Applying The Work of Byron Katie to the COVID-19 Contagion

As a peaceful warrior, I feel it is empowering to embrace my feelings of vulnerability and resistance – to ask the hard questions – and work through them – to find the gem of truth in the lump of coal.

Why?  Because there isn’t a moment to waste!  I wish to learn from every experience.  For me, examining my thoughts allows me to consider reality, in this case, the reality of our global situation instead of resisting the thought that it shouldn’t be happening.

Why is the thought, COVID-19 shouldn’t be happening, untrue?  Because it is happening.  That is reality.

Master teacher Byron Katie has been showing us how to challenge our beliefs for decades.  I found her work a couple of years ago and was amazed at the correlations between her process and the one I had devised to heal myself.  As a result, I advocate that we Question Everything, and use a meditative process that I call contemplative writing.  It has led me to a thoughtful consideration of what I believe to be true.

It’s true, all war belongs on paper…

The answers I receive are the result of Inspiration.  They come from the most honorable, compassionate part of me that I can access at this point in time.  I call this part, my Constant Traveler.

I believe we all have a Constant Traveler within.

Katie’s four questions blend perfectly with my own work.  They have opened up another level of inquiry for me.  I highly recommend them!  They are elegant, simple, and effective.  They spell Freedom.

Let’s begin with a common thought regarding this current pandemic:

What is the thought?  COVID-19 will make me sick.

      1. Is it true?  It has the potential to make me sick, most certainly, but I can’t know for sure that it will.
      2. Is it absolutely true?  Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I cannot know that it will make me sick.
      3. Who am I when I believe that thought, COVID-19 will make me sick? I am deeply afraid:  I feel an adrenaline rush.  It feels like the alarm bells ringing all over my body.  I feel restless…I cannot settle down – I feel I must search for reassurance or confirmation that my feelings are right.  I feel the urge to reach out…to keep talking about my fear.
      4. Who would I be without the thought, COVID-19 will make me sick?
        I would be okay.
        I would be content.
        I would sleep better – with more rest I could survey the situation with clear eyes and act with intention.
        I would be happy at home.
        I would be grateful for my blessings.
        I would be free to be helpful in whatever way I can imagine.
        I would be able to take clear, appropriate instructions and safeguard myself, my family, and my community.
        I would be able to create an oasis of peace, a peaceful retreat at home.

Let’s consider this TURN AROUND for the thought – COVID-19 will make me sick.  A turn around allows us to observe the issue from another perspective, in this case, its opposite:

COVID-19 won’t make me sickThis is also a possibility. It is always possible that I won’t be sick. However, it is always my responsibility to act in the service of others and keep my distance so I don’t make them sick.

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Can I think of any reason to let this thought (COVID-19 will make me sick) go? Yes. It is making me suffer and ruining my precious day.

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In order for me to be happy in this situation, what do I need to happen?

COVID-19 should go away.

As Katie says, thoughts are always of the past or the future. 

Let’s question this idea – one thought at a time. Do our conclusions come from our reality? What we are experiencing now? Look around you. Feel your environment. The floor is supporting you. The walls are sheltering you. Feel your sit bones making contact with your sofa or chair…feel your feet making solid contact with the floor. You are warm. You are fed. Breathe…be here now.  See your door. Remember it swings both ways. You can believe that it opens onto a world that is in chaos, or you can imagine your door as a portal that allows you access to safety and Sanctuary.

You can close the door. This is reality. Most of us are performing a vital service by staying home. If you have been designated as essential, or have to go out to get groceries, medication, or to take a walk, create a Sanctuary in your mind so that when you come home and close the door you are closing the door to crisis – crisis thoughts, words, and actions. Take that with you when you go.

ANOTHER TURN AROUND:

Disclaimer:  Turning this thought around is simply an exercise in speculation.  Remember that Katie teaches not all turnarounds work – just try them on for size and if they don’t fit, that’s fine.

COVID-19 shouldn’t go away.

This idea sucks.  However, in this exercise, we may discover our power as a global community.  What are some beneficial possibilities that can emerge from this chaos? What can we discover about ourselves?  Our community?  Our nation?  Our world?

How can we survive and thrive?  How can we become better on the other side of this – after we kick its ass? 

