The Weight of a Human Soul

What is a soul, exactly? According to my good friend, Webster’s Dictionary, it is all these things:

“1. the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.

2. the spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, or as believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come: arguing the immortality of the soul.

3. the disembodied spirit of a deceased person: He feared the soul of the deceased would haunt him.

4. the emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiments.

5. a human being; person.

6. high-mindedness; noble warmth of feeling, spirit or courage, etc.

7. the animating principle; the essential element or part of something.”

Scientific studies have been done where a dying person has been placed on a platform over delicately balanced scales. When the person expires, there is a weight loss of one half to three quarters of an ounce. (Check out Snopes for this one; it goes into much more detail.)

But what about how all of us non-scientific folk feel about souls? I can only tell you the truth of my own soul.

Like Santa Claus, I know when I am naughty or nice. I know when I am being rude, selfish, obnoxious, angry, etc. I also know when I am working to be a better person. I envision my soul as a vapor-like shape of myself sitting behind the wheel of my body, trying to keep on the straight and narrow.

Due to the fact that we all came to earth with free will, it must be difficult for my poor soul to keep on course. When I swear and rail against the things that bother me, I can almost feel my soul cringing. It is as if I hear a whisper in my ear saying, ‘you are better than this, come on now—make this RIGHT!’

I’m sure that this “soul or no soul” has been an ongoing debate since the beginning of the human race. Speaking just for me, I have always believed I had a soul, in fact, I believe that every sentient being has one.

My goal for today (well, every day) is to keep my soul shiny and clean and not aggravate it to the point where it wants to pack up and leave.

The Positive Effect of Smiling

Well, I don’t know about you, but I have been noticing that a whole lot of people are driving around, walking around, biking around, and hanging around looking both angry and miserable.

It isn’t apparent why they look this way, but I’m guessing that, like all of us, they have their problems and issues.

We can’t know what’s going on in another person’s life. All we can see is their outside.

In our lives, things happen over which we have little or no control. The best we can do is to roll with the punches, and hope for better days. There appears to be no reason for many of the things that fall into our lives—there you are, on the road, obeying the speed limit, listening to your favorite music. It’s a beautiful day, and all appears to be right with the world.

Then BANG—you are sideswiped by another vehicle and all of a sudden, you are on the side of the road with a flat tire and a smashed-in bumper. What’s the reason? Why did this happen to you? How did you possibly deserve this?

Some things just have no answer; things can just happen. So, what can you do? Since there isn’t a way to predict the future (for now, anyway), all you can do is the best you can do. You can prepare, be ready for any emergency you can think of, and so on, but things will happen that are beyond your control.

I don’t like bad things happening to me anymore than you do. However, the only thing I know to do is to be as prepared as best I can, and to try to stay positive. Also, I keep a smile on my face.

I’m not saying that a smile will keep you safe from a crazy driver, a moose running out in front of you on the highway, or slipping on a banana peel and breaking your arm.

But what it does do is to keep you feeling good. It also gives people you meet an almost involuntary response of smiling as well.

Where this works the most for me is at the grocery store, where everyone seems to be in a mood about something, or while driving. I know that when I see someone smiling, it always makes ME smile. I’ll admit that it’s a funny phenomenon, smiling, but it does seem to work.

*Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D has this to say about the positive effect of smiling:

“Scientists and spiritual teachers alike agree that the simple act [of smiling] can transform you and the world around you. Current research (and common sense) shows us that a smile is contagious (1). It can make us appear more attractive to others. It lifts our mood as well as the moods of those around us. And it can even lengthen our lives (2).

Each time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.”

How about that? I don’t know about you, but I am going to face this day with a smile on my face. I would much rather my face have smile lines than frown lines.

Smile on, everyone!

*From Psychology Today.

Everyone Brings Something to the Table

As the Olympics are going on in Rio right now, I am amazed and awed by the dedication of all the athletes from all over the world. I can’t imagine the hours, days, weeks, months and years of training they have all had, and how focused they are. Imagine all the parties, dances, road trips, and so on they have missed because they chose to train each day to do their personal best. I think of the dedication of their parents and mentors, who have made it their business to nurture and encourage these talented young men and women.

Just imagine what it takes to decide to give all your time and effort to be the best you can be, all the training it takes to stay focused. Not to mention all the sacrifices that they and their families make daily in order for them to even qualify for the Olympics. It’s hard to wrap my mind around that kind of commitment. You’ve got to really love what you’re doing to put the rest of your life on hold to be an Olympian.

So what about the rest of us? What of our struggles, commitment, and the hard work we do? How about all those people who decide that they want to have children? Now there is a commitment that lasts until your last breath. I think it must be a lot like being an Olympian; sacrifice, training, strength of body, mind and soul; all of that plus the knowledge that each and every day you are responsible for lives other than your own.

