Friday, February 27, 2015

Stop. Proceed with caution.

Recently I have been dealing with some relationship issues. I was in a quandary as to next moves and just how to proceed with these relationships. Through my work with a healing touch practitioner, however, I have gained so many insights that led me to a huge aha moment.

Before I think about how I can work things out with the others involved, I need to achieve more clarity on just what I want and need from the relationships. I have inner work of my own to do before I even know just what my next words or moves might be. While it leaves things hanging for a while, I firmly believe that the outcomes will be far better than had I just pushed ahead.

Sometimes it only makes sense to stop. Pay attention to the messages and urges you receive from inside and outside sources. Listen to them. Reflect on them. Then proceed with caution. When that happens to me, I know that I'm responding to a situation rather than reacting to it. In most cases, I also have an opportunity for some personal growth.

Isn't that better anyway? It seems win-win to me.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Self-care in the work place

I've had lots of clients—and I have lots of friends—who are unhappy in their work places. Many say their work place is "toxic" and hurtful to their psyches and emotional well-being. Their work may put food on the table and feed their bodies, but it's killing their spirits.

It's always worth asking the question: Can you leave that work place? Is another job possible? Is a move to another department possible? What are the options for you?

Granted, sometimes you simply cannot afford to leave a work place. You may not be able to change jobs. There may be any number of reasons why you need to stay. If that is the case, it's worth exploring how you might protect yourself from the toxicity—or how you might even view your work place or colleagues differently. Most often, the way bosses or colleagues (mis-) treat us has little or nothing to do with us. It's more about them. It's often about the wounds and issues going on inside that other person. Knowing that doesn't make it any easier to take. Yet, sometimes it can make us more forgiving and more determined to be as kind, compassionate and loving as is humanly possible.

Generate as many options as you can. Above all, listen to your heart and protect yourself as best you can. Show yourself compassion, care and love so your spirit isn't crushed—and so you don't end up becoming a person you never wanted to be.

If you'd like some conversation around this issue, I invite you to contact me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Let's hear it for big life questions

Are you asking some of life's big questions lately? Uncertain of next steps, whether that's about your career or some relationship—or maybe even a health or weight issue?

What direction should I go? What do I want to be when I grow up? How can I recover my passion for life? How can I care for myself better? These and other big questions are simply part of life's journey. Please don't beat up on yourself because you don't know the answers. Sometimes we think we should know. At times we think everyone else in the world is certain and decisive. What's wrong with me, we ask. Nothing is wrong. You are normal if you have questions.

Simply befriend yourself and love your questions. Let them live inside you for a while. Bring them out into the light of day, either for your eyes only (through journaling, for example) or by sharing with a friend or loved one, a coach or therapist. Work with them. Play with them. Love them. Live them.

These questions aren't a sign of weakness or of indecision. They're often spurs to growth and new discoveries for us. It is most often through those big questions that we are able to move from the caterpillar stage of life right into the cocoon and eventually out again to take on life as a beautiful, soaring butterfly. So how bad is that? Quite a good outcome, I'd say.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Drop the resentment

Yesterday I read a wonderful quote that made me stop and think about how I approach my days. I found it in a book by Pema Chodron titled The Wisdom of No Escape: and the Path of Loving Kindness.

She writes, "Life is such a miracle, and a lot of the time we feel only resentment about how it's all working out for us."

I know that I have plenty of times in my life when I focus on what's wrong—and completely miss all that's right. It's the old glass-half-empty, isn't it? When I am so focused on what's wrong, I miss all the miracles and the blessings that are always there, too. I know I have written about this before. And I'll most likely write about this subject again—because I need to hear it over and over again. I simply need to be reminded to open up to the blessings and the good things in my life.

Does that mean I skip over the sad and difficult things as though they aren't real and hurtful? No, of course it doesn't mean that. I can be with those parts of my life, I can grieve what needs to be grieved, and still be aware of the miracles and the positive things. I just need to remember to not be resentful and angry about things life brings my way. That won't help me handle it, and it surely won't help me move on with my life.