We can examine and develop:

Our personal resiliencewhen the going gets tough, the tough get going; we can use this time to reinforce our ability to survive and thrive.

Our resourcefulness – find ways to connect, to network, to work from home, to pay our bills.

Our values – to discover what truly is valuable to you – Family, lifestyle, health, creativity, service, friendship, etc.

Our gratitude – express our appreciation for the workers who are on the front lines (medical and emergency staff, retail clerks, truckers, strong leaders); health & and wellbeing, family support, financial resources.

Our ability to be of service – how can we do it? Volunteer in some manner? Spread the love on the internet? Remember staying home is a vital act of community service.

More effective communication – person to person as well as nation to nation. We can learn to listen more, and really hear what the other person is saying. Hold the thought that the world will come together and overcome ideological divisions as we care and share and create a global protocol that will benefit humanity from this moment on.

Our power to embrace change – life is change. It could mean a new world. It could mean a new job. We have no way of knowing what is in store so why not focus on the beneficial changes? Go with the flow…

Feed the “net” our positive vibes – there is so much misery floating around on social media – we can change what our newsfeed shares right now.  Your loving presence is needed more than ever!

Our understanding of human nature – realize that, as Katie teaches, if we believed that thought, we would act in that way too…everyone has a reason for believing what they believe. It is wise to question those thoughts by doing The Work on them.A deep understanding of human nature will reveal that the only person we have the power to change is ourselves.

The necessity of creating a personal Contingency Plan – an emergency fund – asap – financial advisors have recommended that we have enough money set aside to be able to weather a three month period of transition. Even if we cannot put that much aside, always pay yourself first. If we cannot create an emergency fund, research the government and community resources that will be available to you in the event of an emergency so you can weather the storm.

Begin, revitalize, or work directly with your creativityCreativity is our birthright as human beings. We are worthy of this wonder simply by being born. It has the ability to help us weather the storms of life. Write, draw, sing, paint, cook, dance, garden, carve…create something colored beautiful to decorate your world. Keep in mind that Katie teaches that, all war belongs on paper. Writing is the most cathartic and revealing exercise you can do.

Protect your health – it is a vital resource.  Boost your immunity by eating well, drinking water, exercising (Qigong, yoga, walking, cycling, and playing with your dog are wonderful ideas – check with your local health authority to ensure you are okay to leave your home during this time). Use this time to sharpen your focus on health and wellbeing.

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Physical distancing is easy to say but difficult to do.  Many people are feeling acute stress as this wears on.  Our medical and emergency personnel, our retail and restaurant staff and truckers are getting tired…

Please join me in sending them our love…

I invite your thoughts on this subject.

Take care, my friends.

 

Many Doors, One Sanctuary: 10 Doors to Active Wellbeing: Doorway # 2

When my kids were quite young (6 and 2) their father and I decided to take them for a short camping trip.  We choose a campground that was on the outskirts of Moncton, NB, involving only a couple of hours of traveling – not too far away for this first expedition.  We bought a tent, gathered our camping gear, packed the two of them, toys and car seats and blankets and food all, into our red Bronco II and headed for the campground.

Our afternoon was full of fun and games.  The children enjoyed the playground and splashed in the pool.  Supper went well, everyone was hungry and everything, even canned Irish Stew, tasted better outdoors.

When it was time for bed we took the children into the tent, wrapped them in their special blankies, and began our evening sleepytime ritual.  Our plan was to get the kids to sleep and sit around the fire for a couple of hours.

That is when my son announced, Okay, let’s go home now.

No, Mike, we are going to sleep here.  But where’s my bed?  

You have your blankets and your pillow, try to go to sleep.  But I need my night light.

Okay, let’s read a story (I get out the flashlight to read the book).  But Mommy, I can’t go to sleep here.

Nobody slept that night.  We were waiting – tent, and camping gear and kids and toys and car seats and blankets and food all, in our red Bronco II, in the parking lot of MacDonalds as the morning staff arrived to open the doors for breakfast at 6am.

Creating Sanctuary…

What is my point?  Well, by now, I think our patience with physical distancing is wearing thin.  Having time off work is old news.  Watching tv and surfing the net is getting boring.  We are well-rested and (at least for some of us) our house is cleaner than it has ever been.  Pets are so well attended to that even they are wondering when we are going to leave.

