Zones Of Life

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I was thinking about comfort zones and how leaving them often leads to enhanced personal development when I did what any postmodern person would do….I Googled it. Eureka! Did you know there are two other common zones besides the “comfort zone”? Here is the trifecta:

  1. Comfort Zone
  2. Panic Zone
  3. Learning Zone

Wikipedia defines Comfort Zone as “… a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are at ease and in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress. In this zone, a steady level of performance is possible.”

Cool. Slow and steady wins the race. Or does it? Let’s look at the other two Zones and see how they measure up.

The Panic Zone. If your heart is beating so fast you can’t think straight, you’re probably in the Panic zone. There’s no progress to be had here because the only thoughts that makes sense are: you are uncomfortable, things are way over your head, and there’s no way to get out. Hence, the panic. Either you are under high stress and can’t think straight, or you attempting something that is personally dangerous. Either way, this is not a productive state of being.

Let’s look at the Learning Zone. This Zone is somewhere between the first two. The identifying factor in the Learning Zone is that something is “just out of reach”. We are motivated to get out of our Comfort Zones to grasp it, and far enough away from the Panic Zone we remain sane while doing so.

You are in the Learning Zone when whatever you are doing is neither boring or too easy. Rather than simply going through the motions, the Learning Zone forces us to engage all levels of attention in order to grasp the task at hand. It asks us to risk failing in order to achieve. Learning new skills is never comfortable, but can be very rewarding.

There is a circular movement between all three zones. Eventually, as we become more comfortable learning new tasks they slide over into our Comfort Zone. Even things that initially triggered panic can morph into the Learning Zone once we calm down and embrace the challenge.

While the Comfort Zone is our most preferred state of being, we get the most enjoyment and fulfillment when we engage in the Learning Zone. So the next time panic hits, take a deep breath and reassess. Is there any way to turn this into a Learning Zone? If yes, then do it!

You might be surprised with the results.

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Tea Plantation

CharlestonteasignI’m a tea drinker. Every job I go to provides coffee for the participants. Hunting down hot water for my own tea bags is not always welcome, and I often get the evil eye from the receptionist for asking if they have any. So when we visited my mother-in-law in Charleston a couple years ago I took a little solo side trip to Wadmalaw Island and the Charleston Tea Plantation.

 Owned by the Bigelow Tea Company, the plantation grows tea sold under the brand name American Classic Tea. Their gift shop hosts a tea tasting buffet of nineteen different types of teas and flavors. I tried every one of them while waiting for the next Trolley Tour.

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IMG_3246A fire-engine red trolley took us tea enthusiasts on a fun and educational tour of the beautiful plantation. Learning the history of tea growth and production was fascinating. We saw every stage from the young plants in the greenhouses to the harvest ripe fields. The vibrant green bushes were planted close together so new growth shot straight up—which is how the tender new tea leaves were harvested. Giant tractors with long cutting arms haircut the IMG_3233new growth at just the right moment for the type of tea being made. I learned that green tea and black tea come from the same plant. It’s the processing afterward that makes the difference.

 The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only tea plantation in the United States. In 1799 a French botanist brought the first tea plant to the States as a gift for a plantation owner. Over the next 200 years multiple companies and individuals tried growing tea in numerous areas in the South without success. In 1963 the Lipton Company bought one of the failing tea plantations and moved it out to Wadmalaw Island where they researched the plants for twenty-five years.

IMG_3253 Horticulture professor, Mack Fleming, who was involved in the research, teamed up with Bill Hall, a third generation tea tester from England, and purchased the plantation from Lipton. They started the successful Charleston Tea Plantation in 1987. Though the R.C. Bigelow Company now owns the plantation, Bill Hall keeps it thriving with distribution throughout the United States.

I have fond memories of our time in Charleston, but the highlight of the trip  was immersing myself in the beauty and culture of tea at the Charleston Tea Plantation. Now when I sip my hot savory liquid, I know where it comes from.

Faith

IMG_0747Faith is such a funny word. It tells us to believe something without proof. And with everything going on in this crazy world, it’s no wonder many find it hard to do that. So much of what we see, touch and feel these days seems temporary at best. The world is progressing at lightening speed. Things change all the time. Before we get used to the last update, there’s already a new one flashing in our faces.

So to believe there is something stable and permanent that can’t be affected by chaotic life around us can be tricky. But I do. God exists—but one has to believe He does before knowing for certain. That’s why its called “a leap of faith”.

Faith requires surrender when most of us have built our lives around control. The funny thing is we actually have very little control over what happens to us, even on a daily basis. Fear strives to keep us bound in the physical realm with limited physical resources. But faith opens the door to unlimited spiritual help that can impact lives and lift spirits when nothing else can.

When you choose to believe God exists, and that He cares about what’s happening here, your eyes will be opened to the miraculous ways He’s already impacting the world around us. Faith in God frees us to trust in something greater than ourselves that has our best interests at heart. It gives us hope even when life seems to be spiraling out of control. We don’t believe only when things are going well, but most importantly when things aren’t. That’s when faith proves most significant in our lives.

Faith assures us we are not alone and that we are loved unconditionally. With faith, help comes in miraculous and unexpected ways. But we have to believe in order to receive. Therein lies the catch.

We have to step off the cliff and trust that God will catch us.

I have…..and He does.

 

Vegetarian, as in Flexible

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There’s a new way of eating taking the health-conscious world by storm. These erstwhile proponents of mostly whole food plant based diets now include a little protein. They are called “Flexitarians” or flexible vegetarians. According to Webster’s Dictionary (2012), a Flexitarian is a person “whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish.”

Eureka! Count me in. Having bravely trekked through every fad diet on the planet in an effort to control Diabetes without drugs, I’ve finally found one I can really get behind.

