Thursday, March 31, 2016

Be everything you are!

Several of us, when we were younger, tried so hard to fit in. So we tried on different personas, said things and acted in ways that weren't really authentic to who we were. It's all part of the development process.

Isn't it wonderful to get to a stage of life where the important thing is to be who we really are? We don't have to be something or someone we're not. At last, we can be comfortable in our own skin. Somewhere I've heard the saying, "I'm not trying to be something I'm not. I'm trying to be everything I am." Yes!

That said, it doesn't mean we can be rude or offensive and simply say, "Well, sorry, this is who I am. You'll just have to get used to it." Trying to be everything we are means tilting more to our higher self. That self is there, inside.

These days, that can be more difficult than it should be—since it appears, right now at least, that many of the voices we hear appeal to our baser selves—our selfish, greedy, uncompassionate selves. It's really all about which part of our self we nurture and feed.

Be conscious of your choices today. Which self is getting fed?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Appreciate art & beauty

It's so easy to get caught up in the quotidian and mundane aspects of life, isn't it? Or worse even than the mundane and common parts of life are the negative and toxic pieces—hearing the offensive insults hurled by one politician to another, watching violent and graphic movies or TV shows, reading about yet another mass shooting or terrorist attack.

So what are you doing to counteract all the negativity or even the boring and commonplace?

Pablo Picasso famously said, "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."

I like that. What do you think? And, of course, art encompasses many things from music to paintings to photography to dance to theater to beautiful written and spoken words and more. Find something artful and lose yourself in it for a while. See whether that doesn't wash away the dust—or even clear away the toxins. Appreciate the beauty. Savor it. Let go of the mundane and the toxic.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Do you have time enough?

Have you heard of the terms "time famine," "time poor," "time affluence" or "hurry sickness"?

All of these terms have been coined to describe the phenomenon we in the West, at least, seem to experience. "Time famine" refers to the constant feeling of being so rushed and busy all the time. We're starving; we never have enough time. In fact, in our society, we almost wear that as a badge of honor. "See how busy (and important) I am!"

"Time poor" is the same thing as "time famine." You simply feel you don't have enough time to get everything done.

"Time affluence" is the feeling of having enough time—or perhaps even more time than you need. That's pretty rare, isn't it? Have you even felt that in the last year or years?

"Hurry sickness" illustrates how most of us are caught up in the rush. We may have time-saving devices, but we're rushing here and there, never feeling as though we can slow down and just "be." We can never just sit still and relax.

Are you resonating with any of these terms? Would you like to change how this shows up in your life? If you feel "time poor" or suffer from a "time famine," what can you do to change that? You are the only one who can make choices to do so. What can you let go so that you'll have enough time for what's important to you?

Whatever you decide, make choices today that support the lifestyle you want. If it means better boundaries or learning to say "No" to extra activities, work on that. Work on finding that Still Point inside where you can simply "be." If you wish to discuss any of this, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary coaching session.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Be present to your life

During my years as a magazine journalist when I took global trips to remote parts of the world to gather stories, I had to be both the writer and the photographer. I conducted the interviews, wrote up the notes and also had to stop and take the photos. Sometimes it felt as though I saw way too much through a camera lens rather than with the naked eye. I was so busy with my notebook and my camera that I couldn't even soak up the amazing people, places and experiences—places to which I'll likely never return.

So when I went on my own travels, I sometimes took very few or no photos. I just wanted to experience the trip. I wanted to do more than just document the event or experience.

I've heard it said that today, with our cell phones functioning as cameras and always with us, we have become so obsessive about documenting our lives (and then posting them on one or more social media sites) that we don't truly even have the experiences. It's as though we aren't even present for our lives. We're so busy looking in from the outside and then sharing that snapshot with others.

Does that resonate with you? I confess I've done plenty of that myself. I want to become more aware of that, however, and try to be more present to my life and to those who people it. I tell myself: Be awake and aware, Sonia. Be present to your life.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Choosing life

A book I was reading for inspiration threw out a good question this week to ponder. It seems especially relevant now after yet another terrorist attack in Europe and with daily reports of murders, bombings and refugees fleeing war-torn countries trying to find safety for themselves and their families. And that's not even to mention all the mass murders we have in this country on a regular basis.

Then we have the books and TV shows in which violence and murder play a central role. And in U.S. TV shows, at least, nothing is left to the imagination. Everything is pretty graphic. In many ways, it doesn't seem a far cry from the days in which gladiators fought to the death or lions were set loose on prisoners as a stadium of people watched.

