Are you content? BE TERRIFIED!

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Sometimes we get stuck in our lives. No matter how gorgeous, titillating, and inspired they may be, eventually it all becomes normal; still really really good, but normal. That state of complacency, cruise-control I call it, is often confused with contentment. “Oh everything’s great. I’m content with my life.” If that’s you, be terrified.

I’ve lived in Bali for five years. From day one I was awestruck. Everything was like nothing I’d ever known, done, seen, heard, believed, before. I was drinking from the fire hydrant of life at just about the same gushing flow. Joy was my perpetual state followed close on its heels by deep, soul-satisfying gratitude. I dreamed big and the dreams that manifested were bigger. Bali met me on every plane of existence with abundance above and beyond imagining.

But like many romances, infatuation becomes lust, becomes admiration, becomes love, becomes commitment…and then if the fire is left untended it wanes to coals and burns out to cold, dead, ash.

I woke up one morning and felt the chill.

Bali was still Bali. I knew that. But something inside me had shifted and I didn’t feel her the way I had before. I’d become content, but in the wake of the intensity of joy, discovery, and amazement, contentment was a colorless place emitting the low-level hum of boredom.

There was nothing wrong. It’s very difficult to sort out what’s not right when there’s nothing wrong. I journaled, meditated, yoga’d, did everything I knew to do. But I was metaphorically at sea in a magnificent sailboat without a breath of wind. My father died. My first grandchild was born. Life crested and dipped like waves around me but I remained stagnant in their midst.

Then one day by divine chance, I stumbled upon a book with the dreadful title, A Happy Pocket Full of Money, by David Cameron Gikandi. Truth be told, I would have never picked that book off the shelf. But because of the serendipitous way it crossed my path, I read it. Buried in a paragraph on page 85, was the key that broke the code. Paraphrased it went something like this: A major reason why people lose their joy is because they cease to dream. Sometimes this happens when comfort is finally achieved, which isn’t a bad thing. But if you find yourself going down, re-examine your goals and mental images, for life is images of the mind expressed.

Bingo! Sirens went off. Five years ago my head had been filled with images: the kind of life I desired, the books I would write, the home I would live in, the friends I would have. Five years later, I HAD IT ALL. I had achieved comfort. But the place in my mind once filled with fantastic visions and outrageous dreams was now empty space and I was going down.

The author didn’t stop there. He went on to make the remarkable claim that 5000 dreams are better than 500. His premise is that you want to give Source plenty to work with.

So I’m imagining my list of 5000 dreams. I have three so far but they’re big ones. Meanwhile, I’ve recognized that in the wake of so much blessing an old belief system had crept back in, one that suggested I’d been given so much more than I deserved, how dare I dream of anything else? Where do these idiotic lies come from? And why was I paying so little attention? I knew better!

