What’s In a Label?

Writer, mother, wife, friend, breast cancer sur-thriver, Truth-sayer, dreamer, seeker, lover….  So many labels!  Did I assign these to myself?  Did others assign them to me and I chose to accept them?  Are there other labels that I chose to reject, and therefore don’t appear on this list?

As you sift through the following words, commonly used as labels, pay particular attention to how (if) your feelings change while you read each one.

label Did some strike a chord?  If so, was it a happy chord or a not-so-happy chord?  Did some not render any emotion whatsoever?  (Apologies upfront for the overwhelmingly skewed negative nature of the words — I’m not techy enough to create my own list, so I borrowed from Google Images.) Continue Reading

Listening, Who Cares?

A Lost Art: Listening

Oh, how I struggled to come up with a title for today’s post!  And it’s still not right.  Listening and anything with ‘listening’ in the title is just not intriguing, sexy, or in any way worthy of you clamoring to click on my article to read it.  (At this point I should thank you for reading this far, despite the lame headline!  “Thank you.”) :-)  And this, coming from someone who holds a strong belief that listening is hugely important, in fact, there’s an art to listening.

Here is a Truth, one that makes listening paramount:  We all have a strong desire to be heard.

And if this strong desire to be heard exists within each of us, shouldn’t there be an equal number of listening ears out there to fulfill such a universal desire?

Listening and Mark Nepo

But I still get the sense that many folks would shove listening in the category of BOR-ING and not give it another thought.  Just don’t tell that to author, poet, and philosopher Mark Nepo, who did happen to give the topic of listening another thought — like, 258 pages worth of thought in his most recent book entitled, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen:  Staying Close to What Is Sacred.

I was first introduced to Mark Nepo’s work in January of 2011, the day he appeared on Good Morning America with his book, The Book of Awakening, a book soon to be on coffee tables of homes, hospital waiting areas, and cancer centers all across the world.  (Nepo’s appearance on Good Morning America followed shortly after Oprah listed his book on her “Ultimate Favorite Things of 2010″.)  My mother-in-law called me at home and said I had to turn on the TV and listen to this man.  She said he and I “spoke the same language.”  Little did any of us know at the time, that six months later, I would be diagnosed with cancer.  For six straight months I experienced the gift of reading Nepo’s exquisite words on life, on suffering, on the resilience that comes from such suffering, and on his own cancer journey, completely unaware that my journey through cancer was on the horizon.

During that time, I had fallen in love with Nepo’s writing style.  His ability to write a poem, more like a short essay, using very few words, yet convey such depth.  Depth that would present itself in a completely different angle — and with meaning that spoke to me in a way that continued to follow me around for days, sometimes as whispers begging contemplation, other times as cymbals, ringing lessons in my ears I was too stubborn to acknowledge before.

It was not uncommon for me to jot down comments and questions in the margins of my copy of The Book of Awakening —questions I assumed I would reflect back on years later, but never have the opportunity to ask Nepo directly.  Until December 6, 2012.  As I sat in my north Dallas office, with my eight-year old yellow Lab at my feet, and Mr. Nepo sat in his southwest Michigan office, with his 12-year old yellow Lab at his.

listening

 

Preparing For An Interview on Listening

For nearly two years I had read Nepo’s work, writing about him here on my blog more than any other author, something like nine or ten times.  And now I was about to interview him.  But I had been asked to interview him on his book on listening, not any of his other work.  At this point, you might be thinking the same thing I was:

An essay or two about listening, some musings from a very talented writer could be insightful, but an entire book?  However, once I started reading Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, I found it difficult to put down.  Mark Nepo presents listening in a much broader context than you might suspect.  He discusses how listening leads to wakefulness.  To Oneness.  To being open to life.  How listening is the doorway to everything that matters — between what we hold dear and what we’re afraid to lose.  “Ultimately,” Nepo says, “listening leads to peace.  Listening is the first step to peace, both inner peace and the compassion that connects people.”

[My full book review can be found here, in the Holistic Networker magazine.]

