|Posted on February 11, 2016 at 9:25 AM||comments (0)|
If you read my work, you know I am prone to say that problems are messy and complicated but solutions are simple. And if in this moment you are struggling with a seemingly impossible problem you may not be able to trust that. But as this Rumi quote implies, I believe we always hold the answers in our hearts, we just don't always like what that answer is, and we rarely like what we perceive to be the fallout from making said decision. But for now, let me make a case for taking a breath and clearing some of the chaos away from your problem, so that perhaps you can trust what your heart has to say.
As we know, when problems appear, they do not appear in a vacuum. They show up in already busy messy lives, full of jobs, partners, kids, laundry, bills, a puking cat, and the never-ending question of what's for dinner. Our first reaction is often to sigh and tell ourselves that we don't have time for this now. Or ever. We remind ourselves how busy we are, how much we have already been through, and justify the unfairness of said problem knocking on our fucking door. In other words, the problem shows up and we visualize ourselves in a hole with everything collapsing in. When we do this, we give the problem power, and however big it is, we just make it bigger and we make it personal. The proverbial mountain from a molehill.
When we begin thinking and assigning emotion we go from identifying to identifying with, and while there may seem to be little or no difference in those two, they are actually two entirely different entities. To identify is merely to observe and name, and from that vantage point we can make objective and well meaning decisions. “Oh that’s anger” vs “I feel angry”. And yes this will feel awkward in the beginning. To identify with an issue, is to start assigning emotion, blame, projections, and all sorts of aspects that interfere with our ability to think clearly and rationally. We become it--the anger or the frustration or the fear--and thus we become part of the problem itself. Being able to make and live this distinction is life changing. It is the difference between peace and struggle, between acceptance and resistance.
I have a little sign in my kitchen that says, "What if we just acted like everything was easy?" And while every situation does not feel easy, asking myself that helps me keep perspective and not catastrophize or imagine worst case scenario. It puts me in a mindset of empowerment and points me in the direction of solutions and possible answers. It basically keeps me from stressing out before I have even had a chance to assess the situation. It keeps my emotions in check. It helps me stay in witness mode where I retain control.
Another way we assist problems in feeling overwhelming, is that we almost immediately insert other people into the situation and kick our imaginations into high gear. "What will Uncle Simon say?" "This will kill your grandmother." "Everyone is going to find out." In other words, we go to the age old question of what-will-the-neighbors-think. To which I say, who cares? Once you insert other people, and you imagine their responses, you aren't thinking clearly about the problem. You are functioning from your ego and your pride. Not helpful. At all.
So what is the plan of action when it hits the fan? First and foremost, take a deep breath. Seriously. Get some oxygen to the brain and buy yourself a couple of moments to respond and not react. Do not fall into that loop of reacting physically with tension, shortness of breath, rising blood pressure, because we you do, it sends a clear message to the brain that something is terribly wrong this initiates more physical responses. And there you are, upset and caught in this loop where the body and the brain are in turmoil and you, quite literally, can't think rationally. So breathe.
Now you have the ability to actually look at what is being said, what is happening. Focus on that. Ask yourself what needs to be done in this moment. Interesting how often, if answered honestly, the reality is nothing. This is because, again, if we are honest, many of the problems that get laid at our feet are not ours. They are not ours to pick up or to solve. Or the damage has been done and all that is left is to let it go and move on. If there is action to be taken, it is generally pretty clear. Go to the hospital. Make a phone call. Wrap your arms around a hurting loved one.
Do not ruminate on how you knew this would happen. Do not discuss with a half dozen people. Do not focus on the character flaws of the involved party, or the effects this will have on the family. Do not write a drama around this problem. Do not discuss it with people who are not directly involved. Do not start a dialogue in your head. And if at all possible, do not label it as a problem. See it as a bump in the road. A mere blip on the radar. Handle it and move on.
Sometimes we have problems that have been around for months or even years. We have been avoiding listening to that inner voice that guides us unfailingly. We make excuses for people. We make excuses for, or we blame ourselves. Even in these situations, in our hearts we know the answer. There is a difference between not knowing and not wanting to look at a solution. Do yourself a favor and move on. Take any necessary action and move on. Wish all involved love and peace and let it go.
