Saturday, May 31, 2008

Explore a New World – Open a Book!

Neuschwanstein: The Bavarian Castle by jeffwilcox

I am a tried and true bookworm. I absolutely LOVE TO READ! It’s in my blood the way sailing ships or climbing mountains is in other people’s blood. I’ve read so many books over the years I astound even myself. I am constantly amazed by the un-ending amount of new authors and new stories to explore.

You might think that books are a bit repetitive and dull. After all, how many different ways can the good guys win? Or how many different types of dragons can roam these fantasy worlds? The answer is: endless varieties!

I recently finished two fantastically entertaining books in the last two days. The first was “High Druid of Shannara: Straken.” It was the end of a trilogy written by Terry Brooks, and an amazing voyage. It has druids and castles, trolls, dwarves, flying ships, magic of all kinds, and that’s before you even get to the World of the Forbidding.

The second book was the uplifting and inspiring Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. It was such a fresh and fun-filled change from Straken that I read it in less than 24 hours. Wow. Stargirl, as her name implies, comes into the dull, ordinary lives of the students of Mica High School and turns their world upside down. In a whirlwind of color and flair Stargirl wreaks her havoc by having the nerve to be different in a town where no one stands out.

Both books were engaging, captivating, exhilarating and utterly mesmerizing. Whenever the world seems dull, depressing, or I’m just looking for a new ideas, books are a great source of inspiration. Like the popular Narnia tales by C.S. Lewis, each author has his or her own take on life. Even when the book is set in the normal, everyday world, these tales have insights and understandings into life that many of us miss.

I recommend reading to everyone. No matter what your interest, there is a book, magazine, comic book or audio recording on the topic. Next time you’re looking for an interesting change, stop by your nearest library or bookstore and pick up a new read. It’ll be the start of a whole new world.

Check out What Should I Read Next for ideas on the next author and title you should check out next. Just put in the name of your favorites and click the button to find a great new story.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Playing With Crayons.

Crayola Lincoln Logs by laffy4k

I can’t guarantee it’ll work for everyone, but why not give crayons a try? There’s just something about those boldly colored sticks of wax that bring back happy memories. Crayons make us think about the innocence and fun of coloring books and crayon drawings. When you look at them you don’t expect masterpieces of art; it frees you to release your expectations and just have fun. Now isn’t that a great lesson for everyday?

If you’re really lucky you’ll have memories of kindergarten and nice teachers who told you it was okay to color outside of the lines “as long as you do your best.” What a message! It’s okay to fail as long as you try. If only our adult bosses would convey that message once in a while; imagine the spike in creativity that would result.

Crayons are a symbol of playfulness. Sadly such good humor is something that many adults, and a growing number of teens, no longer possess. Playfulness is the ability to put enjoyment into an activity that is dull or boring and make it fun. Take the job of washing the car. Usually that’s a dull, repetitive task, even on a sunny day. But bring a friend, some bathing suits and a long green hose, and you have a hilarious game of “keep the water on your friend, not the car.”

Drawing with a crayon is the ultimate freedom. If your line is a little squiggly you can change it into a flower. If the round face doesn’t have the right flesh tone, you can add a new color on top until it’s perfect. You can turn your mistakes into new pieces of the picture and it still looks beautiful.

For adults this can be a fun toy to distract us from our problems. I used to keep a box of 24 at my desk at work. Every now and then I’d take it out and draw something silly. For some reason that little act would help me feel relaxed and happy. Those bright, cheerful colors will raise your spirits every time. Don’t forget all the choices you have; scented, neon, glitter, and even washable crayons for those who like to draw on those “wall-sized canvases.”

If you are feeling confined, restrained, or inhibited, pull out a few color sticks, some paper and have a little release. If you have a hard time being imperfect, this is the time to practice. Put the crayon in your non-dominant hand (usually your left), and see what happens. You don’t have to let anyone else see the results. Just loosen up and have fun.


See How Crayons Are Made

Monday, May 26, 2008

Believing in Yourself Against the Odds.

