Desire, Ask, Believe, Receive

Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one knows nothing about are if no importance whatsoever.

Are you a worrier? We all are to a certain extent, but some of us are more pessimistic than others, and when we worry, it's always the worst possible thing that comes first to mind. Worrying is a great thief of time. I have a good friend who can soar from distress to disaster in five seconds, and it has caused her no end of sorrow. Now that she recognizes the patter and can stop herself in mid-flight with a gentle reminder, she experiences much more inner harmony even under difficult circumstances. Often when we stew, we think that we're doing something positive about the problem; at least we're thinking about it. Instead, we've set off an escalating spiral that can ruin an entire day-for ourselves and those in our vicinity.

If you find yourself fretting over an issue, instead of working yourself into a frenzy, stop. Now think about everything that's humming along nicely. Can you have a conversation with Spirit? If you don't feel comfortable calling your communion with a Higher Power "prayer," call it a "communication with a good friend." "I learned that simply to ask a blessing upon one's circumstances, whatever they are, is somehow to improve them, and to tap some mysterious source of energy and joy," writer Marjorie Holmes confides. "I came upon one of the most ancient and universal truths-that to affirm and to claim God's help even before it is given, is to receive it." Lift up your worries and ask for grace to get through the rest of the day. There is an abundance of amazing grace available to all of us if we simply learn to ask for it. "Desire, Ask, Believe, Receive," the mystic Stella Terrill Mann advises. Begin praying or conversing in that order and you'll understand why she does.

After praying about your worries, is there a friend you can share your problem with? If not, sit down quietly and write out what's troubling you. Now write out the worst case scenario. What are your greatest fears? If that happened, what would you do? How would you cope? Once you have .a solution beyond an "I don't know" response, write it down. One of the reasons we worry is because we feel powerless to control our futures. When we figure out what we'd do if the worst did happen, the sense of hopelessness diminishes. "I have spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened," Mark Twain admitted at the end of his life. We all do this.

Worrying about the future robs you of the present moment. Try to observe how much worrying you do. And if the nagging worry follows you relentlessly throughout the day, follow Scarlett O'Hara's example. Tell yourself, "I'm not going to think about this right now, I'll think about this tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day."

The Plie of Pleasure

What is your hobby? Every woman ought to have some pet interest in life, outside of the everyday routine which composes her regular occupations. What is yours?


There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time this expression is unique," modern dancer Martha Graham advises us. "And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost."

Where are you blocked? A hobby is a wonderful way to start freeing ourselves creatively. That's because no one expects us to be perfect at a hobby. Hobbies allow us to experiment, to dabble with the paint, the poem, the pot, the plie. When ballet dancers speak of doing plies, they mean bending their knees. Doing plies at the beginning of rehearsal warms up the leg muscles before the dance begins. Pursuing a hobby warms up our talents and illuminates our natural inclinations. We get to try on imaginary lives and see how they fit.

Now that you've done some moodling and have discovered some personal pastimes that bring you pleasure, today choose one to pursue. If you need materials such as yarn or paint, make a list of the necessary supplies. Give yourself a week to assemble what you need to get going, and one week from today plan an hour to begin. By doing this, you commit to bringing more fun into your life, and what was once inconceivable will soon become impossible to live without.

Solitary Pleasures

Alone, alone, Oh! We have been warned about solitary vices. Have solitary pleasures ever been adequately praised? Do many people know they exist?


Remember, once upon a time, when we all knew how to play?We're going to have to travel back to when we were younger to look for clues. Did you love to play alone when you were ten? What were your favorite extra-curricular activities in high school and during college? Nothing in our past lives is wasted. Nothing that once made us feel happy and fulfilled is ever lost. There's a golden thread that runs through each of our lives. We just need to rediscover this thread before the joy of living completely unravels.

Why not have a brainstorming session on paper to excavate your buried bliss?Write out a quick list often solitary pleasures. Don't give this a lot of thought, but don't be dismayed if it takes you a few minutes to come up with something.

