Wednesday, November 29, 2017

An attitude of gratitude

Last Sunday our pastor threw out a challenge to us as she talked about the place of gratitude in our lives. She has committed to writing and mailing a thank-you note to someone each day for 30 days—and she invited us to do the same. Not email. Not voicemail. But a hand-written note by snail mail.

I haven't yet picked up on the challenge even though I often send thank-you cards to people who do special things for me. This seemed like an especially full week of commitments, so I didn't add that to my to-do list.

However, it's something I'd like to try. If developing an "attitude of gratitude" can change how we see the world around us, it definitely is a worthy cause. These days there are so many bad-news stories coming out of Washington, D.C. and across the globe. It's tough to stay serene and calm. I find it difficult to find the balance between being an engaged global citizen and maintaining a serene, peaceful and grateful existence.

Our pastor cited a man who actually committed to one year—yes, 365 days!—of sending thank-you notes to people who had said or done something good. And he did it. That's a tall order. But the man discovered how much difference that made to his life and his attitude.

What do you think? Is it worth a try to commit to even 30 days?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Learn to befriend change

"Life is expressed in a perpetual sequence of changes. The birth of the child is the death of the baby, just as the birth of the adolescent is the death of the child." These are the words of French author Arnaud Desjardins, who was educated in a Protestant Christian environment but who made television documentaries from a variety of spiritual traditions, many of them Eastern.

Reread what Desjardins said. Then consider why we are so frightened of change. It's so much part of life. It's like the air we breathe. Why then are we so afraid of it?

Perhaps you might consider today one or two ways that you could befriend change in your life. We encounter change on a regular basis, after all. Without it, there would be no life at all. Consider again Desjardins' words above. We can't remain infants. We don't want to remain children. Everything around us is in constant flux as well.

Perhaps by taking change to its basic level, we can come to terms with how important a role it plays in our lives and our development—and we can remove some of the fear from it. Surely we don't want everything around us to stay the same—our children forever babies, one season with no change, perpetual daylight or perpetual darkness, plants that don't grow or yield fruit, etc. Can you imagine?

Consider what about change frightens you and see how you might reduce or remove that fear. Change is here to stay, so we might as well get used to it!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Give more time for gratitude

Do you engage in the typical U.S. Black Friday frenzy? If you don't, consider carrying yesterday's Thanksgiving Day gratitude over for days—or weeks. It's always a good thing to focus on the many gifts and blessings each of us has. Most of us have more than enough and definitely can use more than one day a year to give thanks!

If you do really get into Black Friday, consider making this year different. What would happen if you didn't run out to all the shops and line up in the middle of the night or before dawn? What would happen if you didn't even step foot inside a shop? Or order online that day? Would the sky fall? Or your world crumble? Doubtful!

Sometimes it's good to change up our patterns and see what opens up inside us when we do. Focusing on all the good things in our lives and thanking for them enables us to see even more positives. It shows us the truth of the saying that whatever we focus on gets larger. If we focus on accumulating more and more, we will get all caught up in acquisition and not notice all the blessings we already have. If we pay more attention to all we have, or to the fact that we have enough, we'll feel satisfied and happy—with gratitude for what we do have rather than focusing on what we do not have.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Pay attention—and give thanks

Close your eyes. Breathe deeply three to four times, exhaling slowly. Place your hand to your heart and feel your heart beat. Keep it there for several minutes. Feel your gratitude for your heart and its work on your behalf. Feel gratitude for all the parts of your body that work on your behalf every day. So much happens internally that we take for granted daily, so it's good to stop and pay attention occasionally.

Then move your thoughts of thankfulness outward to other parts of your life: heat, light, food, shelter, family, friends, work or retirement and so much more.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. It differs from person to person. You might be spending it with family or friends. You might be with only one significant person. Or you may be spending it on your own. You might have a huge feast. Or you may be enjoying a simple, quite ordinary meal.

No matter what your situation, no doubt you have much for which to be grateful. Take the time to reflect on all those gifts. Sitting quietly and paying attention to your body is a good way to begin that process. And don't let it just be a once-a-year practice. An attitude of gratitude opens our hearts to so much generosity and love!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pain and delight

I have family and friends who refuse to be on Facebook for any number of reasons. Goodness knows, that and other social media can be complete time-suckers. You think you're simply going to check whose birthday it is on a given day so you can send wishes and the next thing you know, you've wasted 30 minutes reading posts that range from newsworthy and interesting to totally inane—or worse, to cruel and insulting to someone or other. So I totally understand the reticence of some to join in.

