Monday, February 29, 2016

A game-changer

Did you begin your day with gratitude? When you awoke this morning, did you think of at least three things for which you are thankful? Or do you prefer to end your day giving thanks for things that you noticed and experienced throughout the day?

Gratitude is such an essential piece of living a life that's filled with awareness. I know I've said this in multiple blogs before. And I'll say it again—because it truly is a life-changing practice. It's difficult to feel angry and hateful when you have an attitude of gratitude. It's tough to be envious of others or lash out at them when you're grateful for the many blessings of your own life. Gratitude is a game-changer, simply put.

Even if you don't have a formal practice of gratitude (writing in a gratitude journal, for example, or keeping a gratitude jar—into which you place a slip of paper each time you think of something for which you're thankful), it can be an important part of your life. Over time, gratitude will change how you are in this world—and change what you see each day and how you see those things.

How do you practice gratitude?

Friday, February 26, 2016

Ride the waves

Recently my healing touch practitioner reminded me to simply ride the waves of life—the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the pleasure and the pain. Just stay open to it all. Don't get all bound up in one feeling or another. Don't let one situation consume you. Ride the waves.

What a great image that provides. And it's always a good reminder. For everything in life can contain life lessons for us. We never know what a given situation might teach us. Honestly, I have learned more from those difficult, challenging and painful situations than from the joyful ones. It's helpful to remember that when I face yet another one—don't clench up, Sonia. Don't get stuck in this one.

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke put it this way:
"Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final."

Indeed. No situation is the last word—not until death claims us, that is. And no feeling is final. Ah, here comes another wave. Just relax into it.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Self-care spurs more compassion

Mindfulness author, speaker and workshop leader Arnie Kozak says it well: "Ultimately, it is only by mindfully caring for ourselves that we can truly and effectively care for others with compassion."

Does that seem selfish to you at first blush? Perhaps you grew up, as I did, thinking that you should love others first and yourself last.

However, think of this: If you haven't loved yourself enough to tend to your own wounds and hurts—and to find healing for them—the love you offer to others will be tinged with the hurt and pain of those wounds. Your heart will have areas that are closed off because of that hurt. Your love and compassion can't flow freely.

So to put it another way: Heal yourself first. Then you will be able to offer healing, compassion and love to others. Or to frame it in the negative and say it differently: Hurting people hurt others.

So it really makes sense to engage in self-care because then we can offer so much more compassion and care to those whose lives ours touch. What can you do today for your own healing and well-being? Who else might benefit?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Unleash your potential

My oldest grandson will turn 21 next week. He has his whole life ahead of him, and who knows what it will contain? Right now he's in college studying journalism (just like his grandma!), and we have no idea where that may take him.

A few weeks ago, I came across a photo of him as a young boy, perhaps 4 or 5 years old. And it occurred to me that all the potential he has within him now as an almost-21-year-old was there then, too. Isn't that so amazing?

We come into this life containing all the potential we'll ever need. What we do with all those abilities is a matter of choices throughout our lives, however. One choice after another. And most often, second, third and more chances if we make a bad choice.

So it's good to stop and ask every now and again: Am I using my gifts and abilities in the best way possible? Am I living up to my potential? What more might I do to add more light to my little corner of the world?

Whether you're still in career mode or whether you're retired, there still exist so many ways to shine your light out into the world. You never have to stop being all you were created to be. Even when limitations of one sort or another come, you can work within those and be who you were meant to be. If you haven't already, unleash all that potential that was there when you were tiny! The world needs it all. Now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dark & light together

Yesterday we talked about letting go of the approval of others and moving toward authenticity. Doing so involves honesty about those hidden parts of ourselves that we don't like to expose, even to ourselves.

Yes, we all have a dark side—as well as our good side. The process of becoming more authentic and of reclaiming who we really are involves recognizing and accepting that we have both sides of everything inside us. Whenever I point my finger at someone else's bad behavior, I have to also acknowledge that I too am capable of that same behavior, given the right (or wrong) circumstances. That awareness can be humbling. However, it's part of the human journey to health and wholeness.