You are brilliant and wise with amazing instincts. Listen to your heart. Listen to the murmurs of your soul. Pay attention to your feelings. These are your guides and your road maps. They will not fail you. Move towards love. Move towards peace. Move towards happiness. That is where the answers are. They lie within the depths of your beautiful heart. Every time. Every single time.
|Posted on February 5, 2016 at 1:00 PM||comments (0)|
Recently my six year old grandson was having a meltdown over "not being able to draw". You know, one of those moments of "if I can't do it perfectly" or "I'm not good enough...". We all have them. All of us. Some of us hide them well behind closed doors or within the confines of silent negative self-talk, but we have them. Moments where we believe with our whole heart that we cannot go on, we cannot do a task, we simply do not have what it takes to go forward, and we damn well don't want to be told we can. So sit down and shut up. Well then, when our pity party is over, how do we shift to the little engine that could and decide we probably can do this thing? How do we tap into this very specific skill and then remember it the next time our emotions seem to be in control?
Well, in a moment of parental brilliance my daughter-in-law pulled out her phone and began showing him photos of Picasso's paintings while simultaneously explaining that the beauty of drawing is that objects can look however you want them to and the point isn't about creating an exact replica, it's about drawing what you perceive. Moment. Moment. And success, her words took hold and he began to draw again, calmly. Just like that. Oh, okay, well then let me have another go at this.
I have said repeatedly this journey of ours is all about perspective. We must learn to grasp that our perspective is our choice and that we can alter it whenever we want to do so. We must learn that there is always more than one perspective. And we must learn that others have a right to a perspective that differs from ours. Our happiness, our relationships, our ability to maneuver this life with gratitude, are all artifacts of our perspective. I have coined the term "Picasso moment" for what happened with my grandson. He was able to stop, take in a different viewpoint, process, adjust and begin again. Oh that we all could remember to do this in our moments of frustration and self-doubt. I think of all the times that not only was I unable to change my perspective, I forgot the other soul involved had a right to their perspective. Actually, I completely forgot there even was another perspective. The epitome of being myoptic and egocentric.
So here's why this moment is worthy of a name, and here's what I want the take away to be for him, for us. I want my grandson to remember what that shift felt like for him on both an emotional and a cellular level. I want that physical sensation to be embedded in his memory. I want his Picasso moment to expand and become a tool he can use and adapt to any situation where he needs to move from feelings of frustration and helplessness to a place where he can see possibilities and feel empowered. In other words, I want him to own exactly what he accomplished in those brief few seconds where he was able to stop and listen and adjust his perspective. What power there is in those few words and seconds, and what amazing super powers have the ability to grow from them; self-control, the discipline of alignment, empathy, compassion, and self-awareness.
And honestly, I want no less for you and me. I want to be able to reach for perspective shifting tools in my moments of frustration and pissiness. I want to be able, in any given moment, to see a problem from more than one angle, to imagine how the other person feels, and to be willing to go there. But, it is easier said than done, yes? We get attached to our self-righteous anger, to wanting to be right, to believing we are better than someone else. But in the end, not one of those attachments serves us a damn bit of good. Ever.
And I do have some tools, my primary one being my breath. Taking three deep breaths rarely fails to give me enough space in which to turn, even if only a bit, towards the light. I have my inner voice, which when consulted, never fails to remind me whom I truly am. But I can always use more assistance on this journey. And from now on, I will have the help of Picasso and my beautiful grandson as reminders of the power we all hold within us, the power of choosing our perspective.
|Posted on January 29, 2016 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
If you follow me on Facebook or better yet, Instagram, you know that we have been downsizing, donating, selling, giving away and just in general trying not to own as much. At this point we are probably about 85% lighter than when we began, and when all the "kid stuff" is gone that number will go up a bit more. And I have to say, it feels mah vel ous! Truly, deeply, honestly. Mar-vel-ous.
So why, you ask. Well, there were a number of factors including moving to a different state, wanting a different lifestyle, and no longer having a house full of kids. It just seemed silly to maintain a large house when the two of us were using three or four rooms. I also began to be aware of how much we owned that never saw the light of day outside the cabinets and drawers and closets. That too, seemed silly. I can only describe it as this gnawing feeling that we were being weighted down with stuff, and it felt heavy.
