Thursday, April 30, 2015

What the body knows

Have you ever had a day where you really felt down about life in general but weren't sure why you felt that way? You couldn't identify a situation or cause for the way you felt.

I've heard it said that our bodies retain memories from the past about which our minds may not be aware any longer. So sometimes it can happen that you feel down because the body remembers an event or situation that happened on that day long ago. Your conscious mind no longer remember it—although if you dig deeply enough in your memory, it may come back. But your body does and is grieving—or is simply remembering.

If that's ever happened to you, simply accept that your body has rhythms and memories of its own that can sometimes be quite different from those of the mind. Having a down day may be the body's way of grieving. Often, the feeling passes in a day or two.

That is a time when acceptance is important. The phrase "Go with the flow" also comes to mind. Don't fight the feeling. Simply be with it and honor the body's need to remember something your mind may not. We are extremely complex creatures, are we not? Things such as this sometimes make no sense to us. Just accept your complexities and don't ignore what's happening. It's OK. It's normal. You're OK.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Listen—and learn

Listening seems like an art these days. A fine art at that. So many people seem to be talking so much (might it be to avoid having any quiet?) and doing very little listening. Others are listening—but always with their minds racing ahead to what they'll say as soon as the conversation lags. So when you find a person who listens, and listens deeply, that person is a real treasure.

I love what the Dalai Lama says about listening: "When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new."

At times, no doubt we've all been guilty of talking too much—or of preparing our next comments while simultaneously "listening" to someone else.

I try to remind myself, however, of what a gift we give when we listen to another. Think of how you feel when someone is concentrating intently on what you're saying. Don't you feel hugged, affirmed and loved? Yes, I do, too.

So not only is listening a gift we give others—but in the process, we stand to learn new things. It sounds like win-win to me. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Take a different view

Sometimes I get to practice what I preach. Other times I have to eat my words. You, too?

Yesterday morning my fiance tried to fix a problem with my computer. He spent a considerable amount of time—with no luck. He's good with computers. So I knew if he couldn't get to the bottom of the problem, we needed to take it back where I just bought it. We did. This definitely was not how we'd each planned to spend our Monday!

We drove the 45 minutes to the computer store, got our name on the waiting list for help and spent a few hours wandering around a strip mall until our number came up. We were both pretty impatient, knowing our to-do lists at home weren't getting any smaller. Then John said, "You know, let's look at it this way: We're getting some more time together to just hang out. Let's enjoy the day." It was a sunny and beautiful day for wandering in and out of stores, and we really did enjoy some time together not working on whittling down our to-do lists.

Reframing. I talk about it a lot. And sometimes I'm able to do it quite well. Other times, such as yesterday, I wasn't in the mood to reframe—initially. But it really helped to do so. And we did have a good day together.

And, so far anyway, the computer is working. That's frosting on the cake.

Monday, April 27, 2015

You decide

Are you often tempted to give advice to others or to persuade them to make choices that you think are good for them? It's just way too easy, and tempting, to tell others what they should do, isn't it? It's often far more clear to us what others should do than what path we should take!

But it's a shaky business, sometimes even dangerous—to mess in the lives of others, even those you love dearly. Mind you, that's different if we're talking about your children.

The other day someone quoted writer Marilyn Ferguson in words that really resonated with me and stood as a warning to me, too, to let others follow their own paths. Here's her quote: "Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be unlocked from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal." Definitely.

Even in my coaching, I'm more likely to help you discover your own wisdom and come to your own conclusions. I try to ask questions that will help you get beneath the issue and perhaps see things in a new way. Sometimes I turn your ideas upside down just so you can try on new views and new ideas and find more clarity within yourself. It helps to think of the problem in a new way sometimes. You are the one who can open your own gate, who must live with the consequences of whatever decision you make.

I've heard this sentiment put in other words, too. For example, one woman told a group I was in, "We do best to keep our dipper out of the buckets of others." Of course, this doesn't mean we don't listen when loved ones need to discuss a decision. It doesn't mean we don't share what worked for us—though what works for me doesn't necessarily work for you. If asked by a friend, "What would you do if this were your decision?" we surely can respond. But we do well to always make clear that this is simply our opinion. We help best when we listen and encourage—encourage others to dig deeply inside and seek their own best wisdom.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Thank your body

It's so easy to get caught up in anxiety about body image, weight and dress size. So many messages come at us all the time to tell us what the perfect female form should look like. And already at age 8 (and sometimes younger), girls worry that they're too fat even when they don't have any fat on their bodies. Perhaps they see too many Barbie dolls in the store. No one looks like that, and young girls certainly should not aspire to such a model.

