Monday, February 27, 2017

'Ripe for transformation'

As you can tell from my website, I'm really big on transformation. There are so many pivotal moments in our lives that make us ready for transformation—real turning points.

So when I read in Mark Nepo's Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred these words, I took notice: "... once we admit that we're not sure where life is taking us, then we are ripe for transformation. Then we are shapeable. When losing our way, we frequently retreat and withhold or take what we think is a safer path. This often complicates our confusion. An old woodsman told me that the reason most people get lost is because they don't go far enough. They doubt where they are and change direction too soon. Somehow we are called to lean forward by what little light we are given."

Have you ever felt somewhat lost or confused about where your life is going—or where it should go? I suspect we have all had some questions at some point in our life journey. The important thing is to just stay open. Look for clues. Listen to that voice inside—and to trusted friends and loved ones. Follow the light.

Stay open. And let yourself be ready for transformation, ready for direction, ready even for surprises! Who knows what's possible when you let yourself be OK with confusion and that feeling of being temporarily lost?

Friday, February 24, 2017

The many faces of you

Earlier this week I saw a question that I found intriguing. In fact, I journaled with it and gained some interesting insights into my behaviors.

The question is twofold: What face do you show to no one? And what face do you show to others? (Actually, a dialogue was encouraged between the two if you planned to journal with those questions, so I did that, too.)

It's no surprise to anyone that each of us wears masks. We can't go around letting it all hang out all the time. We learn at a very early age to hold back and to show only what feels safe and wise to show to the world. That's normal, and it can actually be a good thing.

As we age, however, many of us try to reduce the number of masks we wear—or perhaps more accurately, to reduce the size or weight of the mask we wear. We want to shed what holds us back, and we want to become more authentic as we age. We want to put our truth out there and be ourselves, no holds barred. As with so many things, you are the only one who can and should decide what of your mask you need to hold onto and what you want to shed or let go. That's why an exercise such as the one I discovered might be helpful to you.

Even if you've already shed some of your mask, you may wish to answer these questions and reflect or journal on them. Have fun with the process—and see what emerges!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Now for some lighter fare

Today is a good day for a fun factoid. With all the heavy political news and violence surrounding us in the world, some lighter fare might be in order!

Since a fear of strong women still seems to exist and since comments such as, "She wears the pants in that family" still get tossed around, it seemed fitting to take a look at when pants first began to be worn by women. I'll bet you can't even guess. I know I would never have guessed correctly.

A fascinating book my niece gave me several years ago, Uppity Women of Ancient Times by Vicki Leon, tells the story of the Chaldean princess Semiramis, who married King Shamsi-Adad Five of Assyria. Semiramis is the one who came up with a prototype for pants suitable for women—well over 2,800 years ago! She led the way in building a new system of canals and dikes to irrigate the flatland nearby, and she also led military expeditions against the Medes. So you can see that she wouldn't have found those tasks easy in the long, flowing gowns most often worn then.

So if you are grateful that you're able to wear slacks or jeans, you might want to mouth a silent thank you to Semiramis. I don't know about you, but I'm grateful for her idea ... and for those down through history that kept this trend going and refined it.

I hope you enjoyed this little break from hard news and problem-solving!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Retirement shouldn't be scary

I've heard several people near retirement age speak of their fears of retirement. "What will I find to do?" "I'll get bored in the first day or two." "Who will I be when I retire?" "Is this all there is?"

For some people, many fears surround retirement. Others cannot wait for the years to pass until they can retire.

If you are one who worries about what you'll do or what your identity will be, just remember that there are so many possibilities these days. Many people have an "encore career"—a career that might be less demanding and simply something you will enjoy but that you won't have to carry home with you at night. Yet others choose an "encore career" that is demanding; they're not ready to give up the fast-paced life just yet. Still others find an array of volunteer projects and positions. So many organizations and institutions depend on volunteers to get things done these days—or to add a friendly face to greet clients. For example, whenever I visit someone in the hospital near me, I see numerous volunteers greeting people, showing them to the correct floor or unit, taking their initial information, etc.