It didn’t take months, or weeks, or even days. Within hours of the juicy birth of new desires, the lights went on, the expectant sizzle of potential zinged through my veins, and lusty infatuation for everyone and everything made me giddy with joy. Never, ever again will I let my life get comfortably dreamless. Thank you, Mr. Gikandi.

~~~~~

“With our thoughts we make the world.”
– Buddha

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
– Walt Disney

“The empires of the future are empires of the mind.”
– Winston Churchill

“Where there is no vision the people perish.”
– Proverbs 29:18

“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”
– Alvin Toffler

“Dreams are extremely important. You can’t do it unless you can imagine it.”
-George Lucas

“Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.”
– Napoleon Hill

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
– Henry David Thoreau 

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Tears Before 9 A.M.

Tears are easy for me. Sad movies, happy movies, a poignant story, a gesture of kindness…. It’s 9:00 a.m. and I’ve already had two good cries this morning. But first a note about meditation.

Ubud is a guru-abundant community crawling with yogis and healers. The streets are full of tourists, half of them are couples in matching his/hers outfits and the other half sport breathable but form-fitting, zen but trendy, yoga attire. They’re everywhere. But the ones I listen to are often seated at the next table in a café. Eavesdropping because it’s impossible not too, I’m soon aware that whatever else spirituality might be, here it’s big business. In what could easily become the spiritual seekers capital of the world, these enlightened beings self-promote shamelessly and one-up each other on daily hours of meditation, mastery of impossible poses, number of followers, DVD sales, podcasts, guest appearances, until I can’t help myself. I slow- swivel in my chair for a serupticious peek at the braggarts.

What happened to the student seeking the teacher in a cave on a lonely mountaintop somewhere in Tibet?

So when I sat down to tell the story about my tears and was about to mention meditation, discomfort squirmed around the word. My prejudice goes back to being raised Lutheran in the Scandinavian style. There were two subjects in our household that were taboo for discussion: politics and religion. They were seen as controversial, and controversy wasn’t tolerated. Kids, crops, and cooking, were acceptable topics.

Spirituality settles into the broadly defined religion category and I’m not surprised to note that prior programming still kicks in. So although it makes me uncomfortable to tell you that this morning I was meditating, it feels important in context, and in truth, I was.

It was at the end when, with prayer hands stretched high overhead in thanks for the unbelievable blessings of my life, that the first onslaught hit. Intense sobs from nowhere heaved in my chest and tears drooled down my cheeks. Gratitude feels like that sometimes when the bigness of it doesn’t fit the smallness of my expectation. I’m still incredulous that I’m here, in Bali, living in an apartment that dreams are made of, with a view of palm trees and red tiled rooftops and the overarching blue bowl of sky.

I collected myself, finished the meditation, and made coffee.

Sipping the thick, sludgy brew that I’ve come to love, and staring off into space imagining the day ahead, I didn’t hear Ketut come in. “Good morning.” His voice made me jump. He carried an armload of bags and deposited them on the kitchen counter. “Kue from Ngusabetegen,” he said and proceeded to remove fruits and cakes, and treats from the bags and place them on the countertop.

“So many, Ketut? All for me?”

“Oh ya, not so many. You keep in kulkas.” Kulkas is the Indonesian word for refrigerator and mine is a 2′ cube that sits beneath the counter. This abundance will max it out. Abundance. What he has brought me are not the 20 cent packets of fried dough or the over-ripe finger bananas that usually appear after ceremonies. Quite the opposite. I’ve watched his family make these confections over the days preceding an important ceremony like Ngusabetegen, and this gift represents more than just sharing leftovers. The gesture speaks to my heart with clarity. You are appreciated. You are respected. You are loved.

He sees my delight and hears my thanks. The Balinese culture is one of controlled emotions but Ketut has become accustomed to my hand-clapping, squealing excitement. He grins and beats a hasty retreat. As soon as he’s gone the dam bursts again and remnants of the earlier overwhelm wash over me. I dab at tears while unwrapping each precious offering.

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In the front are hairy, pink, rambutan. Behind them are the cutest fruits on the planet, mangosteen, with its round purple body, perky green cap, and six-petaled brown flowerette at the base. In the back at the left is bulu. It reminds me of a bundt cake or a very large donut with a hole in the middle. The bon-bons in palm leaf wrappers sit directly in front of the bulu. These are dodol and they contain a sticky-sweet black rice paste with a mildly smoky flavor. Unusual. The red and green grapes are red and green grapes, anggur merah and anggur hijau. In front of the grapes is an orange but it tastes and peels more like a tangerine. Jeruk. A giant pink and white cookie that is made only for Ngusabetegen in this village is simbar. Behind it are pink and white rice crispy cakes, jaja gina. The white satuh balls remind me of Mexican Wedding Cake cookies, but these have no moisture. The moment you bite into them they decompose into a pile of sticky dust in your lap. Notice the green leafy thing at the right-hand edge. It’s called tape beras. My first encounter produced the gag reflex, but I’ve acquired a taste. Inside this banana leaf packet is watery, fermented rice. Yum!  Oh! I forgot to put the lycee in the basket! There were 8-10 of those fruits in my gift as well.

