Monthly Archives: June 2010

Remaking the Past

I recently had the privilege of seeing the basilica at San Marco’s Square in Venice, and I was struck by a similarity that has been present throughout the centuries. Mainly, how we have a history of replacing the “old” with something more current.


In the basilica, the original Byzantine mosaics were replaced during the Renaissance with something more appealing to the times. Tastes had changed, artistry had evolved, and so it seemed natural to take down the old, and put something else in its place. We’ve done this for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. We do it with houses, cars, clothing, art, technology – it always seems that if there’s something “better,” we need it. But why?

In the case of technology, I understand the importance of keeping up with new inventions. After all, you couldn’t use a rotary telephone anymore, even if you wanted to. But when it comes to bigger things like houses and public spaces, I’ve always preferred to keep our history alive by retrofitting our lives to the past, rather than tearing it down and replacing it. As an example, I grew up in a town that was older than the Revolutionary War. I saw houses that pre-dated our country’s Independence, in which families were still living. They adapted their needs to maintain the original structure. As I grew older, I saw beautiful old homes torn down and replaced with McMansions, in order to meet the “needs” of a modern family. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this. My “problem” is more with the use of the word “needs.”

Somewhere in our DNA, it seems, we have a desire to improve ourselves. However, it doesn’t seem to be accompanied any longer by an understanding of patience and moderation. Furthermore, this desire seems to be coupled with a competitive nature that is always seeking validation externally, rather than internally. We have, in essence, lost sight of our Essence. We seem to no longer be able to self-soothe, and we look for comfort and security in objects and others. This is why things have become so transient. This is why there is less and less permanence in our society, and at the same time why we have a longing to see remnants of our past, and admire them and learn from them. If not, why would tourism to historical sites be such a huge industry?

It seems to me that we have a history of remaking our past. We have evidence of societies building on top of one another in the same places for centuries. Slowly, we have evolved into a society that justifies its consumption by the improper use of the word “need.” And yet, somehow, we rarely feel full. I’ve seen it time and again – a person searching outside him/herself for something which is lacking inside. They will never meet this need through external solutions. An addict (whether it be alcohol, gambling, drugs or any other substance) will eventually never be able to consume enough of their preferred substance, and they will either a) have to seek help and abstain, or b) die. Similarly, a person seeking validation in another person’s love, will ultimately have to keep moving on to more and more people, because they looked outwardly rather than in a mirror.

At this point in time, we are coming to a crescendo and beginning to feel the effects of too much consumption. I think you will agree with me that more and more people are looking for a simpler way to live. More and more individuals are in search of inner peace and happiness. The tide is shifting, and it will be up to you whether you choose to swim with it, or swim against it. Would you choose to stay in your home, make do with what you have and adapt your lifestyle/behaviors to your world? Or would you choose to endlessly seek external validation in your life, always searching for that next thing that might bring you happiness?

It’s a question of whether or not you look at a Byzantine mosaic and feel it’s not “good enough,” or look at a Byzantine mosaic and admire and accept it for its own qualities. Something new isn’t better or worse, it’s just different. And that’s ok, provided we also remember and honor the past and learn to work with what we already have, dovetailing in the ‘new’ rather than replacing the ‘old.’

In Love and Light,

Martina

Companions and Playmates

Confidence is a companion to good health, while arrogance is a playmate of the ego.

I recently had the opportunity to witness true unabashed arrogance firsthand. It was quite a reminder of the difference between the two qualities. I’m sorry to say it was in an Emergency Room, and was displayed by a young doctor. He did nothing but help endorse the 80’s stereotype of the arrogant doctor overseeing things, while the nurses and assistants were doing all the work. It was very sad, mostly because I know many very hard working physicians, who give over their lives to helping others. I was bummed.

Yet, this unfortunate occasion provided me with an opportunity to learn. I was able to truly see a difference between humility and grace (confidence) and self-centeredness (arrogance). At the time, it was almost as if I was seeing things through a magnifying glass, in slow motion. My hopeful personality was observing in a state of shock, yet I knew what I was witnessing could be turned from something ugly into something positive. And here it is: a reminder of the joy of being in the presence of true confidence, a confidence that is earned through hard work, trust, and humility. We’ve all seen it. When we meet someone who has that inner quality, we are drawn to him or her like a bug to the light. They exude it – quietly. It’s a gift to be around them. We want to learn from them. We hope that they will notice us, validate us.