Need some help? Well, what was your favorite childhood game? Your favorite sport? Your favorite movie as a kid? Your favorite book? Comic strip? Your favorite singer or musical group? What was the best time you ever had as a youngster? As a teenager? As an adult? Can you remember? Can you re-create the memory?

If you could instantly acquire three additional skills, what would they be--playing the piano? figure skating? taking really great photographs? What three outrageous things would you try if no one knew about it¬belly dancing? clowning? hot-air ballooning? What three daring things sound intriguing, even if you'd probably never attempt them-stand-up comedy? mountain climbing? scuba diving? What three all-expenses-paid vacations appeal to you-an archeological dig in Egypt? a ride on the Orient Express? a visit to the Paris haute couture collections? Do you like to work with your hands-needlecraft? bookbinding? gardening? Or does the visual appeal to you-framing pictures? working in stained glass? creating shadow boxes?

Get the idea? There's a fabulous world out there just waiting to be explored. We simply have to be willing to experiment.

A hobby affords us a marvelous opportunity to awaken our natural talents. It does require a little bit of effort. First of all we have to figure out what we'd like to do to shake the doldrums. Then we have to carve out time to do it. Alice James, the sister of Henry and William James, believed that in life, "Truly nothing is to be expected but the unexpected." By seeking and finding a solitary pleasure that would make you jump out of the bed each morning to pursue it, you'll discover just how right she was.

Discovering What You'd Like to Do, If You Ever Had the Time

Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.

In the beginning spending regular time alone just to collect your thoughts.

I will seem like indulgence enough. Spending time alone to nurture your authentic vision, to express yourself creatively, to enjoy a personal pursuit' that brings you contentment and pleasure will seem-well, impossible. Incredulous. Impractical. Inconceivable. Out of the question.

"Right. In another life," is the usual response, along with audible sighs and the rolling of eyes when I broach the subject in my workshops. Then wistful looks appear. "You mean to have fun?" the women want to know. "Yes. Have fun."

"You mean, by myself?"

"Yes, by yourself. Fun. What would you like to do if you ever had the


You can see where this leads. Most women I meet have a hard time holding up their end of the conversation when fun is the topic. Let the discourse be on diaper rash or Einstein's Theory of Relativity and we can hold our own. But, fun for its own sake? The plain truth is that somewhere between family and careers during the last twenty years, most of us have misplaced an essential part of ourselves. Once we begin embarking on solitary sojourns to get reacquainted with our authentic selves, we usually discover that something is missing.

It's called zest. Exuberance. Joi de vivre, as the French would say, or "the puzzle finally fit. The heartfelt happiness we derive when something brings us keen pleasure. Something uniquely our own. They used to call this magical something a hobby.

But what to do? The writer Brenda Ueland tells us that our imaginations need "moodling-long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering" to flourish. Perhaps we also need a little personal sleuthing to uncover what solitary pleasures might be fun. It's been so long since we've consciously set aside time solely for rewarding reveries that many of us can't fathom what to do (except, of course, take a nap) when we have a couple of golden hours in which to answer to no one but ourselves. We lose what little leisure time we have Milable through attrition.

Today, give in to your need for "moodling." And while you're dawdling and puttering, consider what rewarding reveries you've put aside that brought you pleasure in the past. "How I think about my work is indistinguishable from the way I think about my needlepoint or cooking: here is the project I'm involved 'in.

It is play. In this sense all my life is spent in play-sewing or needlepoint, or picking flowers or writing, or buying groceries," says writer Diane Johnson. Once you commit to bringing more of a sense of play into your daily round with authentic personal pursuits, life will begin to take on a harmonious lilt.

Paying a High Price

Certain high-achieving women are imploded with demands, both external and internal, and lack the skills to filter them. These women complain that the first thing they sacrifice is their private time or private pleasures.

Those of us who don't spend regular time alone to rest and recoup are likely to suffer from what psychologists call "privacy deprivation syndrome." Symptoms include increasing resentment, mood swings, chronic fatigue, and depression.

