Day 7

So…who or what decided the color scheme of the universe?  How did he/she/it land on certain colors for certain venues? The question isn’t… why is the sky blue…but why is blue the color chosen (for lack of a better word) for the color of the sky?

Alright…so after the heavy of yesterday, let’s wander somewhere a bit more in the space of nothing and perhaps uplifting…I was driving to work this morning and the most beautiful robin-egg-blue sky began to emerge from beneath the cloak of night’s sky.  Slowly the sun tickled its way across the dark and the blue of day began.

It was a very peaceful drive.

I was a Science teacher in my first work-life.  I am (many people find this surprising) a Chemistry Major and taught High School Chemistry and Biology for several years before I went back to graduate school and got a Masters in Social Work.  I’ve always been fascinated with science…and at a much deeper level…the miracles of science and how everything is magically conspiring in favor of the environment,  if we just stay out of the way.  Every single process that keeps our bodies running is perfect…down to the smallest detail.  (Other than, surprisingly the tail bone.  As I recall, the tail bone is the one remaining part of our body that has no purpose other than to occasionally remind us of why we don’t pull a chair out from underneath somebody.  I think the appendix may have also been a leftover, from our evolving bodies, that we don’t really need anymore. :))

Now, anyone can research the scientific reasons for WHY the sky is blue…but my question is why it is BLUE…WHY is that the color it is.  In other words, when all of this (whatever THIS is) was dreamed up/created/planned/big bang-made, why were the various colors in nature the ones we ended up with?

Is all of this accidental?  Researchers who study color have determined that color has various effects on our moods and the actual physiological workings of the brain.

Is it any coincidence that blue, the color of the sky, stimulates clear thought,  calms the mind and aids in concentration? Consequently it is serene and mentally calming.

Green surrounds us in plant life and  strikes the eye in such a way as to require no adjustment whatsoever.  It is, therefore, restful. Being in the center of the spectrum, green stimulates balance.

While we are certainly surrounded by a multitude of additional colors, these two in particular strike me as the predominant colors in nature. (Of course, reds, violets and yellows tossed in through flowers, sunsets and other beautiful and naturally occurring phenemonon create pysciological responses…which more often than not.. lead to stronger emotional reactions.  I mean we do have to get excited and inspired every once in a while.)

So is it therefore NOT coincidence that the sky is blue and our plant life is green…the Divine’s attempt to keep us calm, peaceful and centered?  Are there some “interior” (or rather exterior) design plans we are unaware of, but that are clearly part of the bigger picture?

What do you attribute sky color to besides the scientific reasons for it?  Why blue?  What do you think?  If you are up for it…ask your children and see what they say?  Have you ever even thought about it?  Have some fun with it! Let’s see how we think on this one…

Day Six

Why do certain advertisements have such a powerful effect on me? How can I move past allowing them to affect me in such a negative and disturbing way?  What can I learn from my response to the cultural images we see in the media regarding women?

We are in-between days of hosting a Girls on the Run national training in our office. Five new communities represented by 16 fabulous women are in town learning all about how to start, implement and sustain a Girls on the Run council in their regions. The mood is always upbeat, positive and filled with hope.

Several weeks ago at our annual Girls on the Run summit, one of our keynote speakers was Jean Kilbourne.  Ms. Kilbourne is a pioneer for women’s rights, bringing to light how images in advertising affect a young girl’s psyche and her development.  I have to say that in many ways, while her presentation and its content are necessary to share with the world, it was a real downer.

It’s been fourteen years since I started Girls on the Run and it appears, based on her presentation, as if the images of women in advertising, music and the popular media are becoming more extreme (rather than less) with their depiction of women as sexual objects and victims of sexual crime.

I simply can’t wrap my hands around how to feel peace around this topic.  This is, frankly, one of my “button-pushers.”  How can anyone in the advertising industry, with clear conscious, create an advertisment such as this?

There are two “me’s” at work here.  The human me is outraged.  I tend to go right for the jugular and right to the front lines.  How can anyone along the chain of this corporation allow an image such as this to enter real space and time?  How is this okay?Surely someone along the path of the production and distribution of this ad, said, “Mmm.  I’m not sure about this one.”

The higher me can distance myself from everything which is represented here and says,”Focus your efforts Molly, on those things, people and works that are good, enriching and uplifting.  What you choose to see, is what becomes your reality.”

