Double Nickels

September 09, 2019

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

This week I’m celebrating a milestone birthday—55—“double nickels,” as they say. I wanted to write a post like, “55 Things I’ve Learned in 55 Years,” or even just share a few nuggets o’ wisdom with you. 

Well, I would if I could.

Instead, what I’ve learned over the past couple of months is that I still have so much to learn! That even at the mature age of 55, I make dumb mistakes, feel at a loss when faced with certain problems, and that the depth of my resources for coping with a series of mishaps and inconveniences is not as robust as I would like it to be.

All good things to learn, if a bit humbling. Does that happen to you? Just when you feel like you have a handle on life, it all goes catawampus?

For too long, worry, stress, and frustration have been my frequent companions.  If you read August’s Happy Little Thoughts newsletter, you know that Tank has been having a problem that could become quite serious, our truck died and needed a new engine, and this weekend my car had to have an expensive repair. Oh, and the reason this post is going up after 7 p.m.? My laptop keeps crashing every time I type a few letters into my word processing program.

I have been trying (oh, how I've been trying) to allow simple pleasures and everyday adventures to shore up my happiness during these difficult times. What has helped most is knowing that these frustrations have a shelf life. The vehicles will, eventually, both be fixed. Tank has been improving and seems out of danger. Some personal stuff will also eventually resolve. What I need to do is pay attention, be present, and act with maturity. I’m doing my best. 

And that's not a bad lesson to learn, no matter what your age: do your best. Assume everyone else is doing the same. And, as someone once said,  Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

What is one of the most valuable things you've learned in your years of living?


Epiphanies Sold Separately

January 29, 2018

Photo by Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash

Recently I read a blog post that I really liked. I liked it so much, that I immediately wanted to use the same format to write one of my own. It started with an epiphany, and went on give an example from the author’s life of how she grew to understand the epiphany.

As I sat in my office rocking chair, pen and paper in hand, I wondered, “Why can’t I think of any epiphanies and great stories like this to share with my readers?” I mulled it over for a while, and there it was…an epiphany about epiphanies (how many times can I write “epiphany” in one post?!):

You can’t force epiphanies.

They come when they come. So much as I would love to have new and brilliant epiphanies to share with you every week, I just…don’t.

Perhaps this is an indicator to me that I need some well-filling—an artist’s date, a mini-break. Noodling time has been scarce for me lately, and I’m feeling the effects. And after all, it is winter. Winter is a time for introspection, staying warm, allowing some dormancy so that spring can bring new growth. A time for gathering thoughts and seeking inspiration.

When searching for life lessons (you thought I was going to write epiphanies, didn’t you?), all you can do is open your mind and heart to what’s around you. Have a humble and teachable attitude. Try not to be oblivious. And even if you do all these things, you may still come out with nothing.

Epiphanies sold separately.

That’s OK—they’re still there, and you’ll—we’ll—find them in due time. At least, that’s what I believe.

Have you had any epiphanies lately?

David Kessler

When We Have Truly Lived

August 31, 2016

“To age gracefully is to experience fully each day and season. When we have truly lived our lives, we don’t want to live them again. It’s the life that was not lived that we regret.”
—Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living

Happy birthday to two of my favorite people: my son, and my father-in-law. They both are great examples of living life fully.

Life lessons

Life Lessons From the Mat: Rest Now

May 27, 2016

Photo courtesy windyschneider

After two weeks of reno chaos, I’m finally able to leave my house for more than the absolute essentials. Yesterday I indulged in the simple pleasure of my favorite local yoga class—Yoga for Stress Relief.

In this class, we use props such as bolsters, blocks and blankets, to help us hold restorative poses without straining and tiring our muscles. We let the props support and cradle us, allowing us to go deeper, hold longer, and really relax into the poses. Yesterday, as I have so many times before, even as I settled into a pose, I could feel my muscles clenched and tense, holding on even when they didn’t need to. I had to consciously relax them into the support beneath me. I could almost hear my body sigh with relief as the instructor led us through the day’s sequence and I began to let go of my tension.