That being said, let me also clarify that this hasn't all been fun and games. There have been a few pieces I struggled with emotionally, a couple of family members who didn't understand, and ultimately the ongoing question of "What the hell do we do with all of this???" Lucky for us, my husband and I were on the same page 95% of the time, and when we weren't he was sweet enough and patient enough to wait for me to catch up to him. Thanks love.
Unlike the Kon-Mari system, this did not happen over a weekend. It took years! About five to be exact! Part of the reason was that we left a house completely staged to sell in another state. Another factor was that we weren't sure where we were going to live; loft, house, apartment? And then there is the question of what to do with everything. (Oh, yes I already mentioned this...) It was like peeling an onion, and believe me there were a few, albeit very few, tears. However, I can tell you that there are no regrets. I don't miss any of it, and while I have my nostalgic moments, it's not about the stuff, it's about the lovely times we shared as a couple or a family or a community. In other words I get nostalgic about an era of our lives, not the furniture or the candlesticks or the picture frames. And hopefully when we are gone, our lack of stuff will also be a gift to our children.
And the benefits are nearly overwhelming. Our small place is now a well curated space that contains only things we use often and/or love to see. Every "moment" (my word for vignette) has meaning, gives me pleasure and often reminds me of someone I love. I know it's cliche, but it is also easy to maintain. Our drawers, cupboards and closets have always been organized, but now there is an energy in them that can only come when each item is touched and used regularly.
I also love the mindfulness that comes with living in a small space. We regularly ask ourselves where something will go if we purchase it, and if we truly want to take on being the caretakers of this item, and ultimately finding it a home if we have a change of heart. And then there is the money we save when there are no impulse buys. It is truly shocking how much and how quickly small purchases add up when you are not being conscious and mindful. Says the woman with the tee shirt and toss pillow addiction.
For us, being mindfully minimal is not about deprivation or seeing how few things we can live with. It's about having what gives us pleasure and enjoyment, and no more. It's about using what we have or passing it on. It is about finding that lovely sweet spot where you have everything you need and nothing more. It is ultimitely about joy.
And yet, we are still the same two people who love projects, love being creative with our space in a way that only homeownership allows. Roaming through some second-hand stores a few months ago, my husband kept picking up items that caught his eye and exploring what we could do with them or expounding on their virtues. Then he stopped and looked at me. "This is how we got here last time, isn't it?" Yes it is my sweet. We love interesting cool stuff and giving it a second life, but our turn is over for now, or at least limited to a few fun and necessary mini projects.
So the bottom line is; no regrets. We love having time for concerts, art galleries, friends, dinner parties, weekly wine tastings and travel. Our weekends are ours, and we are so lucky because our landlord rocks. He takes such good care of our little abode. Which is why we are currently having too much fun. For now. We are also staying open to another move, and getting to know a new city. Or not. Becoming homeowners again. Or not. We are flowing with whatever shows up, but even if our space increases, our stuff will not. We are minimalists literally for life. For our lives.
|Posted on January 23, 2016 at 8:25 AM||comments (0)|
I hear it time and time again from friends and clients, "I talk to you and everything seems so logical and easy, and then an hour later I am right back where I was.", or "I read this book and I felt so inspired, but I wasn't able to translate that into my daily life." And the truth is this; we have ALL been there. We have all attended a seminar, talked to a coach or therapist, listened to a podcast, read a book and thought, "I've got this!" until we don't.....
A few times of this and we begin to feel like everyone else has been given the magic password that eludes only us. Or worse, we begin to feel that we are somehow fundamentally less than others. Deeply flawed. Lacking in some basic way. From the outside looking in, it appears that happiness, peace, and good relationships are available to, and easy for, other people but not us. And this is where discouragement sets in. Or anger. Or jealousy. Or even despair. The breaking point can take longer for some than others, but when success, however the person has defined it, fails to appear, eventually wtf I give up, rears its ugly head. One can only put forth so much effort for so long without results. And I get it. No blame. No judgement. It's hard to keep trying and not see progress or experience an arrival at the goal. It's hard and heartbreaking. And while I hope the meme above made you smile, I am totally aware that you can only give yourself so many pep talks and believe them.