After I was reduced in force from my journalism career and before I began my life coaching practice, I volunteered at my local library. I love books, and I love libraries. So it was a perfect fit. I shelved books and sometimes I pulled the books from the shelf for people who had put them on reserve. I really enjoyed it—and quit only because I knew that even a small business start-up required my full attention.

There is no need to lose yourself to anxiety. Explore the possibilities and talk with others to learn more ideas. As always, if you want to talk further about this, please contact me for a complimentary strategy session about this.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The power of love

Since Valentine's Day was this week and we were surrounded with reminders of love, it's a good time to think of the power of love in our lives.

Professor, author and motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia once said, "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."

Yes, for sure! It's said that love is the most powerful force on earth. And when we extend love to another and do the things cited by Buscaglia—the touch, the smile, the kind word, etc.—lives do change. I'm sure we can all think of times when we've felt especially low and someone extended the hand of love to us and completely changed our attitude or our life. And we've seen that effect on others when we've been the one to show love through our caring, listening or compliments.

Knowing that, let's each try to show more patience and more love to each other. Let's hold back on the negativity—and remember the power of love!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Feel the love!

I've been fortunate to participate in a couple sessions of lovingkindness mindfulness meditation lately. Not only have I found it to have a calming and relaxing effect; but after each 45-minute session, I have felt more generous-hearted and loving toward even those who might otherwise irritate me.

After relaxing each part of our bodies and paying attention to our breathing for a while, we begin to sending loving thoughts to ourselves, saying, "May I be well, may I be happy, may I be peaceful, may I be loved." After staying with that for a while, we move on to people we love—close family, friends and others. "May they be well, may they be happy, may they be peaceful, may they be loved."

After spending time wishing those we love well, we move out into the world: to those with whom we have a difficult time, to specific groups of people (perhaps world leaders, for example, or to those who live with violence regularly), and eventually out to all beings in the world.

When you have spent time focusing on a variety of groups of people, it's difficult to be tense and angry. It simply softens your heart to send such wishes out to all people. Meditation leaders recommend spending time each day doing this. I can see how developing such a practice could change my focus and keep me more positive and on target.

If you have questions about such a practice, please contact me.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Who do you appreciate?

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. About 150 million cards are exchanged each year, so it's the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas. While it's lovely to have a day each year dedicated to telling those we love that we do love them, let's hope we don't limit those expressions to one day! The same is true of Thanksgiving, of course: One hopes we give thanks every day.

And let's hope we don't limit it to just one significant other. Or to our immediate family. Our kids. Our grandkids. Now might be a good time to stop and reflect on all those people you really do value and appreciate in your life. Cast the net as widely as you can. For it's not only close family and friends who deserve to be told how much we love and appreciate them. It truly does take a village to get each of us through this journey we call life. And our pathways are strewn with so many unsung heroes.

Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to at least use this time to tell some of those people in our lives how much they do mean to us, what they add to our lives and why we're grateful for them.

Who might be on your list?

Friday, February 10, 2017

How can you stay positive?

So many people have told me these past several weeks that it's difficult for them to shake their fears and anxieties. There is still such a war of words and ideas all around us. So much is changing so quickly. So it's understandable that fears are heightened and difficult to push down. I feel that way myself many days.

Although I want to be an informed citizen, some days I simply have to say, "Enough. I can't hear any more news, good, bad or otherwise!" Take a little break to ground yourself again if you feel that way from time to time.

Here are some tips that I'm trying to follow myself to keep positive in the face of all the fear and negativity:

• Engage in good self care. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise.
• Begin each day in gratitude. Think of even just three things for which you're grateful as you awaken.
• End the day in gratitude, too. Go to sleep with good thoughts of three things for which you're grateful from that day.
• Decide what you can control and do that. Try to let go of what's completely out of your control. If you don't like something happening in the U.S. Congress, you can't control that. However, you can call your representatives and register your concerns. That is within your control.
• Stay connected to whatever support systems you have. It's so important when anxiety threatens to drag you down. We do need each other.
• Try to remember the long view—a year from now, two years, five years.
• Continue whatever practices have helped you in the past: quiet time, meditation, yoga or other grounding exercises.

