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Archive for July, 2009

Gratitude Attitude

Monday, July 27th, 2009

GratitudeAttitude“What are you grateful for?” asked one of my teachers at the start of her class a few weeks back. Answers ranged from new clients, to family, to new learning, to friends, New York City, museums, to health. The teacher then asked if it was common for us to think about what we are grateful for as a regular practice. Much to her surprise most of the class said yes. “Really – you have established a way of noticing what you are grateful for?” she asked. Students began saying they write daily, or have a morning or evening ritual of expressing their gratitude list. Surprised by this, the teacher then asked, “Well, do you think other people think this way? Is this normal in our society?” The conversation was meant to lead us towards believing that “other people” view the world from scarcity and not abundance. And of course, there are plenty of people that view the world from lack of, receive their information from local newspapers, and watch doom and gloom on the news.

Here is what I discovered from that conversation. I realized that gratitude is an attitude that once you have it, you can make it a regular practice like brushing your teeth. I began to question if people really do think about gratitude. Interestingly enough, I began to do an inventory of the significant people in my life who impact who I am and who I am becoming. I realized all of these people have some form of expression of gratitude that they share. As I like to quote my friend Fr. Bob, “You are who you hang out with.” So, I choose to hang out with people who are grateful for what shows up in their life – including the tough lessons. I am surrounded by gratitude!

Here is my experience: when I am open, the world is open, when I am grateful, the world is grateful. Yes, there are times when it is easy to say what’s not working, but by creating a gratitude habit, I can create a new gratitude attitude every day.  As Louise Hay says, “Gratitude opens the way for more good to come into your life.”

What’s your gratitude attitude? What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for new learning, my life partner, Lorene, the opportunity to buy a new car, incredible co-workers, my clients, the White Mesa allyu, my coaching colleagues/friends, my friendships of unyielding support – Paulette, Val, Joe, Louis, Didi & Ellenrita, my family, my blog, books, meditation, the building of international connections (South Africa), my chiropractor, a massage, my faith, and my ability to hold space & so, so much more!

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“Who’s in Your Fab 5?”

Monday, July 20th, 2009

My Fab 5

Mary Anne & her drumming Fab 5 in Hawaii

There is an amazing new book out called The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle. Coyle visited some of the world’s greatest “hotbeds”, which are small areas that have produced large amounts of talent. It’s all about having a better understanding of where talent comes from, how we learn, and how we can discover more by our mistakes. Coyle talks a lot about how we can acquire skill by learning about a substance called myelin. “Myelin is the insulation that wraps around nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy.”

According to Coyle, there is a pattern in acquiring talent that includes, “deep practice, ignition, and master coaching.” I found this fascinating. I always wondered what talents were inherited and which ones were not. How can we increase our level of talent? …Practice, practice, practice.

In looking at how to increase our level of talent, I found there were other factors such as confidence, motivation, and environment. Want to build up that myelin? Here are just a few of my suggestions.

There may be times you want to do something new or increase your level of performance, but fear gets in your way. Notice and acknowledge fear when it arises. The more you push it away, the more it returns – even bigger and louder.

  1. Make mistakes. We not only learn by doing; we also learn by re-doing. Our brains can actually recalibrate according to what we learn from our mistakes. So, go ahead and use that phrase you did as a kid, “Do-over.”
  2. “You are who you hang out with.” A good friend of mine, Fr. Bob, once said this to me on a retreat back in 1989. Basically, look around and see who you are hanging around with and that will show you where your energy and actions are drawn towards. Are your friends there to support you on your journey or holding you back? Another way of saying this is, “Who is your Fab 5?” Take an inventory of the people who most influence your life.
  3. Do something new. Push yourself. Challenge yourself to do one thing that scares you. “Do It Afraid.”
  4. Ask questions. Push the limits of your brain and your heart. Begin a practice of asking questions daily and see what emerges. Create a question ritual. I find by asking a BIG question, it leads me to what is next in my life. My big question this month is: How can I be of MORE service?
  5. Follow your breath. Your breath is your will. When you are ready to start a new project, practice your skills, or create a path, start with your breath.  Use your breath to guide you. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowly and deeply. Awareness of our breath allows for better focus.
  6. Finally, our coaches were right – practice, practice, practice. Repetition is key when wanting to acquire a new skill.

So, go ahead, make mistakes, practice, and find a good coach. Then look around and ask, “Who’s in your Fab 5?”

Thanks to my “Fab 5” for  keeping me on track, pushing me to be more, and allowing the space to practice, to grow, and to develop.


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My Hug with Amma

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Amma - Hugging Saint

Amma - Hugging Saint

“The first step in spiritual life is to have compassion. A person who is kind and loving never needs to go searching for God. God rushes toward any heart that beats with compassion-it is God’s favorite place.”

Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi Devi)

I joined hundreds, if not thousands, of New Yorker’s last week when I went to the Manhattan Center to receive darshan with Amma. Amma is affectionately known as ‘mother’, ‘hugging mother’, and ‘hugging saint’. She has devoted most of her life to humanitarian causes around the world, especially in her home country of India. Amma says her sole mission is “to love and serve one and all.” Her only wish is “that her hands should always be on someone’s shoulder, consoling and caressing them and wiping their tears, even while breathing her last.” Amma’s purpose is to embrace the world – otherwise known as an Amma hug. She holds you tightly in her arms, like a mother holding a new born baby. She whispers in the ear of each person she hugs, and can often be heard saying, “my dear, dear child.”

There are no words to possibly express the experience with Amma – each person has their own spiritual awakening. While in her presence, I found myself more open to the divinity within. After receiving my blessing, my hug, my embrace, and love, I walked away wanting to just sit in stillness and silence. I found that I wanted to be reminded of love, compassion, and service. I wanted to rest in the place of noticing how love shows up in my life. I wanted to hear the sound of my heartbeat and my breath. I wanted to look at each person that caught my eye and just smile.

I watched as each person slowly walked away from Amma’s embrace – many smiling, others with tears rolling down their cheeks, and others placing their hands on their hearts. As I watched streams of people, everything suddenly slowed down, and I realized that I was also smiling and crying simultaneously. I closed my eyes and prayed for the willingness to give myself the same compassion Amma so lovingly shared with me.

In one simple and profound act, Amma is able to touch the hearts and minds of millions of people. But with Amma it is more than being held – it is being seen and loved for being a gift to the world. It is an act of selfless service by BEING with people where they are at. As I continue to feel the love vibrate within, I am reminded of all the things I do each day for work, for school, for getting through each day and it is not the actions that are the service, but the love I give to them. If I can show up each day with love and compassion with myself and all those I meet, I can be of more service to the world.

In what ways do we embrace the world, or even embrace one another? As Amma says, “Love is the foundation of a happy life. Knowingly or unknowingly we are forgetting this truth.” Amma on several occasions has said that it is important not only to feel love but also to express it. “After all, love is our true nature. When we do not express love in our words and actions it is like honey hidden in a rock.”

How do you share love and compassion? How do you want to be of more service each and every day?

Dedicated to Amma, to my friend Padmini, to Lorene, to my beloved mom, and to all those who generously share their smile and hugs with me.

I AM Love, Mary Anne

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My Tribute to Michael Jackson

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Michael Jackson - Apollo Theater NYC

Michael Jackson - Apollo Theater NYC

I have been watching the television coverage about the life and death of Michael Jackson. I sang my heart out all weekend listening to his songs. I cried when I stood at the memorial at the Apollo Theater. I stood alongside so many people of all ages, races, ethnicities shedding tears, writing on the memorial wall, taking photos, and singing his songs at the top of my lungs. The entire way home, I blasted WKTU and sang “Billy Jean”, “Man in the Mirror”, and “ABC” over and over again.

It is so easy to get caught up in the media circus. I don’t have the time or the patience to separate truth from fiction. All I know is this — I loved his music. His death feels like I lost a piece of my childhood and the innocence of that time of my life. It was life before social media, full-time tabloids, and 24 hours of streaming news. It was a time of adolescence and blaring MTV videos.

I have vivid memories of singing and dancing to Michael Jackson videos in the basement with my sister. There we would be, after finally getting cablevision, and I can still see that brown box with the long wire, playing channel 29, and blasting MTV until we heard the pound on the side of the wall from our parents to “Lower the music!” With his music, I felt like I could sing and dance. I imitated him like so many other young people. From “Beat It” to “Heal the World,” his music has been a part of my life through adolescence into adulthood.

Michael Jackson’s death at the age of 50 evoked great sadness in me. I found myself saying he was too young. I feel this way because I lost my mother at the age of 55 and the anniversary of her death is approaching. The more I thought about it, I realized I was the one putting the age limitations on life. Perhaps people pass in their own time, and while I may miss them and want them to live longer, it is not for me to judge that they were too young to die. People pass at an age that they need to move on — and it is for me to learn how to move on with the lessons and gifts they shared.

Life is a gift. Every day, every sunrise, every breath is a gift. As a friend once told me many years ago that we can toss “the flowers” while the person is alive so they get to hear it.

Michael Jackson was many things to many people and although he was controversial, he was also a brilliant musician, artist, dancer, and influenced music beyond words. I don’t know his whole story, what happened in his childhood, or even what happened the day he died. All I know is that his music inspires me, makes me smile, and move my feet. His lyrics are contagious and powerful. How can we not be inspired by the words, “If we wannna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make that change.”? Thank you for the music, Michael.

Dedicated to the life and legacy of Michael Jackson. Rest in Peace.

Mary Anne

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