Mountain climbing by farfuglinn

Like Indian Jones on a quest to find the Holy Grail, there are times when all of us must find the strength to believe in ourselves, even when the world tells us we are foolish. For most of us, those times occur when what we seek seems like a fairytale or some fantasy too good to be true.

Often it is hard for us to find the resolve to stand firm against the tales of woe told by the naysayers that surround us. They may even have hard evidence that proves that what we dream of having is hard to obtain, or possibly unreachable. Yet every year, scientists find cures for diseases that were thought previously fatal. Artists create masterpieces never seen before; full of new creativity and insight. And inventions are produced that make that revolutionize our lives, making chores easier and more enjoyable.

The trouble with having faith in yourself, is that there is no proof you will ever achieve your goal. Instead you must trust that your hard work, determination and the life experiences that have led you on this path. You must close your ears to criticism while opening your eyes to seeing new possibilities.

I can’t promise you that belief alone is enough to make your dreams come true. But I can tell you that without the conviction and perseverance to try, nothing at all will happen. Like the great philosophers, inventors, scientists and poets of the past, your insight and understanding of the world is unique. Think where the world would be had not the wise minds of the past been willing to stand up to the inevitable criticism and scorn that came their way.

Belief in yourself is not always easy, but it is always worth it. Even if you fail to reach your dreams, you will still raise yourself higher for trying. Your efforts will be rewarded with new knowledge and skills. And you will receive immense satisfaction in simply doing your best, whatever the outcome. Try it for yourself.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

10 Great Ways to do Absolutely Nothing.

Float by aussiegall

Today was one of those days when I just couldn’t come up with a great, insightful article. I tried all my usual ideas to spark some creativity, but nothing happened. Then, during a few moments writing for my other blog “BrightDays,” I came across a great idea. Like my friend Peter Gibbons from Office Space, I thought it might be a fantastic time to write about. . .nothing at all.

Some people have absolutely no skill in doing nothing; they can’t handle the challenge. Others, like the friend mentioned above, get a little divine intervention and pick it up all too easily. I figure I fall somewhere in between, so this shouldn’t be that hard of an article to write.

So here are 10 ideas to help you chill-out, sit back and take a load off. I would say a little lesson in relaxation is good for body and mind. Let’s see if you agree.

  1. Stop working. This is hard for some people. Without work they feel powerless and awkward. There is a cure for this – it’s called a vacation. If all your friends are also coworkers, you know you stand in this category.
  2. Throw out the rules. Get rid of your to-do list, your never-ending chores, and say no to today’s social events. Dispose of the “have-to’s” and give yourself permission to enjoy the process. Take a deep breath and smile.
  3. Sit down and get comfy. If you walk in your house and chores jump out at you from every area of your home, you may need step two. Find a soft, plump cushioned chair and plop yourself into it. Now stay there. If you need to, close your eyes to block out your surroundings to help you stay seated.
  4. Let your mind wander. Many people don’t know that one secret to creativity and innovation is the ability to allow ourselves to relax enough to daydream. Many scientists experience breakthroughs using this method, and a number of inventors would be out of work without a little mind trip now and then.
  5. Cut off communication. Another key to doing nothing is removing yourself from availability to those who would otherwise occupy your time. Turn off the cell phone and let voice mail pick up. Turn off the TV and throw your newspaper away so they don’t distract you from your leisure.
  6. Take a nap. One of the best ways to quickly ensure total lack of movement is a good hearty nap. Watch a kindergartener, they can teach you the basics. Just find a snuggly spot, turn out the lights and let yourself unwind mentally and physically.
  7. Cloud watch. A great way to slow down is to visit nature. When you lie back on the soft, velvety grass and watch passing clouds you can enjoy the feeling of tranquility and serenity from knowing you have absolutely nothing better to do. Enjoy.
  8. Put your feet up. When you are ready to unwind, this simple idea can be a great starting point. The simple act of elevating your feet, tells your body and mind that you are now ready to loosen up. Plus it’s now harder for you to jump back into action.
  9. Clear your mind. Sounds easy, but the trouble is, to have a clear mind, you must have zilch in it. Easier said than done. Settle in and see the plain black wall of emptiness. If thoughts rush in to fill the void, gently set them aside. Keep at it until you are free, floating in a sea of stillness.
  10. Let go of . . .everything. Often we get caught up in the importance of our everyday lives, and we forget there is also value in simple letting go. By releasing our fears, worries, complaints, and concerns we are open and calm. We are ready for something new and even better to appear.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

New Environments of Fun.

