Friday, January 29, 2016

Examine your anger

In and of itself, anger is not bad. It's one of the emotions we feel. It's normal. It's a signal that something is wrong. And, as we all know, it's what we do with the anger that either leads to insights and growth or to further problems.

As Sue Patton Thoele says in The Woman's Book of Spirit, "...examined anger is often an incredible teacher. Exploring our experience of anger non-judgmentally often helps us uncover valuable clues as to what we expect, what we want, what we fear, and where we feel especially vulnerable. Indeed, examined anger is a spiritual ally. Examined anger remains moist and movable, supple and malleable to our inquiring minds. From it, we can learn to stop accepting the unacceptable in terms of treatment directed toward us."

Yes, there's much to learn from our anger. Did we have expectations that went unmet? Is it about something we fear? Were our personal boundaries breached? Suppressing the anger doesn't make it go away. It only comes out sideways, or it lies in wait until something else happens—and then we blow sky-high, lashing out at others in inappropriate ways. Or we turn it inward, leading to depression.

Best we examine our anger when we feel it. Then we can learn from it. And then we have choices about what to do next—and those choices likely won't involve hurting others.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

'Get fired up today'

In her book The Woman's Book of Confidence, Sue Patton Thoele quotes Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "Light tomorrow with today!"

Thoele goes on to say, "Great advice, and following it means we have to get fired up today, aflame with the desire to follow our dreams.

"To fan the flames, we need to be enthusiastically supportive of our ideas, no matter how crazy or farfetched they seem. We are all creative—we have only to tune in to our night dreams to verify that—but so many of us throw the cold water of 'I can't do that' or 'My ideas aren't really very good' onto our original notions. ... Believing in ourselves is the most powerful bellows we can use to kindle the fire of creative thought."

Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe you are creative? If so, celebrate that—and lend support to those around you who don't. If you don't and would like a complimentary coaching session, I invite you to contact me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Celebrate life

Today is a good day for a celebration!

Since every day and every hour we have is a gift, it's a good idea to stop every now and again and celebrate that. I know it's easy to complain about the aging process. "I can't do what I used to a few years ago when I was younger." "I forget more and sleep less." "The years are going too quickly, and I still have so much I want to get done." "I have so many aches and pains I didn't have before." On and on we go.

But, still, we are here. We are alive. And much more than that for most of us—we have family, friends, worthwhile work whether paid or volunteer or that we assign to ourselves at home, food, shelter and more. It's a privilege to age.

Isn't that worth celebrating? Isn't that cause for gratitude? Yup, I think so, too.

What kind of party are you throwing for yourself today?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Positive support is key

It's so easy to get caught up in negativity, isn't it? I get sucked into it far more than I would like. It happened again the other day. Someone made a comment about "Big Pharma" and the rest of us all piled on. Not that there isn't plenty about which to complain when it comes to the chokehold large pharmaceutical companies have on us and on our Western form of medicine... There is!

Then we morphed into conversation about food corporations and the hold they have on us for type of foods and what's added into them. Again, there's plenty of fodder in that whole situation to rail against. We were on a roll and getting more worked up by the minute. You can probably picture it yourself.

Finally we stopped and realized that either we needed to stop complaining—or we each needed to decide what we could do, if anything, about either of those situations. We can change the way we eat. We can try lifestyle changes rather than meds, where that's possible. We can write or speak out about what's happening. We can be activists for systemic change.

But just sitting and complaining, while getting angrier and angrier, was getting us nowhere—except to send us spiraling down into negativity. Whew, it happens so easily. And we have to help each other stay positive. We're all in this together, and we need support to stay engaged with life and positive. Watch for opportunities today to lift yourself and others into a positive mindset.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Let go of guilt and shame

I have had several clients through the years who have shared their feelings of guilt or shame over things they have done or not done. For my money, I find those two emotions unproductive.

Here's the thing: If you have done something to hurt someone else, think about what you need to do to remedy the situation. Apologize, make reparations, change behavior as needed—and then let go. If you simply feel guilty or ashamed and do nothing about it, you will be drained of energy, confidence and joy. And that's what you'll be passing around to others who are in your presence. So how does that help you or those around you?