In Lutheran circles, this is called being both saint and sinner at the same time. It's not either/or. It's both/and. Our task is to be aware of this and then do those things that help us act most often out of our loving, caring, good side—in other words, bring more light into the world rather than take light out of it. To do so, we need to take a look at what we're reading, watching and taking into our minds and bodies. With what type of people are we surrounding ourselves? When we find ourselves angry and negative, it's time to stop and check out what's happening inside. It's not a time to beat ourselves up. It's time to get in touch with the anger and find ways to release it. Let it go. Make the necessary changes so it doesn't keep building up and turning you into someone you don't want to be.

We're human. We won't get it right all the time. We won't be positive and happy every minute. But we can be honest about our both/and nature and do the best we can! 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Approval and judgment

Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us like to have the approval of others. Some of us spend a good deal of time trying to gain it. A few nearly turn themselves into pretzels doing and saying things that they might not otherwise so that they'll be liked. It's not necessarily something we outgrow, so let's not just point fingers at teens and their desire to fit in.

Think about this, though: approval of someone is really about judgment. And the judgment of others or even our self-judgment can stifle who we really are.

So perhaps instead of spending so much energy editing who we are so we're liked, we might rather consider who we are when we're our most authentic selves—and spend our energy working toward that. Let's let go of all the words and behaviors that have shaped us in an inauthentic way—even if they're our own words.

If you're not sure who your authentic, true self is—and you would like to discuss this, I invite you to contact me. It can be an exciting journey to wholeness. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Your role model

Heroes, teachers and mentors inspire us. And that's a good thing. We can all use a bit of inspiration from time to time.

But did you ever stop to think that perhaps your role model is right inside you? The "inner you" might be just the person you need to meet and get to know. We spend a good deal of our lives building an exterior that's based on many influences around us—from parents to teachers to friends and others. In the process, it's easy to forget that we have a good deal of inner wisdom. It's easy to forget that we weren't necessarily created to be just like another person, no matter how inspiring that person may be. We are unique.

So it's good to get acquainted with that inner you who's been waiting to be discovered. Are there traits and behaviors you'd like to shed because they don't really feel authentic? This is a good time to do just that.

It's been said that we spend the first half of life adding things into the mix of who we are—much of it because of what we see around us. And we spend the last half of life letting go of a good deal of those things because, more than anything, we want to be authentic. We want to be true to who we were meant to be. We want to let go of everything that isn't congruent with our values and who we feel ourselves to be.

If you would like to discuss this, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary coaching session.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Suffer no more—let go of old hurts

Are you holding onto any resentments, anger, hurts or past grievances? Do you have someone you need to forgive? It might even be yourself.

Now is the time. Give yourself a wonderful gift—the freedom and liberation that comes when you forgive someone and let go of the anger and hurt surrounding the situation. The act of forgiveness may do nothing for the other person. But it most surely will set you free.

The same is true of forgiving yourself. It does you no good to hang onto the guilt or shame. Let it go. Learn any lessons you need to from that past situation. And then move on. 

To hold onto those old grievances and anger is to remain captive to them. For what author Anne Lamott says is true, "Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die." That makes no sense, right? Neither does hanging onto the pain and anger. You're the one who suffers.

Let today be the day you let go. Liberate yourself. See how great that feels. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

How do you want to be seen?

Recently I saw this question asked, and I've been thinking a lot about it ever since: What three words would you like people to use to describe you when you're not in the room?

Hmmm. The field is wide open. And we can choose only three out of all the wonderful adjectives we could think of to describe ourselves!

What do you think? Which words would you choose?

And here's a larger question, I think: Are you living your life in such a way that those would be the words people would choose? If not, what changes do you wish (or need) to make? What has to change?

This also gets at the real question underlying those questions: Are you living in a way that is congruent with your inner values and who you feel yourself created to be? Can you look in the mirror and like what you see? Are you who you want to be? (And know that doesn't mean we're perfect every minute of every day. We are human, after all.)

