Beginning at the End: Lessons from Catrina…and Stephen Covey

La Catrina by Jose Guadalupe Posada

All those grinning skulls and clackety skeletons you see for Day of the Dead celebrations are fun, to be sure, but they are meant to convey an important message, as well. In our post about the imagery associated with the Day of the Dead, we looked at the work of José Guadalupe Posada (1852–1913). A political cartoonist and printmaker during the reign of Porfirio Diaz, Posada frequently depicted politicians and other important figures as skeletons in his work.

Posada’s best known image is “Catrina,” an elegant and well-dressed female skeleton. She is said to have been inspired by a well-to-do French woman who fancied herself quite high and mighty. In drawing Catrina and other prominent figures as skeletons, Posada’s intention was to poke fun at the wealthy and to remind people that, in death, all souls are equal.

Deep down, we all know this is the truth. Yet it’s all too easy to forget amidst the frenzy of our daily lives. In his landmark book (honestly, this was a life-changing book for me. I can’t recommend it highly enough), The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey devotes an entire chapter to “Beginning with the End in Mind.”

The chapter starts with a powerful visualization exercise that you may want to try. It goes something like this (for the complete version, pick up a copy of the book):

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Use a Bucket List to Bail Out Your Lifeboat and Cast Off from “Someday Isle”

“Carpe Deim,” Horace said. Seize the Day.

He had a point. Today, I’d like to tell you a personal story. If you’ve hung around here much, you know I don’t do that too often (or, at least, I hope I don’t), so I ask that you indulge me.

Quite a few years ago, I spent a semester as an exchange student in Costa Rica. My informal course of study focused primarily on beaches and boys, but that’s beside the point. While visiting Cahuita, a crystal-clear beach on the Caribbean coast, I purchased a bottle of the most wonderful, pure coconut oil. The fact that we were still using suntan oil, rather than sunscreen, gives you an indication of just how many years ago this was!

The fragrance was amazing—fresh coconuts! It was aromatherapy as much as suntan oil and—I concluded—much too valuable to waste on mundane trips to the beach. So I saved it all through my semester in Costa Rica. And I continued to save it after I returned, carrying it with me as I moved to Memphis, Dallas, Phoenix, and Albuquerque. When I unpacked it for the fifth time upon arriving in Tucson, I decided maybe it was time to use it. I uncapped my wonderful, fragrant oil to find—as you can probably guess—it had turned horribly rancid.

Many of us have our own versions of this story. What about those candles that were too beautiful to burn—at least until they spent a summer in storage and emerged melted beyond recognition? Or that expensive jar of face cream that sat on the shelf until its contents separated? Even fine crystal, while not exactly going “bad” buried away in the dark recesses of our cabinets, certainly has its beauty wasted if it’s not out on the table where it can be appreciated and enjoyed.

In his landmark book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scot Peck wrote that delaying gratification is a sign of maturity. It’s an important lesson, but one that I’m afraid some of us have learned all too well. I blame it on my Puritan ancestry…you can choose your own excuse. I don’t mean to imply that we should all operate with a childish lack of restraint, but in some ways we are a very future-focused society, stranded on that infamous “Someday Isle.” Someday I’ll travel, build that dream house, or _________ (you fill in the blank). Too often, we put our lives on hold for some beautiful fantasy day in the future that may—or may not—ever arrive. And in the meantime, the sands are slipping through the hourglass of our lives.

We all have dreams–or did at one time. As Langston Hughes put is so well, “Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”

And that’s where the Bucket List comes in.
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Celebrate a Personal Summertime Ritual

"Rituals" by Dr. B K Guha

Rituals fill deep human needs and provide opportunities to express many emotions. Rituals can convey religious devotion…or they may express gratitude for the pleasures of life. Rituals can also help us through difficult times, providing an outlet for pain and grief.

There are rituals that are shared by members of various religious groups, among the people in a society or culture (the summertime corn-on-the-cob ritual we talked about earlier is one small example). And there are rituals within families. But we all need our own personal rituals as well.

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Host a Frida Fiesta

Forget “party like a rock star…”

I want to have a fiesta like Frida Kahlo!  Flamboyant and at times outrageous, she threw some real shindigs, no question about that!

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Symbols of Myself Activity

If you do not tell the truth about yourself

you cannot tell it about others.

Virginia Woolf

Frida Kahlo’s paintings are rich with symbolism. She often incorporated animals, plants, and ribbons to symbolize her personal relationships, as well as the great physical and emotional pain she endured in her life. You, too, may find value in utilizing symbols in your own life and art. Here’s a quick exercise to help you do that:

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Honor the Sun—and Yourself—with a Daily Yoga Sun Salutation


As we discussed in our post about the Summer Solstice, the sun and its light are symbols of consciousness in many cultures. The Navajo construct their hogans with the door facing east so they can greet the sun each morning upon awakening. One of the most important festivals of the year for the ancient Inca was an eight-day feast that included ritual chanting every day to the rising sun. And for thousands of years, the Hindu have revered the sun, which they call Surya, as both the physical and spiritual heart of the world and the creator of all life. One of the best means of honoring the sun is through the dynamic asana (postures) sequence called Surya Namaskar (better known in English as the Sun Salutation).

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It’s Just Child’s Play – Or Is It?

No Cat in the Hat

To show us how it’s done?

Well, then, we’ll find

Our own ways to have lots of fun…

That’s my attempt at a Dr. Seuss-type rhyme (I know, I know…I’ll keep my day job!)

The following activity is adapted from one of my favorite books, Live the Life You Love by Barbara Sher. This author has a fabulous talent for helping you zero in on the things that matter most. The idea here is to re-capture some of those joyful feelings from your childhood and see how they might be applied to your adult life. You’ll need a journal, or at least ten sheets of paper, as well as something to write with:

Begin by asking yourself these questions:

What did you love to do as a child? As an adolescent? As a young adult? As we got older and took on more responsibilities, many of us “put away our childish ways.” To some extent, that was appropriate, of course. But we shouldn’t be too quick to forget all about what we loved then because there’s a pretty good chance that on some level, our “inner child” loves these things—or certain aspects of these things—still

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Way Cool Computer Zen

Check out this very cool computer Zen from the Kodaiji-Temple in Kyoto, Japan.

Hint: You will occasionally need to click to proceed, but wait to make sure it isn’t progressing on its own first.

Click here to begin

To display all related posts, enter “Zen” in the Search Box.

5-Minute Meditation Technique

As discussed in our post on Nirvana Day, meditation often plays a key role in the observances of this holiday. Buddhists believe that meditation is very important for physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. It is a way to clear the mind and encourage positive thinking, while also eliminating negative energy.

You can learn the following simple meditation technique in five minutes. And just five minutes practice daily will yield positive results. Meditation is the first step toward understanding how we direct our internal experience and to understanding our unconscious habits.

To begin, find a quiet area where you can concentrate. First, get into a comfortable sitting position—in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Sit upright. If you are sitting in a chair, your feet should be flat on the floor and your back should not be resting against the back of the chair. Rest your arms, with palms turned upward, at the joint between your thighs and torso.

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Chocolate-Coated Cinematherapy

Have you ever used movies therapeutically?  I know I have. Sometimes when I feel the need for a good cry, I’ll pick up a movie that I know will get the tears flowing.

Movies can definitely evoke profound emotional responses. And—given the links we explored previously between chocolate and passion—perhaps it’s no surprise that chocolate-themed movies are among the most powerful. There are two that come to mind immediately (for me, anyway). If you can think of any others—let us know!

I’m thinking of the Mexican film, Como Agua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), and of course, Chocolat.

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