I’ve always felt this internal conflict between “out there” and “in here.”  Many spiritual guides suggest that the “out there” is reflected upon and reacted to by what they term the “ego.”  The “in here” which, when fully engaged, demonstrates love, compassion and understanding, is termed the soul, spirit, essence or Self.  It is unaffected and “uninfected” by what lies outside of it.

As I age, I’m recognizing, at least for me where I am now, is that the balance I see in my life isn’t found in time management, more sleep, better nutrition and healthy excercise, but a balance or an acceptance of this spirit me and human me.

I just don’t know.  I don’t like being SO affected by our culture’s portrayal of women in the media, music and pop culture and wonder if something else about this topic eludes me…something else that will bring me to peace…or a reconciliation of the outraged human me and this peaceful and compassionate loving spirit me.

My guess is…that many others feel this way…some of us still stewing in the anger of it all and others of us are past it.  Then there are those of us in the middle, perhaps transitioning, seeing our anger toward it as an opportunity to move toward some sense of peace, forgivesness, acceptance or compassion.

All I know is, I’m in between.  I must still be getting something out of being angered by it.

I’d love your comments. Where are you on this continuum?  Or is there another continuum here I’m not even considering?  Really.  Thoughts, opinions and advice welcomed.

Day 5

Why do we have pet peeves?  What do our pet peeves tell about us?  What can we learn from our pet peeves?

According to dictionary.com, a pet peeve is a “recurring source of irritation.”  I’ve always been a bit entertained by my pet peeves…curious about why certain things drive ME up the wall, but don’t drive YOU up the wall.

My son Hank has a pet peeve that I find a bit peculiar.  He simply cannot tolerate the noise of someone chewing food.  It’s not the way chewing looks or chewing with your mouth open…it is the noise. Seriously…it is as if someone took a microphone, placed it in or adjacent to someone’s mouth, turned the volume up to full blast, and then projected the sound of chewing directly into his ear.  I swear the kid can hear someone chewing, six tables over.  Needless to say the guy has incredibly polite table manners, BUT expects everyone else to have them as well. Truthfully, I don’t know where this pet peeve came from, nor do I live up to his table expectations, but it does humor me a bit to see him correct his teenage friends on their chewing habits.

I would say that one of my greatest pet peeves is seeing someone drop trash onto the ground.  This has been an “issue” for me since I was a child…particularly cigarettes.  I can recall on a few occasions, I’m chagrined to admit, that I actually observed my parents lift their ash tray from its position in the car and, at a stop light, dump all the cigarette butts out onto the pavement, through the driver’s side window.

I could, even as a child, feel myself cringe…my belly literally getting into knots with a desire to say something or get out of the car and pick them up.

I honestly have no understanding of where our pet peeves come from, but I do wonder if they don’t tell us something about the stories we have in our head. I think generally across the board, at the root of what drives our pet peeves is this sense that others are being rude or somehow invading our notion of rights or space.  I’m not talking about a critical violation of our rights…pet peeves are smaller than that.  They are small nagging indications that something about the actions of someone else are just “getting under our skin.”  My inability to control someone else’s behavior or make them understand how their behavior is infringing upon my sense of “what is right” (on a very small scale…again not to be confused with true social injustice) is what lies at the root of what makes it a pet peeve.

In most cases I can’t do anything about it.  I also note that on days when I am off kilter, ungrounded and extraordinarily tense, pet peeves can send a charge up my spine that, if you were to observe me, you might think I had just witnessed a serious crime.  Pet peeves and my level of reaction to them, at least for me, provide a quick on the spot view-inward, to determine my level of peace, calm and centeredness within that moment and more than likely for that day.

Today, I’m going to have some fun with my pet peeves and sit with them a bit when they drop in…use them as a litmus test to measure my level of inside-peace.  I’m not going to let them take me over the top, but rather use them as an opportunity to take me under a few deep breaths…explore on a small scale how I can remain calm, in spite of their potentially nagging effects on me.  I’m going to see them as opportunities to practice for when the really big stuff comes along.

What are some of your pet peeves?  What lies at the root of their frustration for you?  What do your pet peeves say about you?

Day 4

What’s up with eye contact?  Why is eye contact something we avoid (or don’t avoid.)  What’s really going on when we “contact someone with our eyes?”

My daughter and I in a stare-down with the camera.

Alright…I admit it.  Nothing earth-shattering about this question, but I have always been intrigued with the power of eye contact.