The question is this: What does it take to choose life in a world that so often chooses violence and death? In reminds me of an Old Testament verse found in Deuteronomy 30: "...I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life...." (verse 19).

What would it mean to choose life? I suspect it's not a once-and-done decision, right? We may have to make that choice over and over and over. And some days, perhaps we don't make that choice. And how does that feel?

I'm still thinking about the question. What would you answer?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

'Love more'

Yesterday I mentioned negative posts on Facebook. Goodness knows, there are plenty of those—particularly these days with a race to the White House and the great political divide that seems to separate us as a people.

However, I see many inspirational and positive posts on Facebook, too; and those really make my day. Last night I saw this one:

"A manifesto for a simple life: Eat less, move more. Buy less, make more. Stress less, laugh more. Feel blessed, love more. Find a quiet spot every day and BREATHE."

There really isn't any need to say more. Those thoughts stand on their own. So I invite you to reflect on them today. And don't forget to breathe!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What's cluttering your mind and heart?

Spring isn't just a time to declutter and clean houses. It's also a good time to think about those things that clutter our minds and hearts—and get rid of what needs to go.

Yesterday I made a decision that has lightened my load today. It was such a simple decision—and only required a couple keystrokes on my computer.

Because what goes into our minds can clutter up our inner life and mess with our emotions, I find it essential to pay attention to what's inspiring, what's toxic, what will help me stay positive and what drags me down into negativity. One of my Facebook "friends" had been posting several negative comments lately, some bordering on quite offensive. But yesterday he really crossed what's a line for me. The comment went around and around inside my head, really bothering me until I put up my own comment on his page saying that I didn't find it funny to joke about brutality, murder and violence directed toward protesters at political rallies.

Still later, as I thought about how such comments and interactions clutter my mind, heart and soul with negativity, I decided to "unfriend" this person on Facebook. My action hurt no one. But it freed up space inside me to focus instead on what's good in the world. Mind you, we can't hide from what's not good (here I'm thinking of the heartbreaking news yesterday of terrorism in Brussels). But we can shut out some of the negatives. Turn off the violent TV shows. Unfriend Facebook users who cross lines that we have a right to keep in place. And there are so many other ways to declutter our insides, too.

Ask yourself: "What can I change or let go so I can focus more on that which inspires and uplifts me?" Make more room for peace in your heart today.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Savor it all

Recently I heard someone talk about an experience to which they'd looked forward for a long time. And now the experience was history already. And that person felt sad about it being over.

Anticipation is at least half the fun, isn't it? And all too soon, what we anticipated is over and done. It's common to feel some sadness about that. One of the lessons in that for me is to really savor that time of anticipation. Enjoy every minute of the dreaming and the planning.

In fact, enjoy every minute of the experience, too. And then savor the memories afterward. It's all great.

This brings to mind a quote from Dr. Seuss, "Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened."

Sounds like good advice to me.

Monday, March 21, 2016

'Practice contentment'

To practice contentment these days can feel like a real uphill battle. Marketers and advertisers urge us to want—and to buy—more and more and more. And does that really lead us to happiness? Of course not.

I like what the Dalai Lama says about this: "When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, 'Oh, yes—I already have everything that I really need.'"

What would it look like for you to "practice contentment"? How much is enough for you?

It's an individual choice. I don't get to tell you how much is enough. You don't get to tell me. But it's definitely worth asking ourselves those questions—and then making choices about how much is enough.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Blessings, not curses

We're all surrounded by vitriol these days, it seems. Angry tirades against one or more of the political candidates. Insults traded by the candidates themselves. Drivers cutting each other off and making nasty hand gestures on the roads we travel. Water-cooler conversations in the workplace that are less than polite and supportive. Angry exchanges with family members and friends.

What if we offer each other a blessing or a benediction instead of yet one more angry comment? We can offer blessings silently—or we might even say them aloud in a group or to an individual. There are lots of options for blessings. Here's one I like:

Go forth into the world in peace. Encourage one another and support one another.
May you have enough pain to keep you sensitive and enough health to keep you going.
May you have enough failure to keep you humble and enough success to keep you eager.
May you have enough doubt to keep you inquisitive and enough faith to keep you steady.
Go in peace. Live with freedom.

Here's another: May you be joyful. May your happiness increase. May you not be separated from great happiness. May your good fortune and the causes for your joy and happiness increase.

You can come up with your own blessings. Offering them will change you. Guaranteed. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Let the Inner Child play

Have you taken time to play lately? I mean really play? I don't just mean an evening out at a movie or time working on your hobbies. I mean play. I mean something your Inner Child would love to do.

