I recently found this article/video on CNN and was pleased to see that there is now scientific evidence to support the advice that Miles Gardener offers to Jamison in my book, The Bountiful Garden. Mindfulness training can be achieved in a lot of ways . . . playing a musical instrument, reciting a poetry from memory (something I’m doing regularly now and loving it!), yoga, skydiving (go ahead and just try to think about something else while you’re taking that leap from a perfectly good airplane). In a new book I’m working on, I compare it to training a dog to lead because it’s a lot like putting your mind on a leash and teaching it to heel. Once it’s trained then you can give it permission to run wild or get still and life becomes a whole lot more peaceful in the process!

Embedded video from CNN Video

Part Two

Denise discusses the importance of planting the seed for your most authentic life. Video recorded from her cabin on the Buffalo River in Lobelville, Tennessee.

Denise discusses the importance of planting the seed for an authentic life.

So many people have written to ask how they can get a copy of The Bountiful Garden. Books can be ordered online at http://www.TheBountifulGarden.net. I’m also working furiously to make the books available in small bookstores across the country. Blue Bicycle Books in Charleston now has copies available as does First Church Unity in Nashville. If you know of a bookstore interested in carrying them, please email me at denise@thebountifulgarden.net.

My friend Jen posted a challenge on Facebook last week: Perform one random act of kindness each day during the month of December.
Great idea, I immediately replied, typing my acceptance for all the world (or at least all of my Facebook friends) to see. This, I thought, would be a piece of chocolate covered cake. But, it seemed, I had a thing or two to learn about myself and the effort required to pull off a random act of kindness.
Day one came and went and at the end of the day I couldn’t come up with a single act of kindness to show for it. OK, I quickly forgave myself. I’d simply carry it over and make certain to perform two tomorrow. But again, at the end of the day, I failed the test. Three carryovers and counting.
Jeeze, this is tougher than I thought!
It’s not like I’m a mean person and thankfully, I can’t add anything to the random act of meanness column but really, this clearly isn’t something I’m going to be able to do without a little preparation.
As I was working my way through a reflection of the day, searching desperately for anything that might qualify as a random act, I passed by minor items, like, “thanking the cashier,” or “smiling at the crossing guard.” As far as I’m concerned, those are gimmes—actions that are automatic and without forethought.
That’s when it came to me. To qualify as a random act of kindness in my book, the act would require intention and attention. By that I mean, I would need to be aware of the situation including my actions and how they might affect another person. And then, I would need to act with intention—a decision based on creating an outcome.
In my book, The Bountiful Garden, I addressed the importance of intention and attention as part of seven affirmations called, The Gardener’s Way.
It is the last of the seven affirmations and is titled: Seeds of Mindful Responsibility. It reads:

Knowing that my thoughts, my words and my actions are powerful beyond human understanding, I act with mindfulness; focused on positive outcomes and always conscious of the effects that they might have on myself, my family, my community and my world, today and into the future.

For me that’s the key–the component I’d been lacking for the first three days of the exercise are the ones I miss most days of the year. I’m rarely MINDFUL of most of my actions throughout the course of the day. And, I don’t think I’m alone in that regard.
I’m willing to bet that most of us go through our day, focused on what happened last night, or on our long list of ‘to-do’, or what we’d fix for supper, or why our boss seemed to scowl at us when we entered the room. It is rare, at least for me, to be completely mindful in the present moment when the rest of the world is beating at the door.
So, tomorrow’s another day. Day four, in fact but I intend to make certain that the sun doesn’t set without me reducing my growing list of “need to dos,” by at least one or two. To make certain I’ve printed out the affirmation – you’ll find a list of all seven at http://www.TheBountifulGarden.net – and will carry it with me throughout the month as I create attention and intention for manifesting kindness in my world.

The Gardener's Way Poster

I’ve had so many people asking me if they could get a copy of The Gardener’s Way affirmations from The Bountiful Garden so I created a poster, suitable for framing. It’s for sale at http://www.TheBountifulGarden.net. But, you’re also welcome to simply copy them down for yourself. If you’d like to reprint them or post them on your site, but please be sure to include the as copyright, (c) Denise Fayhee Wolf 2009. and include a link to http://www.TheBountifulGarden.net. I hope you enjoy!!

Whose Life is it Anyway?

November 9, 2009

When my son, Joe, was born, I imagined that he might grow up to be a lawyer. When he was nine, we had a family portrait taken – newly launched into my life as a single-mother, the portrait, I believed, confirmed my suspicions. “Doesn’t he just ‘look’ like a lawyer?” I said to my sister hopefully.

As she studied the image of ‘our little man’ dressed in his miniature double-breasted, navy blue suit coat and coordinating red tie, hair trimmed neatly around his ears, gaze serious and confident, she had to agree.

Being a lawyer had long been a dream of mine though in truth, I think I was drawn to the image of what being a lawyer meant more than I was to the actual work of being a lawyer. Throughout college and and even into my early 30s, I equated lawyers with adjectives like intelligent, wealthy, successful – all things I imagined would make for a happy life. (Something I now know is not necessarily true.) But, as it turned out, I wasn’t destined to become a lawyer and, neither was my son.