Often the shame is less about a specific situation than a generalized feeling about not being "enough." Not being good enough, kind enough, thoughtful enough. Perhaps you think you didn't treat your parents as well as you might have wished. Or your children. Stewing over it years later doesn't fix anything. Rather, it holds you back from living a happy, healthy life now.

See whether you can release the guilt and shame. It may not happen overnight. But bit by bit, you can choose to examine the guilt to see whether there's any basis to your feeling that you've come up short—and then forgive yourself. Let go. Forgive yourself again. Let go again. And change whatever needs changing so your life can be productive, happy and healthy going forward.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Share comfort

Comfort. I use the word, but I confess I don't think a lot about what it might mean to my life. But yesterday I read these words by inspirational writer Melody Beattie: "Open your heart to receive comfort. Learn to give it, too. Comfort touches and heals our souls. Take it with you like a favorite blanket wherever you go."

Perhaps it was the blanket reference. But suddenly, I had a visceral reaction to the world. It was more than just a word. I could feel what comfort meant.

Have you thought much about it? In lives that are so busy and stressful, in a world that's filled with violence, anger and situations that raise our fear level, isn't it wonderful to think of receiving comfort—and giving comfort to someone else? It's healing. It touches our souls. It can bring light and warmth into our hearts, which may have become cold and closed off because of all the things around us.

Like a warm blanket (or a comforter!), we can take comfort with us wherever we go—enjoying its benefits ourselves and sharing it with others. The world could use more of this, I think. What do you think?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

'Be alive before you die'

My book club just had a discussion the other night on All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It's such a rich and complex book; and we could have talked for hours about the characters, the situation, quotes in it—and even the meaning of its title. I have read a lot of World War II books, but not many show the goodness people sometimes exhibit even during brutal war time. And this one did that.

Two of the book's characters heard a radio broadcast when they were children that concluded with this comment: "Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever." Later in the book an older woman asked a question that related to that idea: "Don't you want to be alive before you die?"

Both those quotes are filled with meaning for me. Because our lives are so busy and often so filled with stress, it's easy just to numb out and keep putting one foot in front of the other, head down, in our attempts to get it all done. And when we do that, we often miss so much that goes on in and around us. It's hard work, but it's so worth it to open our eyes and see all we can. It's so worth it to really be alive before we die—rather than sleepwalk through life.

If you don't already do it, see whether you can really be aware today. See how much more you notice. Savor even small things—the texture of your robe, the smell of your coffee, the softness of a loved one's hand, the tenderness in your grandchild's voice. " alive before you die."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hearts broken open

Author and educator Parker Palmer said in a pamphlet on "The Politics of the Brokenhearted," "The holiest thing we have to offer the world is a broken-open heart, emptied of fear and vengeance, filled with forgiveness and a willingness to take the risks of love."

There's a difference between a broken heart and a broken-open heart, although a broken-open heart sometimes occurs because of a broken heart. Broken open implies a change from a heart that was closed to one that's open. And really, doesn't the quote say it all? A closed heart is often that way because of fear. An open one is filled with love, compassion and forgiveness. And an open one is willing to take risks for love. 

And the world so desperately needs more open hearts. It always has. But perhaps never more than now. And it needs hearts that are emptied of vengeance and hate—hearts that take risks for love.

To have a heart broken open, we need to be vulnerable. We need to let situations and other people touch us—and we need to open ourselves up to others, to listen to them, to try understand their reality. What a difference that would make in the world. And in our lives.

I'd love to hear what you think about what Palmer said.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Focus less on hurts

It's true that hurting people hurt others. Have you noticed that in yourself too? When you've been badly hurt by someone or a situation has caused you great pain, and you're stewing in the juices of anger and resentment, it's so easy to lash out at others—to be impatient and unforgiving and to hurt them.

Yesterday we talked about how unhealthy it is for us to suppress our negative emotions. It's better for our immune systems and our health to deal immediately with situations that stir up anger and resentment and then to let those negative emotions go. We risk our own well-being and health when we carry around all those negative emotions or when we stuff them down.

And here's the other piece of that: We also hurt others. And it's often the people we least want to hurt. They're the ones who are right there, handy victims for our anger, right?