How do you see your life these days? Seen any miracles lately?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Gentle & easy does it

For as long as I can remember, I've had a tough Inner Critic. Somewhere along the line, however, I learned to engage her—and to befriend her. I have learned to see myself, my gifts and my imperfections, through a pretty realistic lens. These days, however, I try to do it with more gentleness than I did when I was far younger.

Have you found that true, too? Do you see yourself realistically, but with gentleness, these days?

What I learned long ago when I engaged my Inner Critic was that she really wanted the best for me and was looking out for me. She wasn't always doing that in a gentle way, however. So I needed to "have a little talk with her" and remind her that the best way for that to happen would be with a bit more compassion and gentleness. Judgment and harshness were not going to get the best end result.

Most of us tend to be far harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else. Perhaps it's time to begin treating ourselves as well as we treat our best friends. After all, we are the one person with whom we'll spend the most amount of time as we make this journey through life. Don't we want to be treated well, be affirmed and encouraged? Loved? Accepted?

It's not too late to start viewing yourself clearly. With gentleness.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Where's your focus?

Sometimes when I face a problem or challenge in my life, I'm so focused on the problem itself that I can't even begin to imagine solutions. Ever have that happen?

At such times, I need to be reminded to get the focus off the problem—and instead, focus on the possibilities, the promise, the potential. All those other "p" words that will engage my creativity far more than the problem itself will.

I firmly believe that whatever we focus on gets larger. That being the case, it only makes sense to let the problem be for a while and take a look at possibilities and promise, doesn't it? Suddenly, solutions can present themselves that would never have occurred to us when we're all tensed up and noodling the issue itself.

It can be easier to get into that new focus if we do something relaxing or creative. Engage in some form of play. Do some yoga. Work on your favorite art project. Find something that can help you shift your focus. Then set about generating creative possibilities. Now, isn't that better?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Opening to compassion and strength

My women's book club discussed Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister the other night. The storyline revolved around six women gathering to celebrate their friend Kate's recovery from cancer. To celebrate, Kate tells her friends that she's going to do something that's always terrified her: whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon. She invites each of her friends to do something that's a real stretch for them, too—with the caveat that she, Kate, will choose for each of them. She knows them well enough to know what they'll find challenging—but what they can use for personal growth, too.

In the novel, one of the women told another about a woman who had gone through so much and who was "so strong, so compassionate." When that woman asked the one who had experienced so much difficulty how she could be how she was, that woman replied, "You can be broken, or broken open. That choice is yours."

Admittedly, there are some things in life we face that very nearly do break us. And we all know someone who really has been broken by life's trauma. We must not judge those for whom that's true. We can't know what their journey was like for them.

For the rest of us, however, that line rings so true—and we really can make a choice. Is the choice easy? Hardly. But after the dust of a difficult experience settles, we have the opportunity to ask: What might I learn from this experience? Chances are good that it might open us further to deeper wisdom, to compassion, to the inner strength that was always there within us but which we hadn't known we could tap into, and to who knows what else.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

There's nothing like authenticity

One of the biggest regrets people have when they reach life's end, it's been reported, is that they ended up doing what others wanted them to do or being what someone else wanted. How sad is that—to reach the end of your life and realize that you were so busy trying to be something you weren't when instead you should have tried to be everything you were!

It's never too late to take a turn in your path if you feel that you've been listening to voices other than your own. Do you feel authentic in what you do and say? Or are your words and actions designed to appease others—or follow a path set for you by someone else?

It can happen easily enough when we're young and in our formative years. Sometimes parents didn't get to do what they wanted and can (sometimes even unintentionally) guide their children onto a path that lives out the parent's dream. Sometimes it's not parents, it's necessity. You didn't get to pursue that college education because you had to get out and earn money for the family. Or the field in which you were interested was not open to you when you finished school. There are many reasons for taking a path that didn't coincide with your passions and dreams.

Sometimes it's more our words and actions than it is our career choice. We may want so much to be liked that we act in ways that aren't true to our nature.

It's always a good time to ask: Am I being true to myself? Does my life feel authentic? Will I die with as few regrets as possible? What do I need to do now to change any of that?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A well-lit, smooth path

My Mary Engelbreit daily tear-off calendar had this message one day last week: "May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door."