Happy Honu by jurvetson

It happens to all of us. For no particular reason we start feeling out-of-sorts and bored. We get stuck in a dull, repetitive pattern and all of our energy and creativity flies right out the window. Our minds shrivel and dry up, and we suddenly find ourselves spending too much time with the TV.

But have hope, my friends. As easy as it is to slip into a rut, it’s just as easy to get out again. All you need to do is introduce something new or different in your life. Even the smallest change, like taking a different road to work can make a difference. You could take the scenic route and see the sun rise over the water, or find a course that takes you by your favorite coffee shop. Add some perk to your morning.

Although I admit I’m a bit of a sissy and afraid of looking foolish, I have been trying more new things over the past few years. Everything from moving from Florida to West Virginia, to taking a course on writing children’s books, to white water rafting, and flying in an experimental open-air plane. Also, I do dance more (although not in front of other people), and I go more places that I haven’t experienced before.

One way to get inspired is to see what other people are doing. For some great ideas on that visit 43 things, and look at the entries under “try new things”, my favorite being Ru’s breathe deeper life list, especially #4 “find at least one thing each day that makes me happy and record it everyday for a year.” Now there’s a great task to try!

Even more revealing is listing the things you’d like to do before you die. Far from being morbid, this activity actually helps you find those things that fill you with passion and excitement. They can be small or large, but the main idea is fill you with enthusiasm and fun just thinking about it. Maybe you’d like to take a cruise to another country, or visit The Coliseum in Rome. You could yearn to climb Mount Everest, or simply like to learn how to ski. Perhaps you’d like to sky dive, ride in a hot-air balloon, or just visit your local aquarium.

For more fantastic ideas on new environments and things to do, visit Grant Thorpe’s “100 things to do before you die,” as well as “Creating a bucket list.” Some of my favorites include; learn Mandarin (for you Firefly fans), take a belly dancing class, swim with sharks, watching the Space Shuttle take off, and ride a camel in the desert. These lists are filled with fun and unique activities certain to get you out of your comfort zone and into something new and exciting. Try it for yourself and let me hear about your success.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Take Time to Enjoy the One You Love

The happy couple by jpockele

It doesn’t matter who you love – your kids, your dog, your spouse or friends. Whoever you love, it’s important to spend time with them. Few things bring more pleasure than spending time having fun with people you love.

Spending time with family and friends makes your days brighter. Every adventure is more exciting when shared with someone else. Every laugh is louder when you laugh together. Whether you share the daily chores or plan leisure activities far from home, just being with each other can heighten your fun.

Our loved ones may know we love them, but nothing shows that we care better than taking a few minutes a day to do something special. It can be small things or big things. We women love flowers, jewels, and the occasional new car. We also love a man who washes the dishes, gives extra-long hugs, and buys our favorite brand of ice cream.

While expensive gifts are great; small things are wonderful too. No matter who you love, there are activities that are just more fun with a friend. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Do a scavenger hunt in the backyard. Use candy, coins and toys to make it more fun.
  • Sing to the radio as you do your chores. Dance along if you feel like it.
  • Play cards or a video game – winner does the night’s chores.
  • Cook a special spaghetti dinner. Non-cooks can order takeout.
  • Go to the zoo and make animal noises until you get a response.
  • Go out in the sun and make shadow puppets on the lawn.
  • Compare the ways your friend reminds you of Garfield, Snoopy or Dilbert.
  • Go for a drive and let the passenger make the choices of where to turn.
  • One person can dress in stripes, the other in polka dots for a day out.

Who cares what you do? Just pick something and have fun. Be creative and start now. Your loved ones will thank you for it. :0)

Monday, May 12, 2008

What Do You love?