Again, spend more time looking for life's blessings and gifts. They're always there. Several times a day, express gratitude for everything in your life. When you do that, you'll notice even more good things for which to be grateful. That's where your attention will go. And you won't be as apt to dwell on a remark someone made or on something else that hurt you. Your heart will be more open to others and you'll respond to them in compassion.

Try it. See what a difference it can make.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Practice gratitude & compassion

It's probably no surprise to you that your emotions affect your immune system. Studies show that when you experience positive emotions, your immune system is stimulated. Attitude really does make a difference.

What does that mean about the anger, resentments and fear that come up in our lives from time to time? It doesn't mean avoiding those emotions or suppressing them. Our bodies know what emotions are being experienced even when the mind won't acknowledge them. And people who push down their negative emotions actually raise their risk of cancer, ulcers and other physical ailments.

The answer is to deal with those emotions head-on and right away. And then, as quickly as you are able to do so, let go of them. Move on to gratitude and compassion as quickly as you can. Don't ignore the negative emotions. Deal with them and then dump them like hot coals. And if you've been practicing gratitude and compassion regularly, it'll be easier to let go of the anger and resentments once you've handled the situation. You won't be as tempted to hang onto those negative emotions.

Today is a good day to start with gratitude and compassion. Right now, off the top of your head, tick off five to 10 things for which you're thankful. And look with compassion on those people who come into your life the rest of the day. Keep practicing. Soon it will be your go-to mode, and you'll spend less time in anger and fear. Doesn't that sound better? And healthier?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Winter's cues for us

Where I live, it's winter right now. It's cold. The flowers and bushes that surround my house look dead. All dried up. Some have been cut back for winter. Others will be cut back in early spring. So we typically think of winter as the time when everything is dead, nothing is growing.

But think about it. Lots is happening under the ground. Things are preparing for that time just a few short months from now when they'll burst forth with new shoots and fill the world with color once again. So, although we can't see it, lots of growth is taking place. Rest allows renewal and prep time for rebirth.

Perhaps we can take our cues from the plant world. Animals do this, too, since many of them hibernate. Some simply slow down, trying to exist on what little food they've stored away somewhere or can find underneath the snow.

Winter is a good time for us to rest and be restored, too. Slow down. Rest. Let the inner juices flow quietly and calmly and think about where your creativity might take you this year. Then when spring arrives and you feel the same surge of energy that plants do, you'll be ready for the rebirth and growth that are coming.

How can you use this winter time? What inner preparations might you need to make so 2016 will be fruitful?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Inner Critics try to protect

Do you have a strong Inner Critic? A voice inside that criticizes you, perhaps even calls you names or tells you that you can't do something. "You tried that before, and it didn't work then. Remember? Why do you think it'll work now?" Or "Who do you think you are? There's no way you can do that." Or "You're not smart enough" or "not good enough" or whatever. The messages often are meant to keep us from doing or saying something our Inner Critic thinks we can't do or say.

Our Inner Critics develop when we're young, and they really are trying to protect us. However, when we get older, we can take care of ourselves and don't need all that protection. But our Inner Critic doesn't always know that—and keeps on working to keep us away from situations she or he thinks we can't handle.

My take on Inner Critics is that it's better to recognize what they're trying to do (even if done with negative rather than positive messages!) and to love them. Tell that voice "Thank you for trying to help me, but I've got this. You can take a lovely vacation to a warm place right now." We don't need to be violent and kill those voices. We simply reassure them that we'll be OK and they can take a chill pill!

Isn't it nice to know that, even if she sounds misguided, we have someone looking out for us?!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Kindness is contagious

A random act of kindness goes a long way, doesn't it? And it's so contagious!

Recently I was at the grocery store. My cart was quite full, so I stuck a couple of the larger items on the shelf underneath the cart. When I got out to my car, a woman came up behind me and asked whether I'd had a package of Kleenex boxes. She said she saw a package beside the door going out of the store and thought it might be mine. Then she offered to stay by my full cart and my car while I ran back to retrieve the tissues. In no time, I was back at my car with all the boxes of tissue where this woman had been waiting in the cold to guard my cart.

