Row, row, row, your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
My dear friend and Mastermind partner, Donna Cox, recently wrote a blog post entitled Row your own boat that reminded me of the hidden wisdom in this little nursery rhyme.
I entitled this website and my novel in progress Life By Fire in juxtaposition to my past feelings that I was living a life in which “I barely tread water, barely keep afloat. Perpetually behind, perpetually overwhelmed, stuck in a whirlpool going round, round, and around. Life by drowning.” As a result, I find the wisdom in this little song particularly fitting! I wanted to share my contemplations on this rhyme with you—as Donna said, “Now who would have thought that this children’s song could be so filled with wisdom about how to live life?”
How to Live based on Row, Row, Row, Your Boat:
1 Get into the boat.
As intimated above, I spent too many years feeling that I was treading water, cold and wet, working wearily but getting no where. We often make life harder on ourselves than it needs to be. Why? Many reasons but, for me, the issue stemmed from some deep-set scarcity issues—believing that I never had enough energy, time, money, freedom—to do what I really wanted to do.
Some people spend their whole lives swimming, without ever realizing that there could be a boat. Some people spend their lives looking for the boat, but never swimming downstream to find it. Some people spend their lives swimming beside the boat without ever giving themselves permission to climb into it. The key to happiness is to get out of the water and into the boat.
What does the boat represent? The boat represents your rightful place in this life. Your boat is your purpose.
2 Get your own boat.
Don’t squat on or borrow someone else’s purpose—find your own. We’ve heard of the classic empty nest syndrome—mothers who devote their entire being to raising their children and then feel devastated and empty when their children grow up and leave. Other people give responsibility for “doing” to their spouse, and support their spouse’s purpose, rather than finding their own. Some people feel unworthy of their calling and therefore never answer it. Others believe that what they want to do and need to do conflict. We all have our own unique purpose to fulfill in this life and we are all worthy of accepting it. Get into your boat.
3 Choose the boat you really want.
Current science indicates that the natural state of the universe is constant expansion. Nature shows us countless examples of abundance. As eternal beings with infinity as our playground, we are made for expansion and fuller expression. Abundance is our natural state; scarcity is an artificial construct. So, don’t settle for a second-rate boat! Don’t stay in the job you hate because you think it’s the only way to make money. Don’t settle in the house you don’t like because you don’t believe you can afford a better one. Don’t ignore those good ideas that you really want to pursue because you fear taking a risk. Don’t get into the leaky little fishing boat, to spend your life bailing water, when you really want to sail! Think bigger—make your goal the luxury yacht!
4 Anchors aweigh.
The only constant in life is change. We can’t stop time. We can’t keep things perpetually the same no matter how desperately we want to cling to the past or the present for comfort. We need to embrace the journey and move forward.
If you want to go somewhere, you need to raise the anchor. The anchor represents spiritual blocks and judgments, terror barriers and paradigms—deep-rooted conditioning that keeps you stuck in a state of fearful paralysis. We need to raise our awareness and make the conscious choice to release these blocks and overcome fears in order to move forward.
Life requires work—mental work, physical work, emotional work, spiritual work—work. We can ignore it, deny it, lament it, procrastinate about it, and complain about it, or we can accept it and do it. So, we may as well get on with it.
Most people do not come into this world knowing their purpose. You have to work to find it and then work to fulfill it. There is no magic bullet. Most people go through a significant amount of dreaming, hoping, wishing, desiring, planning, struggling, and working before they attain their goals. So, get rowing.
6 Go gently.
Be gentle with yourself and others. Forgive, forgive, forgive yourself and others for mistakes you have made in the past so that you can move forward with a clean slate. Row gently—don’t wear yourself out with daily toil—balance efficient, productive work with rest and rejuvenation.
7 Point your boat and your focus down stream.
“Resist not…” If the universe is always for expansion and fuller expression, then so are you—go with it. Dissatisfaction is healthy if it leads you to positive change. Embrace change and opportunity. Take risks. Follow your instinct. Go with your flow and look ahead!
Some people spend their lives focusing on the past—lamenting it, regretting it, reminiscing about it. Don’t sit backward facing the wake and then worry over the tumultuous water! Forget the past, only now really exists. So, take your seat in the Captain’s chair, look ahead, and steer your boat! As you travel downstream, it widens into a river—the vast open ocean of possibilities awaits you!
