Thanksgiving 2017

On this special holiday, I want to thank all of you for your friendship and support. You are my inspiration, and every time I write my blog, I feel connected to you and my unlimited gratitude. I hope this year has brought you health, joy and happiness, and that you will celebrate Thanksgiving surrounded by family and friends with hearts full of appreciation.

I have much to be thankful for, and I will go briefly down memory lane like I do every Thanksgiving to thank everyone who touched my life and made it better. This also includes my loved ones who have transitioned but still live in my heart. I also include the few people who brought me pain, and I thank them for the lessons they provided. I am a stronger and better person because of them.

This year I’ll enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and feel blessed to have been invited by dear friends. It will be a very special day and Steve and I are looking forward to it. After a difficult year with many health challenges but feeling better now, I have so much to be grateful for and spending this holiday with wonderful friends will be a perfect way to celebrate my blessings.

For me Thanksgiving is not only a great opportunity to express appreciation and gratitude but also to celebrate life. We normally take life for granted, but when it slowly slips away, we become very much aware of it, and I feel more in touch with my life than ever before. For the pilgrims, the goal was living in freedom, for me it is the joy of being alive. We have come a long way since the First American Thanksgiving in October 1621 which was organized by the pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World. It was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 pilgrims. But the spirit of this holiday remains the same: being thankful for our blessings and coming together with family and friends.

There have been many Thanksgivings since I immigrated to the United States. The first one, just two months after I was married, came as a surprise. We were invited by Steve’s colleague who, like Steve, came from Texas. I had no idea that according to certain Southern customs the women are supposed to be in the kitchen while the men enjoy drinks and delicious hors d’oeuvres while watching football on the tele. And I thought that German men were chauvinistic when growing up in Germany! Well, I “sweetly” conformed, and spent my Thanksgiving cooking, serving, and cleaning up. It was an amazing experience! I hoped that the men, who hung out and never lifted a finger, had a wonderful time and extended their “thanks” to the women who made their celebration possible.

This first Thanksgiving has been followed by many more, some traditional, some uniquely different like my vegetarian feast. Sometimes we were traveling internationally and our hotel tried to make Americans feel comfortable by serving delicious Thanksgiving dinners. But there was never another like our first one! The most important thing for me at Thanksgiving is taking the time to be thankful and celebrating with friends and family. I have also adopted my own traditions and always enjoy the cooking, decorating and gathering around the bounties of the table.

Happy Thanksgiving. You are my inspiration!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

Something To Look Forward To

We all need something to look forward to, something special waiting for us in the future. As children, we had many things to look forward to – birthdays, vacations, ball games, excursions, visits from grandparents, new toys, just to name a few. We went from one eagerly anticipated event to the next and life was filled with expectations and lots of fun. Of course, there were dreams of things which never came true and gave rise to disappointment, but it didn’t last very long because there was always something new waiting for us to look forward to.

And then we grew up and forgot along the way that feeling of anticipation and excitement of our childhood. Our careers and the demands of daily life took over, and we ignored our inner voice telling us that we need to make some time for things to look forward to and to nourish our child within. A long overdue get together with dear friends? A vacation with loved ones? An uplifting and interesting book or movie? These make life interesting, take us out of our routine, and allow our minds and bodies to rejuvenate.

For me travel was always a great highlight in my life. I liked to visit different parts of the world and immerse myself in various cultures. I also loved to attend spiritual retreats and seminars. There were always stars waiting for me, and they made my life interesting and balanced. I always felt that I became a better and more complete person when I returned home. I fondly remember the time spent with my little Yorkie Sunny who attended all my seminars and traveled with me extensively. I believe she enjoyed it as much as I did, and everyone was in love with her … well, maybe not the ping pong players since Sunny assisted them in retrieving their balls, and they got them back with little teeth marks and holes.

I still have stars waiting for me to look forward to, and the next one is a trip to Sedona, one of my favorite places in Arizona. It will be a wonderful break, and I cannot wait to see the red rocks and feel the spiritual energy of this enchanted place. It is never too late to reach for the stars and just dreaming about them is a worthwhile experience in itself. Maybe you would like to explore whether you have maintained some of your childhood anticipation and feel the excitement and a high like the one described by John Denver in his song “Rocky Mountain High”. Steve and I met John Denver once on top of a mountain beside a glacier lake in Colorado, and I always wondered if that was the place that inspired his lyrics and the song. We exchanged a few words and then, when we were alone, we meditated in this pristine and spiritual surrounding, and I could hear his music in my heart. Find those highs within you and stay with it for a while. It will bring you joy and peace.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

Worrying

We have all experienced thoughts creeping into our minds which make us feel insecure and uncomfortable. How often do we ask ourselves, “what if” and then worry about things which will never happen?

Worrying is planning for what we don’t want by giving energy to a reality we don’t desire and will not enjoy.  It can even become a habit nourished by our insecurities. A much better way to a more enjoyable life is to let go of regrets and guilt from the past, enjoy the present, and have faith in the future. We can neither control the future nor the behavior of other people, and all the worrying in the world will not make things better or change people. However, maintaining a positive and optimistic attitude, can pave the road to a happier and more fulfilling life.