So what is the answer? How we do we make that move from theory to reality? From the therapist's couch to our relationships? How do we go from reacting to responding? Well my loves, this is the difficult part....it's different for everyone and there is no one right answer. But there are a few tried and true guidelines, and the first one is that it is rare that any of us find our path alone. We are social creatures and we need mentors and coaches and guides. So my suggestion is that you find one of those for yourself. Find that person who inspires and elevates you, the one who, when you are around them, makes you feel more like you. The one whose language resonates within you. Then invest in yourself, and those you love, by hiring them or planning time with them on a regular basis.
Next, begin to build a life that supports the choices you want to make. Surround yourself with like-minded people and visual reminders. Read books. Lots of books. Think. Reflect. And then quiet your mind with meditation. Get outside every single day. Nothing clears the head, reduces fatigue and depression and hits our reset button like a dose of nature. Think and reflect, and then quiet the mind with meditation. Yes, you can. Journal without editing. You created this life, you can create a different one if you want.
You are an amazing and powerful eternal spirit, and you came to experience beauty and joy and fun and love. So get to it. Find your person and then do whatever it takes to step out and claim this existence. Find your guide. Find your path. Live by your choices. Keep at it dear ones, you've got this.
|Posted on January 10, 2016 at 7:35 PM||comments (0)|
I was first introduced to the idea of loving someone exactly as they are when I read the book Son Rise by Barry and Suzi Kaufman in the 1970's. It chronicled their journey with their autistic son, Raun, and their healing therapy which they based entirely on meeting him precisely where he was developmentally and finding ways to connect with him. And I have to admit, the concept was new to me. I mean really, loving someone without wanting to change them AT ALL? Loving them without wanting them to stop that annoying habit, or be more motivated, or do a better job of showing up for me? It's one thing to look at this from a therapeutic standpoint, but what would that really look like in the outside world, in our day to day relationships? And how do we respond when others' behaviors infringe on our lives in ways that feel intrusive or unhealthy for us?
What we are looking at here, is authentic unconditional love. We claim to have it for others, some of us claim to have received it, but have we? To love someone unconditionally means you are truly all right, even comfortable, with them being them. Warts and all. It means you truly understand that they need to make mistakes and find their way. It means you get that this is where they are on their path and you respect that. It means guidance without criticism. It means conversing without coercion. It means watching while they fall and offering a hand up, without an "I told you so." It means I respect your decisions even when they are different than what I would have done in that situation. And ultimately it means not trying to cleverly influence someone in a passive aggressive manner, something we have all been on the giving and the receiving end of at some point. And it means letting go of the idea that we know what's best for others, that we have all the answers.
So if you are allowing others to choose their behavior, what does this mean when you are not comfortable with or do not want to participate in a person's dynamic? Well, you have choices too. You get to always, and I mean always, choose what you do. So while this doesn't mean you allow a child to speak rudely to you, it does mean you give them the boundaries within which they can express their anger or frustration. It doesn't mean you wait indefinitely on that chronically late friend, it means you let her know exactly when you are available and then allow her to reschedule when she's 30 minutes late and you have already left. Have a partner that is rude with waitstaff? Let them know they can choose their words, you will choose to leave the area. No anger, no animosity, just a calmly stated choice. There is a difference between supporting and participating in a behavior, and allowing the other person to do so. Choose your behavior not theirs.
Most of the time we aren't really loving those around us as they are. We have this idealized version of whom we believe they can be, and we are always nudging them in that direction. Be more polite or more punctual, get better grades, be more considerate, spend your money more like me, and on and on. What if we just witnessed them? What if we chose to love them right where they are now? What if we set boundaries for ourselves and allowed them to do the same? The truth is that we spend far too much time trying to control and manipulate others and far too little time focusing on ourselves, and the end result is that we miss out on whom they are and we forget whom we are. It's a lose lose situation.