As this crisis creeps closer to home, we are beginning to become restless.  We need to get outside but are afraid of what waits for us there.  We must get groceries.  Some of us must have medications.  Kids are beginning to whine and fight for recreation.

Even those of us who identify as introverts are becoming a tad bug-eyed…

We want to go back to the way things used to be.

Here is how I see the difference:

It is different when we choose to stay inside.  It is different when we consider our home a retreat from the world, not a fortress against the world.

We feel like we are a boat without a rudder, floating along on an unknown sea, and we are reaching the point where the growing wave in front of the bow begins to break.

When will I be able to go back to work?  How will I pay my bills if this goes on much longer?  Holy crap, what if my company goes under?  Or my investments go down the toilet?  Should I take the kids outside to play?  My mom is in a nursing home alone.  This virus has no cure…

When the going gets tough, the tough get going…

This pandemic is a serious threat.  If we don’t practice physical distancing and adhere to the protocols as outlined by the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, more will die.  This is not a possibility, it is a probability.  It is wise to be deeply concerned and to act like we are contagious and don’t want to spread this virus to anyone else.

Creating a home Sanctuary means providing an oasis of wellbeing for us and our families.  This is a dedicated practice for a peaceful warrior.  We become relentless in our pursuit of peace.  We practice with the 5P’s in mind:  Fearless faith, focus, and fortitude.

It involves active engagement, nurturing the body, mind, spirit.  It involves opening doorway #2 that leads to enhancing our immune systems and mitigating stress through conscious, healthy consumption.  Open the door and discover the good things of life.

I invite you to consider these suggestions as you endeavor to fill your mind and spirit and body with good things:

2. Active Consumption

Media:  Perhaps it is time to limit our consumption of the news?  Remember the saying, If it bleeds, it leads…applies to media.  To back away from social media?  To stop reading about and joining in the discomfort of others?  To stop sharing complaints?  To actively use the wonders of our online connections to others to share what you know will give them a boost?  

Food:  Be strategic.  Shop for groceries once per week to lessen your chances of spreading this contagion.  Make a comprehensive list.  Pick foods that are high in nutrition and give you value for your money.

This is the perfect time to stretch your groceries out by eating less.  Practice the Japanese way of eating called Hara Hachi Bu.  This means eating until you are no longer hungry, not eating until you are full.  There is a world of difference.  In North America, we have been conditioned to eat until we can no longer eat another bite and believe this is beneficial.  All of the longest-lived societies in the world practice some form of calorie restriction.  This is part of the eating practices in what has been described as the SAD diet (Standard American Diet), which applies to all of North America.

Conversation:  This is the perfect time to Facetime with friends.  To meet on Zoom or Skype.  To share your support and encouragement with someone who is sheltering at home alone.  We need each other more than ever.  It always feels good to realize you are needed and you are loved.  This is the perfect time to give to others what you would love to have for yourself.

Reading:  Ebooks are a superb way to enlighten your mind and pass the time in an active, constructive manner.  Check out Audible.  Check out Youtube – many books and magazines are available for free online.

Next post will include thoughts on #3 Active Thought!  🙂

Stay well and keep spreadin’ the love, my friends!

 

Walk This Way?

Practice gratitude to feel gratitude. There is no other way.

You cannot give it service with your lips and expect to feel it in your heart.

Let’s ask a few interesting What if questions:

What if what you are talking about is what the Universe is giving you in return? Empty words devoid of feeling?

It is easy to read the wisdom books and memorize the correct terms. I have learned from experience that it is much easier to talk the talk than it is to walk the walk. Many times, when we say we know something it means that we understand it intellectually, but knowing something intellectually and actually living that way are two different things.

What if you substituted the word know as in I know what gratitude is, with the word live as in I live that way in everyday life…would the statement still be true for you?

This is what I mean – most people say they know what gratitude is, but do they really?

Intellectually I may know that gratitude means living with a grateful heart, but do I live my life with a grateful heart?

What if I am I pretending to be something I’m not?

People who live with a heart filled with gratitude practice gratitude every day, in every way they can. They know its true value.

They practice it so they can feel it. They share it so they can continue feeling it.

What if, in the words of Aerosmith, we were to Walk this way?

Point of Impact

What is the point of it all?