It occurs to me that I do the same thing in other parts of my life. Even when support and help is available, I don’t ask for it. If someone offers to help, I don’t always accept it. I don’t use the resources available to me, just like I don’t relax and let the props do their job in yoga class.


Well, let’s see: independence (not to say stubbornness), fear of being a bother or a burden, a bit of control-freakishness, and a dash of the two-year-old’s, “I can do it myself!” Oh, yes, those are good reasons.

Even in our more strenuous classes, our yoga instructors remind us there’s nothing wrong with using props to make our poses more effective. Every body is different and requires different support to work its best. We are to listen to our bodies and give them what they need, both on and off the mat. It’s a lesson I’m slowly learning.

Aside from the obvious physical and mental benefits, the message of the Yoga for Stress Relief class is: “Rest now. You don’t have to do it all by yourself.” A good message for us all, and not just while we’re on the mat.

So the next time you need me, you’ll find me in savasana, supported by a folded blanket under my head, a bolster beneath my knees, and an eye pillow draped over my eyes. 

Rest now.


Daring to Delight

March 02, 2015

I’m determined to do a better job of living my word of the year in 2015—why not when it’s such a nice one? So I plan to review my progress every month or so, and see how much delight I’m allowing into my life. Since I am the “gatekeeper of delight,” so to speak, here are three ways I’m exploring the concept:

Instead of blindly rushing through my day, I have made deliberate attempts to slow down both my movements and my thoughts so I can pay better attention to the details. That first sip of coffee in the morning—delicious! How relaxed and strong my body feels after yoga class. The deep pleasure of climbing into bed at the end of the day. I’m blessed with more delightful moments than I recognized.

It can feel really selfish to seek out delight, but I am letting go of the guilt feelings that arise when I “indulge” myself. Last month, I made the mundane more delightful by picking up a cinnamon dolce latte and a new book to read while I waited for an oil change. I played music every chance I got—using my iPod while vacuuming and mopping and listening to Pandora while working in my office. I’m also making sure I take short breaks during the day, rewarding myself when I complete a task, especially if it’s one I don’t enjoy. When faced with any choice now, the go-to question is, “Does this delight me?”

I’m also working on becoming more mindful of ways to share delight with other people, through acts of kindness, thoughtful words, or sharing something (book, movie, website, food!) that will bring pleasure to someone else. There’s much delight in sharing delight!

So far, the first life lesson “delight” has given me is this: It’s OK to enjoy my life. To take delight in simple pleasures and everyday adventures. I don’t need to feel guilty or uncomfortable because I have such a good life when so many people do not. It has been repeatedly pointed out to me that my suffering or unhappiness doesn’t help anyone else. In fact, it can add to the unhappiness of those who care about me. Instead, I dare to feel more delight, more happiness, and to spread it to others every chance I get.

When and how do you dare to feel delight?


Saturday's Adventure in Horsemanship

December 08, 2014

I love how relaxed these two are
When I bought Tank 10 years ago, I had hazy ideas of what we would do together. I knew I would ride, of course, maybe jump some low obstacles, and I wanted just to be able to hang out with him, to be near my very own horse. My lifelong dream. For a while, riding casually and hanging out was enough. Then I saw a demonstration by a group of people who used the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program—the things they could do with their horses, on a lead line, under saddle and at liberty (with no tack)! Both people and horses looked like they were having fun. My curiosity piqued, I started learning about Natural Horsemanship and my relationship with Tank became infinitely better.

But it’s been a couple of years since the last Parelli infusion and we’ve become too set in our ways. When I’m not planning to ride, I’ve gotten into the habit of only hanging out—pleasant, but not the best use of my barn time if I want to strengthen our bond and be able to do more things together. I’ve become lazy about coming up with games to play with him. And playing with Tank is good for his mental and emotional stimulation, as well as cementing my role as leader. I’m pretty sure right now he whinnies when he sees me because he knows he’ll get snacks, not because he can’t wait to see what we do together! (Hey, it’s a start. At least he likes to see me coming.)