Two stories come to mind:

1.)  In my early 30’s I used to compete in the sport of triathlon.  I was at an event in Panama City, FL and staying at a resort hotel with my friend Allison.  When the event was done we piled into the hotel elevator, speedos still on, bikes and gear bags, helmets and cycling shoes. With all that stuff, there was barely enough room for the two of us, much less a third.

He was, I admit, an appealing guy…in his early 30’s also…still, as we were, in his tri suit, with bike and gear.  My friend Allison was clearly attracted to him.

We had 20-some floors to go up in the elevator and Allison wouldn’t take her eyes off of him.  I mean…the woman was in a stare-down.  Somewhere in the few short seconds that it took the elevator to go from ground floor to up, he said directly to her in a tone that wasn’t necessarily friendly, “What are you lookin’ at?”

My friend Allison continued her steady gaze directly into his eyes and said in a tone of voice that had humor, a certain amount of aggression and a definite unsettling quality to it…”I’m lookin’ at YOU!” (Note emphasis on you.)

He got off of the elevator before we did and they were to never see each other again. I think she totally creeped him out.

2.)  This isn’t a story really but more of an observation.  Ever notice how adults, with no hesitation whatsoever, are totally comfortable with a stare-down with a baby, infant, toddler and even kids up to the age of say…6 or 7?  I know that I am.  There is a comfort there, that my looking at them and often directly into their eyes won’t be construed as anything other than a connection that is genuine, authentic and friendly.

Just watch a grown man with a child.  Airplanes are an awesome space to do this.  Business guy, dressed in full business suit, begins a rousing game of peek-a-boo with the four-year old in the seat in front of him.  She, peering over the seat and his upping and lowering his head up and out of her vision only to pop back in, seconds later.  Smiles abound…if not downright laughter.

I’m fascinated with what attracts us to certain people…not in a sexual way (although that’s pretty interesting too :)) but just two people, one to the other. When we enter a room-full of people, or gather onto an airplane our eyes are naturally drawn to certain individuals in that space with us.  Should eye contact be made, there is a split second of connection, but then we pull our gaze away.

I’ve noted that when I am in a “right space” I am far more inclined to, when talking with my friends, or even with strangers, hold eye contact, not to shy away from it.  I’ve come to see eye contact as something like a crystal ball-view to my well-being.  When I’m comfortable holding my gaze (avoiding the creepy factor element outlined in (1)) then its a pretty good sign that I am right with myself…my internal thoughts are in a positive and peaceful space rather than negative or fearful space.

I’ve also noted that those people, whom I consider highly evolved, peaceful loving people, are more inclined to make eye contact with me when I’m talking with them.  Kids are the perfect case in point. They haven’t yet added any negative messaging to that authentic gaze and are therefore more inclined to enjoy the eye contact rather than shy away from it.

I have to admit, I also think something else is going on.  There is an intimacy there.. when I look someone in the eye…and that can be where the discomfort comes.  Our culture tends to add a long list of implications to eye contact…implications that lead us to construe stories that really don’t exist.  We as a culture often shy away from genuine, authentic relationships because there is a deeper fear, at least for me on occasion, that something bigger and more powerful may be revealed there…something that is unknown and therefore intimidating.  It’s often easier to stay safe and comfortable within my own lonely circle…at least in here I know what to expect.

When I make eye contact, there is a connection which goes from outside to inside…thoughts, feelings, an energy exchange that brings me back into myself…it can be unsettling if I let it…but if I’m open, fearless and willing to connect, the eye contact can open up new possibilities, relationships and furthered growth.  I’m always amazed by the coincidences that reveal themselves when the eye contact leads to conversation, connection and friendships.

No big or deep revelations this Monday morning…just some food for thought and interesting observations.

How are you with eye contact?  Does your willingness (or not) to make it, say something about the space YOU are in?  Any stories about it you’d like to share?  When someone is making eye contact what stories/internal messages do you construe to explain the eye contact?  What does this internal conversation about eye contact say about you and how do these messages affect your actions?

Day 3

Why has “quiet” been so difficult for me?  Why, as I age, do I seek to find it more often?

I have two teenage children.  One is fifteen and the other is twelve.  I’m amazed by the amount of noise two individuals can create and find. The moment we hop in the car, the radio is on.  The moment we get home, ITunes is pulled up.  Skype, cell phones, the noise is incessant…we are a culture of noise.