Everyone must find the answer to this question for themselves. The only way to answer it is through living and exploring your precious life.

Approach it with the mindset of a contributor. Consider your potential…what you give may be the catalyst for something wonderful happening in someone’s life. You never know what this means to you until you act.

A perspective that you share may open someone’s eyes, a smile may brighten their day, a kind word may cause them to step back from the brink of oblivion.

You may be the reason that another person learns to be kind because you allow them to be kind to you…

Everyone says, Think big! What impact can I make on a global scale? I want to change the world!

The choice to walk creates the path ahead…

I believe it is important to focus on the point of engagement that is right in front of me…and find the Something Colored Beautiful moments in my ordinary day, those mundane points of impact that I have come to understand as blessings in disguise.

Until we are willing to do that, to be quiet and listen and observe and serve, our ego runs the show. It is our ego that screams, Be important or die!

In this way, it is speaking its truth, because everything is a deathmatch to the ego. Problem is, in its world, everyone dies.

This is what I have found to be true in my life – If I release my need to be important to everyone, I can focus on being important to someone.

I believe it is important to not spread yourself too thin…build your impact one by one person at a time…the people you see before you are your point of impact.

The ego hates to hear that. It hates to be last, or even second best. It must win. If you let it win, this drive will cost you your life, because for our ego even first is never enough.

Engage each person from your power-point, your point of impact. Make every interaction a quality engagement. Whatever flows from that point…if you influence one or grow your impact to reach thousands or millions, you will have built it on a truly solid foundation.

Then, friend, you will have the satisfaction of answering your own question.

Afterthoughts

Can we ever truly heal from the death of a loved one?

I was listening to a radio show on CBC where the author being interviewed was discussing healing. He said he thought that you never really heal from the death of someone you love.

It struck me as a pessimistic perspective. I think healing depends on what healing means to you.

Oxford Dictionaries defines healing as “the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again.” This does not mean a reset back to the way life was before the event occurred.

After we experience the death of someone we love, we are not the same person we were before they died. To use the analogy of a wound being inflicted, we experience a deep rend in the fabric of our lives, one that feels like our heart actually has a gaping, bloody gash. It feels soul deep.

This gash did not exist before, so how could we possibly be the same after its infliction?

The way of all things is to be stripped of all things…

When you open yourself to love in this world, you are opening the door to its loss. Argue as we often do, we are neither exempted nor excused from any aspect of living or dying. We all live, and we all die.

Given time, wounds heal. Bones knit, and scar tissue forms. It may be bumpy and not as pristine as before, but we know that once it has healed, the actual site of a wound can be even stronger than it was before the injury. Nature has mechanisms for healing that operate unhindered if we accept this as fact.

The problem is, death is not a fact we are prepared to accept.

There is an appropriate and necessary period for a human being to mourn. This is unique to the character of each individual and cannot (and should not) be circumvented.

Grieving and feeling have a purpose. We need to deeply feel our farewells. The problem with healing from loss lies in our resistance to it.

When someone dies, you are abruptly smashed in the face by their physical absence. This shock happens not only after an unexpected death but even after a prolonged illness or the end of a long and productive life. You discover just how accustomed you were to your umbilical-like energetic connection when you, who are left, can no longer feel it.

Now you are faced with an entirely unfamiliar sensation — an unsecured and unbalanced feeling that will undoubtedly be one of the most terrifying experiences of your lifetime, an experience that may be further intensified for reasons that perhaps you are not aware. It brings you face to face with the naked brutality of your aloneness.

An adjustment period is natural, but we often resist this transition of learning to live our lives without our loved one in it. We hang on to their personal items, their favorite things. We search clothing for their scent; we lie on their side of the bed. We trace their scars in our mind and picture the way they wore their hair… Their little gestures and vocal inflections become overwhelmingly endearing. We visit their grave and talk to their headstone. We cherish these snapshots of them in order to keep them with us, as solid and earthly as possible. You only have to consider the despair you feel when you realize you can no longer recall the sound of that person’s voice to understand this deep resistance.

Through our desperate clawing at who they were in life, we keep the wound open. Deep down we know the purpose of our clinging — we are grasping for some measure of control over a situation that was entirely out of our control. We focus on worrying the wound, on keeping it as open and bloody as it was the first day it happened. We believe that if we keep it bleeding, the person is not that far away.

