Conscious Choice: When Your Ship Is Sinking

I watched the movie, “Titanic” for the second time over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  One of my favorite things about watching a movie more than once involves getting to pay attention to different things because I already know the outcome.

What mesmerized me this time: how differently people reacted as they came to understand the certainty that many of them would die.

In the spring of 2001, my dad was in hospice.  At that time, someone told me that we each die as we lived.  Not much of a surprise when I thought about it.  And, I do remember that I was expecting, perhaps hoping, for something different from my dad in death than I received from him in life.  I took that opportunity to reflect on how I wanted to live so that when my time comes, I will be dying in a way that feels true to me, my life, my legacy.

As the Titanic was sinking, many people were panicking and all of their actions were completely focused on doing whatever they could to survive, at the cost of whomever was in the way.  Others were trying to save themselves and did try to help another – if it wasn’t too inconvenient.  Still others went to great lengths to save another, maybe even at the risk of their own peril.  One of the main characters tried to buy his safety with a pocketful of cash.

Conscious choice, spiritual growth of being who I choose to be, in life and in death.
Even as our ship is sinking, we have the opportunity to make a conscious choice about who we are and how we behave . . .

The people who most intrigued me consciously chose to accept their fate and gracefully go down with the ship.  The captain who took the wheel until the water rushed in and swept him and the wheel away.  The builder of the ship who took his last drink by the fire.  The mother of two children who quietly sang to them, after she tucked them into bed – for the last time. 

The most amazing to me: the musicians, a string quartet, who calmly played cheerful music amidst chaos and bedlam on the first-class deck until minutes before the ship went down.  The leader finally said, “Let’s call it a night.  It’s been a pleasure playing with you.”  They disbanded.

Alone, he then picked up his violin and began playing more somber and haunting – appropriate – music.  The other musicians, who had begun walking away, stopped.  They then all turned and came back to joined him in their last few songs of that lifetime.

I want to be those guys in my life and my death!  Offering my gifts to the world, even when it seems the world is in too big a mess to receive my gifts.  Confidently, consciously and courageously being who I am fully, with dignity and devotion, even with my last
breath . . .  

Affirmative Prayer: Imagine a World Powered by Gratitude

What if, just for today,
I feel grateful for everything in my life?

I’d start with the obvious:
My health, my home, my friends, my family.
My wonderful work, my bills all paid.

I’d move on to everyday joys:
My cat sleeping in my lap,
The crisp, cool autumn air,
This delightful pumpkin latte,
The way the sun streams into my office,
My comfortable chair,
And my fabulous Pandora radio.

Affirmative prayer: gratitude for Jasmine.

One of my biggest reasons for gratitude this year, Jasmine joined our family on Easter this year. Her sheer joy and exuberance makes affirmative prayer spontaneous for me!

I’d contemplate all the gifts I feel honored to offer the world:
My love, my enthusiasm, my centeredness,
My clear thinking and my insightfulness.

I’d revel in the gifts I receive from others today:
Their love, their generosity, their kindness,
Their encouragement and their patience.

I’d thank God for the gift in what I consider “challenges:”
A misunderstanding and disagreement with a friend,
A seemingly missed opportunity,
What looks like self-sabotage,
Yet another headache or heartache.

I’d thank God for showing the face of God
All around me and from within me.

If I thought of anything for which I didn’t know
how to feel thankful, I’d feel gratitude
for the opportunity to see from a bigger perspective.
Until I could.

And then,
I’d feel profound gratitude for this incredible privilege
to be here now, alive on this planet,
contributing what I came here to give.

And then,
I’d do it again tomorrow.

– Ann Strong

What are you grateful for today?


Conscious Relationship: Celebrating Our Connectedness

“Today I blatantly and boldly care.”
“Today I bridge needless divides.”
“Today I sincerely desire blessings for others.”
“Today I enjoy inspired sharing.”
– Dr. Roger Teel, Spiritual Leader of Mile Hi Church

I’ve gotten away from using affirmations because in the past they have often felt trite or downright untrue.  Yesterday, in church, I became re-inspired by the power of an affirmation as a compass.

I feel excited to blatantly and boldly care!  I’m tickled when I notice an opportunity to bridge a needless divide.  I love to remember that I do sincerely desire blessings for others.  And, I was born to delight in inspired sharing!

Thank you, Dr. Roger, for highlighting these opportunities to celebrate our connectedness!

Spiritual Growth: Taking My Place

“The rest of creation is waiting, breathless,
for you to take your place.”
– David Whyte

2010 has been my year of “taking my place.”  Yet, I didn’t know that until late in the year, in November 2010.

Usually, around the Winter Solstice of the preceding year, I listen for guidance about my intention/theme for the upcoming year.  I did not receive one last year for 2010, even though I sat, listening on several occasions.

So, I let it go.

And, I hired a new coach to help me take my business to the next level.  I knew that I would grow in the process – of course my business growth would directly correlate to my personal growth.

And, I now know why I never received a theme for this year.  Both my personal growth and business growth has called forth more of the fullness of me in every way – more of my devotion, fierceness, lightness, love, courage, humility, discipline, detachment, playfulness, surrender, tenderness . . .  I have grown spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically.

Spiritual growth: self acceptance, self expression

While I probably won’t be climbing a rock wall this lifetime, this year I have sometimes felt like I had, indeed, made it to the top!

Some of the year, I have felt like a fumbling beginner, taking my first awkward steps.  Sometimes, I’ve felt as though I were scaling a sheer wall, without training.  At other times, I’ve felt sure I could leap tall buildings in a single bound . . .

Even with my awkwardness, I have a clarity, knowing and strength about who I am that I have never had before.  I am expressing myself more fully every day, often astonishing those who have known me a long time and sometimes even myself!

And, I am just beginning to sense the absolute freedom and joy in letting go of pretending, worrying, pleasing, resentment,
judgment . . .


Spiritual Growth: Better Loving Daily

“Please tell me how I can love you better.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Recently I chose to dive into the invitation issued by Vietnamese Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, to ask my loved ones the question, “How can I love you better?”  I received my first answer from my niece, Alisha, and began to earnestly pay attention to what she had requested. I noticed how, if and when I could do it, and also, under what circumstances I felt I couldn’t.  I loved having the focus of a specific act that felt good to her and that I could offer her.

Conscious relationship, spiritual growth of better loving daily

It tickles me to visually record the death and rebirth in my neighborhood – part of my spiritual growth of loving me better!

And, then I realized I had started looking outward prematurely.  Just as it is on a plane, it’s best for me to put my oxygen mask on first and then help Alisha or anyone else who needs help, it is also best to ask myself ( and answer) the question first.

So, I have begun asking myself each day, “Ann, how can I love you better today?”  I have been surprised and delighted by the variety of answers.  

“Refrain from a certain automatic response with one of my more challenging friends.” “Take a longer walk today.” “Play my new music.” “Get out in the sun.”  “Take some pictures.”

And, of course, as I fill my own cup a bit more, then I have more love to give!  What a fun easy way to fill my cup a bit more each day, “Ann, how can I love you better today?”  Ask. Listen.  Take the loving action.

And, then go ask someone else, “How can I love you better?” Ask. Listen.  Take the loving action.

Repeat as needed . . .