It's fascinating to me to see the rise of things such as adult coloring books now. That's something you may have loved as a little girl just as I did. I've heard that paper dolls are making a comeback, too! Those are things we did as play when we were young. Why did we stop? Oh, yes, because adults are supposed to be serious and not do such things. Hmmm....

If you haven't already done so, consider bringing back one of those into your life. Or buy some Play-Doh and have fun with it. Working that dough with your hands can be so therapeutic! If building blocks or Legos are more your thing, buy yourself a set—and go to. Or maybe you like puzzles?

Feel foolish doing those things? What's the worst that can happen to you if you engage in some fun and play? Someone might laugh at you? Do you care? Perhaps the benefits will be worth it. And anyway, a worthy goal is to get to the point where we follow our own heart and worry far less about "what other people think." Go ahead—play a little.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Set fear aside

It's no secret to any of us, I'm sure, that there's a lot of fear "out there" these days. We can hear it in the political rhetoric and see it in protests and interactions from the local to the national and international level. No doubt we can see it in our own decision-making and that of others, too.

And it's no wonder. Truly, there's plenty about which to be fearful. The economy still has many people scared as they continue to feel the effects of what's been called a recession—and many people fear still more recessions ahead. Then there's the threat of terrorism, that from afar as well as home-grown. And family break-downs, job losses, illnesses and so much more keep people awake at night, too.

It's really understandable. The problem is, however, that when we're all tied in knots with fear, we aren't at our creative best. We can't come up with our best solutions for how to move forward. In fact, some people can't even really move forward at all because fear can be immobilizing. In addition, it's really an awful way to live, isn't it?

Let's see whether, without losing our grip on reality, we can set fear aside and try to live in hope and gratitude instead. Let's try to start each day in gratitude for all the gifts and blessings we do have. Let's look for the hope rather than focusing on the negatives that induce fear. Ready to try it?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Presence—it's powerful

There is such a power in presence, isn't there? I'm sure we've all gone through periods of loneliness, great fear or sadness—and all we needed was someone just to be there for us and with us. Most likely, that other person didn't have the power to change our circumstances. But it made an enormous difference to us to just have that person's presence.

It's good to remember that when others we know and love are going through tough times and challenging situations. We don't have to have answers. We probably can't fix the situation. We don't necessarily need words of wisdom. But we can show up! We can sit beside them. We can listen. We can hug. We can hold their hands. We can give them a backrub or foot massage. We can simply be.

I remember when I got the phone call saying my father (after 11 years of fighting cancer and it had now gone to his brain) had suffered a seizure and was being put into hospice. While my youngest son was on his way driving to my home so we could leave for Iowa to be with Dad, my dear friends came over to sit with me. They held me as I cried. They listened to my fears—and to my stories about Dad. They stayed with me until my son arrived. I will never forget that. The power of presence. It didn't change the situation. It changed me. I felt more able to face whatever was ahead. I felt surrounded and held by love.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Let go of the old stories

Forgiveness is such a huge, and often misunderstood, topic, isn't it? Seldom are we really taught just how to forgive—even though most of us grow up hearing that we need to do so.

Recently I read in Kathleen Fischer's Autumn Gospel: Women in the Second Half of Life this description of forgiveness:

"One therapist suggests four stages of forgiveness: to forgo (leave it alone), to forbear (to abstain from punishing), to forget (to avert from memory, to refuse to dwell), to forgive (to abandon the debt). She stresses that our part in the process is to refuse to dwell, to punish, to recollect. We stop bringing up the wrong again and again, and make a conscious decision not to hold resentment and retaliate."

What that therapist had also said is that we need only "begin the process" and be open to it, praying for the "grace of forgiveness" and the rest would come.

So often, however, we like to tell the old, old stories, don't we? We like to hang onto the resentments and repeat the tales of how wronged we were. So perhaps that therapist is right: If we but begin the process and "refuse to dwell," the rest may be easier. If we begin the process and truly open our hearts, forgiveness can come to dwell within us rather than the old tales dwelling there. It's worth a try, isn't it? The act of forgiving sets us free—we are the ones who benefit! Let go, let go, let go.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Feel—& then heal

Our Western culture seems uncomfortable with the grieving process. We praise and admire people for holding up, for staying strong, for re-engaging life so quickly after a loss. It's as though we can't move on quickly enough.

Since I've spent a good deal of my life as a strong, leap-tall-buildings-single-bound person, I understand why grieving can seem like weakness and too much vulnerability. However, it's not healthy to be strong all the time. It's actually a sign of strength to be vulnerable—to acknowledge loss and spend time grieving it. By being open and real about those losses we suffer and spending time grieving them, we allow ourselves to be cleaned out and to heal. And we can move on far more quickly.