8 Feel joy—sing along the way.
“Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily…” Life is an experience, not a journey to a determined destination—enjoy the ride downstream and sing along the way. I recently watched a beautiful video based on the words of British philosopher Alan Watts who likened life to music. (I wrote a Life is a Musical post about it.) He said:
“Existence, the physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t have a destination that it ought to arrive at. But, it is best understood by analogy with music. Because music, as an art form, is essentially playful. We say you play the piano, you don’t work the piano. Why? Music differs from, say, travel. When you travel, you’re trying to get somewhere. In music though, one doesn’t make the end of the composition. If so, the best conductors would be those who played the fastest. And there would be composers who wrote only finales. People would go to a concert just to hear one crashing chord because that’s the end! Same way with dancing. You don’t aim at a particular spot in the room, because that’s where you should arrive. The whole point of the dancing is the dance.”
So, sing and dance! Celebrate life. Live in the moment. Set milestones. Enjoy the process. Reward your progress. Practice gratitude. And have fun.
9 Understand that Life is but a dream.
From a scientific perspective, in my Manifesting Reality post, I discuss how “most scientists now believe that materialism is not a valid world view. Physicists now accept that particles do not exist as objects in the absence of observation. They exist only as waves, which transform into particles when observed.” The material world is not the static, permanent, “real” thing we thought it was—it is waves of potential, which sometimes transform temporarily into particles with lots and lots of space between them.
From a spiritual perspective, many traditions describe the universe as a mental construct within the Mind of God. From this perspective, we realise that we are eternal spiritual beings who have chosen to have a temporary physical experience. As A Course in Miracles states, “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.” (Your body can be threatened; your soul cannot. Therefore, your soul is real; your body is part of the dream.)
Created in the likeness of God, we are eternal beings with infinity as our playground. This physical life is but a page in our book of life—a book without an ending. And, we have the power to manifest our physical reality with much greater precision than we formerly ever imagined. Life is but a dream—so live it on purpose and make it a beautiful one!
It is with great pleasure, humility, and gratitude, that I invite you to get into the boat and embark on this beautiful journey with me. I invite you to live a Life By Fire.
Tempest-tossed souls, wherever ye may be, under whatsoever conditions ye may live, know this: In the ocean of life, the isles of Blessedness are smiling, and the sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming.
Keep your hand firmly upon the helm of thought. In the bark of your soul reclines the commanding Mistress; She does but sleep; awaken her.
Self-control is Strength.
Right-thought is Mastery.
Calmness is Power.
Say unto your heart, “Peace, be still!”
From As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
Reflections on the passing of my beloved Papa, Peter Loewen, November 14, 1925 – July 14, 2016
Last Thursday, I received some very unexpected and sad news: my beloved grandfather—my Papa—had collapsed and died. We had celebrated his 90th birthday the October before. Despite his advanced age, he was still enjoying excellent health, mobility and vitality. He still drove competently. He walked daily. His mind was still clear and sharp.
After my initial shock and anguish passed, I began to fully comprehend the blessing of his passing. He had spent a glorious day in the summer sun at the beach with my aunt and uncle and their family—surrounded by a number of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. After a beautiful day, and good dinner together, he announced that he was heading out. He left the house and collapsed in their driveway. A good, quick death.
Since then, I have been reflecting the lessons he has taught me about living well. In my experience, my Papa wasn’t one for spouting truisms—he was too humble a man for that. The few times I ever asked him for advice, his answers were intelligent and practical. But, example speaks louder than words. So, I thought I would share with you just some of the lessons I learned from Papa.
My Top Ten List of Things I Learned from My Papa:
1. Make People Feel Good
I watched Papa at restaurants or interacting with the nurses who cared for my Nana. He liked people. And they liked him. Because he made people feel good. He was considerate and cheerful and generous with his smile and praise. He left people feeling happier than before they met him—and appreciated—he made people feel appreciated.
2. Try New Things
My husband, my girls and I love international food. We’ve taken Papa out for Japanese food, including sushi several times and he ate enthusiastically with us each time. He never hesitated or commented that something was too different for him. He even commented that he would return to the restaurant on this own “for a change”. He sincerely enjoyed trying new things and he embraced them.
3. Mind over Matter: You can do anything with enough will power.
My Papa had a will of iron. He had used it to overcome many hardships in his life. And he understood moderation. If he knew he needed to change something, he made the decision and changed. And he stuck to it.
4. Don’t Complain
Papa didn’t complain. In the last years with Nana, he occasionally discussed issues around Nana’s care. But, it was never with the intention to complain, or speak disparagingly—it was always with respect and the sincere intention of solving the problem. He didn’t vent and he didn’t find enjoyment in judging other peoples’ actions. He minded his own business.