 Please contact me if you'd like a complimentary session to discuss this.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The discomfort of transformation

Do you ever find yourself in an uncomfortable place on the way to something new? You might be looking back over your life and feeling the weight of undone tasks or roads not taken. You might be living with regret. You may be looking ahead and wondering whether you're on the right path at all. There are so many reasons for us to sometimes experience that tough transition place, that desert between where we've been and where we'd like to go.

I often liken that to time in the cocoon when the caterpillar has given up its identity to transform into something new. Does the caterpillar know when it goes into a cocoon that it will emerge a beautiful butterfly able to fly rather than crawl along the ground? Doubtful. But somehow it trusts the process and does what it's programmed to do. And sure enough, a butterfly does emerge.

While we're not caterpillars, there are some similarities. There are many times in our life when we need to give up some of what we know to be part of our identity, go into a transition phase or a cocoon and let things settle out until we're ready to emerge transformed. The trickiest part for us as humans may well be to be OK with that in-between stage. Be OK with life in the cocoon for a while. For all of what you need for transformation is contained within you just as all the caterpillar needs for its transformation is contained within. Trust the process. Live with the discomfort.

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

Monday, February 6, 2017

Aging & attitude

Last Friday we discussed the quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption on whether to get busy living or busy dying. In the last couple days, I went back to a book I really love about aging well. Written by Joan Chittister, it's called The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully.

Underscoring what the movie line said, Chittister writes, "It is unnecessary to consider ourselves useless—unless we choose to be useless. It is unnecessary to think of ourselves as diminished—unless we allow ourselves to diminish in heart and mind.

"The point is that there are two approaches to aging: passive aging and active aging. Passive aging gives way to the creeping paralysis of the soul that goes with the natural changes of the body. ... Active aging cooperates with the physical effects of age by adjusting to a change of pace. ... Active aging requires us to go on living life to the full no matter how differently."

Again, we have a choice. We can get busy living or get busy dying. Our attitude toward aging makes all the difference.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Living? Or dying?

Remember that great line from the movie Shawshank Redemption? It's when Andy says, "I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying."

That quote packs a punch when you really stop to think about it. It's easy to brush it off, however, and think it really has nothing to do with us. That's for others, not me. However, there are several ways to die. Some are slow, not quick. And some are figurative, not literal.

It seems to me that if we're busy focusing on the past and all the grudges, hurts and missed opportunities that have accumulated over the years, that's a slow way to die. We're not really alive and present to the time and opportunities right in front of us. If we're completely focused on all the negative things around us (and these days, it seems easy enough to do that because there's so much animosity out there), we're not savoring and enjoying the present time either. Some would say that's not quality of life. We've lived another day. But is that how we want to spend our lives? And if we give up on goals because they're just too hard to reach or nothing good ever seems to happen for us, that too seems more like dying than really living.

So you see, there's much more to Andy's quote than what might meet the eye. And it seems a good thing to ask ourselves from time to time: Am I busy living? Or am I busy dying?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Maybe it wasn't an accident

On a cold December day as I was cleaning house in preparation for Christmas guests, my doorbell rang. At first I paid scant attention since I assumed it was a package delivery. But the doorbell rang again several times. I found one of my neighbors at the door with no coat and with slippers on her feet. She said she was really embarrassed but she'd accidentally locked herself out of her house (with no key and no cell phone) and needed to use my phone to call a locksmith. Of course, I welcomed her in and offered her my phone. The locksmith couldn't come for 1-1/2 hours. So we had a delightful chance to get acquainted—more than the waves or the "Hi" at the mailboxes. (And I got a break from cleaning!)

Because of that accidental lockout, Carol has now invited me to join a women's group that meets once a month to discuss issues important to women of a certain age. I attended a couple weeks ago and am delighted to be part of this group. Because of Carol, too, I have been introduced to a wonderful senior activity center only a mile away—that, oddly, I knew nothing about even though I've lived here more than 15 years! That center has more exercise classes, outings and activities than I could ever imagine. How did I not know about it before?

Don't you just love when things like this happen? I felt awful for Carol that day, but she and I both agreed it opened a wonderful door for us both to get acquainted. And now I am taking yoga classes and looking at other options—plus I'm hooked into a new support group of women. Pay attention. Keep your eyes open—you never know when some new doors will open and some delightful surprises will occur.