So hoping for inspiration, Saturday I attended the first day of Pat and Linda Parelli’s Future of Horsemanship Tour in Tampa. This was my second time at a Parelli event (see “Mind: Blown”). This event was smaller than the one I attended in 2012, and not quite as packed with information. Most of the presentations were different, however, and this year they had a brief demo of Cowboy Mounted Shooting by Jesse Peters—which he performed bridleless—way cool! The photos aren’t very good because he was going so fast, and yet he was able to navigate the course and slide to a stop on a dime. Amazing partnership.

Jesse Peters
I won’t get all technical with you, but I did come away with some new ideas for playing with Tank, and, of course, some other little life lesson-y tidbits!

“When you take off the lead rope and halter, you’re left with the truth.”
When you take away the external controls, will the horse stay with you or wander off? What kind of relationship/partnership do you have? In my horse world, the truth is that sometimes Tank will stay with me and sometimes he won’t. I’m not yet the most interesting thing in his world. Applying this principle to the rest of my life, I ask myself what would I do/say/eat if I didn’t have external controls? If I were trying to please only myself and honor my deepest beliefs and wishes? How would my life be different?

Ernie following Pat and Slider
Use psychology to improve training.
One of my favorite segments was the one on horse personalities—or horsenalities (since horses aren’t people). The Parellis have broken horsenality into four categories: left brain introverts, left brain extroverts, right brain introverts, right brain extroverts. (Tank is a left brain introvert.) This is important because each type of horse needs a slightly different approach in order to learn. This goes for people, too, however you want to divide and categorize them. Communicating with spouses, children, coworkers, family members and friends can be enhanced by understanding their personalities and choosing the communication techniques most likely to get through.

I want to become a better horsewoman, and in order to do that, I need to put a bit more time and thought into my horsey activities. I’ll have to rebalance my other activities, and sometimes that’s uncomfortable. (For instance: to go to this event I had to miss my library’s annual holiday book sale!) I believe it will be worth it. And now, to the barn!

What do you want more of in your life? What, if anything, will you have to give up or change?

Linda and Hot Jazz


Unlikely Inspiration: Once Upon a Time

November 24, 2014

You know I love a good life lesson, and I’m not picky about where I pick it up—from my pets, from a tea bag, etc. My latest source? The TV program Once Upon a Time.

If you’re not familiar with it, Once Upon a Time is set in the fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine. During the first season, we learned that the residents are characters from fairy tales (such as Snow White, Prince Charming, Rumplestiltskin, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and so on) who had been brought to the “real world” and robbed of their memories by a curse cast by the Evil Queen Regina. The townspeople had lived in Storybrooke for 28 years, without being aware of their true identities (or even of their own lack of aging) until a character named Emma Swan broke the curse and restored the residents’ memories. Turns out Emma was the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming who had been sent into the real world as an infant before the curse was cast. Emma is also the birth mother of Henry, adopted son of Regina, and it is Henry who brings Emma to Storybrooke in the first place.

And from there on it only gets more complicated.

At first I didn’t like it that the writers kept adding more and more characters from every possible tale…Dr. Frankenstein made a brief appearance, as did the Mad Hatter and Pinocchio (the newest additions are Anna and Elsa from Frozen.) Once I let go of any possible logic and went with the fantasy flow, I found the show more enjoyable as pure entertainment. And then I began to realize that it actually contained some excellent life lessons. For instance:

Magic has a price. This is most often said by Rumplestiltskin. Characters are always trying to make deals with him and each other to get what they want, often with terrible consequences. For me, this means that shortcuts to what you want come with a cost, usually a high one.