5. Enjoy your Work: Do what you love and love what you do.
Some of my fondest memories with Papa date back to going on transport truck trips with him. Laying in the bunk of the cab. Eating pork rinds. Drinking creamers while we waited for our dinner in a good old-fashioned truck stop. Papa would let me drink the creamers and eat the butter patties straight! We ate a lot of butter together in our time. He loved to drive. He loved the road.
I also remember Papa’s barber shop—the candystripe pole—watching him talking cheerfully as he cut someone’s hair. When he couldn’t stand anymore to cut hair, he returned to trucking. He was practical—moreso, he practiced contentment.
6. Troubleshooting Skills: You don’t have to know how it works to fix it.
Papa had a natural capacity for fixing things. He was a clever, capable, resourceful man. One time, our old dryer broke. And he fixed it. Just like that. He just figured it out. I don’t tinker with motors but I think of him when I troubleshoot broken website code—I’m not a programmer but I follow his lead and just figure it out.
7. Complete the Job
Whether it was washing dishes, cutting the lawn, or trucking across Canada, Papa finished what he started. Papa committed himself fully to any and all tasks. When he started something, he finished it. He worked hard. He did what needed to be done—willingly, with determination, and to completion.
8 and 9. Be Loyal and Love One Another
I watched Papa’s devotion to Nana in their last years together with awe. His patience, dedication, and love. Nana and Papa may have experienced challenges, disappointments and frustrations, and even some heartbreak. But, Papa always treated Nana and, after her passing, spoke of Nana with the utmost respect and tenderness. He choose to remember the best times. He chose to focus on love, and it brought him, and all of us, happiness.
And, finally, number 10—the last lesson I learned from Papa about living well:
10. Leave on Good Terms
Maybe some of us had disagreements with Papa at one point or another in the past. Maybe there was a hard feeling or harsh word. But, I can’t remember. Because he healed wounds. He let go of any grievances from the past and he lived his last years in the present, in joy and contentment. From Papa, I learned gratitude and forgiveness and grace.
I learned from Papa that when it’s time to go, pack light. Embrace the journey, and hit the road without a fuss—after a full day in the sun and a good meal—with your sandals still on, and still full of sand from the beach.
What’s stopping you from doing what you want to do in 2016?
Time? Money? Energy? What about fear?
Mindfields and Terror Barriers—what are they and how to overcome them?
For too many years, I neglected to do what I really wanted to do out of fear…fear of failure, yes. But, also fear of not having enough…time, money, energy. Occasionally, in an atypical burst of enthusiasm, I would explore a new idea, only to get stuck as soon as I encountered any form of complication. My mind would invent all sorts of reasons why it would not work, could not work, or should not work. These are MINDFIELDS and they blow good intentions and great ideas to smithereens.
Here’s a good, relevant example: This online novel-writing project. On January 1, 2015, in launched this online writing project with the intention of publishing excerpts of the novel as I wrote them. But, then, a couple of good intentioned people cautioned me, “Oh, be careful, no publisher will publish a novel that’s already online.” Boom. The fear of doing it wrong stopped me in my tracks and I decided I needed to “step back” and “stay on the safe side”. No more novel posts—I returned to writing my novel in my closet and posting only “reflections” about it on the website.
Staying on the Safe Side of What?
Have you ever had a great idea but allowed yourself or someone else to talk you out of it based on fear…fear that it could fail? Have you ever actually embarked on making that great idea reality and then felt a sense of doubt, lack of confidence, realization that it is going to be hard, or been sidetracked by a million little distractions that your mind told you were more important or pressing? Those are all forms of the TERROR BARRIER and the Terror Barrier has been turning people’s dreams into nightmares since the dawn of time.
How do you overcome a terror barrier?
- Call it out. Recognize it for what it is—fear. Of failure. Of getting it wrong. Of the unknown. Fear.
- Know that it’s normal. The fear barrier is a deep-rooted, but misplaced, survival instinct intended to keep you safe. But, there’s a price to pay for safety.
- Climb it. Like a mountain, you either have to blast your way through the terror barrier or climb over it, one step at a time.
You blast through it with unyielding determination. You climb over it with patient persistence.
So, here I am. January 3, 2016—exactly one year after I committed to publishing excerpts of my novel online regularly in 2015. I’m renewing my commitment to regularly post excerpts from my novel as I write them.
“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”
Have you ever experienced the Terror Barrier? Please, tell me about it here.