One thing I confess that I do enjoy, however, is when Facebook puts in my morning feed a post or photo from a year or two or three ago. One day this week when I opened Facebook, several photos of my youngest son, youngest grandson and my sister popped up. These were photos taken when they spent time with me exactly a year ago, and what a smile they brought to my face as I recalled the wonderful times we had during that visit. The reason for their visit was a surprise birthday party for me, in itself a fun and wonderful memory. But the day we four spent in a park walking around, seeing the deer and bison there and watching then almost 5-year-old Ayden play on the playground was so relaxing and fun. And recalling the memory of that visit was a wonderful start to my day earlier this week.

So even with those things in life that can hold irritation and negatives, we can also often find joy and delight. It's always a reminder to me that so much of life is both/and rather than either/or. Facebook can be a real pain and can be a time-sucker. And it can also bring lots of smiles and joy.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Let your soul catch up with your body

I recently heard a story about the Himalayan Sherpas who help climbers to the summits—sometimes they simply stop climbing and put down their equipment. Impatient climbers ask why they can't keep moving and pushing on, but the Sherpas calmly reply that they're waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.

As soon as I heard this, I resonated with the idea. Lately I've been running so fast—gone from home more days than I was home these past several weeks, and often a week at a time. Many but not all of the events that took me from home were fun and happy occasions. Still, it was just too much running for me, at least at this stage of life. I have been missing my quiet times, my times of reflection and inspirational reading, time to quietly sip more than one cup of coffee! I missed making my own schedule and finding time for reading.

Right now I need time for my soul to catch up with my body. I love that idea! With gratitude to the Sherpas for the phrase, this is exactly what I need. Do you need that, too, at times?

Each one of us will have different ways we help our souls catch up with our bodies. Now I need to make sure I carve out time and engage in practices that will allow this to happen. Think about what helps you do that—and be sure you do those good things for your body and soul!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cultivating gratitude

Yesterday when I searched for some inspiration, I found this wonderful advice by Barbara Cage in A Daybook of Gratitude: How to Live Each Day with a Thankful Heart (a Blue Mountain Arts collection):

"Ten Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

"1. Realize that life isn't always fair. Accept what you must, and change what you can.
2. Think before you act. A moment of carelessness or anger can cause years of anguish and regret.
3. Look for the beauty in life, in people, in nature, and in yourself.
4. Appreciate what you have: the people, the opportunities, the material possessions.
5. Make the effort to have fun. It's a great way to bond with others, and it makes some of the best memories.
6. Set aside some time for yourself. Do something you enjoy without feeling even a little guilty.
7. Accept others without judgment. Everyone is unique, and it's okay to be different.
8. Forgive. Bitterness and resentment hurt you more than the person you direct them at.
9. Learn. Open your mind to new ideas and activities, and don't be afraid to try.
10. Dream. Make plans, believe in yourself, and go for what you want."

I wouldn't change a word of this. I couldn't have said it better myself. So I'll let it stand on its own for you to ponder.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Those darn expectations!

Letting go is such an essential theme as we move past age 50. Letting go of outdated ideas of who we are (many of us lacked confidence and self-esteem at a younger age, so it's time for an updated version as we age). Letting go of old belief systems that don't work any longer (or perhaps never did). Sometimes we even need to let go of old relationships that no longer work—say, a friendship in which there's really nothing in common any longer and which seems more of an onerous "to do" than a pleasure. Letting go of old resentments. Even letting go of "stuff" and de-cluttering our homes and lives!

One more essential letting-go piece that I still struggle with is letting go of expectations and letting go of attachment to outcomes. Both expectations and attachment to outcomes always set me up for a fall. I'm far better off going into a situation with an open heart and mind. But, oh, that's tough for me.

Do you have trouble with this, too? In her book What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying, Dr. Karen M. Wyatt says: "One of the benefits of releasing expectations is the experience of a calm and even mind: equanimity. ... This quality allows you to tolerate stressful situations without getting lost in emotion and projecting yourself into the future or getting trapped in the misery of the past."