No one is all evil or all good. The backstories of the “evil” characters all feature some type of trauma or tragedy that helps to send them down the wrong path. I’m not excusing them their evil deeds, of course, but it’s a good reminder to condemn actions and have empathy for the people who commit them. Another positive point of the show is that characters are frequently offered the choice to do right or do wrong. To put it simplistically, it’s their choices and actions that make them good or evil. Oddly enough, my favorite character on the show is Regina, the evil queen who cast the curse that started it all. While she’s certainly done more than her share of evil deeds, she’s also been through a great deal of suffering and heartache. She’s also done good things—by all accounts she was a loving mother to Henry, and she’s joined with the other townspeople to fight this season’s new villain. She’s continually being crossed in love, and I really want her to find the happy ending she’s seeking. On the other hand, Snow White, who is mostly pure and good, killed Regina’s evil mother, Cora, thus blackening her own heart just a bit. It’s so easy for us to want everything to be clearly black and white—we forget that people, especially, are not that way.

We must accept ourselves and what we’re capable of. Some of the characters in the show have magic powers, including Emma. Emma has imperfect control over her power, and nearly gave it up. She’s coming to realize that it’s not enough to receive acceptance from others. She also has to accept herself before she can feel truly whole (and control that pesky magic). We often think that we won’t feel good about ourselves until we are accepted by others—but sometimes it’s the other way around. Accepting ourselves for who we are is just as important, if not more so, than receiving acceptance from others.

I admit that I may be the only person who is drawing life lessons from the frothy concoction that is Once Upon a Time. That’s OK with me. I like my life lessons to come to me lightly rather than hammer me over the head. How about you?

Have you found any unlikely sources of inspiration or life lessons lately?

Everyday adventures

Planting Hope

September 22, 2014

Is there anything more optimistic and hopeful than planting a garden? 

This weekend, my husband and I prepared our largest garden bed for fall planting. We had to dig out the old soil, pull up the tree roots creeping into the bed, put down cardboard to slow their return, and refill the bed with a mixture of the old soil and a good helping of fresh soil from our compost heap. It was hot, drippy work, but we were left with a beautiful, ready-to-be-planted bed.


After and ready for planting
We’re also growing our garden from seeds—another hopeful and optimistic endeavor. Can you imagine sweet sugar snap peas coming from these:

Or carrots from these:

That’s what we’re hoping for, along with a few other Florida cold season crops.

There are many garden-to-life metaphors/parallels/life lessons, such as: in gardening as in life you have to get your hands dirty if you want things to grow, or gardening and life both have “seasons,” and so on. One of my favorite lessons, however, is that beautiful things can come from unprepossessing beginnings. Tiny, dead-looking seeds produce luscious tomatoes, beautiful blooms, crunchy carrots, and aromatic herbs. This makes me feel hopeful that when I feel parched and withered, with the right care and nurturing I can produce something beautiful and delicious, too. Even though each seed contains new life, it will not sprout unless its growing conditions are met. The spark of creativity and life within me must be nurtured as well. All I need to do is look around me for the nurturing I need to grow and bloom. And, sometimes the hardest part, allow myself that nurturing, whether it is a delicious meal, an afternoon nap, a coffee date with a friend, or half an hour spent daydreaming and listening to music.

I’ve been feeling tired, parched, and withered lately. While I have been allowing myself time for dormancy, for just chillin’, I’m ready to leave this stage and move on to the next. My favorite season—fall—is coming and with it, the cooler, drier air that always gives me an energy lift. I want to feel that spark of creative energy wake up inside me, and I want to grow and bloom the way our garden will (I hope). While I’m waiting, I’m going to pay careful attention to my growing conditions.

In what ways can you make conditions right for your own blossoming?


When Good Computers Go Bad

May 02, 2014

Life took an unexpected detour last weekend when my computer began “acting funny” (my tech-savvy description). My husband spent a good portion of two days helping me tinker with the computer and doing online searches for things like “log on process has failed to create the security options dialog” and other, more ominous messages. After running various diagnostics and “fixes” (haha), which resulted in the computer doing nothing but blink at us, we finally determined the hard drive was failing and needed replacement.