So ask yourself what happens when you feel unconditional love. How do you feel when someone offers support while holding space for you without judgement? Does it allow you to explore all parts of yourself? Do you take more chances? Are you more likely to believe in yourself? Do you feel more freedom to love that person? Does it give you the space to be your truest and best version of yourself? And can you then imagine having the abiltiy to give all that to another person? A person you love? You do have that ability! All you have to do is begin now to love them. Love them right where they are, and then watch the magic begin. It will be the greatest experience of your life. And theirs.
|Posted on December 29, 2015 at 2:55 PM||comments (2)|
Nearly all of us love the start of a new day or the beginning of a new week. It can feel like the slate has been wiped clean and we get a fresh start. So it comes as no surprise that a new year holds a nearly mythical proportion of promise for us. Because of this, we tend to set impossibly high standards for ourselves, and with those goals comes an equally proportionate chance for us to fail, and then to berate ourselves for doing so. It's no wonder most people have given up on new year's resolutions, why bother? Psychologists refer to this as learned helplessness; "If I am going to fail, why try?"
But what if, instead of looking at what other people think we should do and making a list (lose weight, get a better job, eat healthy), we examined our lives and decided what we believe we need to focus on. What lessons keep reappearing? Where do I feel inadequate? What quality do I want to develop? And then, what if armed with personal insight and authentic motivation, we chose a guide word? One word. One word that all year would remind us of our conversation with ourselves and our intention. One word that would immediately transport us mentally and emotionally back to the moment we chose it, and because we chose it, it would not carry the heavy guilt-laden baggage that resolutions often do.
In fact, choosing a guide word can feel like having a friend that gently nudges you when you get off track. It can feel like taking a deep breath when you feel overwhelmed. It can be comforting to have this simple gps programmend into your life. I have been doing this for more than fifteen years, and I can tell you from my own experience it has been like setting an internal compass for the year. Gratitude, fearlessness, authenticity, nonresistance, fun, worthiness, and connectedness are truly now a part of me because I gave them an entire year to become completely integrated into the fabric of my being.
On occasion, I have revisited a word. This happens when I notice the Universe sending me lessons around an issue where I believe I have done the work. These are areas where I have grown, but the Universe seems to be telling me I can do better. I can grow more. It feels like I'm being told, "I know you think you've got this, but watch how I can still push your buttons, so let's have round two missy." This is one of those years. Damn it. Do overs can be so hard, because on top of doing the work, my ego wants to whisper, "Why do I have to do this when I already did?" It's kind of like getting held back a year in school.
So here I go, back to the third grade. Back to learning the art of nonresistance. Damn it. But, I know I need this. I feel it. I witness myself resisting others' behavior, resisting my own actions and words. So I'm taking a do-over. Only this time, I'm taking a positive view. I'm choosing a word without a negative prefix. I am choosing the word flow. And flow is what I intend to do in 2016!
I intend to flow like the water in a mountain stream flows forward over rocks and around obstacles without resisting and without holding on to the experience. I intend to flow without judging the experience. I intend to witness and be and trust that "whether or not it is clear to me, no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should"--my favorite line from the Desiderata. I am going to trust that whatever shows up in my day that I have, on some level, requested this as a lesson, as an experience that I require to grow.
So 2016, I'm ready. I am ready to be present in my life and flow with whatever you bring to me. So I'm asking that you take a few days, and think about what word would be a good companion, a good compass for you this year. Sit with it for a day, and if it doesn't feel right, try another one. Be sure it's a good fit. And then make friends with it, let it be your companion, your deep breath, your centering mantra. And as always my sweet readers, I will be holding you all close. I feel immeasurable gratitude for each and every soul that reads my words and shares this journey with me. You make this physical, emotional and spiritual work I do just that much more gratifying. Happy New Year!
|Posted on December 23, 2015 at 12:45 AM||comments (0)|
We are all gifted in the ability to distinguish between what we like and what we don't like, experiences that give us pleasure and those that make us sad, people that energize us and those that drain us of energy. So one would think that we would simply turn towards all the things that make us happy and let the rest fade into the background. Yes, one would think. But very often instead, we focus on the things that make us angry, indignant, sad, envious, and afraid, and we resist them.
We resist them with our thoughts, speech and behavior. We think about them and talk about why they are bad, and we rationalize why we are right in judging them. And all the while we are strengthening them, making them a bigger presence in our minds with our energy and resistance, because what we resist, persists. Those things that receive our focus and energy grow. We have all had the experience of noticing an "annoying" quality in someone else and suddenly it's all we notice. We have a momentary unpleasant experience in traffic and we play it over and over in our minds. We have a small ache and it becomes the center of our thoughts. We focus on what we don't like about nearly everything in our lives. We offer resistance and as we do, our gratitude for all the good fades away. We only seem able to see what displeases us.