I like that image. It's always lovely when the next steps of our life's journey are well-lit, warmed by friends and loved ones and oh-so-smooth. When those days come, savor and enjoy them.

But when the path has stones or perhaps even rocks to make us stumble, when things are so dim that we barely find our way, and when the climb seems straight uphill with no end in sight, let's try to find that bright spot. Is there a friend on whom you can lean? A bright sliver of light on which you can focus?

I don't know about you, but sometimes I focus so much on the stones on my path that I don't even notice the warm words, full moon and downhill trend of my journey. My focus is far too narrow, and I miss the blessings and the positive things in my life. It's then that I need to remember to look up—look around me and savor the beauty and the precious moments that generally are right there along with the challenges and difficulties in my life.

Be real and honest about the challenges. It doesn't help to wish them away. But let's also notice the blessings and miracles all around.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Random acts of kindness

I am always drawn to inspirational quotes and sayings. Every now and again I'll see them on Facebook or Pinterest. And, of course, they're always jumping out at me from the books I read.

Here's one I just saw on a poster: "Throw kindness around like confetti."

We can all use a little more kindness. And we can all stand to add more of it to the world. How many times do you find yourself sharing a sad tale about how you've been treated either on the phone or in a business establishment? Or you've heard someone else tell about how angry or verbally abusive another person was in a personal or a business exchange?

So the idea of kindness raining down on me like confetti is enough to bring a huge smile to my face. And I'm inspired to engage in more random acts of kindness myself, just like the movement we heard so much about several years ago. In fact, several websites exist to promote such acts of kindness. And in Naples, working-class cafes have a tradition of a customer who's had good luck financially buying two cups of coffee but drinking only one—the other being held until a person less financially able  later inquires whether there's a free cup available. Also, in addition to sharing stories and ideas about kindness, lets you send random notes of kindness to others around the world. Of course, you don't need a website or formalized way of adding kindness to the world. You have dozens of opportunities daily. So go ahead: Throw kindness around like confetti. What are you waiting for?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Acceptance and self-love

Although I talk from time to time about the importance of change, I want to remember that there's something important to keep in mind as you and I do that. That essential piece is that we don't make changes in our lives because we want to get rid of bad parts of ourselves. It's really more about accepting who and what we were created to do—more about befriending ourselves and engaging in self-compassion. It's about growing into that person we were meant to be.

As we experience change and transformation over and over throughout life (not unlike the caterpillar-cocoon-butterfly process), we want to be careful to not commit violence toward ourselves. Life's journey and task isn't about violently cutting off things we don't like about ourselves. It's about accepting and loving ourselves and learning to life as free of our masks and costumes as we can. Do we need the masks we've put on to hide who we really are? Sometimes. There definitely are times (and people) that call forth our need for some self-protection. That's when the masks are helpful. But to live forever concealed by one or more masks—that's way too confining. And it doesn't let the real you come forth.

The more you and I can accept ourselves and show self-love and self-compassion, the more serene and happy we will be. And the more loving and open we will be to others in our lives as well. It all starts with befriending and acceptance.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Let your 'music' out into the world

I often hear friends and acquaintances say they are unclear about what direction their life should take, whether that's about a career choice or activities to fill their retirement days. So many options. So tough to choose what's just right for you.

That is a challenge. I've heard it said that most of us go to our grave with our music still inside of us. So the challenge becomes to figure out what our music is. What are the gifts and talents that make you unique? What are you uniquely qualified to bring into the world?

The answer to those questions doesn't always equate to what you've become proficient at doing. You take up many activities and tasks throughout your lifetime that simply need to be done, and you can become quite talented at doing them. That doesn't necessarily mean that's your gift.

Pay more attention to what makes your heart sing. Sometimes it's helpful to think back to your childhood and remember what activities called to you then. Did you absolutely love music? Did you get lost in books? Were you a nurturer when you played with dolls and/or with friends? Did you take pleasure in colors, textures and design? What were you doing at those times when you became totally absorbed and lost track of time? These things can offer clues.