My husband was confident he could replace the hard drive himself and we ordered a new one. We read a step-by-step description of the process, and watched a tutorial on YouTube. After the new drive arrived, he was able to put it in in just a few minutes. The most time-consuming thing has been reloading my operating system and all my programs. Fortunately, I had all my documents backed up. I thought I had my photos backed up but didn’t, not all of them—I’m still working on that. And figuring out how I can plug in my iPod without iTunes erasing all my music! (That’s happened to me before…) I figure by the end of today I’ll be finished getting things back to normal.

New hard drive
I’m deeply grateful to my husband, Larry, who worked patiently for hours while we tried to figure out the problem, and finally fix it. He put into words the moral of this story when he said, “You can fix anything if someone will show you how.” A good takeaway when life hands you unexpected adventure.

I would also add, if you have anything you value on your computer, back it up, Back It Up, BACK IT UP!

So endeth the lesson.

And how was your week?

An Imaginary Visit to a Past Vacation

As in Art, So in Life

March 31, 2014

As I mentioned in “Hello Sketchbook, My Old Friend,” I’ve been taking Laure Ferlita’s An Imaginary Visit to a Past Vacation class. Not for the first time, I noticed I’m learning more in art class than simply how to sketch—I’m learning lessons that easily expand beyond the art studio. As in art, so in life:

Preparation makes everything easier… Laure encouraged us to do thumbnails (quick sketches in a junk journal to figure out placement of images and lettering).  Before starting a sketch, I made sure I had my palette, full waterbrushes, paper towels and tissues, my color chart, my reference photos, and a scrap piece of watercolor paper if I needed a quick color check. Once I started, I didn’t want to have to stop to hunt something down. This is also a good way to approach new projects and experiences: figure out what resources you need to have before you get started so that you can proceed smoothly.

…but sooner or later, I have to start. I sometimes let myself get stuck in preparation mode, forever putting off action. Facing a blank page in my sketchbook feels remarkably like facing decisions or starting major projects. Once that first mark hits the page—or I take that first action—I usually relax and can continue without too much fuss and bother.

I’m often my harshest critic. I was pretty happy with my sketches in this class, but in previous classes, I have been frankly embarrassed to share my work. I could see only the flaws in it, how it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, and how (I felt) it wasn’t as good as everyone else’s. My fellow classmates always found something good to say, and ways to encourage me not to give up. When I comment on my classmates’ art, I always look for something specific that I like about it, and I can always find it. I should be so generous with myself! I have a feeling my art isn’t the only area where I’m much harder on myself than is necessary.

As always, I had a great time in Laure’s class, and was able to take away more than just the beginnings of a new sketchbook. I still have one more assignment to complete, so excuse me while I get ready, get started, and ease up on myself. 

So what have you been up to lately?

David Kessler

Happiness Is Possible Today

February 12, 2014

“We insist that we can’t possibly be happy until tomorrow, when things change. But if happiness is possible tomorrow, it is also possible today. If love is possible tomorrow, it is possible today. We can find healing even if nothing changes. To surrender to life ‘as is’ can miraculously transform situations. It is in this surrender that we are able to receive. The universe gives us the tools to fulfill our destinies when we let things be.”
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living.


Some of My Best Teachers Have Four Legs

January 13, 2014

“Everything natural—every flower, tree, and animal—has important lessons to teach us if we would only stop, look, and listen.”—Eckhart Tolle

I’ve had various pets nearly all my life. Aside from their cuteness and cuddleability, pets can be expert teachers of life lessons (and if you doubt me, check out the delightful book Guardians of Being). Currently, I have one elderly dog, a “teenage” kitten, and a middle-aged horse. They’ve taught me many, many things (including don’t wear any clothes to the barn you’re not prepared to ruin, and no, the kitchen counter is not tall enough to keep food away from either the kitten OR the dog…). 

Here are a few of my favorite life lessons from my pets:

From Prudy:

There is a time for play and a time for cuddling. Know your priorities and stick to them.

The world is to be explored.

