Tips For A Better Life

My parents sent me a presentation called Tips for a better life in Russian. It has blooming cactuses on every slide as a reminder that even dry cactuses can bloom.

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile.
2. Sit in silence for at least 20 minutes each day.
3. Sleep for 7 hours.
4. Live with the 3 E’s — Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.
5. Play more games.
6. Read more books than you did the previous year.
7. Make time to practice meditation, yoga, and prayer. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.
8. Spend time with people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6.
9. Dream more while you are awake.
10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured.
11. Drink plenty of water.
12. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
13. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip.
14. Forget issues of the past. Don’t remind your partner his/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
15. Don’t have negative thoughts about things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
16. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
17. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.
18. Smile and laugh more.
19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don’t hate others.
20. Don’t take yourself too seriously. No one else does.
21. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
22. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.
23. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about. Don’t compare your partner with others.
24. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
25. Forgive everyone for everything.
26. What other people think of you is none of your business.
27. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
28. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
29. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
30. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
31. The best is yet to come.
32. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
33. Do the right thing!
34. Call your family often.
35. Your inner most is always happy. So be happy.
36. Each day give something good to others.
37. Don’t over do. Keep your limits.
38. Share this with someone you care about.

Synchromy in The Russian Hall

Often we resist the unknown, inconvenient and different. Last Friday I resisted going to the concert in Hollywood my friend invited me to. “How bizarre, a concert in a Russian Church.”- I thought, but I still went without any expectations. Here is what happened in the next two hours after we arrived…

The concert started with Raison d’Etre by The Vientos Trio– three instruments Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon. It was very playful and meaningful. Three musicians were challenging common definitions of the performance and what it is for, reasons to love and play musical instruments. To me they spoke about life and happiness: we all have our own reasons to live for and love life for.

The next piece was by Jason Barabba called Shouting advice from the international dateline, being mistaken for God… Jason said that the idea came from a show, where the panelists were asked about a place where you could look into the future, the answer being the international dateline because you skip a day when you cross over it. Johnny Vegas, one of the panelists on the show, said the following: “Me personally (but I’m selfish), what I would do I’d get a jet ski and stay on the line and go around the world continually, following that line, shouting advice and being mistaken for God.” It stuck with Jason. And this piece was born.

As I was listening to it, I couldn’t stop thinking about a person who is passing by on a jet ski and shouting advice on how to live. Would I believe him? Probably not, as it sounds ridiculous. Would I feel better? Probably yes, as it totally distracts me from my worries and puts my attention to a crazy person striving to get attention. And perhaps, sympathize with him and what he is doing.

Sometimes all we need is to get distracted from our selfish needs and see that others have bigger thing to worry about. “When life’s problems seem overwhelming, look around and see what other people are copying with. You may consider yourself fortunate” ~Ann Landers.

Daniel Gall’s Grace was “about the strength that comes from losing yourself in emotion. When it is too much and you lose control, there is a state of grace to be had. There is grace in despair… The piece is a descending gesture, it’s falling, melting, crying, sighing, etc. And as we descend we also shift chromatically downwards, furthering our descent, and often shifting into a dissonance with the counterpoint that drives my music forward.”

I experienced grace that felt like sadness, it felt like when we learn that we are missing something in our lives that we can’t get. Then suddenly we were struck by Vera Ivanova’s piece for solo piano – one of the Three studies in uneven Meters. The pianist was able to learn only one out of three pieces, which means that the piece is technically and emotionally complex.

Even though it was about two minutes long, it felt like a crisis ending in catharsis. When someone has a crisis in life and it usually peaks at some point when we ask: “What the hell is my life about? What do I do now?” The catharsis may even be followed by depression. If only we knew how to recognize what to do next…

Damjan Rakonjac’s Variations piece was warm vs cold tones and one style overlapping another. I felt like a visitor in the Isabella Gardner Museum, where you can find an eclectic collection of anything your heart desires from different countries and centuries. You just need to know what you like. The Universe is abundant and life is full of surprises. If you are unhappy, you should never stop, but continue walking, experimenting, striving to meet your true self.

Dante De Silva – The Absurd ABC made a profound impact on me. Dante mentioned that after the birth of his son, his life changed: composing has become a much more difficult task. “One would think that the decreased number of hours that I could write would be the problem, but it isn’t. The problem is that those few hours come after a long day of diaper changes, baby talk, reading children’s books, playing with the same toys for hours, and acting like a baby. When he finally goes to bed, I can concentrate on writing, but my mind is conforming to baby standards and I can’t think analytically or critically enough to write. All that is going through my mind is what Curious George just did or if I forgot to say good night to the cow jumping over the moon.” Jason had an idea to combine some of that baby time and writing time together. He found the Absurd ABC, an alphabet-themed picture book by Walter Crane published in 1874 at LibriVox.org book. He downloaded the recording of it performed by Sam Stinson, and digitally chopped it up to isolate the letters and make sentences that aren’t in the original text. As a result of composing this piece, his son learned ABCs.

As I was listening to Dante’s piece, I couldn’t stop feeling him struggling and moving on at the same time, overcoming difficulties and learning from them. There is no growth without suffering. That is when true transformation happens.

The last piece was Jenni Brandon’s Sea Quartet. She said she was “inspired by the beautiful ocean beside which she lives as well as the many trips she has taken to visit the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California.”