Balloons by Crystl

There are so many things I absolutely adore! Anything from visiting an amusement park and scaring myself silly on a roller-coaster, to watching butterflies bumble around on a sunny day. I love my family, and spending time with all my nieces and nephews. I love eating chocolate, rocking out to the radio, reading books of every kind and taking a long, hot shower when I’m cold.

I love the Internet, connecting with people and ideas all over the globe. I love technology, from computers and cell phones to the latest video games. I love going to the movies with that gigantic picture and all the popcorn you can eat. I love fireworks on 4th of July, snow at Christmas and play in the water in the hot summer sun.

The great thing about love is that when you express your joy and excitement to others, you get to share your passions and then your love grows even bigger. And, the more you think about the things you love, the more happiness you feel. Remembering times of delight and bliss lets you experience what you love over and over again.

Love means pleasure, satisfaction, energy, exhilaration, and cheerfulness. It’s important to know what you love so that you can eliminate things you don’t enjoy to make room for fun, laughter and light-heartedness. If you don’t know what makes your heart smile and your eyes bright, now is the time to start your list.

Here are a few ways you can start your list:

  • Think back to experiences where you felt peaceful, full of energy, and bubbly. Write down what you were doing that made you feel that way.
  • Look through a magazine at only the pictures. When you see something that makes you laugh or smile, cut it out. Add those activities to your list.
  • Brainstorm ideas, places and things that could make you happy.

More things I love are; the smell of freshly cut grass, balloons of all sorts, new sheets for my bed, extra-long hugs, learning about history, the wind singing through the leaves, the color purple, and drives through the country. How about you?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

8 Great Ways to Spread Cheer

Owl’s smile by merec0

I admit it, I’m selfish. One of the biggest reasons I love to cheer someone else up is that it also makes me feel better. There’s just something so attractive about the idea of making someone smile. I love that the joy is two-fold, both receiver and giver reap the benefits. A wonderful win-win situation.

So here are a few ideas I rounded up to help make the day of someone you know. Or even someone you don’t. The important thing is to have fun and enjoy the experience. Life’s too short not to play in the puddles!

  1. Share a Sweet Treat. One of my all-time favorites is food. Whether it’s sweet succulent strawberries or the crunchy goodness of a chocolate chip cookie, everyone has a delicacy they love. Surprise your coworkers with a bag of bagels or a pizza lunch. Food feeds more than our bodies; it brings to mind emotional connections to happy memories. Spread some goodwill today.
  2. Go to the Park With a Friend. You’re never too old to have some fun. Take an hour at lunch or just before going home and visit your favorite playground. Whether you swing on the swing set, feed the baby ducks or take a walk by the water, the fresh air and serenity will invigorate you. Take your tennis shoes so you can skip along the path as you go.
  3. Play Some Music Together. Whether you buy a new CD or compile some tunes of your own, invite your sister or niece to sing-along. One of my own favorite activities is to play children’s music for my nieces and nephews that they haven’t heard before. It’s so fun when we all learn the words and sing together. Music helps you forget your troubles.
  4. Visit The Puppy Store. Take my advice; if you visit a pet shop with all those fuzzy, wiggling balls of love, you won’t leave in a bad mood. Ooohhh and Aaahhh over the shortest or tallest, the fuzziest and the one with the biggest ears. There’s nothing like playful pooches to tickle your laugh box back into shape.
  5. See a Movie Together. Stay at home and snuggle up with a comfy pillow, blanket and your favorite snack or head for the buttery popcorn action of the big-screen. Either way, you’re in for a few hours of excitement and laughter. Movies are more fun when shared, so take your mom out this Mother’s Day.
  6. Write a Gratitude Letter. Many of us already write gratitude journals for ourselves to remind us of the many joys we experience each week and then forget. Do the same for someone you love. Write them a letter and give them specific experiences you remember with them that made you happy. It’s guaranteed to delight.
  7. Buy Some Humorous Books. This is an easy, often overlooked idea. Even those who don’t read often will enjoy cartoon books like Peanuts, Garfield, Calvin & Hobbes or the Far Side. You can also buy books with redneck humor, blonde jokes, riddles, office jokes and more. Whatever the style theirs a book that fits it.
  8. Try a Novelty Gift. We all have favorite characters, themes and styles. Buy your mother an owl for her collection, your buddy a Dwight Schrute bobble head, or your Uncle a Darth Vader t-shirt. Surprise gifts like these can make people smile for days, and they’re really fun to give.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Inspiration – we all need it!