Because of all that, I loved the message in my May/June Weight Watchers magazine. It appeared in the editor's comments as she talked about positive body image and ways to give our confidence a boost. She said, "Start by celebrating your body for what it's capable of doing rather than worrying how it looks."

What a great idea! Think of all the things your body has done for you through the years. Perhaps it has given birth to babies, cradled them, walked them as they cried, raised them into adulthood, traveled to many states and perhaps countries, held down a career, walked or run miles and miles as you went about your activities through your lifetime, created nutritious meals, handed out hugs and so much more. Did you ever stop to say "Thank you" to your body and all its parts? Really, that might be a good thing to do. It's something we take for granted ... until things go wrong and we can't do what we always did before.

It's no small thing—what the body and all its parts do for us. It's also helpful to change the focus from our weight and dress size to all the ways our bodies perform.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Befriend your fear

I've talked before about saying hello to our fears. They truly do shrink in size when we bring our awareness to them and explore what they're really about.

I like what Dawna Markova says in her book I Will Not Die An Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion: "What would it be like to open our hearts to our fear, to befriend it with wonder, as one would a deer in the forest? What if you could bring it right into the hearth of your awareness instead of ignoring it and thus allowing it to become an undifferentiated mass of demons that gang up on you in the murk? Stuffed behind walls, fear becomes a horde—the Demons of Doubt who will trample you under stories of what others think, of your endless failures, impending humiliation, and lost control."

She goes on to say how she opens up to her fear: "Breathing in and out, I slowly become present to myself and my body, coming to my senses as I would with a terrified baby, noticing my breath, noticing sensations, refusing any interpretations. I imagine the warmth of compassion sinking deep into the cold place where all of that fear and confusion lives...."

I can't really add much more to her words. If we do not want fear to run our lives and, yes, ruin our lives, we can pay attention to what she says about befriending it. Why not try her suggestion today? If you'd like a conversation about this, I invite you to contact me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

No more put-downs

Do you ever put yourself down? Berate yourself for "messing up" or forgetting or not being who you think you should be? And hold back even more because you fear messing up again?

Sadly, we women have done (and still do) way too much of that to ourselves. We're generally harder on ourselves than anyone else ever would be. As author and educator Parker Palmer has said, "No punishment anyone might inflict on us could possibly be worse than the punishment we inflict on ourselves by conspiring in our own diminishment."

Would you like to stop the negative messages? Would you like to quit punishing yourself and/or holding yourself back?

First, start by noticing whenever you catch yourself doing it. Awareness is the first step to making a change. After my divorce, when I was in a displaced homemaker's program, this was one of the issues we each confronted. What worked for me was to imagine a stop sign going up in my head each time I gave myself a negative or limiting message. You will find something that works for you—something that calls your attention to what you're doing.

Second, you can then make a different choice. Realize that you can slowly, over time, give yourself an affirmation in place of that negative message. You can choose to try something new rather than follow the limiting and diminished pathway.

It's all about choices, really. But first comes awareness. Bottom line: It's about loving yourself enough to stop putting yourself down. You wouldn't treat your best friend like that. Don't treat yourself that way either. Self-love and self-compassion—you deserve those, too. Gift yourself with positive and loving self-talk today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

You get to choose

The other day I saw a sign that said: "At any given moment, you have the power to say, 'This is NOT how the story is going to end.'"

That's an empowering thought, isn't it? I hear so many people (and do it myself, too) talk about how helpless we all are. We can't change this, and we don't have the power to change that, etc. Goodness knows, there are plenty of things over which we have no control. For sure.

However, there are many situations in which we do have a choice. We can decide to walk away from an unhealthy or abusive relationship. "This is not how the story is going to end." We can accept the job that fuels our passion rather than the one with the greatest pay just because it's more important to love a job. "This is not how the story is going to end." We can do everything within our power to fight an illness or a devastating medical diagnosis. We can look into alternative therapies and also work on maintaining a positive attitude, which we're told can sometimes make the difference. "This is not how the story is going to end."

We really do have areas in life that provide choice. Don't resign yourself and take on the victim role without checking out what power you really do have. See how you might change the story's ending!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Opportunity? Or loss?

Last week I attended the funeral of a dear uncle and godparent. He was one of my favorites, and it wasn't easy to lose him.

As a friend said recently, "There seem to be more funerals lately." I guess that's bound to happen at a certain stage of life. It causes me to reflect on what it means to be the generation that will soon be out on the edge—or the forefront—depending on your point of view.