Stay Tuned

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing parts of that interview that were not included in the book review.  I’ll share more intimate conversations we had about what it means to listen with your heart and mind, and conversely, what Nepo calls, growing “heart-deaf” and “mind-deaf.”  How discovering he was losing his hearing while writing a book about listening was irony at its best.  How there is much to be heard in silence.  And of course, I had to ask him what role Trust plays in all of this.  You’re not going to want to miss it!

So… who cares about listening?  I care.  As boring as the topic of listening may sound on the surface, it has the reach of a never-ending well filled with refreshing, potent, spring water found in the middle of a desert.  The type of life saving and life sustaining water that not only individuals need, but that relationships also need in order to thrive.  Consider this: how long would you tolerate a friend who never listened to you?  The spouse who didn’t listen to you?  About as long as you’d walk around in the desert with nothing to drink.  Remember, we desire to be heard.  And in order to be heard, there needs to be someone willing to listen.

Keeping that in mind, I’ll leave you with a few lines from Nepo’s book, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen:

“To stay in relationship is a central challenge of our time.”

“As a vulnerable human being, I still want to be seen and heard and understood for who I am.  When bestowed without agenda, these are the gifts of love.”

“It still hurts to be ignored, especially if I’ve shown myself completely.  It still feels thwarting to be misunderstood, especially if I’ve spoken my heart as plainly as I know how.  But the truth doesn’t need to be explained to be true.”

“Without a felt sense of this connection to the web of life, the need to be seen and heard can rule us, overwhelm us, and even devastate us.”

“Listening is being present enough to hear the One in the many and the many in the One.”

listening

I look forward to continuing to share insights and topics discussed with author Mark Nepo with you.  If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe so you won’t miss a one!  Thank you!  Love, Leslie

Gratitude and “The Color of Truth”

Expressing Gratitude

I love the gratitude that is expressed at Thanksgiving.  All of the earnest offerings of Giving Thanks, spoken aloud around dinner tables across the US.  The thousands of Facebook posts, where friends declare publicly what they’re most thankful for.

I, like many of you, am grateful for my health.  When I stop to monitor my unencumbered breath in, breath out, I can’t help but be reminded that I indeed have my health to be grateful for: cancer-free.  The gratitude I have around my health is as vibrant, loud, and enormous, as any hot air balloon would be to the ant crawling up its tethered rope, just before its release.

Whispers of Gratitude

But it’s the small whispers of gratitude, the ones that have silently entered my life, with no fanfare, the ones that simply flow within me, that establish my internal rhythm of gratitude.  You know the kind — the kind of thankfulness that nestles in right below the surface of your skin, on the tip of your brain, and in the bounce in your step, all occurring at the same time, although you are not consciously aware of it.

It’s the gratitude I feel when I write.  While I’m focused on forming sentences, conveying a message, exploring my Truth, connecting with you —tucked right below the surface is gratitude.  I’m grateful I am able to do what I love, day after day, and do it in the conditions I prefer: sitting in my office at home, the only noises coming from the breathing of our yellow Lab and the faint ticking of my watch.

It’s also the gratitude I feel when I free my brain and read for pure pleasure.  As I sit on the couch adjacent to my writing desk, I delight in the words of Mark Nepo.  I can flip to almost any page of The Book of Awakening, and see something similar to this:

 

Gratitude

 

Highlights galore, sections with brackets containing exclamation points, an asterisk here, double asterisks there, handwritten notes jotted in corners saying, Profound truth.  Absolutely beautiful, on December 12th and Nepo is speaking directly to me here, on December 13th.  The teachings and beautiful prose used to convey our human resilience within these pages translates to the sort of gratefulness I’m talking about — the kind that lingers within me, even when I’m no longer reading his work.

For the Truth seekers and Truth sayers out there, here is a prime example of a piece of Nepo’s work that creates such a stir of gratitude:

“The Color of Truth”

December 6
The Book of Awakening
by Mark Nepo

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched…but are felt in the heart.”  ~ Helen Keller

There is an ancient Chinese art of painting on porcelain.  It requires, more than skill and precision, a deep trust and patience in the process.  It involves painting thin layers of pigment, one at a time, on the porcelain, letting each dry and soak into the porcelain itself.  But even when dry, the pigment doesn’t yet reveal its color.  You never know what the color will be until the porcelain is fired in the kiln — that is, until the pigment is burned into the porcelain itself.