Interesting questions, right? And they're worth our reflection, I think.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Clues from your childhood

When I've coached people on career transitions or even exploring retirement options, I've frequently asked clients to think back to childhood and remember what they liked or didn't like then.

Whatever does childhood have to do with who I am now? you may ask. Actually, many clues are buried in our childhood memories and experiences. How did you spend your time? What did you enjoy doing then? What did you really not like to do? What do you remember saying? Feeling? Doing?

It can be helpful to write a short autobiography of your childhood years—or what you remember of those years. Perhaps photos of you from that period might be telling. For example, one of the photos I have of myself from childhood was taken at about age 2-1/2 or 3. I'm walking in the yard of our farm home clutching a doll in one hand and a book in the other. That photo really symbolizes who I am: The book is all about my love of reading, which then led to my career as a journalist. I still love writing and editing to this day—and in addition to my coaching blogs and monthly ezine, I do a lot of freelance and contract writing and editing. The doll reflects the nurturing side of me—not only the woman who enjoyed motherhood and now loves her role as an engaged grandmother of nine—but who sees coaching as a way to nurture and empower others. In my writing and journalism leadership roles, too, I was all about encouraging others to be the best they could be.

If you are thinking of career change—or if you are considering retirement and volunteer options, consider reflecting on your childhood for clues to what would feed you now. And don't forget to look for photos of yourself. As they say, a picture can be worth a thousand words!

If you would like to talk about any of these topics, please contact me.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Closed doors—and open spaces

No doubt we all have had doors close for us—opportunities that we thought we could embrace and enjoy but that simply slipped away from us. And most of us have heard the sayings about windows opening when doors close.

Here's what educator and writer Parker J. Palmer has to say about that: "Each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is stop pounding on the door that just closed, turn around—which puts the door behind us—and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to our souls. The door that closed kept us from entering a room, but what now lies before us is the rest of reality...."

Further, he goes on to say, "We must take the no of the way that closes and find the guidance it has to offer—and take the yes of the way that opens and respond with the yes of our lives."

Do you find that as helpful as I do? Palmer's words offer some new images for me: putting the closed door behind and seeing the open space ("the largeness of life") ahead. And I like his use of the terms "yes" and "no." I have found it to be true: When a door closes, a world full of possibilities emerge. A lot of potential resides in that space. And we get to make choices—and say yes to new possibilities.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Change: Hold both loss and gain

Change. The very word can strike fear into many hearts.

Each of us reacts differently to change. And it may depend on what area of life the change affects—some changes are more difficult than others.

The congregation to which my fiancé and I belong is entering a period of discernment and reflection on the changes that have happened and are happening in our community and in society in general. Church leaders want to be pro-active in how we meet the changing needs of individuals and families.

Just the very process of meeting to reflect and discuss is raising the fear level of some members. I do understand those fears. The unknown can do that to us. We don't yet know what will change. We don't know what losses we might incur, what we may have to give up. However, we don't yet know what we might gain, too—perhaps discovering new ways of being and operating that we'll come to cherish.

Perhaps that's the easiest way to deal with change: see the "both/and" of it all. Yes, we'll lose some things we liked. And, yes, most likely we'll gain some things we will come to like. Loss and gain. Both/and. Can we hold both of those at the same time? So much of life is like that, isn't it?


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Be aware. Be grateful. Be accepting.

Earlier this week, in a gratitude daybook I have, I read this from poet Barbara Cage: "Every day, be full of awareness of the beauty around you. Be full of gratitude for friends and family, for the goodness you find in others, for your health and all you're capable of. Be full of acceptance of yourself and others—without conditions or judging, knowing that differences and changes make life interesting."

Isn't that just filled with good thoughts? I could spend a long time journaling about all the things in those few sentences. I'm filled up just reading it.

Be aware of beauty. Be filled with gratitude. Be accepting. Be aware of the positive side of differences and change. Let go of judging and conditional love.