That can be a downer for you if you focus on death or on the fact of what you'll be missing out on once you're gone. But it can be inspirational to think about your role as a mentor, an elder, an encourager or whatever other word you'd like to put to it. We have so many wonderful opportunities as we age to pass on whatever wisdom we've gained, to encourage younger ones to find their place in life and to live into their authentic selves. It can be a wonderful time of life. There's so much need out there, and we have so much to offer.

As is so often the case, you can view aging from different vantage points. You can look at what little time you have left and feel the loss. Or you can look at all the opportunities that are ahead for you no matter how much time you have left. Choose carefully. Your happiness depends on your attitude.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The quality of our days

I'm at that stage of life where I have many more years behind me than I have ahead of me. That doesn't bother me, however. For I hold to the philosophy that it's not how old you are but how you are old. I also think happiness isn't about the quantity of my days but about the quality of them.

That said, I'm thinking about all the ways I can tweak things in my life so I savor more moments rather than simply pass through them as though I'm sleepwalking. I want to live more awake and aware. I want to notice who and what is around me. I want to pay attention to the beauty that's there every day but that I often overlook in the busyness or the rush of life. In fact, I want to S-L-O-W down a bit, too, and not live that chaotic, rushed lifestyle that seems to be the sign of our times.

To do that, I need more than wishful thinking, though. I need to actually put a few steps into place that will help me live more awake and aware. This is what I'll do for starters:

• Revive my use of a Gratitude Journal. That helps me focus on blessings around me.
• Take a break from whatever work I'm doing every hour to just stop and look around me. What do I see? What do I feel? What jumps out at me?
• Each night think of two or three adjectives that describe things I saw, felt or experienced that day.
• Tell people when I'm thinking something positive about them or noticing something I appreciate about them.

What would you add to my list?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fight negative body messages

I've written many times before about the way we women view our bodies. We face a plethora of external messages that tell us we're only good or worthy if we're size 4 or 6 and have an hour-glass figure and a model's face and body. Really?! Over time, this does real damage to our self-image and confidence.

Even my 8-year-old granddaughter has already gotten the message from somewhere around her that she's fat (definitely not her parents, who always tell her how wonderful she is just the way she is—and she isn't even carrying any extra weight). Her parents and I told her that she isn't fat and that her worth has nothing to do with body size anyway. It's oh-so-difficult to fight those messages. But we just have to. I suspect she must get that in school from peers, perhaps in the dolls she sees in stores (Barbie and all the others who don't look anything like most of us!), in movies or TV shows (even though she and her brother aren't encouraged to watch much TV at all, thankfully). It doesn't take much, though, does it, to eat its way into our psyche until we see ourselves as deficient and imperfect.

We need to fight those negative messages. We need to support and encourage one another. We need to give our young ones positive messages. We need to encourage positive self-images and promote self-love. It's so important.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

From grumbling to gratitude

We all know about reframing things. For example, when I find myself complaining about housework, I remind myself to be grateful that I even have a home to clean. I remind myself about all those who are homeless in this country and around the globe. It doesn't mean I like cleaning any more than I did. I don't. It just means I can shift my attitude to a more positive one—I can shift from grumbling to gratitude.

So yesterday when I saw my Mary Engelbreit calendar page and its message, I instantly resonated. It featured a quote from Madeleine Costigan: "I have a lot of excitement in my life. I used to call it tension, but I feel much better now that I call it excitement."

Actually, that specific message works for me this week, having just returned from a week with my youngest grandchildren and facing a week that has suddenly filled up with some add-ons I hadn't expected in addition to all the catching up. So I think I'll try calling it "excitement" rather than "stress" or "tension." I can't change the things that need to be done. But I can change how I view them. 

Do you have anything you need to reframe this week?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Take a play break

Do you ever play anymore? Or do you think you're too old for that?

Actually, the older I get, the more I recognize the importance of play. We all need breaks from the seriousness and heaviness of life. We need to let our brains rest and amp up our creativity with some play. And by "play," I don't mean competitive sports or even card games such as bridge. I mean play, as in what children engage in when they become totally absorbed and erupt in smiles and giggles.

I read recently that there are coloring books for adults, so if that's your thing, go to. I often colored and drew with my grandchildren—and now I'm thinking that I really shouldn't have stopped since I enjoy it myself! And Play-Doh. That just feels good as you work it with your hands and shape it into all sorts of things. You can really have a lot of fun with that.

What about building things with Legos or other blocks? And I knew a therapist once who kept a sandbox in her basement. She said that was her therapy when she was drained from helping everyone else with their problems.

Maybe you like to play with the equipment on a playground—swing as high as you can, for example. Nothing wrong with that ... at any age.