I've heard this comment, "You can't heal what you don't feel;" and it makes complete sense to me. If we have no sense of the impact of a loss we suffer, and we can't even feel that loss, how would we hope to heal from it?

When I say this to you, I'm saying it to myself, too. I really need to hear this: Real strength means being whole—experiencing and expressing both joy and sadness.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

'Be the role model you seek'

I so enjoy the writings and wisdom of Rachel Naomi Remen, a physician, visionary and warm human being. I was first exposed to her warmth and wisdom in her book My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging. Now I am reading her Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal. Both are equally rich with stories and wisdom.

In Kitchen Table Wisdom, Remen writes: "We usually look outside of ourselves for heroes and teachers. It has not occurred to most people that they may already be the role model they seek. ...we are all more than we know. ...Integrity rarely means that we need to add something to ourselves: it is more an undoing than a doing, a freeing ourselves from beliefs we have about who we are and ways we have been persuaded to 'fix' ourselves to know who we genuinely are."

Isn't that fascinating? Perhaps we do sell ourselves short. Perhaps we really are more than we imagined. And definitely I do believe that "it is more an undoing than a doing." We spent so many years adding things into our container of "This is who I am." And then in midlife and beyond, we realize that many of those things are not really who we are. They're not natural for us. Perhaps for someone else. But not for us. And so we begin to undo those things that aren't really "us."

That seems to be a central task of the last half of life, doesn't it? At that stage, we know who we really are. We become comfortable in our own skin. We can be the role model we seek!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How are your boundaries?

I know I write a lot about the importance of personal boundaries. But I've dealt with it in my life, and I have so many clients who have, too. In addition to that, I hear so many women (and men, too) talking about how "used" they feel—as though people are really taking advantage of their good-hearted and generous nature.

Does any of that describe you? Do you say "Yes" more often than you'd like—and perhaps end up resentful later?

If so, it might be a good idea to work on developing, and keeping, personal boundaries. Those are like little fences that keep you safe from those attitudes, requests, behaviors and words that are harmful to you. They can help you learn to say "No" when you need to do so. Boundaries are not punitive. And you are the one who gets to decide what yours are. You are the only one who knows where to draw the line in terms of how others treat you. Is someone "guilting" you into always doing what they want? You get to say "No" to that, if that's in your best interest. And, of course, there are ways of saying "No" to words, behaviors and requests that are kind rather than hurtful.

When you set boundaries, you get to also say what the consequences are for breaking them. For example, I might tell my friends that I don't like raised voices. Then I can tell them that if they do yell at me, I will leave the room. If they persist in their behavior, I may eventually have to leave the relationship. All those things are within my right to decide—and to do.

If this is something you'd like to discuss, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary strategy session.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Beyond survival

I've heard it said that what it takes us to survive is far different from what it takes to live a healthy and happy life.

Mind you, survival is not to be taken lightly. It's a huge accomplishment. Life can contain so many hurtful and life-altering circumstances. It can take everything we have to survive some of them. But once we have survived the difficult or painful thing, we need to refocus our life to see what's needed to live in a truly life-giving and healthy way.

Do you see a difference? For example, if you've faced cancer and had to endure surgeries, radiation and/or chemotherapy, you've no doubt had to pull away from all your commitments and perhaps even some of your friendships in order to conserve your energy. You're pouring all your energy into healing.

Once you have healed and come out on the other side, you may be more selective about those activities and friendships you re-engage; but you will definitely not want to isolate. You will need the support and love of friendship groups. You needed them during your survival time, but I'm guessing you didn't have as much energy to give to them then. Now you can refocus and re-engage in a new way. The choices are yours.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Let the Light in

Rumi, 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic, once said, "The wound is the place where the Light enters you."

Think about that a bit. Each one of us carries scars from wounds that we've suffered through our years of life. How do you see your scars? As signs of strength? Signs that you've conquered the pain and learned lessons? Signs that you grew stronger and moved forward because of that pain? Or do you see your scars as ongoing pain that still drags you down? Do you still focus on the hurt and pain?

It's a choice. But I do encourage you to see your scars as a path to healing and strength. At each of those points, the Light is able to get in. As my healing touch practitioner told me once, "Don't just let your heart be broken. Let it be broken open." I see a heart broken open as one that's able to let healing in. It's also able to let in more love and let love out more easily, too. And I see each of my wounds and scars as signs of those things in my life that have made me stronger.