I was on insulin for ten years before I embraced a very strict raw food/vegan diet in an effort to free myself from the injections. Goodbye insulin, hello good health. The diet initially worked, but after a while I found I had little to no energy and couldn’t sustain it while working full time. I felt better immediately with the addition of a little protein. I’m happy to report after seven years I’m still insulin free and my Diabetes is under control.

I often joked that if I were to write a cookbook I’d call it “Mostly Vegan”—because it’s become the best way of eating for energy and optimum health that I’ve found. I was a Flexitarian before I knew what it meant!

The woman who coined the phrase in 2008 was Dawn Jackson Blatner. She wrote a book called “The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Diseases and Add Years to Your Life. Her recipes include occasional bits of dairy and eggs.

Blatner says, “It’s not about slashing meat consumption as much as it is about prioritizing veggie rich dishes. Grains, nuts, dairy, eggs, beans and produce have a place in the diet, but processed foods and sweets should be avoided.” (Sorry, you chocolate hounds!)

The benefits of eating this way include all the plus sides to being a strict vegetarian, with the easier social graces of being able to eat what’s on the menu in most restaurants, and at dinner receptions.

A Time magazine article about extending the length of our lives recently cited the following:

“A 2015 study of 450,000 European adults found those who ate a diet that was 70% plant-based—fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and beans—had a 20% lower risk of dying of cardiovascular disease than other people. A Harvard University study found that people who ate eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people who ate less from the plant group.”

Popeye was right! Eat your spinach. Be a vegetarian MOST of the time. Then enjoy the occasional burger and fries with your friends.

Your body will thank you!

 

 

Life is a Maze

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All of us begin life with a blank slate. Or is that true? Heredity, environment, family, circumstances. Not everyone has the same starting point. Life deals a set of cards we have to play. It’s what we do with them that makes the difference.

We step into a maze of choices and reactions that set us on paths that determine our future. Whether we find dead ends, U-turns, or open roads, it’s how we respond that influences the journey.

‘What ifs’ are futile and waste precious time.

Don’t allow voices from the past, nor paralysis over the future, to determine your forward progression. The next step is always in the present moment. Unwillingness to deal with what’s trying to get our attention now is what keeps us stuck.

We spend so much time bumping into walls and wrestling with dead ends we lose the internal awareness that can guide us successfully through this maze called life. And yet the truth of the journey is found on the inside.

It takes courage to stop and listen—because to do so means we must be willing to be wrong. Assumptions fall away and new pathways will open when our need to control morphs into curiosity with a willingness to change and move forward.

Healing comes through embracing what is. Strength is found in quiet places of surrender. Acceptance brings peace.

We never know what’s around the corner in this maze through life. We can’t control our futures or destiny—but we can choose how we respond to it all.

Therein lies the secret to a well-traveled maze and a happy life.

Choose to enjoy the journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bloom Where Planted

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I was full of big ideas about life and things I wanted to accomplish when I was young. Then I grew up and reality took on different forms than I could ever have imagined—some wonderful, some not so good. Life handed out curve balls that pushed me in directions I hadn’t foreseen and onto paths that were unfamiliar.

Overall I’ve managed to keep my equilibrium and make the best of what I’ve been given. I’ve been mostly content, and have enjoyed much of my journey. So when I turned 58 a couple years ago I was surprised at the deep sense of grief that surfaced over those unrealized goals from my youth.

The feeling of loss over things that will never be, and experiences I will never partake of during this life hit with such finality that I found myself depressed and in mourning. I always thought I’d face old age with grace, but instead found myself kicking and screaming—NOT FAIR!

 I wasted a year feeling sorry for myself.

Then, one uneventful morning, I metaphorically slapped myself in the face and said ENOUGH! It was time to let go of those unfulfilled dreams. I needed to thank God I’m still healthy, and bloom where I’ve been planted.

I took stock, explored a latent interest in writing, and forged ahead. So what if I still feel frightened every time I try something new. That doesn’t stop me. Life is too short to worry about “what if’s” anymore. I just do it.

Guess what? I’ve found adventure, purpose, and excitement again. My future may be somewhat limited, but I’m making the most of the time I have left. And the beauty is I’m thoroughly enjoying this stage in my life.

If you’re feeling the way I was—please stop. New dreams are waiting to be realized, but you won’t find them unless you let go of the past and take a risk.

I used to think that flowers were most beautiful when they were just budding. Now I rejoice in the luscious extravagance of a flower in full bloom. Getting older has it’s challenges, but there’s much wisdom gained through life experience. Peace comes with accepting who and where you are.

Bloom where you’re planted, dears. If you make the most of today—tomorrow will take care of itself.

Glow

Nothing beats the glow-filled feeling of accomplishment that comes from pushing through obstacles and completing a worthwhile goal. Whether it’s a challenging physical workout when you didn’t feel like it, or persevering on a long term project that finally comes to fruition, that sense of fulfillment and satisfaction can put a grin on your face, light in your eyes, and a warm glow in your heart.

I just returned from three days in the mountains with fifteen women and fifteen hundred beads. We took multi-faceted multi-colored gems and turned them into beautiful instruments of worship that transformed our prayers and lifted our hearts into the heavenly places.

The women and I plumbed the depths of the Anglican Rosary from inception to implementation. I marveled at the creativity and tenacity each woman showed as they learned how to make Rosaries from scratch, then used them to connect with God in new and powerful ways. Surrounded by beauty and filled with the Spirit, we created, fellowshipped, laughed, cried and played together. I was truly blessed and honored to be able to lead them through this special weekend.

I’ve been to the mountaintop and back again, and though I’m exhausted physically from designing, coordinating and leading this retreat, my spirit is rejoicing and my heart is aglow with joy. It’s almost as if I can hear God saying:

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”img_0743