Sound familiar? Sound grim? It is! Sufferers struggle through their days in a vacuum of unfulfilled exasperation, only to drop into bed too emotionally depleted to sleep well at night. The littlest thing can set them off, bringing tears and tantrums-and not only from the children in the family. Soon work and personal relationships begin to suffer. Why? Because the never-refreshed are really not that much fun to be around. The cycle may continue unabated until physical illness sets in. Remember the flu you had last year for five weeks? The two weeks you were laid up with lower-back pain last summer? The sinus infection you couldn't shake last month?

We don't have to make ourselves sick before we can call a psychic time out.

Unfortunately for many women, it is only when we do get sick that we allow ourselves a dispensation for time and space alone. This may be how real life is for you right now, but it doesn't have to stay that way. If you find yourself secretly looking forward to regular rendezvous with a hot water bottle and NyQuil, then privacy deprivation syndrome is exacting a high price. Let me reassure you there is a better path.

The Importance of Solitude

If women were 'convinced that a day or an hour if solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way attaining it. As it is, they feel so unjustified in their demand that they are to make the attempt.


I am convinced that when the end of the world comes it will arrive not as two clashing armies on the brink but as a "last straw" : the fax that unravels six months' work in a single sentence, the telephone call that sends us reeling across the room, the seemingly innocent request to perform yet another task. Can we attend one more meeting? Write an additional memo before we leave the office? Bake another batch of cookies? Drive an extra car pool trip this week? Suddenly, without warning, women will rush screaming into the night, leaving men and children shaking their heads in amazement wondering if it was something they said. Always remember, Greta Garbo never declared she wanted to be alone. She said: "I want to be lift alone." There is a significant difference.

I believe that it's essential for busy women, by which I mean all of us, to pause a moment-this moment-to reconsider the entire subject of solitude. Too many of us approach time alone as if it were a frivolous, expend¬able luxury rather than a creative necessity. Why should this be so?

Could it be that by shortchanging ourselves, the only thing impoverished is our inner life? And after all, if the lack doesn't show on the surface, if we can pull it off one more time with smoke and mirrors, why, then, of course it doesn't count. Or does it?

"Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician to compose; the saint, to pray. But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves," Anne Morrow Lindbergh urges us to remember. "The problem is not entirely in finding the room of one's own, the time alone, difficult and necessary as this is. The problem is more how to still the soul in the midst of its activities. In fact the problem is how to feed the soul.

Neglect Not the Gifts Within You

She endured. And survived. Marginally, perhaps, but it is not required if us that we live well.


Oh, yes it is! We may come back to enjoy another life-and I'm open to that possibility-but until I know for sure, I don't want to waste the one I'm living right now. I've endured. And survived. And I've lived marginally, but living well is all it's cracked up to be.

Over the years, particularly as I have gradually tried to honor Spirit's unfolding in my life by not neglecting the gifts within me, I have meditated long and hard about this inner directive, this craving for solitude. For I love the company of, my husband and child; I'm excited by brainstorming and creating fabulous projects with a professional team; I adore spending time with close friends. But what I have discovered while composing my authentic concerto is that some of the notes require pauses. I yearn for what May Sarton called "open time, with no obligations except toward the inner world and what is going on there." To maintain inner harmony it is essential for me to ransom at least an hour's worth of solitude out of every twenty-four and to defend this soul-sustaining respite against all intruders and distractions.

Deliberately seeking solitude-quality time spent away from family and friends-may seem selfish. It is not. Solitude is as necessary for our creative spirits to develop and flourish as are sleep and food for our bodies to survive. "It is a difficult lesson to learn today-to leave one's friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week," Anne Morrow Lindbergh admits. "And yet, once it is done, I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before."

I believe t.hat Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who endured more than any of us could even bear to think about, demonstrated with her courageous and creative life that it is not enough for us simply to end, or survive. We must surmount, learn to excel at playing our notes. We must move to a higher octave or a lower one, whichever is necessary to finding the delicate balance between our deepest personal passions and our commitment to family, friends, lovers, and work. As for me, I have discovered that the surest way to hear the soft strains of harmony is in the Silence.

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