What more can I say? Let yourself read and reread those words. Be inspired!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Grief is as individual as a fingerprint

Yesterday we talked about grief and how losses can add up and hit us with a real whammy.

Today I'd like you to think about just how you grieve all the losses, large and small, in your life. Different types of loss require different approaches. And each person has a different style, which can change from situation to situation, too.

I don't know whether you've ever read the book Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert, Chuck DeKlyen and Taylor Bills; but I highly recommend it. As that book talks about loss, grief and healing, it makes the point that we each will have our own soup recipe, filling the pot with tears, feelings, memories, misgivings and more. My soup won't taste like yours. Your soup will take a different amount of time to cook than mine. It's an individual process, one not to be judged by anyone else.

The important thing is to tend to your grief. Don't stuff it down. It will come out in all sorts of ways anyway. And as we said yesterday, it can pile up and hit you with a vengeance much later if you ignore it.

When you do the work that your particular circumstance requires, you can more quickly move on to a healthy, happy life again. Take your time, though. Your tear soup is your tear soup—and you don't need to follow anyone else's recipe or timeline!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Losses can pile up

Have you ever experienced grief that you thought was out of proportion to the loss you suffered? It's not that we can measure such a thing: For this particular loss, you should grieve xx number of days; and for that loss, you should grieve this long.

However, what can happen sometimes is that we are brought to our knees with grief over something we didn't experience as the biggest loss of our lives. I've surely had that happen, and I have friends and clients who have, too. It can take us by surprise.

Most often, it's because of unacknowledged past losses—things we haven't stopped to grieve before but that have just gotten deeply buried inside us. The day will come when that loss will come up from the deep and make itself felt when we're in the midst of grieving something else. Losses can pile up on us in that way.

That's why it's important to acknowledge losses as they happen. And it's worth noting that death isn't the only loss we need to grieve. We experience all manner of losses: friendships, job, career disappointments and lost opportunities, dreams, pets, independence as we age and lose some of our abilities, children moving far away, knowing expectations won't be met, and so many more. Take the time to acknowledge and grieve such things so that you can stay cleared-out and open-hearted.

If this is something you'd like to discuss, please contact me.

Monday, February 8, 2016

'Old age is not an illness'

How do you feel about your aging process? Positive? Negative? Fearful? Or do you have a sense of adventure about it all, intending to live fully before you die?

Such a variety of attitudes exist around us. And, in fact, in us, too. Our attitudes toward our own aging can change with circumstances—and change as the decades ahead of us become fewer and those behind us add up. But that doesn't have to be the case.

We can decide to be thankful for our aging, no matter what our situation. As author May Sarton said in her later years, "Old age is not an illness; it is a timeless ascent. As power diminishes, we grow more toward the light."

Indeed. It's not an illness. As we "grow more toward the light," our wisdom and understanding increase. When we approach aging with gratitude, we have the opportunity to mellow out and become more calm and serene. When we see it as an adventure full of new possibilities and learnings, we deepen our joy. Isn't that better than fear and dread? It's your choice.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Change regrets into life lessons

He berates himself frequently, saying, "I should never have made that choice. What a bad decision. What a mess I made of things." While I completely understand that feeling and the whole issue of regret, it's not a good place in which to dwell. I encouraged him to feel the feeling and then let it go. We cannot change the past. All we can do is accept that what's done has been done—and let go of the regret.

What we can change is what we do going forward. We can also change how we view something. A different attitude toward the past doesn't change the past—but it changes us. It means more happiness going forward, and most likely it will help us make more thoughtful and better decisions in the future as well.

So if you're living with regrets, work on your attitude about the past—and mostly, work on the changes you want to make for decision-making and living your life in the future. Learn whatever life lessons you can from past decisions. What do you want to tweak and change? Create a plan for doing so. And stop dwelling on the past. Live today and plan for tomorrow.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Love that Inner Child

Do you know someone who feels unlovable? Perhaps you are the one who feels that way at times. I have experienced that myself, and I surely talk with lots of clients who have felt unlovable, too.