Instead of the sea I heard something else. I heard inner peace. That is what it sounded like: no matter what happens in life, it cannot disrupt what you have inside you. “This joy that I have – the world didn’t give it, the world can’t take it away” ~ Shirley Caesar.

At the end of the concert I was browsing through the wave-like paintings by Daniel Gall and wondering how beautiful it is to not have any expectations sometimes. Life is full of surprises indeed. Who knew?

I Have Resisted Change

A Sunday Poem

I have resisted change with all my will …

Cried out to life, “Pass by life and leave me still.”

Bit I have found as I have trudged time’s track

That all my wishing will not hold life back.

I cannot bid the merest moment “stay.”

So finding I have no power to change change

I have changed my self. Adn this is strange.

But I have found when I let change come,

The very change that I was fleeing from

Has often held the good I had prayed for,

And I was not the less for change, but more.

Once I accepted life and was not loathe to change

I found change was the seed of growth.

~ James Dillet Freeman, American Unity minister, author and poet (1912-2003)

The Fighter

I fight a battle every day
Against discouragement and fear;
Some foe stands always in my way,
The path ahead is never clear!
I must forever be on guard
Against the doubts that skulk along;
I get ahead by fighting hard,
But fighting keeps my spirit strong.

I hear the croakings of Despair,
The dark predictions of the weak;
I find myself pursued by Care,
No matter what the end I seek;
My victories are small and few,
It matters not how hard I strive;
Each day the fight begins anew,
But fighting keeps my hopes alive.

My dreams are spoiled by circumstance,
My plans are wrecked by Fate or Luck;
Some hour, perhaps, will bring my chance,
But that great hour has never struck;
My progress has been slow and hard,
I’ve had to climb and crawl and swim,
Fighting for every stubborn yard,
But I have kept in fighting trim.

I have to fight my doubts away,
And be on guard against my fears;
The feeble croaking of Dismay
Has been familiar through the years;
My dearest plans keep going wrong,
Events combine to thwart my will,
But fighting keeps my spirit strong,
And I am undefeated still!

~ Samuel Ellsworth Kiser, American poet (1862-1942)

Worth While

It is easy enough to be pleasant

When life flows by like a song,

But the man worth while is the one who will smile

When everything goes dead wrong.

For the test of the heart is trouble,

And it always comes with the years,

And the smile that is worth the praises of earth

Is the smile that shines through tears.

It is easy enough to be prudent

When nothing tempts you to stray,

When without or within no voice of sin

Is luring your soul away;

But it’s only a negative virtue

Until it is tried by fire,

And the life that is worth the honour on earth

Is the one that resists desire.

By the cynic, the sad, the fallen,

Who had no strength for the strife,

The world’s highway is cumbered to-day—

They make up the sum of life;

But the virtue that conquers passion,

And the sorrow that hides in a smile—

It is these that are worth the homage on earth,

For we find them but once in a while.

~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox, American poet (1850-1919)

Writing From Our Lives: A Spiritual Perspective

I took a 6 week writing class at Santa Monica Community College and enjoyed it tremendously. This is what the course description says:

“Author Alice Walker (The Color Purple) said, ‘I think I’m creating a story, but I’m really creating myself.’ Writing is a gateway to our deeper identity, and a spiritual practice that helps us, as writers, transform. As we deepen and illuminate our selves, our lives, and our writings, we capture sparkling insights and revelations on paper, and are able to provide inspiration for everyone who longs for a richer experience of life. In a supportive and encouraging class for new and experienced writers of all levels, come learn how to use the elements of fiction, prose, and poetry as tools to discover and reveal your own authentic voice, the key to powerful and creative self-expression.

Instructor Biography: Rachelle Benveniste is a widely published writer and poet and is the recipient of several national writing awards. She has taught creative writing for over 20 years, is a member of PEN, has been featured on KPFK’s Poetry Connexion radio program, has given readings of her work throughout California and has facilitated writing workshops through numerous writing conferences. Many of her students have published books as well stories, poems, and essays that were written in her classes.”

The highlight was the group itself, which consisted of Sharon #1, the writer of devotionals, two friends Lillian and Jane, who have vivid memories and very different writing styles; Sharon #2, who writes about her youth in Greenwich village, and Alfred the Great Appreciator and me. We shared a lot of stories with each other and commented on them. We learned from each other and supported each other in writing. Rachelle led the way like the captain leads its crew over treacherous waters in foreign seas. That was quiet a journey! Thank you, my dear friends! In our last class, March 31, Alfred read several beautiful poems that gave a closure to our course, called Writing from our lives: a Spiritual perspective. Here is one of them. Enjoy!

Life’s Mirror

There are loyal hearts, there are spirits brave,

There are souls that are pure and true,

Then give the world the best you have,

And the best will come back to you.

Give love, and love to your life will flow,

A strength in your utmost need,

Have faith, and a score of hearts will show

Their faith in your word and deed.

Give truth, and your gift will be paid in kind;

And honor will honor meet;

And a smile that is sweet will surely find

A smile that is just as sweet.

Give pity and sorrow to those who mourn,

You will gather in flowers again

The scattered seeds from your thoughts outborne

Though the sowing seemed but vain.

For life is the mirror of king and slave,

‘Tis just what we are and do;

Then give to the world the best you have,

And the best will come back to you.

~ Madeline Bridges, American poet (1844-1920)

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