I thanked her profusely and told her that I would pay it forward to someone else, which I have done more than once. I was so grateful to her. I would not have been happy had I arrived home with no Kleenex even though I'd paid for it. As it was, I arrived home with a huge smile on my face and a light and happy heart.

Kindness is really so easy—and often it doesn't cost a thing. Hmmm, wonder what I can do today?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

'I'm only one person'

I'm feeling grateful today. It's snowing ever so gently, so the landscape outside my office window is just beautiful—all clean and white with diamond-studded snow. And I'm safely ensconced inside my house, all warm and cozy. I'm not a real fan of winter, but this is picture postcard-beautiful.

At the same time, I'm feeling sad for the large number of Americans (and others around the world) who are homeless. While I enjoy the warmth and comfort of home, many others will sleep in a cardboard box, under a bridge or in a doorway somewhere.

Honestly, I have a difficult time wrapping my head around this sometimes. How can this be—in one of the wealthiest nations on earth?

It all comes back to me, though: What am I doing to help those who find themselves in such a situation? What am I doing to bring about the changes necessary so this won't be? It's so easy to say, "I'm just one person. I have no power." That's too easy, though, and we shouldn't be off the hook so easily. There are things to be done—ways to help. Many opportunities are out there if we just look.

Whatever the community or societal problem you and I see, let's find ways we can help. Every person's action adds up. Before long we see that, together, we have made a difference.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Beginner's mind

Educator and writer Parker Palmer encourages us when we're stuck to be a beginner—to "begin again with beginner's mind and with hope." Ah, yes, with hope.

As Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki said, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few." That is also good to remember. Perhaps we shouldn't aspire to be experts then, should we?

Or as poet Wendell Berry once wrote to a friend, "I greet you at at the beginning, for we are either beginning or we are dead."

My takeaway from these quotes is that it's important to remain open. A beginner is open, open to possibilities, open to learning, open to making mistakes and failing—just open. Experts can be closed off, thinking they've reached the peak.

If you're in a stagnant place right now, in a rut or just feeling unfocused, try beginner's mind. Simply try to be open, let go of all the knowledge you may have accumulated and approach life with curiosity. See what unfolds. You might be surprised. Oh, and don't forget the hope!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Approval & self-esteem

Earlier this week, a dear friend and I were discussing the need so many of us women have for approval and for love. We want to be liked. We want to be loved. We don't want to experience rejection. We don't like to be shunned.

There is nothing wrong with such needs. It's all a matter of balance, however, isn't it? It's a matter of staying grounded in our own authenticity and integrity. We want to be sure to keep our boundaries clear as to what behavior and words we'll accept (and not accept) from those around us. We don't need to bend over backward and lose ourselves in order to be loved and receive approval.

So it's really essential that we love ourselves and that we have self-compassion and a good sense of self-esteem. That's not always something about which we learned as we grew up, though. But here's the good news: It's never too late to learn those things. And as we're learning to better care for and love ourselves, we really need support and encouragement from each other. We can't do this alone.

If this is an area where you need some help and a part of your life you want to change, please contact me for a complimentary coaching strategy session. Let's see what you might do to find that balance for yourself.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Coaching just might be the boost you need

Are you feeling stuck these days? Just not feeling that zest for life you either once had or that you thought you'd find at this stage of life? Wanting to discover what's next on your journey? Feeling uncertain about something?

You definitely don't have to stay in that place. Many possibilities exist to help you find your way out of that rut.

Lately, I've felt a little of that myself. So I've signed myself up for some webinars and courses from inspirational speakers. I needed a little boost of energy and some new thoughts to refuel my journey. If I need more than those things, I'll get more sessions from a life coach. I've done that before, and it's helped me.

If you're in that place—or if you have a friend who is—I invite you to contact me (or have her contact me) to explore options. I'm happy to offer a free coaching strategy session of anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. Not only will this give you some ideas to explore but it might help you see whether coaching is something that would be helpful for you.