Yes! That makes so much sense to me. Now if I can just learn to live that way more often than I live with expectations and attachment to outcomes.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Facing life's intersections

I have so many friends right now who are facing momentous changes: job losses, new jobs following job loss, family members dying, deteriorating health for self or a loved one, other changes in health status, adjusting to a new living situation and more.

Changes such as those always seem to lead to questions about what we can handle, who we are, where we've been and where we're going. Such changes also lead us to re-evaluate our values. What's important to us? Are we spending time on what's most important to us? Or are we spending it on things that are less important—and waiting until "we get around to it" for the big things in life?

When we come to those intersections in our lives, whatever leads us to those points, it's a good time to stop and reflect on any and all of these questions—and more. It's not too late to tweak a bit or even change course so we better live out of our values.

Even if you're not facing any big life change, it might still be a good time to stop and reflect on where you've been, where you're going and what's consuming most of your time and energy these days. See if this is where you want to be. If not, make some different choices. You get to decide!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Remember to breathe

I've been on the go far too much for my serenity lately. Many of the trips I've taken have been fun, and the activities are good. I just haven't had enough time to breathe. When that happens, it's too easy to slip into a state of overwhelm.

It reminds me of my days as a journalist. When we laid out the pages of our magazine, we made sure to leave a lot of white space around the words and the photos, too. Our eyes can only take so much and we need white space to break up the stimuli greeting us (or attacking us, if it's too much!) on each page.

Our lives aren't so different. We need white space in between all the activities and events on our calendars. We need to be able to breathe. To reflect. To assess. To limit our stress.

Are you getting enough white space in your life? If not, try to create it.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Face fear; look it in the eye

Does fear ever get in your way? Yup, me too.

I remember back in 2011 and 2012 when I was just getting my coaching practice up and running. My oldest son and I were talking about how my fears sometimes got in the way of moving forward. Since he had started his own HVAC business years ago and knew all about fears being immobilizing, he gave me this good advice, "Move the needle a bit each day."

He was right. Each day I could take one or two small steps toward the larger goal. Soon enough, I would have confronted my fears and realized that I could do the thing(s) I feared. That knowledge was so empowering.

I still try to touch into that feeling whenever fears stop me now. And I try to "move the needle." It's so energizing and empowering.

If you would like to discuss this, I invite you to contact me for a no-obligation, complimentary strategy session.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Friendships & letting go

Have you ever had to let go of a friendship for one reason or another? Perhaps the relationship was too toxic or negative and was dragging you down? Or perhaps your former friend betrayed you? Maybe you just didn't have much in common anymore.

Friends mean a lot to most of us. It's difficult to let go of old friends with whom we have deep ties and connections. When situations arise when you need to consider whether to keep the friendship or let go, spend some time before making a decision. Check in with your heart. Would you really miss the friend if you let go? What things would you miss? Do you get those things elsewhere? How important is that in your life? There are many more things to consider. Take your time.

Once you make a choice, move ahead decisively, knowing you've done your discernment work and that you're taking care of yourself. Although you may feel sadness about the loss of what once was good, you will also feel empowered knowing you have made a tough decision. It is true that sometimes friendships have seasons, and they come and go in our lives.

If you would like, I invite you to share an experience you've had around this.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Loving & accepting yourself

As you age, are you becoming more comfortable in your own skin? So many of us as women lack confidence when we're young. We try so hard to fit in, to conform to society's standards for women or to what others in our life say we should be. Many of us learn later in life how to love and accept ourselves.

Finally, finally, we learn that it's far better to be authentic! To just be ourselves and feel great about it.

I've long liked what author and psychiatrist Jean Shinoda Bolen says about that in her book Crones Don't Whine: Concentrated Wisdom for Juicy Women. Bolen is trying to resurrect the original meaning of the word "crone," which is a wise woman or an elder.

Here's what she says: "To be a crone is about inner development, not outer appearance. A crone is a woman who has wisdom, compassion, humor, courage and vitality. She has a sense of truly being herself, can express what she knows and feels, and take action when need be. She does not avert her eyes or numb her mind from reality. She can see the flaws and imperfections in herself and others, but the light in which she sees is not harsh and judgmental. She has learned to trust herself to know what she knows."

Yes, oh yes. I love this stage of life with its increasing comfort of knowing and accepting who I am, flaws and all. Doing so also leads us to be more gentle with others and to feel compassion. What about you? Are you feeling it?