When this happens, it's good to tend to the Inner Child, whether it's yours or someone else's, for that's where feelings of not being worthy collect. Here's what Sue Patton Thoele writes in her book The Woman's Book of Courage: "When we feel unlovable, it is the wounded little girl in us who is hurting—the little girl inside who was either told or told herself that she was not okay, not worthy of being loved. Having the courage to love our own little girl is the primary step toward allowing others to find us lovable."

This is a good time to engage in some loving self-talk to assure your Inner Child that you love her and that she is loved by others, too. And if it's a friend who feels unlovable and unworthy, help her see that some loving and positive self-talk can change those feelings of unworthiness over time. That little girl (or little boy) inside can use some love and reassurance from time to time. There's nothing wrong with that. If you had a little one who felt sad because no one loved her, you would hold and cuddle her and assure her of your love. Do the same for your Inner Child. It can make a world of difference to how you view yourself.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

It starts with self-love

"It all begins with loving yourself," my friend said when we discussed how easy it is to say what we want to do about our eating and exercise habits and our sleep patterns—and how difficult is the follow-through to make necessary changes.

Yes, it does begin there. Self-love is so important. And it's not something most of us women ever learned, I have discovered. In fact, many of us grew up thinking self-love equated with vanity and pride. Not so. Loving yourself doesn't mean you think you're better than anyone else. It's simply that: loving your self, loving who you were created to be, loving your body, loving your abilities, loving your spirit. It's a healthy thing to do, actually.

When you are able to love your self, you are much more able to love others. When you loathe yourself or feel shame over who you are, it's much easier to be judgmental and resentful of others for what they have and who they are.

And you will have more motivation to be healthy, to want to care for your body and spirit, to hold it in reverence.

If this is an issue with which you have trouble, please feel free to contact me for a complimentary coaching session.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Thank your body

Last week I saw a post on Facebook that the mother of a young woman shared. It was poignant and made me sad—and angry.

The mother had taken her daughter shopping for a dress for an upcoming formal. When the daughter tried on a lovely long red dress, the sales clerk told the daughter she needed to wear Spanx if she intended to buy that dress. For those unfamiliar with Spanx, just know they're undergarments intended to make the wearer look slimmer and more shapely.

What was the end result of that comment? The daughter felt ashamed of her body. There was nothing wrong with her body as it was. The clerk was going for perfection, no doubt. But who among us has a perfect body? And who cares?

In posting the photo of her daughter, the mother shared her anger that the clerk made her daughter feel ashamed of her body. This is nothing new. We women have been told for centuries that we should be concerned if our bodies aren't perfect, perfection always being defined by some external entity, of course.

Let's not fall for this. Let's be proud of our bodies. Let's be grateful for all those bodies do for us. Walk. Hold and hug. Draw. Type. Run. Create new life. Breathe. Fly planes. Design buildings or clothes. The list is absolutely endless.

And let's care for our bodies. Give them healthy food, sufficient rest, good exercise. Let's not let anyone shame us into hating our bodies. Enough of that already.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Share those stories

Women + stories + sharing=deep connections and transformation.

When women gather and share their stories, they encourage and support one another. And when that happens, anything is possible. Suddenly, the changes and growth we may have feared or about which we felt uncertain can seem possible. Transformation is around the corner.

Ever had that experience? I've had it before. And it happened again recently when my YaYa group gathered. We shared photos from each of the first two stages of our lives (maiden and mother) and talked about who we knew ourselves to be back then. We shared who we are now as older women (wise women in the "crone" stage of life, which in ancient times was known as elderhood). Crones were then considered to be valuable and important members of the community. We shared what traits we'd like to further develop as we age, too.

It was such a rich and exciting day for us, and we parted knowing that we had wonderful support from each other to continue whatever journey we're on at the moment. We are each moving on, knowing we do have the strength and the wherewithal to become those valued elders in our families and communities. Wow, how powerful that is!