So can the things on your bucket list or dreams list (not the dreams you have while sleeping but the things about which you dream of doing "some day"). Journaling and talking this over with a trusted friend or a life coach can help, too. Please contact me if you would like to explore this further.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Stay awake & aware

Yesterday I wrote about Mary Oliver's poetry. She has such an honest and refreshingly open way of inviting us to live fully.

At the end of her poem "When Death Comes," she says:

"When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world."

I suspect that's something to which we can all sign on. We don't simply want to have "visited this world." We want to live our lives to the fullest. We want to be awake to and aware of all that's going on inside and around us. We want to take notice of those with whom we spend our days—and even of those who simply pass through. We want to learn what we can from the experiences of our lives, both the good and the bad. There is so much to be learned when we pay attention. And there is so much joy to experience when we are "married to amazement."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What the world needs now: Enthusiasm?

I have long been a fan of Mary Oliver's poetry. For example, in her poem "The Summer Day," I have always loved her final question: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

That's a question with which to live—and one that can take a lifetime to really answer.

However, the other day I heard her interviewed (a rare occurrence for her); and she used a phrase that struck me then and days later, makes my heart sing each time I think of it. She spoke of being "positively drenched in enthusiasm."

Isn't that a beautiful image? In a world that can often be so filled with negativity (just tune into the news on any given day), it's lovely to imagine being "positively drenched in enthusiasm." What a way to live. Of course, we are realistic people. We know we won't live every moment that way. But perhaps we could aspire to spend more time in that space going forward than we have in the past: "positively drenched in enthusiasm."

Just imagine a world like that. What might be possible? How might our daily exchanges be different? How might our lives change as a result? Surely we can at least live into that—perhaps starting with even just an hour a week. As always, our goal is progress, not perfection—even when it comes to enthusiasm. Wouldn't we add more happiness and joy to our world?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Serving up compassion

A dear friend and I were talking recently about the lack of gentleness and compassion we sometimes see around us. Granted, lots of people are stressed beyond belief and are completely tapped out emotionally. And we have no idea what is going on in the lives of those we meet in stores, on the street, or in our workplaces. Sometimes even those in our family or friendship circles.

What if we try to do our part to add more compassion, kindness and gentleness into the world? What it really requires is that we be in touch with what's going on inside us. Feel our feelings—rather than mask or ignore them. If we don't tend to our own wounds and losses, grieving them as they happen and addressing the pain rather than acting as though we don't feel a thing, we'll be so much more clear and open-hearted—better able to deal with others around us who may not have done whatever inner work was required to deal with their "stuff."

As infectious as toxicity, anger and negative emotions are, so also are positive things such as generosity, kindness, gentleness and compassion. In fact, I think those last qualities trump the negative ones any day. For my money, I'd rather go with the positives. We have no idea how far a smile or an act of kindness may travel once we share it. Isn't it worth serving up some compassion and love today?

Friday, February 6, 2015

'Love is an active noun'

Many children in the U.S. gained from his wisdom. And here's one of the gems he left with us all: "Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now."

Who said that? Fred Rogers—better known as TV's Mr. Rogers.

Such words of wisdom. Love is an active noun. No one said it's easy. It isn't. It includes so many other nouns such as respect, acceptance, trust and more. And it involves lots of verbs such as listen, share, care, support, affirm, encourage and more.

You and I know how difficult it is to accept someone just as they are at that moment. That is what love asks of us—not that we say, "I love you. Now change." And that's where all the verbs enter the picture, especially that first one: listen. When we listen deeply to the other, we can learn why they are as they are, why they believe the things they do, why they feel so strongly about one thing or another.

Following Fred Rogers' advice doesn't mean it's a one-way street. As important as it is for you to listen, for example, it's just as important for you to articulate what you feel and want so the other can hear you. You deserve to be heard as well. The healthiest relationships strive for mutuality.

Are you having any challenges lately with those you love? What are you being called to do about it? 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Job unhappiness & choices

Yesterday I heard a statistic that surprised me: 70 percent of American workers hate their jobs. I know many people are unhappy in the workplace, but I didn't expect that high a number.