However, this wound is not fresh. It happened in the past. It could have been a year ago or 10 years ago.

During that time, your situation has evolved, but for some confusing reason, you may find that the fond memories do not satisfy you. Your mind keeps rolling back to the moment when they died. The situation is multi-layered; you may believe you wish to heal but perhaps do not recognize the contradiction of your words and your thoughts as you continue to replay and relive the moment of their death in your mind.

Your efforts to heal as well as to keep the wound open and bloody have been partially successful. A scab and some scar tissue have formed in some areas (you may be able to function on a superficial level), but your continued efforts to keep this wound open has opened the door to disease. The wound has festered, and when you are alone, you know the full brunt of its infection.

There comes a time in the healing process when you become tired of feeling sad. This is normal. It is not a betrayal of your loved one’s memory. It is the mind’s natural mechanism that allows you to move on and live — to create healthy scar tissue. After all, you are still alive.

When you are faced with this feeling, you have to realize that what you are doing is not working.

There is a distinct difference between mourning a death and celebrating a life. We must come to the point where we understand that we are not honoring either life (theirs or ours) by this suffering.

Do you continue to mourn the person’s death, or do you instead celebrate his/her life? Does their memory bring tears through loss or tears through smiles?

You have to consider that perhaps you have deliberately kept the fond memories at bay (and therefore denied your loved one’s life force or energy from once again blending with yours) because you cannot let go of who they were in life.

Where is the joy that their presence brought to your life if every time your mind accesses the memory of that person you become sad? What is more important to feel and share as their legacy?

Each time you are reminded of this person, the energy you generate through these thoughts serves to feed or to starve your own life force as well as that of all whom you encounter.

Healing is hard work. This presence of mind does not happen easily. It involves actively letting go, and, as I stated before, this takes time. Be kind to yourself, and let the days go by as they will. Feel and deal with your grief and loneliness in order to heal.

Remember, healing does not mean you will be the same person you were before their loss. Healing can mean you are a better person now because you knew and loved them.

It is the experience that, once you know, you will never forget, nor should you forget any aspect of their love and the gift of that person’s influence in your life. You simply train your mind to recognize the nurturing memories and gently substitute them for the sad ones whenever the sad ones come along.

I have found it beneficial to write down some of the happy stories about my loved ones and share them with others. It works just as well to keep them private and to read them in the times when you cannot seem to let go of your sadness.

Healing: the process of making or becoming sound or healthy A-GAIN. Wouldn’t that make your loved one smile, thinking about what they have given you?

Healing from death is honoring the life of the person you love through the way you choose to LIVE yours.

Excerpt from, Saving Your Own Life:  Learning to Live Like You Are Dying by Paula D. Tozer

Living In The Gap: Embracing Emotional Maturity

How does a person go from confusion to clarity? From restlessness and distraction to serenity? From conflict to peace? From noise to silence? From angst to joy? From entitlement to gratitude? From selfishness to service?

This transformation is the result of embracing learning and change.

I think that explaining the changes that happen when a person reaches emotional maturity is not as effective giving the person a means to obtain it.

 

Emotional maturity, for me, is what I term as living in The Gap (a state of inner space, not the store!). Viktor Frankl called it the space between stimulus and response.

The Gap is that split second between when something happens and our reaction to it.

 

  • Our senses to register it as having happened (stimulus)
  • They send signals to our brain
  • We sift through our mental database for a similar experience and choose the best possible reference. We remember what we did before, or what we have been taught, or what we saw someone else do in a similar situation (even someone on TV).
  • We to apply to this situation (response)

When we act from memory, when we remember a similar experience and act from it, we call this reacting.

Athletes work on their reaction time, repeating the same action until it becomes what we call Second Nature. Doctors and pilots and musicians and parents and factory workers and dancers, like Tom Cruise in the movie, Cocktail, practice their moves until they become so smooth, so easy, it is like they always knew how to do this thing.

But they didn’t. Even with natural ability, they still had to learn the moves. And it took years, even decades, to master this skill.

Living in The Gap gives us access to First Nature. This is who we are before we become domesticated, shaped, molded, and folded into a predictable version that is acceptable to mainstream society.