Like everyone until they prove unlikable.

Assume everyone likes you until proven otherwise.

From Scout:

Do everything joyfully: get up in the morning, go to bed at night, eat, announce your presence to the world.

Sleep when you’re tired, even if something interesting is going on elsewhere.

Don’t put up with bull$&@, but only do as much as you have to to get it to stop—don’t overreact.

From Tank:

You can make huge progress by taking many small steps.

Relationship is more important—and ultimately more satisfying—than tricks or blind obedience.

Hold out for your favorite treats. Spit out the ones you don’t like. Don’t waste time (or calories) on them.

Don’t let the turkeys get you down. 

Animals live in the moment. They don’t worry about what might happen tomorrow, or what the dog next door has, or what the horses in the next paddock might be saying behind their backs. Seems like some pretty valuable wisdom to me.

Have you learned any life lessons from an unusual source?


What the Heart Can't Express

July 15, 2013

Photo courtesy Melissa Anthony

“Tears are words the heart can’t express.”—Gerard Way

Tears have been on my mind lately. Though I don’t break down and sob very often (thankfully), I tear up easily. A touching commercial, passionate conversation or beautiful performance can all start the waterworks. Frankly, I should just carry a package of tissues with me at all times. I grew teary at my son’s graduation, at my stepfather’s funeral, and I’m attending our niece’s wedding in a couple of weeks where I expect multiple incidences of tearing up. The wedding will be so fraught with emotion: excitement, happiness, nostalgia (for her growing-up years and my own long-ago wedding), there’s zero chance I won’t cry at least once.

Tears are actually quite interesting. There are three basic types of tears, according to Wikipedia: basal tears (tears that lubricate the eyes), reflex tears (those caused by irritation of the eye or actions such as yawning), and psychic tears (tears caused by emotions—both positive and negative). Emotional tears are made up of different chemical compounds than those caused by eye irritants, including leucene enkephalin, a natural pain-killer, “which is suggested to be the mechanism behind the experience of crying from emotion making an individual feel better” (Wikipedia).  

Tears can be the result of sorrow, grief, wonder, admiration, pleasure, passionate feeling, even prolonged laughter. While it’s true that you can laugh till you cry, it’s also true that you can cry until you laugh! Sometimes you have to go through the suffering (instead of avoiding it or “stuffing” it) to get to the happier “other side.” Crying it out can be a therapeutic way to take a step towards those happier times. (Maybe we should buy stock in Kleenex?)

One interesting thing I’ve learned about happiness since beginning this blog is this: I need to feel and accept my feelings—all of them, not just the “happy” ones. There will be very happy times and some not so happy and they’re all a part of a happy life. There will be tears and laughter (sometimes at the same time) and that is the way it should be.

What makes you tear up?

Everyday adventures

Mind: Blown

December 07, 2012

Pat Parelli and friends

I’m sorry I didn’t post on Monday. I wanted to, but I was suffering the aftereffects of a weekend spent having my mind blown.

My friend Marianne and I attended the Tampa stop of the Parelli Horse and Soul Tour Dec. 1-2. We spent two days perched on uncomfortable bleachers, trying to absorb all we could from each session. Sessions included information on the Parelli program’s Seven Games, “Horsenality” (personality types of horses) and rider biomechanics, as well as “spotlights” featuring Parelli-trained humans and their horses and a couple of “horse makeover” segments in which Pat or Linda Parelli worked with an individual and her horse to overcome problems they were having. We saw some remarkable examples of horsemanship, both on the ground and in the saddle. I won’t go into all the details of what we learned, but I will share with you three concepts/lessons I took away.

Para-Olympian Lauren Barwick 
Lauren is paralyzed from the waist down
“Where knowledge ends, violence begins”
Pat Parelli said this in one of our first sessions and it was easy to see how this is true of more than just horse/human relations. When we don’t understand someone or something, we can become afraid. And when we’re afraid, anger and violence too often follow close behind. The more I learn about horse behavior, particularly my horse’s behavior, the gentler I can be with him, and the more he will trust me. The more I understand other people, the gentler I can be with them as well.