What about our service men and women and their dedication to keeping our country safe? What about our police men and women? Our firefighters and teachers, our nurses, doctors, EMTs, and all medical people?  What about our veterinarians, who help keep our beloved pets healthy and strong? What about the farmers who provide food, the truckers who deliver it, the shopkeepers, the postal workers, the garage mechanics who figure out what’s wrong with our vehicles?

And there are so many more ‘valuable players’ out in the world that help make our lives better in so many ways. We may not all be Olympians, but we are all integral to this world we share together.

This makes me think: what do we each bring to the table each day? Of course not everything that we do is a life-changing event, but what we do does affect others around us. I remember a time when I was in one of the fabulous Gallerias in Dallas, TX. A friend and I had shopped our brains out, and we stopped to get a coffee. As we stood there with all our bags, purses, hot coffee and sore feet, we soon realized that all the tables in the food court were full. I was so tired I felt I could sit right down on that sticky floor and go to sleep. My friend nudged me, and I looked up to see a table of three women waving at us.

We walked over, and one of the women said, ‘here, take our table. We’re just leaving.’ We thanked them profusely, and we all smiled at each other. As my friend and I enjoyed getting off our feet and sipping our coffee, we marveled at how kind some people are. Once we finished our coffee and starting collecting our things, we noticed a small family looking around for a table, their arms loaded with a huge diaper bag, a squirming baby, a toddler, and two trays of food. We waved them over, saying, ‘we’re just leaving; please take our table.’

Every one of us has a place at the table we call Life. Everyone is here for a reason. Everyone of us has a purpose and a life mission (whether we realize it or not), and everyone of us is valuable. Getting through the many challenges and tests we have during our lifetimes can often be an Olympic effort. We may never wear a gold medal for our country, but I like to think that we may have one waiting for us on the other side, signifying that we did our best.

Gut vs. Ego

Ever hear the term “gut reaction?” It’s a real thing. When we get a sense that something is right or wrong, true or false, safe or dangerous, we may actually feel it in our gut. The ego, however, is the real snob of our body system. It is eager to discount those gut feelings; saying to us, ‘oh, don’t listen to them; what do they know beyond digesting food and eliminating waste? I’M the expert you need to listen to.”

Yup, the ego believes it is the boss of the entire body. It thinks it knows all, sees all, hears all; in fact it does do all these things, BUT it does not have the instinctual fore-knowledge that the gut has. Call it the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome, it is the ancient part of us that is aware 24/7 of danger, or if simply something or someone doesn’t ‘seem’ right. It warns us ahead of time of situations we may not see in time to protect ourselves.

Example: I was driving down a road with which I was very familiar. I knew all the side streets, the speed limit, etc. As I drove along, I saw a little blue car driving on one of the side streets. All the windows were down, and the young woman driving was bopping to the beat of music she had cranked up. Although she was wearing sunglasses, I had the distinct feeling she was not looking where she was going; that she was too wrapped up in her music.

Even though I had the right of way, I slowed down as I approached her street. Sure enough, as I got closer to the street, she zoomed out in front of me. Honestly, I don’t think she even looked before she stepped on the gas. I was able to stop in time, thanks to a gut feeling.

I have learned over the years to trust that feeling. Often nothing of great importance happens, but some times it does. The gut feeling is not only relegated to dangerous situations or people, either. Often you may pick up on little things, such as unhappiness in someone. When I feel this around a person, I send them love and a prayer that whatever is wrong may be made right.

You can also get gut feelings about animals as well. As any pet owner knows, we can tell when something is wrong with our furry friends. Our one female cat, Nala, was acting very twitchy a few years ago. A rather nervous cat at the best of times, she seemed to be more touchy than usual. Back then, we only had her and Pookie, a male of about 5 years old at the time. All of a sudden he began play-attacking her, sneaking up on her and jumping on her. Each time, Nala would hiss and swat him.

I was concerned for her, and took her to our vet. The vet soon found the source of her trouble; she had a ruptured anal gland. While this is rare in female cats, it does happen. Once the vet took care of it and applied medication, Nala was back to her old affectionate self, and Pookie stopped harassing her. He knew something was wrong; we humans didn’t. So his gut reaction was spot on.

So, not to disparage the ego in any way, do listen when you feel your gut talking. If you get a feeling that something isn’t right; with a person, a situation, etc., then probably something isn’t what it seems. Pay attention! Your ego may be saying, ‘oh, for Heaven’s sake, nothing is wrong! Just walk down that dark alley; it’s a great shortcut!’

Listen to your gut; it is after all your internal radar.

 

 

A Christmas Carol

My all-time favorite Christmas movie is “A Christmas Carol,” with Scrooge played by the incomparable Alastair Sim. It was filmed in black and white in 1951, and it remains in my opinion the finest version of this classic Dickens tale.

The message I always carry away from it is that redemption is available to us all. It is possible to transcend our weaknesses, fears, worries and doubts; we all have the choice to decide to be our own better angels.

Being positive takes practice, but it can be done. What’s the first thing to come to mind when nothing seems to work out the way you planned? Is it “Oh, NO! Everything always happens to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” or is it “Well, this will set things back a little, but I can work with it.”