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But the granddaddy of them all, the sweet snack that took me to Ketut’s family home for a stay of four nights so his mother could show me how it’s made, is jaja uli. Brown rice, black rice, and white rice are the basis for this delicacy. Pounded and pulverized first, then mixed with palm sugar, or in the case of the white, left plain, they are packed into forms to get the round shape, then wrapped in coconut leaves to preserve them. To serve, thinly slice and saute in coconut oil until crisp. The flavor is exquisite. But the time…and the labor…? This is enough to feed the entire village and it’s now in my kulkas.

So like I said, I cried twice today, and all before 9 a.m. Can a heart break with happiness? If it can, mine does every single day. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a little nibble of dodol while I fry up some jaja uli!

A Roof of Sorrow

Yesterday, dread settled on me

like a roof of sorrow.

I counted my money

though I already knew what was there.

“It isn’t enough,” I moaned to the roof.

And the roof agreed, “It isn’t enough.”

All day my mind belabored the lament

until it sounded like truth.

Sleep was late coming.

But when I woke to the sounds I love

and the place I love

with sunrise blowing through the curtains

like a promise,

the roof was laughing.

“There’s more than enough,” it said.

“There’s so much more than enough.”

And I saw  with blinding clarity

that money is only a thought,

the abundance or lack a mere idea

with which I can choose to torment

or bless myself.

*

Sherry Bronson 12/19/2014

The Way Things Work-Manifesting 101

A dream isn’t necessarily what you might think. Maybe it’s an idea that feels like a longing. It could be a memory of something beautiful that happened once, or a wish you make when you blow out your birthday candles. A dream can be innocent like that, unassuming, sneaky. It can be so low-key and camouflaged that you don’t recognize it for what it really is.

Here’s what I know about manifesting. You need a dream. So to begin, sift through your storehouse of longings, memories, and wishes. Find one that feels important, that resonates, and flesh it out. Give it life. In every possible way make it prominent so you feel it, look at it, think about it, and talk about it every day, many times a day. Focus. As you do this, you create a different reality for yourself, a reality that puts you in the middle of that dream.

Next is gratitude. How grateful will you be when what you imagine comes true? Feel it. Take yourself mentally into the place where your dream has materialized and experience the joy of it in your body. Express thankfulness. Accept no contrary thoughts, doubts, or pooh-pooh’s.

Easier said than done, you say? Of course. But you can control your babbling mind. If you don’t yet meditate, now would be a good time to start. Think of it as daydreaming. We all know how to daydream. It’s about that simple. For down-to-earth guidelines, read this very short but excellent book, Buddha in Blue Jeans, by Tai Sheridan. It takes the myth and mystery out of meditation.

Here’s what you’re doing. You’re creating energy. Powerful, positive energy. Ideas will begin to occur to you. They’re like stepping stones. As you act on those prompts new avenues of opportunity appear. Doors open. What looked impossible begins to sweep you along in a current, as if you’ve caught the jet-stream to Wonderland. And what often ends up happening is that the little dream you began with becomes something far bigger and more beautiful than anything you could have imagined.

Today at two p.m. I was thinking about my kitchen. The dark brown cabinets looked gloomy. I wanted a brighter space. Ketut happened to pop in just then. “I think I want to paint these shelves white,” I said.

“Do now,” he suggested. By three p.m. we were at the paint shop. They had one white. I briefly thought of my Benjamin Moore fan deck that had about 200 variations of that color, then decided this particular shade of Bali white was perfect. “Need oil, mix-mix.” Ketut said, and held up a suspicious looking blue can void of any listing of ingredients. By four p.m. he had mixed the oil (which turned out to be paint thinner that smelled like a cross between gasoline and turpentine) with the high gloss white enamel. And by five-thirty, the job was finished.

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I’ve been living with the dark kitchen for months. Until today, I hadn’t taken time to dream something different. As soon as I did, it materialized.

Manifesting has become my favorite pastime. It’s like a muscle that gets stronger with exercise. You may think my kitchen story is lame, a poor example. But that’s part of the secret. Recognizing blessing and honoring it, no matter how large or small it may seem, is the key to abundance. And manifesting dreams is no more and no less than an outpouring of blessing that fulfills the desires of our hearts.

Do You Dare to Dream?

It’s getting better. I resisted my middle-of-the-day nap today. Went instead to Costco for a few groceries. BIG mistake! I was quickly overwhelmed by the abundance of people, products, everything. But I did manage to walk out with the vegetables and rice I needed to make Indonesian food, and that was the goal.