This is why confidence is part of good health; because knowledge expressed through grace and humility is a cornerstone of wellness. They inspire others to dream. They empower others to achieve. They allow others to grow… to be who they are. Confidence creates an infinite cycle of development, whereas arrogance simply drowns out everything around it. It’s suffocating to be around, disheartening, and quite frankly, not fun. This young doctor will eventually learn a different way of interacting. I know he thought he was being funny, but his words were harsh, not humorous. Yet another example of the difference between the two.

So, my wish is that we all aspire to quiet confidence, to lead by example. It doesn’t matter where we create confidence in our lives; the goal is to do so humbly and gracefully. Ultimately, this will inspire others, and we will begin to create a world in which mutual support and respect are more important than self-gain and recognition.

In Love and Light,

Martina

Black & White

So, one of my favorite cookies in the world are called ‘black and whites.’ I grew up with them in the NYC area, though I am not sure where they originated.

Whole Foods carries a mini-version of them, which is delicious, though not exactly the same as you would get in a NY bakery. Half cookie, half cake, coated with dark chocolate and vanilla/lemon glaze – they’re incredible. But I digress…

This week, the “black and white” I refer to is the printed word. As I sit here among billions, perhaps trillions, of printed words (I’m in a bookstore), I am thinking about the freedom with which we use words to create feelings, actions or situations. It’s quite a responsibility. One wrong word can cause chaos, just as a few beautifully placed words can create unparalleled joy. The bottom line is words have power beyond their significance.

So, I was intrigued recently while reading a travel guide to discover the use of the word “earthed” instead of “grounded.” I guess they mean the same thing, though ‘grounded’ is vastly more familiar – especially in the healing arena. But what about “earthed?” Well, in this context it was referring to electrical appliances and plugs. The guidebook said, “for appliances that need to be earthed.” Perhaps this is common usage of the word in other countries, but it was a first for me. And it won’t be a last. I LOVE this word. It’s rare, unique and incredibly descriptive.

In exploring the possible difference between the two words, it’s important to first understand what it means to be grounded in the energetic/spiritual sense. The most common form of “grounding” is with the earth. We are organic matter, the earth is organic matter, and we are both made up of energy. Therefore, to connect with the earth is to “ground” yourself with her and her energy. We do this through meditation and chakra visualization exercises – specifically the first, also known as the “root chakra.” By energetically connecting with the Earth, we center ourselves, create balance, wellness and strength, to where we truly feel connected with something greater than ourselves, deeply and solidly.

To be grounded means to connect with that of which you are a part. Yet it also somehow maintains a distinct separation between the two identities. Perhaps this is because we also refer to the surface of the earth as the “ground.” It creates a visual of standing upon – still two separate entities. In contrast, if you are earthed, it almost feels as though you become one with the earth. As if the earth were to swallow you up, surround you completely, cradle you in her soil and provide peace, strength and protection to your person. To be earthed gives me a sense of becoming wholly part of her as one life force. I am no longer standing on soil; I am soil. It simply feels different.

This is why I like the use of the word “earthed.” It is so much more descriptive for me. If someone were to say to me, “I am grounded,” I would be pleased for him or her. If, instead, I were to hear, “I am earthed,” I would take note, because the sensation I experience when a visual image pops into my mind in association with that statement is far more detailed, weighted and complete than that which appears when I hear the first statement. I may be unique in this, but I wager that given the opportunity, many others would share in my experience.

Which brings me back into the bookstore. Here, I feel grounded – not earthed. Is there a distinction? I think there is. Though both may be used interchangeably, as so many other words are also used, I will choose when to use each, deliberately and with clarity of intention. Once more we return to the issue of the power of words. And I ask you this: Is their power inherent in their definitions and our linguistic connotations? Or could it be that their power lies in our intentions and conscious choice in using them? What do you think? Spend a day listening to what people are saying to you, then spend another day listening to yourself as you speak to others. You decide where the power lies.

