, the couple at the table next to his had struck up a conversation with him, providing welcome companionship.  He was moved to tears when he learned that they had paid for his meal on their way out of the establishment.

How lovely! It warmed my heart.

And, not surprisingly, it made me want to go out and be kind!  That’s some of the magic of kindness.  When we human types witness others’ displays of compassion, generosity, heart, we are more likely to follow suit.

I remind myself of this when I am not feeling as expansive as I might like. The knowledge that my positivity will not only affect the direct recipient of my gestures, but also the people around us, galvanizes me to get my kindness game face on :).

Unfortunately, as we know, the reverse is also true.  Take yesterday, when I was picking up a cup of tea in between errands.  I walked into the lovely tea shop with its extensive array of teas and imbibed the calming ambience and aromatic scents of the free tea samples brewing on the table.  The young woman assisting me had given me a warm welcome and we chatted and joked as I made my selection under her guidance.

As I was waiting at the counter, another woman came in and ranted about not receiving some rewards points.  The staffer gently and patiently reassured the complaining woman, who finally realized she had been mistaken, that there was no problem.  Yet, she continued to harumph.

She and her harangue had palpably poisoned the vibe of the small shop.  The employee, who had also been preparing my drink, was discombobulated, as was her colleague.  Other customers stepped away from the negative one, and returned my smile nervously.

When my tea was finally ready, I tossed my Santa Hat back on, walked up to the counter and volubly thanked the young employee for her generous advice and wished her a lovely holiday. I turned and nodded at Ms. Negativo, who did a doubletake when she saw my hat and actually managed to mutter something about the holidays.  The salesperson threw me a grateful look.

It reminds me of the wise words of neuroscientist Dr. James Doty:

“…What we forget sometimes is, even smiling at another person, which takes very little effort — for that person who receives that, it can mean an immense amount. And not to forget that these small, little actions, these little ripples, can actually end up creating a tsunami if each of us engage in them. Remember — and we know this from the science — when a person sees another person engage in a positive behavior, they’re many, many times more likely to engage in that behavior themselves. When they see another person act with kindness and with generosity and with gratitude…”

May abundant kindness be yours.

 

Media credit: 2nd from top–@scriptfancy

 

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