During their elementary and high-school years, I drilled the idea into both of my kids that college was non-negotiable. Not attending or graduating from University simply wasn’t an option. Always exceptionally good in school, in spite of not always applying himself, Joe received a full presidential scholastic scholarship. And, as I insisted, he entered college immediately following high school graduation.

But, almost from the start, Joe was miserable in college. Keeping his spirits up and keeping him enrolled became a full time job that I took very seriously. For three and half long years, I struggled to keep Joe following the path I had set forth. And Joe, being a wonderful son who wanted so much to ‘do what was right’, suffered through the process. While my encouragement and insistence was well-intentioned – I really believed I was doing what was best for Joe – in hindsight, I can see now that I’m fortunate I didn’t lose him in the process.

Shortly after Christmas, prior to returning to complete his last semester, Joe came to me in tears. He begged me not to make him go back. He told me how pointless his classes felt. How wasted he thought his time was. At 21, Joe was completely within his rights and fully capable of making his own decisions. We both knew that he didn’t need my permission to drop out. He was asking for my blessings and my understanding. And, while I was devastated to imagine that he wouldn’t continue, I was even more distressed that I could play a part in my son’s spirit being so broken.

As we talked through the whats, ifs, whys, and hows, of his taking what we called, ‘a break,’ the unexpected death of my parents from a car crash that left my beautiful 46-year old sister in a persistent vegetative state (coma) less than six years earlier, were foremost on my mind. The tragedy we all, including Joe, experienced, taught us well the lessons that each day is a gift and our time on this earth is limited.

So, with Joe’s promise that he’d somehow, someday, earn his degree, I gave him my blessings and, in the process, the authority – which had really been his all along – to determine his own path in life. And, true to his wise old soul, Joe wasted no time in following his heart. Today, nearly five years to the day, Joe’s ‘path’ has led him to China, Thailand, England and finally, to his new home with a beautiful, intelligent and loving wife and baby, in Sydney, Australia where he is building a rich and satisfying life as a personal fitness trainer; a career he is pursuing with passion and enthusiasm.

Over the past five years Joe has certainly learned and lived some lessons in life but the lesson I’m most appreciative for is the lesson that he gave to me. His lesson served to remind me that each of us has our own life path and purpose we’re here to live out. And the way in which Joe is following his path continues to be a source of inspiration as I stumble along my own way as a writer. Lesson learned. Degree in hand. I take it one day at a time with overwhelming gratitude to my son, Joe.

I read a blog post recently by a fellow who wrote, “I’d consider myself stable.  I’ve been employed by the same company for 23 years.”   As a person who embraces change, I had to take a step back.  It’s not like I hadn’t heard that logic before — it’s haunted me for most of my life as something I ‘wasn’t’.

Stability always felt like a character flaw of mine and yet, I’ve made it 51 years, have happy, healthy relationships with my two well-adjusted adult children, and a loving and respectful relationship with my ex-husband.  I have a strong bond with a compassionate, supportive, intelligent, and creative community of family and friends and, while I don’t live in a million-dollar mansion or drive an expensive car, I’m able to support myself fairly well.

Also, (and here’s the biggie) I’m really, truly, absolutely, totally happy and healthy in body, mind and spirit.  And yet, by most people’s standards, I’m not what you’d call particularly stable — or even hugely successful.  A quick glance at my bio will give you an idea of my ‘MO’ — my first job out of college was as a farmer caring for baby pigs, I’ve been an advertising executive (yup – business suit, heels, briefcase. . . the works!), owner of an advertising agency, radio talk show host, journalist, and well . . . the list goes on and on.  And, just between you and me, it will likely continue it’s winding route for the next twenty years or so.

The thing that lights my fire is learning new stuff, digging into new adventures, meeting new and different people, testing my mettle by putting myself in new situations. On the way, the one constant on my path has been my writing or expressing my thoughts with words.  Ahhh!  There it is.  Maybe I’m more stable than I give myself credit for.  I’ve been a writer, and an observer of life — absorbing material for stories that would only be born years later, for more than 30 years!

But it makes me wonder if perhaps ‘stable’ isn’t over rated.  Not that there’s anything wrong with being a loyal employee for 23 years.  And, if you love (or even like)  your job, if it’s rewarding, if it let’s you live the life you’re meant to live and you are contributing at a respectable level then by all means, keep it.  I would NEVER fault anyone for being stable or not changing.  It just seems to me that being stable or any of the other adjectives society might use to define “success” might not be the best path for EVERYONE.  And, just because someone likes change, doesn’t/shouldn’t necessarily make them less worthy as a person.  Same goes for ‘organized’ (yes, I’m a ‘pile’ person and my clothes aren’t always neatly organized by color or fabric or (gasp) even season) or any of the other widely accepted success-related adjectives.

It seems to me that living an authentic life is really about living YOUR life.  The life that fits YOU, not what your Mother, Father, neighbor, religious leader, senator, teacher, radio talk show host, or anyone else says is noble or right.  And, I believe when each of us is able to claim our authentic life (and teach our children to do the same) the sooner we’ll realize peace and happiness for our selves, our communities and our world.