In Love and Light,

Martina

Thoughts from Deepak

This weekend I was incredibly fortunate to attend Deepak Chopra’s presentation at the Celebrate Your Life conference in Chicago. When I went I had no idea I was going to be seeing him – because I went there to work. As a member/practitioner of the Infinity Foundation, I volunteered to work at the booth for the day – which resulted in one of the most surprising and fun days I’ve had in a while.

To begin with, I ran into very dear friends, who I had no expectation of seeing. We chatted, laughed and hugged – and my heart was overflowing with joy and light. Then I was able to “pop” in to the last few minutes of Gregg Braden’s talk (inspiring!) and listen to my dear friend, Shawn, perform his beautiful song “I choose love.” Immediately after, I met Gregg with Shawn and Gregg signed his book, “The God Code,” for me. None of this was planned when I decided to volunteer my time. It is true that those who give receive much more in return. Finally, I learned that we were invited to listen to the keynote speaker, Deepak Chopra, as exhibitors at the conference. What an amazing gift! To follow are just some of the tidbits, quotations and inspiring words I was able to gather during his presentation. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. He was truly inspirational. He is funny, incredibly intelligent and compassionate. He is dedicating the rest of his life (and his personal resources) to the frontier of science: the Technologies of Consciousness. Truly amazing. Enjoy.

“Different states of consciousness create different biology.” Meaning: our thoughts and emotions actually create physical changes in our bodies.

“The body itself as a structure is a hallucination…. The body is a process.” Meaning: since the body is always in a state of generation and regeneration, it is more like a river with flow, than a solid state of being. Therefore, when we see our body as a solid structure-it is a hallucination. When we accept it as a process, we open up our world to the myriad possibilities of change.

“Everything exists, all at once, as a possibility.” Meaning: our Universe, and our selves as a microcosm of the Universe, have infinite potential.

“When you change the way you look at things: the things you look at will change.” (Max Planck – Quantum Physicist) Why? “Because there are no ‘things’ there are only possibilities.” Meaning: everything is comprised of energy, which is always in a state of movement and process; therefore, nothing is the same as it is when you look at it for a 2nd time. Everything is in a state of potential. Everything is possible.

Now, there has been actual scientific research on happiness. As a result, these scientists have created a Happiness Formula. Deepak shared all of this incredible information and statistics with us, as follows: The formula: H=S+C+V; where H is Happiness, and:


S is a Set point in the brain that is fixed within the first 3 years of life, by mirroring our parents. i.e. If your parents are unhappy or negative, you will be unhappy and negative; you will have learned how to view your experiences in life through this filter. S=50% of the formula; however, the good news is you can change your set point two ways: 1) contemplative meditation (focusing on compassion, loving kindness, and the joy of others) or 2) cognitive therapy (question limiting beliefs)

C is Conditions of living. Are you rich or poor? Yes, it matters. There are far fewer happy poor people than happy rich people. However, the focus is mostly on financial well-being. If you don’t have financial well-being, you will be an unhappy person; C=10% of the formula.

V is Voluntary choices. There are two categories on how people choose to spend their time/life/money: 1) personal pleasure, such as sex, shopping, food, etc. Personal pleasure brings transient happiness. Or 2) the expression of creativity, and desire to make other people happy, which brings lasting happiness. V=40% of the formula.

So – if we can change our Set point, modify our Voluntary choices, and improve our Conditions of living – everyone should be happy. Right? No. Because there is another layer: existential unhappiness. This is a human-specific element of happiness, and it is comprised primarily of worry – worry about our future or past; about death; about money or illness; about becoming unhappy once again.

The solution to existential unhappiness? Finding out who you are: Enlightenment.

There is a great story here – about a dog and a man. A man kicks a dog, and the dog gets angry. They don’t see each other again for 10 years. 10 years later, the dog remembers the man’s cruelty and wants to bite him. The difference is that the dog didn’t spend the 10 years in between dwelling on the man, and worrying about when he would see him again. Think about that.

And by the way: thoughts, emotions and feelings are contagious. If you have a happy friend, your happiness goes up 15%; if they have a happy friend, it goes up another 15%, even if you don’t know their friend. And so on.

