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Valentine for My Country

Millie Grenough
Coach, Trainer, Author who helps you find an Oasis in the Overwhelm, whatever it may be
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My country, ‘tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty –

Of thee I sing!

What to give my country for Valentine’s Day – chocolates? red roses? No.

Much better: Truth Bouquets.

I send luscious bouquets to:

– Margot Lee Shatterley – you shine light on so many hidden figures

– Gabby Giffords – you carry on, even after being shot down

– Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Elizabeth Warren – you speak your consciences on the Senate floor

– Peter Salovey and Yale Corporation – you change a college’s name from Calhoun to Grace Murray Hopper

– Julius, my 10-year-old grandson, after seeing a Noguchi sculpture – you ask, “What is lynching?”

– My husband – you answer his question calmly, clearly

– Millions of people in the USA and around the world – you stand up strong for your beliefs

– Youtube – you make it possible for me to hear Marian Anderson sing My Country, ‘tis of thee at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939

To all of you I offer bouquets. Of you all, I sing.

Happy Valentine’s day, country of mine. Let freedom ring!

 

 

Millie Grenough, Author Oasis in the Overwhelm. www.milliegrenough.com

P.S. Give Yourself a Valentine ~

Join me this Wed Feb 16, 8 – 8:30 PM for a brief chat – Free

Topic? Compassion – for Yourself & Others: Strategies for Tough Times

Decide now to come to a 1-Day Retreat – Sun Mar 19

Theme? Welcome Fresh Life This Spring

“AMERICA FIRST” — Huh?

I was one of the millions of marchers yesterday. I drafted the sign above on a bench in Union Station, New Haven, CT while we waited for the next train to New York.

A man on the bench across from me waited till I finished the red-and-blue flag, then gave a smile and thumbs up.

On the streets in NYC so many people, so many signs. Our signs invited us to talk to each other.
An Ecuadorean worker emerging from a construction site on 47th Street stopped to read my sign, then reached out his hand when I told him I had lived in the Andes.

When we went into the 53rd Street Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and a pee break, the wrinkled woman cleaning the ladies’ room chatted. She held her mop, told me she was from Oaxaca, Mexico, then looked sad when I told her about the assassination this week of another indigenous environmental activist in her home province.

The athletic-looking man carrying a large sign, “I am gay and in the U.S.Military” paused on the corner of 55th Street to oblige people who wanted his image. He saw my sign, read it, and spontaneously gave me an all-embracing hug.

“This is democracy in action.” The streets reverberated with the roar.

Maybe we needed the events of these past months to blow the lid off. It’s not just now, not just us. The results of centuries of injustice, of measured and calculated insanity that established one group over another group are now blazingly clear.

Now is the time. Not just for “America First” or my own individual cause. This is bigger than any of us.

What can you do today — what can I do — to walk and act with compassion? with clarity? May we all walk humbly, but/and with determination in these days ahead.

For a short way to re-connect with “the big picture,” watch the 60-second 1-Stone Meditation that Thich Nhat Hanh taught me in 1988.

Another blog tomorrow. I’ll write about how Anne DiNoia, Boz Scaggs, and Justin Williams are connected with this.

This post is hosted on the Huffington Post’s Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and post freely to our site. 

In These Dark Days, How Can You Shine Your Light?

Yep, in this Northern Hemisphere, we’re in those dark days of winter. 5 PM and it’s pitch dark in Connecticut. Where is that sun anyway? Makes me wish I were back in Perú.

Helps me to remember that nature never stands still. That’s why I was surprised when I looked up the origin of the word solstice. Webster tells me it’s from the Latin:

sol = sun + status, past participle of sistere = to come to a stop

Webster goes on to explain that solstice is one of the two points on the eclipse at which the distance from the celestial equator is greatest. (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)

But the sun doesn’t stay there. Even as I type these words, we’re beginning to move towards more light.

On these darkest days of the year in our hemisphere, how can I – how can you – how can we – shine our lights?

Last Thursday 50 light-shiners gathered with me at Career Resources in Bridgeport, CT. What’s their task? To work with jobless, homeless, re-entry population, single parents, and those with mental health or addiction difficulties.

What’s their toughest challenge? To take excellent care of themselves as they go about their stressful work.

Photo by Holly Wasilewski

They journeyed to Oasis in the Overwhelm with me and left with practical strategies to take with them. As one participant said, “I learned how to stay calm in stressful situations. I have my stone to keep with me.”

To honor your light in these dark days, try this Oasis Sanity Tip, ask yourself:

What is one specific thing I can do today to:

1. Feed my own light – nurture my sun?

2. Honor someone else’s light?

3. Shine light on a dark place?

And if you happen to be in Lima or Cochabamba, shoot some psychic rays up our way.

Click here to receive a holiday gift from Oasis in the Overwhelm and me.

Bright greetings on this dark day, Millie Grenough

Do You Need a Respite?

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These days are turbulent for sure. What to do?