Playing the Sideways Game at liberty (with no lead rope)
“Let the horse make the mistake”
Instead of micromanaging the horse, trying to prevent him from doing the wrong thing, allow him to make a mistake. Then correct him and teach him the right thing to do. (Parelli pointed out that micromanaging is really like nagging.) This really struck me because I know I sometimes micromanage Tank. Ask, wait, correct if necessary. That’s it. Don’t ask, ask, ask louder…

I easily see how this can be applied to how I deal with myself and with others. How do I feel when someone nags or micromanages me? I do this to myself all the time, because it seems like I have a pathological fear of making mistakes and doing things “wrong.” I have to remember that making mistakes is necessary for learning. I need to relax about them, allow them to happen, and then learn from them without browbeating myself in the process.

Linda Parelli with Hot Jazz
“Use lateral (not linear) thinking to problem-solve”
Linear thinking follows a step-by-step process, essential if you’re putting something together or cooking a complicated recipe, for example. Lateral thinking uses creativity and an indirect approach, like when you’re brainstorming ideas or actively problem-solving. Lateral thinking is essential when working with horses because every problem that comes up is different because every horse and human partnership is different. If you ask a horse to do something, and he either doesn’t do it or freaks out about it, you’ve got a problem that needs lateral thinking.

I’m not very good at lateral thinking. I’d rather know that if I do X then Y will happen. So often I do X and Q happens and I’m not sure what to do next. Maybe I should try B or Z or even 7? I want to develop creativity and flexibility in my thinking, both with my horse and in the rest of my life. (It’s easy to think of other situations that need lateral thinking—perhaps motivating a teenager to do something he doesn’t want to do?)

Last weekend reignited my passion for playing with my horse and building a stronger partnership with him. I always enjoy my time with Tank, but now I can’t wait to get to the barn. In fact, that’s where I’ll be this morning! Trying out my knowledge and lateral thinking, and letting him (and myself) make mistakes. 

Has anything blown your mind lately?

Kung Fu Panda

Life Lessons From a Panda

July 11, 2011

Saturday night, my husband and I re-watched a favorite movie, and we must have been in a philosophical mood, because we began to draw life lessons from it and share them with each other. What was the movie? That great spiritual classic: Kung Fu Panda.

Yes, I know it’s a kids’ cartoon, but I’ve been known to take life lessons from tea bags, so bear with me.

For those of you not familiar with this movie, the story is set in a fictional valley in ancient China “peopled” with anthropomorphic animals. A new Dragon Warrior is about to be chosen, ostensibly from among the Furious Five, a group of kung fu masters trained by Master Shifu. Surprisingly, Shifu’s mentor, Master Oogway (a tortoise), chooses Po, a giant panda who has crashed the party (literally) after strapping himself to a set of fireworks. The Dragon Warrior must protect the valley from the villainous Tai Lung, Shifu’s former pupil who was denied the position of Dragon Warrior long ago and has just escaped from prison seeking revenge.

The humor and the terrific animation help the lessons sneak into your consciousness. Some of our favorites:

  • If you love something, you’ll put up with a lot of grief/pain/frustration in order to do it. Po wants to learn kung fu so badly that his response to a good tail-whipping during training is, “That was awesome! Let’s go again!”
  • When you discover what motivates you, the battle is almost won. Po’s motivation is food. One of the best scenes in the movie involves a bowl of dumplings and the comment, “You are free to eat.”
  • Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift. That is why it is called the present. Yes, I’ve heard it before. But somehow, hearing a wizened old tortoise say the words…
  • There is no secret ingredient. Po’s father is a noodle seller, famous for his “secret ingredient soup.” Turns out, there is no secret ingredient. To make something special, he says, all you have to do is believe it is special.
So today, do what you love, find out what motivates you, enjoy the present and believe you are special. Thank you, Kung Fu Panda.