The original Big Sky country, First Nature is a space where the wildest, most courageous, curious, creative, and passionate hearts roam free. It is a space of calm, and quiet. Time becomes null in this void. It is Sanctuary.

It is where the most honorable and compassionate part of us, the part I call our Constant Traveler, awaits.

We must come to our Constant Traveler’s space. I learned that attempting to draw her “out here,” into the world, breaks the connection.

I spent decades catching only flashes of her…being with her just long enough to know it was possible but never being able to stay for more than an hour or two. I spent years yearning for the delight of this place that I knew existed but in which I couldn’t live…until Viktor Frankl taught me through his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, about the space between stimulus and response.

I began to extend the time in between when something happened and my reaction to it. It was hard. It hurt. I had to bite my tongue, as my Irish grandmother would have described it, and wrestle with my feelings over what I believed to be an injustice.

But I wanted it more than anything. I had to desire peace more than I desired defense.

I studied the work of psychologists Carl Rogers and William Glasser, and teachers like Jiddu Krishnamurti, Wayne Dyer, and Alan Watts, as well as other great thinkers and teachers. Gradually The Gap began to expand.

The Gap is the space where I learned how to shut my mouth and listen.

Emotionally mature people value The Gap above all else. They use time wisely. They take the time they need to consider an appropriate response and do not let the drama of a situation drag them from this sanctuary.

Essentially, it is where the subject learns to be the observer by positioning you, as A Course In Miracles describes it, above the battleground.

This is how life has changed for me. I am no nobody’s guru, but I do enjoy living in The Gap.

Try it on and see if it fits you.

It’s A Beautiful Day

You are here now.

Enjoy what you have. Prepare for the future.  How often have we heard someone say that? Sometimes this seems like it can’t be done, right?

Or we worry that it can’t be done right. It’s all so damn confusing.

The interesting thing about the future is that it is formed from today. I have found that playing with this idea has given me insight.

When this picture was taken I was sitting on a rock looking out at this magnificent view. I had just hiked for 1.5 hrs to get here.

At this point, my destination wasn’t even in view. Baxter Peak was somewhere up there to the right. For the moment it was blocked by a stand of trees.

The trek had just begun. I still had hours of climbing ahead of me.

I had done my homework. My hiking boots sat on the ground beside me as I cooled my feet. I could feel the sweat on my back…I was warmed up and ready for the next leg of the hike. This path was almost straight up, climbing over the huge boulders that comprise the Cathedral trail on Mt. Katahdin, the northernmost mountain on the Appalachian Trail in Maine, USA.

I knew the path – I had climbed the Cathedral before. I had trained for this.

I had a map. My way was clear. The mountain beckoned!

I found myself feeling very grateful for the man sitting beside me. My husband, Mark. Without him, I would not be here. He is my rock on this climb.

Mark is my adventure buddy, my hiking, cycling, kayaking, and resistance training partner, and my 2nd husband.

Before we met in 2005, I did most of my adventuring alone. On that particular today, I once again choose him and he chooses me.

I am pleased because it is always today. It is my choice to have Mark in my life for every today.

I remember this moment this picture captures very well – the way the wind whispered through the trees…the fresh evergreen air…the exceptional brilliant blue-green of Chimney Pond…the small chipmunk that sat on a rock behind me begging for peanuts…and the camaraderie of the other hikers who were about to take this epic journey along with Mark and I.

These people would be in my life for a short time, not a long time. I may not remember each of their faces and I did not catch many of their names, but I value every step with every one of them.

People come into your life for a season and a reason. The season may be long or it may be short. Some seasons must end sooner than later and you must move on.

The reason may be clear or it may be obscure. Either way, you must search your heart and decide what reason you give it.

Whether it is a reason to travel with the one who chooses to be with you today for as long as feels natural to you both or to use your discomfort as an excuse to prolong or pre-empt the experience…this is your choice, as well.

You are wise to be considering your choices before acting.

If someone is truly holding you back…if they are discouraging you from living your best life…it may be time to move on.  I never would have found Mark, my adventure buddy on the road of life if I had chosen to remain stuck in my discomfort, resigned to adventuring alone.

However, keep in mind that the present is where you get to enjoy today. Consider the gift these people may be giving you by inviting you to enjoy not just the destination, but the journey as well.

Your mountain awaits…and today is a beautiful day.