In his Just One Thing e-note this morning, Psychologist Rick Hanson responded to my wondering:

This week’s practice – love someone.

Rick affirms: that’s a good practice at any time.

“But it’s especially good if you feel stressed, worried, or turned upside down – including by big forces that seem beyond your control.”

Two days after the US elections, a group of us knew that we needed an oasis in the overwhelm. We gave ourselves a day of respite at a beautiful place – time to be with ourselves, our emotions, our fears, our hopes. You can tell from the faces at the end of the day that the time together helped us face our current reality with more equanimity, less fear.

I invite you to join me for a special Day of Retreat/ Respite December 10 at Copper Beech Institute in West Hartford, CT. It will be a day to choose Love in Action for yourself, with others: quiet time, stress reduction, practical mindfulness, opportunity to breathe, re-group, re-fresh, re-juvenate body/mind/spirit.

As Rick says,

“No matter what others do, we can choose to love. Besides its benefits for others, love is also calming, centering, and strengthening for oneself.”

Don’t wait for a retreat day to practice Love in Action. It’s a great antidote for frustration—plus it helps our own health, and the health of our world. Here’s a little Oasis Sanity Tip for a practical way to do it today. It’s a single investment with triple beneficiaries.

Ask yourself:

What is one act of love I will do today:

1. for myself?

2. for someone I know?

3. for someone I don’t know?

Write down the specifics for each one.

Check it off when you’ve done it.

Breathe gratitude – in and out.

Enjoy your day. Sleep well.

Wherever you are, I send loving greetings from New Haven. Treat yourself to an oasis. Now.

Follow Millie Grenough on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MillieGrenough

Election Stress? 2 Survival Tips

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Are you ready to axe it all? When will this nerve-wracking hype be over? And after the big day, will the stress be gone?

What to do…?

The other morning when my husband was chopping firewood, I remembered the Zen saying:

Chop wood, carry water.
Before Enlightenment, Chop wood, carry water.
After Enlightenment, Chop wood, carry water.

Loosely “translated,” that means: whatever the heck is going on around you, be your true self and do what’s in front of you.

So here are my two tips:

  1. Before Election: Chop wood, carry water.
  2. After Election: Chop wood, carry water.

Translation?

  1. Today: do what’s in front of you. Do your usual tasks with intention, clarity, focus. If that includes contacting someone to encourage them to vote or let them know you’ll be happy to drive them to the voting place, do it. Decide what time tomorrow you will vote your conscience.
  2. Wednesday and days after: do what’s in front of you. Breathe often. Make time to sit quietly. Do your tasks, usual and maybe unusual.

The leaves here are now at peak. Many have already fallen, nourishing the ground for the next season. Rhythms of life going on, even as I type these words.

I send you warm greetings from New Haven in this time of intense color.

11,000 feet — 9/11

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What’s it like to toss your stress to the background and climb to 11,000 feet?

I had the luxury of doing that in August. Left all the usual stuff behind. Packed the bare necessities. Then climbed. Tough climb! Not much air. One focused step at a time. Incredible beauty/spaciousness in the Wind River Range in Wyoming, Tetons to the north.

Back at sea level now, “reality” is smacking me in the face. Bam!

Sharp memories of 9/11
Nuclear threat looming
World leaders badmouthing each other
Unrest in my own neighborhood
My sister and a dear friend gravely ill

How to manage the instant stress this generates in me?

Wow, I’m almost back in the overwhelm.
How to keep sanity, clarity, the big perspective?

Pause.
Breathe right now.
Consider: What’s my best action right this minute?

Simple.
Be me. Do what’s in front of me. Today’s tasks. With open eyes and open heart.
That includes writing this blog and inviting you to do this Quick Mind-Clear to give you an oasis in whatever your own overwhelm is. Here’s my Oasis Sanity Tip:

Set aside three minutes today to:

  1. Toss aside your overwhelm, whatever it may be.
  2. Give your body, mind, and spirit a chance to let go.
  3. Luxuriate in a favorite “big-picture” scene for yourself.
  4. Breathe a sigh of gratitude that you are alive, safe, well.

After this, ask yourself — gently — if there is an action you want to take.

Me? Now that I finished this blog, call my sister. Then go to Edge of the Woods to buy veggies and fruit for my friend. Not world-shaking, but real. Practical.

If this little Sanity Tip is useful, you may want to learn more ways to rewire your own brain away from chaos into calm. The next Oasis Training is coming soon. Join me!

From sea-level Connecticut, I send you “big-picture” spaciousness. Give yourself a break right now —

What’s Flim-Flam? What’s Real?

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Such chaos in this world of ours. So many swirls.
What’s reflection? What’s fear? What’s real?

Yesterday I was caught in the 4 PM Merritt Parkway rush.
Swirling. Emotions flaring. In my gut and all around me.

Wow, the anger I felt. The nerve of that lady in the red car trying to cut me off! What’s with that old geezer crawling in the passing lane? Why don’t those tree-cutting guys work in non-rush hours? Who does Governor Malloy think he is, cutting all those programs? Why am I paying so many taxes? The flim-flam of that newscast yesterday —

Whoa, how easy to spin out of control — in one minute!