Go ahead. Find something that symbolizes pure relaxation, fun and play to you. Enjoy it—and all the side benefits you'll no doubt experience.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Open up to life

Today I'm returning home after spending a week with my youngest son, daughter-in-law and youngest grandchildren, ages 3 and 8. I'm a tired grandma—but my heart is filled up with joy, openness and wonder. I've banked a lot of hugs that should hold me for several weeks. And I hope I've left behind enough grandma-love to last them, too.

Here's what I also bring home with me: a reminder to stay as open, curious and joy-filled as those young ones. How do we lose so much of that as we age anyway? Our worlds seem to become constricted and restricted. We play it safe more than we explore and seek adventure. We stay with what we know rather than experiment, whether it's with new foods or new friends. We think the same old thoughts without examining them to see whether they even contain truth anymore—or whether they even work for us any longer.

I don't know about you. But I'd love to spend the months or years I have left celebrating life—dancing with it and savoring all that is. Does that mean I ignore grief when it comes knocking at my door? Of course not. We are healthier when we deal with what is rather than hide our heads in the sand. But grief and pain don't need to hold our attention forever.

Where are you today? Are you celebrating? Or grieving? Both are part of the cycle of life. Neither lasts forever. But sometimes we get to make a choice: the cup half full or the cup half empty. What'll it be today?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Remember to laugh

A sense of humor. It's one of the qualities in life I definitely want to keep. How about you?

I've seen the saving grace of a sense of humor in so many others. My father is one example. He lived with cancer for 11 years, enduring radiation, chemotherapy and surgery multiple times as it moved around his body until it finally landed in his brain. That's what finally got him—although my sister and I think it really was the radiation focused on his brain that finished him. In any case, he kept his sense of humor right up to the very end. We saw it come through time and again in those final days we spent with him in a hospice facility saying our goodbyes.

I saw it again the other day in the Facebook posts of a friend who's been dealing with multiple medical issues for months and months. She exhibits that humor along with her faith regularly, so somehow I know she'll be OK, no matter what. Faith. Hope. A sense of humor. They are some of the things that will get us through.

What would you add to that list?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bypassing fear

 Do you swim? Do you enjoy it? Or do you have a fear of water? If so, how did you pick up that fear?

A book called Underwater Babies by photographer Seth Casteel contains adorable photos of little ones, only a few months old, under water and enjoying it. The book reflects an effort to teach babies, even as young as six weeks old, to swim, somersault and float under water. Proponents of this say that babies already are comfortable in water since they spent nine months in a water environment. And babies haven't yet had time to develop the fears we all seem to add into our lives as we grow.

Hearing a segment about this movement and this book on the Today Show last week made me think about fear—and how some of our fears are picked up as we observe the reactions of those around us (parents, teachers, siblings and others). Many of those fears are legitimate and healthy. Children need to be afraid to touch a hot stove, for example, or walk to the edge of a steep stairway. But there are other fears we would be better off without.

If you have little ones in your life, this is something about which to think: How can you teach them to embrace adventure while still staying safe? How can you help them retain their curiosity and openness to life?

And here's a question: How can you (and I) learn from them to stay open to wonder and an openness to life? Life is such an adventure, and there's so much beauty out there—an abundance of wonder-full things! Let's open up to it and savor as much as we can. Let's fill our lives with delight and wonder.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Give voice to pain

Yesterday we talked about healing our wounds and hurts so that we don't end up hurting others because of them. Acknowledging that we have the wounds is a good starting place. Naming what is can be so powerful.

In The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, Mark Nepo says: "We often underestimate the power of giving voice, but it is real and sustaining. It is the basis of all song. It is why prisoners break into song. It is why the blues are sung, even when no one is listening. It is at the heart of all hymns and mantras.

"And it works its healing, not so much by being heard as by the fact that in giving voice to what lives within, even through the softest whisper, we allow the world of spirit to soften our pain."

Yes. Give voice to your hurts, your pain, your wounds. Sing the blues! Comfort yourself. Then let the pain go. When it involves something huge like abuse or death, it's highly likely that pain will cycle around again. But each time you do some healing, you reduce the amount that resides in you. And the healing becomes easier each time.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Heal the wounds

Would you like to be kinder, gentler, more compassionate, more forgiving and loving? Many of us would. I know I would.

I don't have any sure-fire recipes on how to attain more of those things. But one thing I do know: When we have a build-up of hurts, resentments and unacknowledged wounds, we tend to hurt others more. Either the pus of resentments and hurts builds up and gradually seeps out in hurtful ways or it can come out in a huge burst of anger and harmful words or actions toward others. We lash out at others when the build-up is too great. Hurting people hurt others. That's just simply the way it is. Our bodies can't contain all those wounds and hurts forever without giving way to damaging and hurtful behavior.