There was so much more to share with you – but this is the primary focus of what I heard. Happiness is a choice and it is within our control. If you are unhappy, you have the tools, power and possibility to make changes that result in happiness. This is a powerful statement. And it’s all based on actual research and scientific study. The quotes and their meanings I’ve shared before the Happiness Formula simply reinforce these truths.

So – are you happy? What one thing can you do today to start heading in a different direction, if you’re not? And if you are, do you still have existential unhappiness (worry, fear, etc.)? What can you do to change that?

In Love and
Light,
Martina

(P.S. Don’t forget to vote in my new poll. Vote on what topics you’d like me to write about in the future. Polling is open through July 31st. Thanks!)

Room to Dream

This week I had prepared an entire piece on what it means to be grounded, and then I received the most inspirational and loving email from a dear old friend. She suggested that I write about change and how it brings about “new opportunities and room to dream.” She should know – she has inspired me for years with how she’s managed to turn major changes into a beautiful life, filled with friends, family, work and wellness.

So, what is it about change that frightens us so? Often times, when we are faced with a major life change, we go through a period of fear and anxiety. It’s totally ‘normal’ for us to experience these emotions; but more often than not, when we reflect on the event after the fact, we feel quite differently. We use the phrase “hindsight is 20/20,” as we move forward describing the stress that occurred beforehand as nothing more than a nuisance. We forget how angry, mean, tired and frustrated we were as a result of our living in a place of fear. We forget that we may have hurt people along the way – which is not a healthy way to maintain and grow relationships. Now, what if we could take the same challenging situations and develop a new perspective about them, before we give in to stress? Can we actually choose to feel excitement, anticipation and possibility in the face of major change?

I believe that in most cases, we can. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. As an example, sudden death in a family rarely gives us the opportunity to choose our perspective. But many other life changes offer us enough time to consider a different approach: One that is healthier and more in-tune with our true Self. This raises a very specific question for me: are our reactions based on how we think we should act? Or are they based on pure emotion? In other words, are we doing/thinking/reacting to a life change in a manner that is consistent with what we’ve seen and learned throughout our life? Or are we truly feeling stressed, anxious and scared about the event? Nature v. Nurture. It’s an interesting thought.

Personally, I feel that our responses to life events are conditioned over time. This isn’t to say that our feelings aren’t real or valid. All feelings are real and valid. But it is to say that somewhere along the way we learned how to react to things, such as moving or employment changes, in a life-depleting manner. Instead of learning to embrace change and view it as the opportunity it is, filled with endless possibilities, we see it as something to be scared of and a source of worry. But change is one of the few things we can always rely on. Whether we like it or not, change is always going on around us and in our own lives. Change happens. And we desire change. If you take a minute to think about that, you’ll see just how profound that simple statement is: We desire change, and yet we fear it when it comes. It doesn’t make sense.

Perhaps we can look at it this way: many of us (myself included) daydream about all the “changes” we will/can make to improve our lives. We think: if I were thinner, richer, taller, shorter, had a degree, etc. I would be happier. These daydreams are dreams of change. And yet they are not remedies to the internal void that we seek to fill with these changes. They may definitely improve the circumstances of our lives, but eventually, they are not enough in and of themselves. So, the greatest change we can make is the change within – which is a change in attitude and perspective.

When we shift our internal focus to one of possibility, the world opens up to us. This is what my friend was talking about – and this is what she has done in her own life that I find so incredible. In moving to another country, she opened her heart and her life to the possibility of creating. She made choices that were life-affirming, which resulted in her being happier and more fulfilled. Sure she was nervous about leaving everything she knew behind her, but she quickly learned the value of change.

Change brings the greatest opportunities for personal growth; change allows dreams to become reality.

So, the next time you’re faced with the end of something old, or the beginning of something new, you will have a choice. Will you choose to see it as an opportunity for greater happiness and wellness; a chance to pursue your dreams? Or will you choose to reinforce old reactions and behaviors that may no longer serve you? Just a thought.

In Love and Light,

Martina

(P.S. I’ve added a new Poll to the sidebar – please vote through July 31st! Thanks!)