So, are you unhappy with your career? Your workplace? Your boss or colleagues? Are you unhappy with what you're doing with your retirement years? Your lifestyle in general?

If you answered "Yes" to any of those questions, is there something you can do to change that to a "No"? Or, at the least, are there things you can do to make your situation more to your liking? Might you even change how you view it?

No matter where you are in terms of happiness with your job, your retirement or your lifestyle in general, it's always best for your emotional health to know you do have options and choices. If you need to make some changes, I encourage you to do so. And if you'd like to explore options, I invite you to contact me for some coaching around this topic. Feeling helpless and unhappy isn't a good option! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Creative caring & sharing

I learned a new term yesterday: scarf bombing. Have you heard about it? Apparently, this has been around for a few years. It was just news to me.

With much of the U.S. enduring deep-freeze temps during this season, knitters and crocheters are engaging in an act of what one website calls "wooly kindness." They're creating warm scarves and hanging them up in public place with little hangtags on each one inviting anyone who wants or needs one to take it. People can simply help themselves. Some communities are calling this Chase the Chill. And that's just what they're doing: chasing away the chill for many who have few or no warm winter clothes. Isn't that a wonderful idea?

It's a good reminder to me of the value of building community, of creativity and especially of giving—particularly giving to those who really need. I can only imagine the joy each of the knitters and crocheters must feel at being part of such a wonderful outreach. They have the joy of creating a thing of warmth and beauty. And then they have the additional joy of knowing it went to someone who really needed it. Does it get any better than that?

If you are interested in this project, simply Google Chase the Chill or scarf bombing. Or do your creative best to come up with an idea like it. I'm guessing you could come up with lots of good ideas to show your care and to share what you have with others. I don't knit, but I'm thinking there are other things I can do. Hmmm, I need to give this some thought.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Enjoy the detours

Some people gather flowers. Others gather friends. I like gathering both those things—and I also like gathering inspirational quotes. I love reading books. I highlight and underscore things that inspire me. And when I hear or read quotes in other places, I gather them into a file. So you will see me use a lot of quotes as inspiration for my blogs. They're inspiration for my life as well.

Here's one I saw several weeks ago, and right now I can't remember where I saw it: "A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour."

As someone who has always been so focused on getting the job done, I like hearing this. I need to hear it. It's not always about the goal or the destination. It's the journey. It's even in the detours.

I dislike road construction as much as the next person. Perhaps even more. And I don't like having to take detours either. I don't know where they'll take me and how well marked they'll be. I don't know how long they'll take. And yet ....

And yet ... some of the most interesting scenery can be found on detours. Even the pace is different—and is good for me. I've discovered that as I have taken back roads when interstate highways were blocked. When I relax and enter into the experience, I can really enjoy it. I can savor all the beauty of the trees, flowers, birds, contented cows and other things I notice along the detour! I can slow my breathing and even enjoy the slower pace. It's good for me. The same is true of life's detours as well. I can learn a lot from them.

Taken any detours lately? What did you notice?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Share the 'good stuff'

"Don't give life to the negative emotions you feel around this," I invited my client to consider. She immediately resonated with that idea and caught on. "Yes, I can't be creative about solutions as long as I keep fanning the flames with 'ain't it awful' thinking," she said. Ah, yes, so true.

I had only just heard this thought from a friend of mine a few days earlier. And she had heard it from another friend of hers. When my friend told me about not giving life to negative emotions or situations, I liked the thought immediately. And I recognized that there are times when I repeat an "Ain't it awful" story about something that's happened. It doesn't give me energy. It doesn't move me to solutions. It keeps me stuck.

I like the thought behind this saying. But what I want to highlight today is that when you hear a wonderful word of wisdom such as that, pass it on. Share it with friends. Share it with anyone you think will like it. Or anyone who might need it. That's how we help each other through this journey we call life. Some days we need all the help we can get.

You have a lot of wisdom inside you. What "good stuff" might you share with someone today? It might be something you heard elsewhere. It might be an awareness you had. Share it. You never know. It might be just what that person needs to hear.