Take that first step. See what discoveries and transformation might be ahead for you in 2016.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

6 tips for respectful communication

One of the important parts of our life journey is our communication—the way we talk with and listen to others. Some days I worry that the art of conversation has been lost. I worry that civil discourse has become a thing of the past, too. Some conversations are more monologue than dialogue. And some discussions close rather than open doors. Some are positively hurtful and offensive—no one listening to anyone else.

Have you had conversations that are totally one-sided? Me, too. I've also had conversations in which the other person has so forcefully put an opinion out there (as though it were absolute truth) that the door to further discussion is slammed shut. What might we do to avoid these situations? Here are a few tips (certainly not an exhaustive list):

1) Look at the other person with compassion and openness. Ask yourself if this is your one chance to be with that person, what would you like to know? Ask questions. Wait for answers.
2) Use "I messages" when you state opinions and feelings, making clear that it's simply what you think, not necessarily the only and one true answer. Own what you say. Using "I messages" doesn't mean you talk about yourself the entire time, either!
3) Learn the art of what writer Jan Phillips calls "conversation wrangling." If a conversation turns negative or difficult, gently and without judgment try to wrangle or steer the discussion into a more positive and open one.
4) Suspend judgment. Judging others and letting them know how wrong they are really says something negative about us rather than about the other.
5) Always, always remember an important ratio: One mouth, two ears.
6) Your mother was right: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything. Keep conversations civil. That doesn't mean avoiding hot topics. It means addressing them in a civil and respectful manner.

What would you add to this list?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

You are worthy and deserving

Do you struggle with feeling worthy? Do you feel that you don't deserve good things, success, friends and family who love you, joy and happiness?

So many of us experience times of feeling unworthy. Some people feel unworthy all the time. We think we need to do things to be worthy. We need to change who we are. Add something. Subtract something. But we don't.

For some reason, I grew up thinking I needed to achieve to be really worthy of love and approval. I've had a journey of learning that worth is intrinsic. It isn't about what I do and how well I do it. Here's the deal: You are worthy. I am worthy.

Now all we need to do is discover our gifts and learn how to share them. We simply need to wake up and be alive, knowing that we are enough and that we have worth and value. And for that, we give gratitude and thanks!

Monday, January 4, 2016

What do you want this year?

I just heard a wonderful quote from author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer: "When you judge another, you do not define them. You define yourself."

Wow, that's powerful. It's a good reminder to tend to our own "stuff" rather than worry about what others are doing or not doing. It's so much easier to judge others rather than have to face our own fears, insecurities and failures, isn't it? But it really gets us nowhere. Whenever I become critical of someone else, I try to remember to stop right there and instead think of what work I have to do on my own "stuff."

That said, I don't want all of life to become simply work on my "stuff" either. I want fun. I want play. I want adventure and joy to be a big part of life.

What's on your list for this year? More play time? More fun? A new career you want to discover? Perhaps new ways to spend your retirement years? Different ways to connect with your children or grandchildren? For what do you yearn? What are your desires?

Whatever it is, I encourage you to go for it. The present is the only time we know we have. Who knows what the future contains? Don't wait. Live fully right now!

Friday, January 1, 2016

A fresh start

Happy New Year! It's a brand new year—a time to start fresh. A brand new, empty slate. Isn't that exciting?

What will you leave behind as you enter this new year? Is there old baggage you want to leave behind? Old resentments, beliefs and fears? Grudges and unforgiven hurts?

And what wisdom and learnings do you want to bring with you to help you on your journey into the new year? What friends and relationships will be important to your journey this year? Be sure to nourish and maintain those connections that are important to you. Like precious plants and flowers, they need to be tended and nourished.

I just had an interesting experience yesterday. I finished reading my Mark Nepo daybook (for the second year in a row) and noticed that he thanked Melody Beattie for one of her daybooks as an inspiration. I knew I had one of hers on my bookshelf, so I plucked it from the shelf and started reading in her January selections. One of the first things I read was about having lived in her head for so long and now wanting to connect with her heart. Bingo! That really spoke to me. It has seemed for a while that I need to do this as part of learning to be more vulnerable and learning to drop my Wonder Woman costume! The name of her book? Journey to the Heart. Yup, just what I need right now.

Funny how that works. This book appeared on my screen just when I needed it. So here's to fresh starts and new beginnings for us all!