Replacing worrisome thoughts with feelings of gratitude for past and present experiences, and visualizing the future unfolding in beautiful colors will bring joy and happiness.

Having grown up in Post War Germany, in an environment filled with worry and fear, I know that a lot of life’s beauty and peace of mind were lost because worries overshadowed everything. My mother was consumed by her personal worry: Will there be enough food? Can my children live a happier life? How will I manage on my own without the support of a spouse? Am I doing the right things? and so on. If I could set back the clock, I would assure my mother that all would be well and that her worries couldn’t change anything in my life. Her constant worry stemmed from living through World War I as a child and World War II as an adult, spouse and mother. She never was able to completely disburse her worry clouds and to become a truly happy person. Ultimately she died prematurely and I am convinced that all her worries and the stress they caused shortened her life.

When I realized that worrying equates to planning for what I don’t want, I started replacing my worries with thoughts of love, compassion, empathy and having faith in the future. It doesn’t always turn out as I imagined and troublesome thoughts still play around in my mind from time to time. But my faith helps me to be in peace and with time I always realize that unwanted happenings were a lesson to be learned and an experience to be lived.

Not worrying doesn’t mean being passive. On the contrary, faith and self-confidence allow us to visualize a bright future. With less worry, there is a much greater probability of reaching the desired outcome. Let’s all keep the worry at bay, and fill our minds with thoughts of love and joy.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

Silence

The last few weeks have provided a unique and different experience for me. I have been forced to be mostly silent and to avoid any attempt to speak. The first few days were quite difficult, but then, I realized that there is very little which absolutely has to be expressed verbally. My thoughts were still there, but I didn’t feel the urge to share them.

And why did I go through such an experience? It certainly wasn’t by choice. I developed multiple, very large mouth ulcers and talking, eating and drinking were extremely painful and difficult. At the beginning, I felt compelled to write notes to my husband, but with time even this need became less forceful, and I was able to let life develop and happen around me without trying to interfere or control it.

Losing the ability to speak easily was an eye-opening experience and although it was very painful physically, I became aware of many things during this quiet time that I consider to be a growing experience. I had no idea how much I was talking, until I couldn’t. I became aware of the difference between chatter and important communications. I know how to quiet my mind in meditation, but during these painful weeks I have learned how to extend that peaceful feeling much of the time. I learned to sift through my thoughts and it was amazing how I had an opinion on everything and it was quite refreshing and calming to just listen without sharing my feelings or expressing my thoughts.

I remembered a spiritual exercise which I had hadn’t practiced for a little while and which seemed to be appropriate to explore again in the context of my present life experience. I call it conscious contemplation. It is an exercise focused in the now without thoughts and feelings. As a focal point, take any picture or object you find interesting. In this example let’s take at a picture of a flower, a yellow rose. For five minutes, you look at it without thinking that it is a yellow rose, that you like, that it is beautiful or not so beautiful, or whatever else might pop into your mind. Let those opinions go.  Simply watch the picture without thinking anything. Your ego is now completely still and you are in the now and in peace. In the beginning five minutes seem forever, but it gets easier. I am practicing this meaningful exercise again and it brings me peace and balance. I truly had forgotten how important those few minutes are and I hope you’ll give it a try.

Am I back to talking normally? Not yet. I am still struggling with a huge ulcer on the tip of my tongue but I am certain of one thing. In the future I will talk less and listen more without the urge to express my opinion.

Everything in life can be a growing experience. It is a matter of choice and I have decided that I will find the good in everything.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

A Place To Call Home

We have all heard the expression “a place to call home” and maybe you are watching the excellent Australian TV series with that name. But today I am not writing about a “physical home”, rather about the home each of us has deep within, a place where we can retire to when life becomes too demanding or too complicated. We have all lived through times when the brain just cannot cope or find a satisfying solution, when all seems bleak, and whatever we do, it doesn’t seem to please anyone or solve anything. That is a time when retiring to our inner home is beneficial and nurturing. There are no criticisms, no judgements, no rules, it is just you and yourself. It is a place of peace and rejuvenation. You can give it a name, see it as a specific place and make it more and more real and colorful. The more you retire to your little oasis, the easier it is to reach it and to stay for a while.

This inner home is a personal haven without which we can easily get depressed and overwhelmed. My inner sanctuary has been my savior many times, and I do not know if I could have coped with some of my challenges without having this retreat to go to and to rejuvenate. Just imagine: No demands, no unrealistic expectations, just being surrounded by peace and harmony. It doesn’t take any effort, just the desire to go there and to be. Fill your place with whatever relaxes you, and make it as personal and pleasing as possible. It will be your spiritual spa where energy flows massaging every part of you. The options are unlimited and you can change and adapt your personal inner home whenever you like or feel the need to do so.

Sound unrealistic? It isn’t. It is in the spiritual realm, but we are all spiritual beings, and when we do not nurture our inner self (that little girl or little boy within), we cannot live the fulfilling life we all dream of and are entitled to.

Now relax, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and imagine your inner place to call home. A mountain top? A lakeside? A mansion? It doesn’t matter. It is yours and yours alone.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

 

 

 

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