When I was a kid…I was right where they are.  At night, my digital clock radio would, with sixty minutes of “snooze”available to it, be turned to radio station Big Ways 61.  Somewhere within that hour I drifted off to sleep with the radio to follow shortly after.

In my 20’s I made myself a very busy person. While completely unconscious of it (heck who could be conscious with all that sound?) I now know that the inside noise, the messages I was saying to myself, were pretty harsh.  “You aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough.

Molly, you aren’t enough.”

On and on, the noise within my own brain was so loud that the only thing that might compete with it and actually drown it out was finding louder noise outside of it.  Not a minute in my day would go by without noise…literally…noise.

Over the last ten years, I’ve been pulled to the power of quiet in my outer world. My attraction for it has been a gradual process. Listening to my breath, practicing yoga, calmer music, running without music, solo walks in the woods, sitting quietly on my front porch.

Sometimes it has been kinda scary.

Anxiety would present itself and I wasn’t sure why. Moods were up and down. Anger appeared at times to come from nowhere…but my guess is…with the decreasing outside noise, the inside noise (as inaccurate as the messages were) was getting a chance at last to be heard…and who wouldn’t experience anxiety, moods, anger and a whole host of other emotional ups and down if the noise was suggesting that somehow “Molly, you are less than.”

But silence/Love/God stuck with me.  And gradually I have come to see that I can silence the noise inside too. Over the last several years, I’ve even been able to find quiet within my thoughts…to silence them enough.to delight in a sunset, hear my feet land on leaves during a  rainy run in the woods, hear the sighs of my puppy while he sleeps on the floor next to me, hear the birds this morning begin to reveal the first stirrings of spring.  It is within these delicate moments of silence where I find gratitude for simple things…where tenderness, kindness and compassion for myself stirs as well.

Our puppy Ryder, peeking out between morning naps!

I don’t regret a thing, but do wonder how quickly I might have come to peace with myself had I been disciplined enough or introduced to the power of quiet when I was younger.  But then again, I realize that we all come, in our own time and in our own way, to learn that which we are meant to learn, when ready.

Where does quiet fit into your life?  Why do you think we are a culture of noise? What might we gain (or lose) by quieting the outside noise?  How has your relationship with noise and quiet evolved over the years?  Share with this community won’t you?  I have no doubt that you are here, right now, reading this because something about quiet draws you…doesn’t it?

Day 2

What really is going on with a coincidence?  I mean…isn’t it kind of weird when they actually occur?

co-in-ci-dence:  a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance.

Yesterday, my daughter, a friend of hers and I went to our local mall.  While the two of them went for a quick walk around the building, I decided to duck into the food court and dig into a sandwich from Subway.  A very tall, young man walks up to me.  “Ms. Barker.  It’s me, Jack.”

“Wow…Jack.  How are ya buddy?  I haven’t seen you for years!”  We chat for a good ten minutes just catching up with each other.

He and my son were close friends in elementary school. This in and of itself isn’t all that big a deal. What makes it feel like a bigger deal than just his walking up, was the fact that my son and I had talked about Jack earlier in the day.

“Have you seen Jack?  I asked Hank.

“I haven’t seen him since fifth grade, Mom,” Hank replied.

We spoke for a moment about where my son thought he went to school, but in fact, we weren’t sure because we had not seen him since he was ten years old.

Jack is now 16 and I saw him on the very day that my son and I had wandered onto wondering about him.

Sure…I guess I can chalk it up to coincidence, but these random junctions seem to happen more often then not.

Which brings me around to Caitlin Boyle. She is an amazing woman who has built her entire career on what appear to be coincidences.

Caitlin Boyle is the founder of Operation Beautiful. She moved to Charlotte (coincidence or not?) about a year ago and we have become very, very close.

In Caitlin’s words:

“I began Operation Beautiful by leaving positive messages on the mirrors of public restrooms — at work, at the gym, at the grocery store.  I scribble down whatever comes to mind — “You are beautiful!” or “You are amazing just the way you are!”  My personal goal is to leave as many Operation Beautiful notes as I can. Maybe some people read them and just smile, but I bet some people are truly touched by the effort of a random stranger.

CIMG6166

Operation Beautiful is simple: all you need is a pen and a piece of paper. If you want to join the mission, send me an e-mail at OperationBeautiful@gmail.com with a photograph of your Operation Beautiful note or a description of your experience, and I’ll post it on the Operation Beautiful site for thousands of others to read and enjoy!”