So what do we do kitties? Well, we resist the urge to resist! We do this by being present with our thoughts, and when we realize we are resisting and pushing back against, we label and release. We witness and breathe. We remember to not attempt to control. We let be. And then, we look for the good of the moment. We remind ourselves to appreciate and not to disparage.
After all, does thinking about your bosses' behavior improve it? Does hating something change it? Does talking about another person help you focus on their good qualities? Did worrying ever keep someone safe? Does thinking about your aches and pains lessen them? Of course the answer is no, because when we feel anger, judgement, fear, anxiety or pain, we begin to think angry, judgemental, fearful thoughts and these fuel us into being furious, desperate, terrified and panicked.
Of course we cannot always be passive, but let's be honest. Nearly all of what we resist is out of our control anyway. So why waste our time and energy pushing against it and giving it more presence in our lives? Why not focus on all that's going right, all that's working, all the drivers who ARE using their turn signals, all the people who are being polite? Focus on what you want, and you get more. Focus on and resist what you don't want and you get more.
There's very little in this world that we really get to choose, and we are so very lucky that we get to choose our focus. It truly does determine our mood, our health, our state of being, and it is an amazing gift. So resist the urge to resist by noticing when you do, taking a deep breath and begin refocusing. Drop your resistance and watch all the lovely easiness rush in to take its place. Clarity and peace only come in our moments of non-resistance. Notice them. Enjoy them. Make them your normal. Float downstream on these good feelings. And then my loves, say thank you.
|Posted on December 20, 2015 at 9:20 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on December 13, 2015 at 10:15 AM||comments (0)|
About fifteen or so years ago, I chose to do a focus word instead of New Year's resolutions. One word. Every day. All year. My word was gratitude. And in spite of my life being full to the brim of things to be grateful for, I struggled the first couple of months to come up with anything but the obvious; a wonderful husband, a house full of healthy, smart kids, a beautiful home, my health, etc. Not that I shouldn't have been thankful for those things, but I was seeking a different level of thankfulness. I wanted to be so fully present that I noticed all the tiny gifts the Universe was sending me day to day and moment to moment.
And eventually I did sensitize myself to them; the wind on my face when I stepped outside, the smell of coffee, the sound of my husband's voice on the phone, the little idiosyncrasies that made my family and my life fun and unique and pleasurable. That year changed my perspective, by forever putting gratitude at the forefront of my life. By fall of that year, I realized the power one word could have on my entire being. Since then, every year about this time I begin to look at where I need to grow, what qualities I need to develop. I ask myself what I would like more of in my life.
Where we focus is where we go; what we give our attention to grows. Every time, no exceptions. And that is the basis for my word choice. In the past my words have included non-judgement, fearlessness (another favoriete), joy, fun, authenticity, presence and non-attachment. And every year I am pleasantly surprised at the transformation, at how the word becomes a part of me in a very real and permanent way. When I am focused and giving attention to a specific concept, there is a tangible response in that it clearly does show up in my life and in my heart. And for this I am so damn grateful.
So for the next couple of weeks I will continue to look for the clues. The clues that indicate where I need growth, where I need to be more open, where my comfort zone ends. I have a couple of ideas that I am trying on and seeing how they fit. And the truth is I will probably choose the one that makes me the most uncomfortable, the one that I am less confident in my ability to be true to and successful with. After all, that is where the magic happens, yes? It happens just beyond that point of "I've got this".
So join me in seeking out your own points of struggle or weakness or desire. What do you need more of in your life? What quality could you develop that would assist you in manifesting your best possible life? What perspective would serve you and your loved ones well in 2016? Look honestly at that beautiful face in the mirror. Ask with authenticity what is needed for growth and evolution. And then just go for it! Write it on your bathroom mirror, on notecards, make it your password, truly get intimate with it. Let it be your guide and consult it daily. Mine will go in a tiny frame on my bedside so that it greets me in the morning and informs my dreams at night.
So let me know the words you choose that will inspire and challenge you in the coming year. You are eternal powerful souls and I know you've got this my dear readers.
|Posted on December 6, 2015 at 10:35 PM||comments (0)|