(Originally Written: April 22, 2013)
My little girls and I have been building a fairyland together. When I was 16, I inherited of collection of doll-house miniatures from my Great Cousin Dede. Countless tiny, exquisite items, including everything from multiple china tea sets, chandeliers, and royal crowns to canopy beds, full kitchen sets and cuckoo clocks. She left them to me because they had fascinated me as a child. But, at age 16, I didn’t know what to do with them. Despite not having an immediate purpose for them, I cherished her gift and carefully stored them away for future use.
Many years later, my girls grew old enough to appreciate these tiny treasures. Rather than simply purchasing a pre-made doll house, our imaginations led us to creating a Fairyland in which to place all these items. To that end, yesterday morning, I though: it would be nice to find a part of an old plastic kid’s castle or something that we could use as parts to build another section of the castle in their Land.
Yesterday afternoon, I drove to the bank in Elmira. The parking lot sported one of those metal boxes for donating clothes to charity. In front of the metal box, I noticed several garbage bags (assumedly of clothes) as well as part of a kids pink plastic toy castle!!!
But, it sat in the middle of a busy parking lot and in front of a donations box, clearly intended to be donated. Although the donation box displayed a sign clearly stating that it was for clothes only, not toys or other household goods.
I hesitated. Could I take it? I drove around the parking lot and directly past the box and castle. I paused again and looked around, noting several people close by. And then I drove away without taking it. I felt like it would be stealing to take something intended for donation. Perhaps more realistically, I felt embarrassed being seen picking something up from a junk pile. But, in hindsight, I imagine if I had asked the person who dropped it there, he/she would have gladly handed it to me and felt pleased that it would be of use. The universe supplies what we ask for but we have to feel worthy of the gift and proactively accept it—only then can we receive.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
When the door opens, enter!
(Originally Written: May 25, 2013)
On the weekend, I decided we need a better work table for our little girls’ playroom so they both have room to sit and work without getting in one another’s way. I knew what I wanted but we didn’t have one.
In the meantime, I set up another folding table. But it was too tall (and too long). So, I went out to the barn in search of four concrete blocks to sit it on rather than the fold-down legs, thereby adjusting the height. I thought we had some large concrete blocks but searched all the feasible nooks and crannies and no blocks.
Later that day, my aunt came over and noticed my makeshift too-tall, too-long table. I described to her what I really wanted. She said, “oh, I have exactly that table at home—it is sitting in my hallway and it keeps getting in my way but I don’t know where to put it!”. She brought it over and it is exactly the height and dimensions I described! We got our table and she got it out of her way!
When I turned the corner today from Northfield, right onto Sawmill, the brick house on the corner is renovating. They had a huge pile of exactly the concrete blocks I had envisioned by the side of the road with a “free” sign on them!
It just goes to show that the universe gives us what we ask for. The thing I think we have to remember is that sometimes what we ask for is not necessarily in our best interest…like asking for bricks to hold up the make-shift table when manifesting the perfect table was a much better option. The universe has bigger and better plans in store for us than we ever imagined, we just have to open our awareness to the possibilities.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
Based on lessons repeated again and again and still only partially learned the hard way.
- Remember that people are doing the best they can at the time—we all fail occasionally and lament it longer.
- Assume that people know what they’re doing—your trust heightens others’ performance.
- Assume that the other person’s logic is valid from their perspective—everyone “has a point” worth considering.
- Ask the questions necessary to attempt to understand the other person’s perspective—everyone has a story worth hearing.
- Take the time to investigate fully—a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
- Withhold criticism before you understand the other person’s reasoning—it’s never “black or white”.
- Withhold criticism after you understand the other person’s reasoning—insight and example open doors, criticism slams them shut.
- Feel gratitude for the effort the person has made to engage with you—“no man is an island”.
- Feel gratitude for the person who has engaged with you—teachers come in many disguises.
- Express gratitude for the effort the person has made to engage with you—they deserve to feel worthy of your time and their effort.
- Offer insight when asked—there are many doors, but you only have two feet.
- Assume that others’ viewpoints have evolved as much as mine have—we are all on a spiritual path.
- Be gentle—people will remember what they felt more than what you said.
- Lead by example—argument may speak the loudest but action speaks the clearest.
- I’ve been contemplating my own history of human interaction and have come to some conclusions too discomforting to discuss here. Suffice to say, I’m hereby decreeing my new rules of engagement—14 of them, it’s an auspicious number.
- The phrase “no man is an island” in #8 above refers to a section of a work by John Donne, which I also used to lead off the Death By Water part of my Life By Fire novel. On the novel website, you can read the section at the top of the Death By Water Table of Contents page.