This is remarkably like the life of questions that come from living.  We use the brush of our feelings to paint our questions into our heart.  But only after the fire of experience, only after our felt questions are burned by experience into our heart, only then do we see the color of truth emerge.

So there are no answers to the deeper questions of living, only the emerging colors of truth which we must find the trust and patience to live into.”

Gratitude

Joining BIG Gratitude & Whisper Gratitude

Recently I opened my email, as I’ve done hundreds of other mornings, and found an unexpected gift.  A gift that created vibrant, loud, enormous ‘ant on the hot air balloon‘ gratitude AND whispers of gratitude that nestled in under my skin, hung out on the tip of my brain, and put a bounce in my step that is still lingering…over a week later.  Thank you, Tony, for offering me the opportunity to interview Mark Nepo on his new book, Seven Thousand Ways to ListenI am grateful for your support, for your gift, and for your friendship.

More information to follow regarding the interview with Mark Nepo, due to appear in the next publication of the Holistic Networker.

gratitude

Receive your weekly dose of Trust delivered right to your inbox!  Subscribe by entering your email — and although it goes without saying, I’ll say it anyway — I’ll never spam you — just posts.  Love, Leslie

One Hell of a Year!

Although today isn’t officially New Year’s Eve, in sticking with my Monday, Wednesday, Friday posting schedule, today’s article has the honor of being the last Trust Life Today (TLT) post of the year.  Why honor?  Because the first post was on January 1st, which means this post will not only finish up the year of 2011, it also completes one year of me writing for you (and let’s be honest, writing for me too)!!

I’ve LOVED every minute of it.

Here are a few highlights of 2011:

January 1 – the first TLT article appeared

January 21 – I retold THE story that changed so much of my thinking and perspective on Trust; it’s entitled Sufi Story.

Month of May – TLT Quote Totes/bags began being carried at all SampleHouse & CandleShop locations around Dallas

May 10 – went in for my first mammogram two days before turning 41 (the rule follower in me just had to check that box while legitimately still 40 years old).  Although I didn’t know it at the time, the journey had already begun.

July 15 – received diagnosis of breast cancer

September 7 – underwent double mastectomy.  Great news!  They got it ALL!  No need for radiation or chemo!!  (But still looking into whether or not I needed to take an oral preventative drug.)

September 28 – received wonderful news that NO oral drug was recommended

December 8 – I received notification that one of my TLT articles would be published in the Holistic Networker Magazine’s 20 Year Anniversary edition

December 9 – received reconstructive surgery, which held the place holder of HAPPY ENDING

~~~~

I share this timeline of sorts with you, not entirely to mark the passing of events, but also to reflect on how we are unable to connect the dots before, or often even as they are happening.

As I sit here today, December 30th, I’m blown away.  I’m blown away thinking how one year ago today I hadn’t even written the first TLT article.  If you would have told me then the gratification I would receive from connecting with you, I’m not sure I would have believed it.

If you had told me on December 30th of last year, that within the year I would receive a cancer diagnosis, learn more about a topic I otherwise would still be in the dark about, meet more doctors and attend an unimaginable number of doctor’s appointments, alter my physical body, and through it all, grow more into ME than I would have ever thought possible… well, I’m not sure I would have believed that either.

Here’s the thing.  I had no clue what was coming down the pike for me.  I had no idea to prepare for something as life altering as what I experienced.  Not for myself, and not for my family.  But Life has given me skills.  Precious gifts.

How absolutely ironic that all my years of studying Trust would lead me to write about Trust, only to have me live out Trust publicly here, with you.  Ironic or synchronistic?

Of course it doesn’t stop here.  Life continues with its joys and struggles.  With how I choose to perceive other’s actions, my reactions… ALL of it.  But I must say, Thank God I get it.  Thank God I get how to Trust.

Who knows what this next year holds for me?  For you?  Who knows what tomorrow holds for us, for that matter?  Are you ready to have your actions be led by fear or love?  Are you ready to live your life with Trust?  Trusting there is a greater, Divine force guiding you, even if you don’t know how or why?

So as we end this Hell of a Year, this Hell of a Beautiful Year, my prayer for you is this:

I pray that you lead your life by Love and live your life with Trust.  Amen.