So this afternoon I boiled the rice, chopped the veggies, opened one of the precious packets of Gado-Gado sauce I brought home with me, and sat down to pure delight. The flavor was exactly as I remembered it and I savored every delicious mouthful. Then I pulled up my e-mail and found a note from Brigitte, my German friend. She told me how much she misses Bali, how she had started crying and hugged the guide who had taken her all over the island when he dropped her at the airport. She said she is planning to return in October. Her confession made me feel more normal.  I am not the only one experiencing separation anxiety!

I love the Amalfi Coast of Italy. The fiords of Norway struck a chord deep in my cells. Luxumborg inspired one of the best poems I’ve ever written. At Unmunsa in South Korea I simply wept from a too-full heart. In London, Paris, Lucerne, Budapest, Simrishamn, I embraced the cultures and the people with intensity and joy. There are wondrous places all over the world where I have been inspired and delighted. But Bali feeds something much deeper. Bali is the perfect lover and I have been seduced. Voluptuous and warm, it generously gives with no thought for itself.

Where is it in the world that speaks so eloquently to you, dear friend? Do you dare to wonder? Do you dare to dream?

Immeasurable Wealth

Every day…riches!

Whether it’s the wisdom of 2000 years of ancient tradition or the breathtaking landscape, there is an endless supply.

A trip to the beach, a waterfall, and an animal sanctuary is almost an overload of abundance for one day!

Black sand and crashing breakers

and nobody here but me.

It’s only 171 steps down to this waterfall. The killer is that it’s 171 steps back up again!

Some places just drip with green deliciousness!

Then superimpose brilliant colors…

and interesting patterns (nice kitties!)

and a bathing beauty…or two…and it adds up to immeasurable wealth.

Again today I feel the gratitude and the privilege of this journey.

I have been allowed to touch something that is unreachable in places where the din of progress drowns out the softer voice of soul.

Nyepi and 9/11

It is fitting that my soul-journey would encounter Nyepi. There are only a few other places in the world that observe a day of complete silence. But I assure you, the island of Bali has shut down. If they could have muted the roosters, I’m certain they would have! The closest thing to it that I can remember in the U.S. is when the airports were closed after 9/11. The skies were empty and an eerie silence hung over the land. Imagine if, along with no airplanes, all traffic had stopped, all electricity had been turned off, all stores and industries of every kind were closed, and people were required to remain in their houses.  That is Nyepi. The Balinese celebrate the first day of every new year in quiet meditation, introspection, and prayer.

I decide that today, for me, will be a day of appreciating my immediate surroundings (I can’t go anywhere else!) I will devote it to noticing the details that I have been enjoying but not really ‘seeing’ because of the cumulative beauty of this place. Like, for instance, this intensely green plant with shocking pink striped leaves has been here all the time but I just found it.

Look at this orchid inside a half coconut shell. It has been secured to a palm tree and will eventually grow right into the tree. Then the shell will be removed and they will have become one. It will look like the palm tree is sprouting orchids.

Just out of reach as I sit on my balcony is this breath-taking cluster of frangipani, or plumeria as it is known in Hawaii. Butter-yellow with star-shaped orange centers, the flowers are individually delicate but in clusters they seem to shout their presence! You have my attention…I’m listening now…

I am embarrassed at how quickly I become comfortable in a place and forget to fully appreciate the visual bounty. It is like anything, when we have so much we become numb to it. We begin to feel that we are entitled and instead of being humbly grateful for our abundance, we reach for more, and more, and more. It reminds me of the story that Yvonne (my Dutch friend) shared with me last night.

A fisherman lived in a cozy cottage in a picturesque village. Every day he went out in his little boat and easily caught enough fish from the abundance of the sea to feed his family. One day some visitors noticed the great number of fish available in that area. They approached the fisherman and said, “Why don’t you make nets so you can catch more fish?” The fisherman looked at them and said, “And why would I do that?” The people answered, “So you can make lots of money and hire people to fish for you.” Again the fisherman just looked at them and said, “And why would I do that?” The people said, “So you could make even more money and form a company and export fish all over the world.”  In his quiet way the fisherman said again, “And why would I do that?” By this time the people were getting impatient, “So you could take a lovely vacation in a peaceful little village like this one, and relax and fish all day.” The fisherman smiled. “Ah,” he said. “I see.”

So I end this auspicious day of Nyepi with my meditation for you:

May you be filled with lovingkindness,

May you be well in body and mind,

May you be safe from inner and outer dangers,

And may you be happy, truly happy, and free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of Namaste hands from Bing search engine.

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