Our suffering has the possibility of making us stronger. We can be survivors—even thrivers. Think about it—how do you see your wounds?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Helping others helps you

Did you know that doing good deeds for others is good for your health? It's just plain good for many reasons, isn't it? We always feel better about ourselves when we can be of service to others and help someone in need.

A 2013 study showed that volunteering actually has a significant impact on blood pressure, making volunteers less likely to develop hypertension. Research also shows a link between giving, unselfishness and a lower risk of early death.

Then there's the "helper's high" that we feel after performing a good deed—when our brains release endorphins (feel-good chemicals). What's not to like about that kind of high?

People who do good in their workplaces are far happier at work, too, according to a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And the BMC Public Health journal discovered, after a review of 40 studies, that volunteering is good for mental health, too.

So if you're already doing good things, keep it up—and stay healthy. And if you're not, it's easy enough to find ways to contribute to the happiness of others. So many volunteer opportunities exist plus there's always an opportunity or two for doing random acts of kindness.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Let go of regrets

Do you live with regret for things you've said and done in the past? Has regret become a ball-and-chain for you?

Someone asked that question recently, and a handful of women responded in various ways. I've been thinking about that a lot since then. It's understandable that, as we look back on our lives, we recall some things we said or did with regret, sometimes even with shame. However, unless we use that sense of regret or shame to cull some lessons from those experiences, such emotions can weigh us down and prevent us from really moving forward freely. It can keep us stuck and weighed down. Once we draw the life lessons from such experiences, it's healthier to forgive ourselves, let go and move on.

Forgiveness and letting go are such crucial parts of a healthy life as we age. We don't want to be weighed down by old baggage. We can't change the past. We can only change how we do things going forward. And here's the other thing: All the experiences in our past, both the good and the bad ones, add up to make us who we are today. We would not be who we are and where we are without a variety of life experiences and without making mistakes and learning lessons from them.

And so I invite you to be grateful even for those things you regret—yes, I did say be grateful. For, we hope, you have learned much from those things you regret having said and done. I know I have. I've probably learned more from my mistakes than from any successes I've ever had! Forgive, let go and move on. Ah, feel that serenity settle into your heart.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A challenge in these pre-election days

The political rhetoric these days is so offensive and hateful. It's really harmful to one's well-being and peace of mind to read any of the reports or listen to any coverage of debates and the insult-hurling that takes place between debates as well. Most of these remarks and insults appeal to our basest self and are about as inspirational as a front-row seat in a gladiator ring.

Here's what I think: The rest of us have our work cut out for us. It's time to lift the rhetoric to a higher level, at least in our own small circles and wherever we call community. We most definitely do not want to be filled with the toxins that are flying around, and we don't want to be part of spreading them ourselves either. I so want to believe that we are really better than this.

So I'm throwing out a challenge—for myself as well as for you. Let's see if we can refrain from joining the snarky and offensive conversations going on these days—and see whether we can lift to a higher plane any conversations of which we're part. We can still talk politics but at a policy level. We can talk about what really matters to people, about what this country really wants to be. How do we want to be described as a people? How do we want to treat others? What should our stance in the world be? What's needed now?

Ready for the challenge? I hope those of you who know me well will call me on it when I fall into snarky rhetoric. We just may need support to do this as it feels upstream right now!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ssshhh, listen to your body

So here's a true confession for you: I'm not good at listening to my body. I want to be. I know it's important. But many times, I'll keep on pushing even when my body is tired, thinking I simply have to get my to-do list done. Sometimes, even when my body is full, I'll have just that extra small helping of the delicious dessert. I'm sure you know what I'm getting at.

One of the things I want to do this year is be better about listening to my body—when it wants sleep, when it's satisfied but not yet full, when it simply needs for me to slow down a bit, when it needs activity or exercise, etc. After years of "pushing through" no matter what, I suspect it will take me a while to learn to listen.

So yesterday my body got my attention! I awoke with an internal to-do list for the day, but it didn't take long to register that I felt a bit queasy and just off. Oh, dear, what's that about? Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: Hmmm, perhaps my body is telling me that I need a day to just "be"—to slow down and refrain from running from one task to the next activity all day long. So I did. I just rested. I even took a nap. I drank a lot of fluids and only fed my body what appealed to me, which wasn't much.

Ever have that happen? If we aren't paying attention, our bodies do have a way of getting a message across. Sometimes the message comes in the form of illness. Perhaps I'm fortunate that it was simply a day of queasiness. But I'm listening now ... and I hope I don't forget to keep listening! Are you listening to yours? Check in on your needs.