Monolith by Zest-pk

Inspiration is that creative spark, often a sudden moment of new ideas, insight and motivation that can come from the smallest spark of conversation. It’s that moment when the most mundane or unexpected bit of information ignites a fire of understanding and awareness.

Inspiration can be a joy of discovery. One minute you’re feeling discouraged, down-in-the-dumps and blue. The next you’ve suddenly woken up to the beauty of the trees around you, the sunlight shining brightly down and you feel energetic and hopeful.

Encouragement can come from anywhere - a smile from a child, a flash of color in a woman’s dress, a humorous joke that hits home. The beauty of enlightenment is that is can come from any where at any time. You can look for it, but even if you are not searching it can appear totally at random.

Motivation however, is usually a bit more fleeting. How many times have I been inspired by a wonderful story of a hard-working athlete, a disabled man or a family full of adopted children? In them I recognize how easy my own life is and how much more I could do with it if only I put in more effort.

Over the last year I have found inspiration in the many kindness organizations and happiness students found on the web. Everywhere are people spreading joy, fun, laughter and best of all hope. People who share their time, skills, knowledge and money for the simple pleasure of seeing a smile on the face of a stranger.

My personal wish is that by writing this, I may stimulate a new energy or a brainwave of new ideas in a reader, who will then bring encouragement, hope, and inspiration to someone who needs it. Just think of the delight of knowing that your advice, book, music or gift of listening opened someone’s mind to the plethora of abundance and wonder available in the world. To know you gave someone else hope is one of life’s greatest gifts.

Please feel free to share your own experiences of insight, understanding, and creativity, whether through your own discovery or through someone else. For fun, here are just a few of the things that have inspired me recently; watching a robin listening to the earth to find a meal, seeing the sunlight shine on my cocker-spaniel’s golden fur, a great joke that even made me laugh at death and enjoying my favorite blogs, including Kim and Jason, Urban Monk, Jarkko Laine and many, many more. What has inspired you today?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Beauty of Silence

Meditation by HaPe_Gera

I have recently rediscovered the full power and beauty of silence. That wonderful, glorious feeling of calm and clarity, brought to your mind in just a few golden moments of total and complete silence. Time to oneself to think, to relax, to heal. No voices talking, no ringing phones, honking horns, no sirens or alarms. Just the gentle sound of nothing at all.

Over the last several months I have been away attending to a family emergency. During that time, noise and chaos were everywhere. The phone rang nonstop with concerned family members, and doctors calling with news of changing conditions. Errands were filled with squealing tires, angry beeping horns and blaring radios.

It all left little to no time for quiet and rest. Worries and household tasks took up the majority of each day. The heavy responsibilities took away all chance for peaceful reflection. There was only the constant demand of just one more thing that needed doing, one last job to do before bed.

In the week since I’ve been home, I’ve gradually begun to slow down and relax. As finances, bills and mail have finally been completed, my thoughts begin to still enough for me to once again think of meditation and relaxation.

Take it from me; there is no bliss in the world like the sound of silence. Just taking a half hour to close the bedroom door, lie on the bed and listen to . . . nothing. Of course as any meditator knows, sounds will still intrude, but how wonderful to hear the birds chirping outside, or the steady, reassuring hum of the refrigerator. How fantastic to listen to the sedate sounds of your beating heart and to notice the feel of the air moving in and out of your lungs.

Silent, tranquil, soothing quiet is a balm to the soul. It uplifts and strengthens the spirit while it soothes and comforts the mind. I heartily recommend taking 15 minutes – try it right now. Let the peaceful feelings of warmth fill your heart and mind, giving you much-need relief. I’m sure you’ll find the time highly worthwhile.