This all started for Caitlin on “one of those days” when nothing seemed to be going right.  She decided that posting a sticky note with positive words on the mirror of a random restroom might cheer HER up.  And so she did.

Since then literally tens of thousands of people have participated in Operation Beautiful. Caitlin has actually written a book documenting the transformations experienced through the discovery of a randomly placed note, coincidentally found by someone in need of that note with that message on that day.  Young women struggling with anorexia, bulimia and other challenging body-image/self-esteem issues have literally been saved due to the coincidental discovery of these positive notes found on random bathroom mirrors, fitness center scales, health club dressing rooms and grocery store diet food shelves.

I simply cannot, or more preferably choose not to attribute these “junctions” between two people as random or coincidental, but rather prefer to think of them as mysterious and gentle nudges from the Universe/God/Love, that something bigger is at work out there, conspiring in our favor…if we would just open our eyes to Him/Her/It.  Today I’m going to look at each encounter, whether chance or not, as an opportunity to honor the mysterious possibility that maybe…just maybe…there is a reason for the encounter that goes beyond what is obvious.

What do you think “coincidences” are about?  Have you got a story of a coincidental meeting that may suggest something more mysterious, beautiful and inspiring is at work in your life?

Let’s hear it…

…(And now an addendum added approximately four hours since I posted everything above.  I got into my car after writing this original post…checked my phone and found a text message from our Girls on the Run director, Cissy Fish, in Hickory, North Carolina.  She had NOT read this blog.

The content of her text which had no words but only an image was what follows:

Pretty cool, uh?  Talk about coincidences?  Is it?  Share your story or your thoughts in the comment section.  Wow.

Day 1

Why does starting something often feel like such a challenge?  Why is “the beginning” always so daunting?

I practice yoga almost five days a week.  I’m a recent yoga convert, having been a runner for most of my life up until about a year ago. Running provided for me, and still does (just not as often), a space to be quiet, listen inward and explore the landscapes around me both  physically and within.

In yoga, the majority of my time in class, I find myself “observing” my thoughts rather than responding to them.  One of my favorite poses is called “Dancer.”  It requires a great deal of balance as well as a high level of trust in your ability to hold the pose.

I fall out of that pose more often than I can hold it.  And then with time still left to move back into the pose, I do so, but always with reluctance.  It is often much easier to just stand and wait for the teacher to release the class from the pose and move onto the next one.  In the private world of my own brain I find that it is often easier to just do nothing rather than “begin again.”  Even in the small moment of my yoga practice, I find “beginning” or “starting” to be, at times, so difficult…so difficult in fact I do nothing instead.

When I started Girls on the Run, the most challenging step wasn’t the thinking about it or visualizing the possibilities, it was actually taking the concept from the internal cogs of my thoughts to the world outside…where you, me and others could see and participate in the concept.   Actually sitting down to write out the mission statement, the vision, core values and first lesson required time and discipline, two things I felt as if I didn’t have.  I was looking for excuses…new motherhood, training for a marathon, tending to my marriage.  I was waiting for the right time, the right circumstances, the right “out there” to make it easy for the “in here” to begin.

Ironically, once I wrote out the first lesson, the rest began to flow like water over a waterfall…there was no containing it…the words came, the people came and now the program exists in a space that is expansive, life changing and beyond anything I ever dreamed possible.

From one word on a page…

Maybe beginning or starting is difficult because it takes us into a space of the unknown…to places we haven’t been before.  We are launching down a path of what we don’t know.  Looking our “don’t know-ed-ness square in the eye” requires an effort, courage and a willingness to “fall out of the pose”…to then start again next time with a slightly different stance, attitude and open-mind.  Often I find it is much easier to just wait it out and sit in the comfort of what I do know, even if the anxiety, depression and/or frustration produced by doing so, occupies a tremendous amount of my time and energy

Today, I’m going to embrace starting again.  I’m going to be aware of when I’m reacting to life rather than “cre-acting” to life.  I’m going to embrace the process of starting, beginning and trust that the process will take me into realms of the unknown…which will broaden, expand and introduce me to new elements of myself which, in turn, need and want to be brought into the world.

What’s holding you back from beginning again…starting something…cre-acting your life?  Ever thought that maybe sharing here would be an opportunity to move from a space or attitude of waiting to creating?