Being positive is a choice. We really can choose our moods, not let them choose us. After years of being moody, rude and sarcastic (well, I haven’t quite stopped being snarky from time to time), I realized that I was deliberately pushing people away and I certainly didn’t feel any better.

Again I will refer to the amazing *Noreen McDonald and her life-changing classes. In taking her Positive Thinking class, everything changed for me. I found out that I can actually choose to be positive, not always slip into negativity. I am slowly learning to find the lesson in whatever major or minor disaster that has caused me to get my knickers in a twist.

It can be as simple as this: when someone cuts me off in traffic, scaring me into near incontinence, I can choose to be glad that nothing happened. A thoughtless and dangerous action caused by someone whose mind was elsewhere did NOT cause damage to me or my vehicle. I have to concentrate on gratitude. To further clear out any negative emotions on my part, I also say out loud, “That was dumb and dangerous. Don’t do it again.” Then I thank God and all the angels that nothing worse happened.

I also find that deep breathing helps clear my mind and de-stress my body. As I said, it takes practice, but changing our attitudes really does help. When something negative happens, more and more you can go to that place in your mind that says, “Whoa! You don’t need to ruin your day over this. Calm down, be grateful, and go on with your day.”

Nine times out of ten, the person who ticked me off in the first place did not pick me out personally to torment. It is rarely personal. We can’t know what is going on in another person’s head, nor can we know what has happened to that person to distract them. After losing my mother a week ago, I have noticed that I am forgetful, subject to sudden laughter or tears, and that I can’t always keep my thoughts in order. What has happened to me has happened to hundreds of thousands of people; we just never know who is suffering, angry, scared or worried.

This isn’t to say that I have overcome anger and snarkiness forever–far from it. I just have to keep reminding myself that I do have a choice.

Some of my favorite quotes from “A Christmas Carol” are these:

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.”
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”
“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!”
Merry Christmas, everyone!

*Check out her classes at www.noreenmcdonald.com.

Some Great Quotes From Some Great Women

I’m a great admirer of strong-willed women–I come from a long line of them, and each one in some way has touched my heart and soul. The following are quotes from other great women.

Read them and be inspired–I am!

Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got. There is no yesterday, no tomorrow, it’s all the same …. day.
— Janis Joplin

Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today?
— Mary Manin Morrissey

Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.
— Erica Jong

Find out who you are and do it on purpose.
— Dolly Parton

Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul;
And sings the tune without words
And never stops at all.
— Emily Dickinson

I am not afraid. I was born to do this.
— Joan of Arc

I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

I really don’t think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don’t mind the failure but I can’t imagine that I’d forgive myself if I didn’t try.
— Nikki Giovanni

I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.
— Tallulah Bankhead

If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.
— Peace Pilgrim

If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain.
— Dolly Parton

It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility.
— Rachel Carson

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.
— Agnes Repplier

It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends.
— J. K. Rowling

Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in life has a purpose.
— Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.
— Dr. Joyce Brothers

Love is the only thing that we can carry with us when we go, and it makes the end so easy.
— Louisa May Alcott

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.
— Harriet Beecher Stowe

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
— Marianne Williamson

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.
— Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Pure love is a willingness to give without a thought of receiving anything in return.
— Peace Pilgrim

Sometimes questions are more important than answers.
— Nancy Willard

Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.
— Ingrid Bergman

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

The more anger towards the past you carry in your heart, the less capable you are of loving in the present.
— Barbara De Angelis

The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.
— Maureen Dowd

To be kind to all, to like many and love a few, to be needed and wanted by those we love, is certainly the nearest we can come to happiness.
— Mary Stuart

The soul should always stand ajar. Ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.
— Emily Dickinson

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.
— Anna Quindlen

We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.
— Anne Frank

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

You never find yourself until you face the truth.
— Pearl Bailey

You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.
— Barbara De Angelis

 

Did Anyone See the Super Moon?

The Crankee Yankee and I just came in after going out on our porch to watch the super moon eclipse–amazing! Earlier, I had driven home from my parents’ house at dusk and got to see the enormous super moon rise like a big silver coin.

As it sat between the continuum of pale blue and rose pink sky, it looked as if it had come close enough to kiss the earth. As it grew darker, the moon glowed luminous and lit up everything in its path. All I could feel was happiness in being able to witness this incredible sight.

At around 10pm the eclipse had nearly covered this super moon in a mist of coppery-red, as though it was coyly drawing a silky veil across its face. Breathtaking! I heard that this event will not happen again until 2033–by that time I will be 82 and the Crankee Yankee will be 83–imagine that!

What a gift to see this–I hope that everyone got the chance to experience this wonderful event. By the way, just for fun, here are some words that rhyme with moon:

  • June
  • Rune
  • Monsoon
  • Tune
  • Baboon
  • Honeymoon
  • Typhoon
  • Loon
  • Goon
  • Soon
  • Spoon