Decided not to turn on the news. That would really stoke me.

Time to pull back.
Exhale my anger.
Breathe.
Bring in reality:
Precious moment. Only moment.

I’m here right this minute. In my car. Enough gas. AC even works. Safe. No wars on the Merritt. Heading home to pack for my trip to the Wyoming Winds. Stopping to pick up Mexican supper for my four healthy grandkids. Enough time later this evening to finalize details for my November Oasis in the Overwhelm Training.

We just moved forward 100 yards.

Yeah, Precious moment. Only moment.

When I look at that photo of me in the Winds two years ago, I remember how important — and how simple — it is. Stop. Breathe. Take in the big picture as clearly as I can, wherever I am.

Simple. Not always easy. But I can do it. Even when I’m stuck on the Merritt.

Then the world stops and breathes too in some small way.

Float Like A Butterfly

 

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We were both working our way through school. I, a white kid from the West End of Louisville, he a black kid from a couple of miles east on Chestnut Street.

We would probably never have crossed paths if it hadn’t been for a woman at Nazareth College, now Spalding University, on 4th Street in downtown Louisville. Sister James Ellen, a Sister of Charity, hired both of us to work part-time stacking books in the school library. I rode the city bus, where “colored” had to sit in the back. Cassius walked across the street from Columbia Gym where he was practicing for Golden Gloves.

I wince when I hear Ali tell about going back to a Louisville restaurant after he won his Olympic medal and the waitress said, “We don’t serve colored people.” When I hear his reply, “I don’t eat colored people,” I smile. And I remember how he lost his medals and went to jail for refusing to fight in Vietnam, “I don’t want to kill my brothers.”

Ali is gone. But his light continues to shine.

Yesterday I was at my usual post at the Hispanic Clinic in New Haven, CT. Around the table were people from five countries, faces of many colors, ages late 20s through 70s. Each of them had a story about how Ali had shone for them. Luis from Venezuela said,

I was 16 when he beat Forman—an impossible feat! I remember walking back home that night thinking: “If Ali could do that, I can do things that seem impossible.” That memory has kept me going through many tough times, even up to today.”

Ali, rest in peace. You deserve it.

But keep stinging us like a bee. And float us in your many-colored butterfly love. Our world needs it.

Thank you!

What’s On Your Bucket List?

 

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photo by: Rayshon

This bucket idea is taking on more reality than I bargained for.

In the first three months of this year, three of my dear friends died, one per month. And this week, a close relative – much younger than I am – found out she has a tumor that has spread to various parts of her brain.

You can’t stop the waves,
but you can learn to surf.

Those words of Jon Kabat-Zinn are a guide post for me. But come on: all these waves crashing so quickly…

A vivid reminder of the unpredictability, and the preciousness, of our lives. Time for me to refresh the Oasis Sanity Tip I often suggest to my clients. I invite you to do it with me now.

Go to a quiet place.

Take five minutes just for you.

Ask yourself the Two Key Questions:

Who am I? What am I on this earth for?

Hang out as you breathe…

Give space for the responses…

Write them down.

What do you come up with?
What is one specific thing you might do today to give honor to your bucket list?

This moment. Precious moment. Only moment we’re sure of…

Time for Practical Mindfulness. Think I’ll go spread mulch under the magnolia. That’s why I was driving the U-Haul: to pick up fifty bags of sweet peet mulch. Sweet wishes to you for your bucket list.

Is Biking Manhattan On Your Bucket List?

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When my friend Jane received her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer stage 4, she didn’t waste any time.

Jane had already lived in India, Mexico and Spain, had completed 2 ½ Master’s programs, had taught World Religions to teens at the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY, had married her sweetheart and raised two incredible sons, had written books and worked with women inmates at Sing-Sing Prison. You can read more about her adventures here.

But Jane Stuart Baron Rechtman was young, and she wasn’t done yet. No sense wasting time being sad. Her bucket list still had items on it.

Last September, a year-and-a-half after her first chemo session, Jane called her niece Evalynn and me, “I’ve always wanted to bike the perimeter of Manhattan… Want to rent bikes at Battery Park and go with me?”

The three of us met on a gorgeous October day, biked up the West Side, stopped to pick up lunch at 125th Street Fairway, plopped on the grass to stretch our legs. When I took a tumble getting back on my bike, it was Jane who caught me. And as we weaved our way through all kinds of detours on the East Side (the UN was having a huge meeting), Jane out-biked me.

Jane took living — and dying — seriously, and with humor. Her husband said, “She had a whole file on dying…” Two weeks before she took her last breath, Jane insisted that I read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande so I would know how she wanted to go.

In his last Caring Bridge note, her older son Jon wrote:

“She went peacefully. She called us to her side, told us she loved us…
She let us know that she went with no fear, no regrets.”

What a way to go.
Thanks, Jane.

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