So, though it isn't much fun to take a look at our wounds and pain, the end result is so worth it—not just for others but for ourselves as well. You know how great you feel when you've forgiven someone for something that's been eating away at you for a while. You feel liberated. Freer. Lighter. So it is with hurts and wounds. Let go. Open them up to the light, take a look at them, do whatever helps you heal. And let go. Repeat the process as needed. Clearing out those things will just open your heart space and you'll be kinder, gentler, more compassionate, more forgiving and loving.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Resist comparisons

"A woman who knows her worth doesn't measure herself against another woman but stands strong, calmed, and self-confident."

That's what my Mary Engelbreit calendar page told me one day last week. Of course, it was written by that famous author "Anonymous"—whom many say must have been a woman!

I like the sentiment. It's far too easy to compare ourselves with others. Even though I know better, I still catch myself doing that at times. It's really not helpful, is it? Each one of us is unique. So why would it help to compare with someone else? We develop in unique ways and in our own unique timing. We have emotions unique to our particular experiences, and we each express them in our own way.

So this is a reminder to myself—and to you, too, if you need it today—to stand strong, calmed and self-confident. You are amazing. You have many gifts and talents that the world needs. So let's get out there and calmly, confidently do our thing.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Spring & hope

Now I don't have SADD. But I'm with John Denver ... and his song lyrics: "Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy. Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry. Sunshine on the water looks so lovely. Sunshine almost always make me high."

I'm writing this on a fabulously beautiful spring day in the Chicago area. In fact, it's April Fool's Day as I write this. But the weather is not fooling—it definitely smells and feels like spring. Ah, and I'm so ready. So is everyone else, if casual conversations overheard in the past few days are any barometer.

While happiness is an "inside job" and depends so much on our attitude and state of mind, externals also can affect how we feel. Spring, with its new life and rebirth, reminds us that darkness doesn't last forever. The seed doesn't stay buried in the ground forever. The cocoon isn't forever. Soon green things will sprout and grow. Soon enough the butterfly will emerge and soar in all her beauty. So this is a time of hope. And who doesn't need a little hope?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hand in hand, together we rise

Yesterday morning I heard Senator Elizabeth Warren interviewed on a news talk show. One of the hosts was trying to get Warren to criticize Hillary Clinton, presumptive presidential nominee for the Democrats, for something about which she hasn't yet spoken out. To her credit, Warren declined to badmouth Clinton but instead said she was waiting for Clinton to declare herself a nominee and then see what sort of platform she laid out. The host continued to push Warren on the issue, but she wouldn't be goaded into negative speech.

The entire exchange brought to mind all the ways I've seen women criticize, sabotage and put down other women. It always makes me sad to see this. We need all the support and help we can get from each other to make our way past decades of discrimination and lack of opportunity. We need to encourage, not discourage, each other.

Warren's action reminded me to be careful with the words I choose, too. This doesn't mean we have to agree with everything another woman does or says. Not at all. But there are a million ways we can encourage and support one another in our endeavors. It feels so good when we do. And it feels wonderful when we get the support and encouragement from other women, too, doesn't it? I have this image of women around the globe, hand in hand, helping one another—no matter what race, creed or country we represent. Together we rise!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tend to wounds

I've heard it said that if everyone in the world got massages, there would be no wars. Perhaps it sounds simplistic, but there's a point to be taken there.

If each of us would engage in self-care, tending to whatever wounds we've suffered in the past and present, getting the healing care we need from whatever resources we can, no doubt we would wound each other far less. It doesn't matter whether the wounds are physical, emotional or spiritual; wounds are wounds. If we tended to them, we would likely be more compassionate, loving and forgiving ... because we would feel better. We'd feel better about ourselves, about life, and by extension, about others.

Of course, we know that the unfortunate fact is that the world contains many people who live daily in violence and the grind of poverty and hunger. Wellness isn't high on their priority list. Each in our own way, perhaps we can be part of solutions that will reduce those numbers and help those in need.

In our own lives, however, we do have more choices. Is there something in your life that needs healing? Could you benefit from the care of a healing touch practitioner, a reflexologist, a chiropractor, a massage therapist, a psychologist, a life coach, or some additional resources from your primary care doctor? I encourage you to tend to whatever hurts in your life, to wherever you're stuck. You don't have to stay there. Self-love, self-care, self-compassion—those aren't just good for you. They're good for all those around you. And for the world. As always, please contact me should you wish to discuss this.