Friday, December 29, 2017

Can we learn the art of civil conversations?

In recent days I've seen this posted on Facebook: "Being taught to avoid talking about politics and religion has led to a lack of understanding of politics and religion.

"What we should have been taught was how to have a civil conversation about a difficult topic."

And my response to that is this: "Yes. And it's never too late to learn the skill. We can bring that gift to the world."

So as we approach the end of yet another year—an extremely divisive year filled with increasing levels of hatred and violence, it seems—let us do everything we can to either learn that skill or brush up on it, if we already know how to have such conversations. It's so sorely needed right now.

I know many people who have lost friendships or refused to spend holidays with family just because of this inability. They simply couldn't talk about politics, religion or any of the difficult issues that confront us without fighting or name-calling.

So let's do everything we can to bring more light, love and peace into the world. That starts with respect and civil conversation.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Keep it simple

A book that I regularly return to for its wisdom and inspiration is Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea. My sister gave me this book in 1995 when I first became a grandmother, and I still pick it up often to see what I highlighted and wrote in the page margins.

Just last week I reread what Lindbergh wrote about shedding hypocrisy and living in authenticity: "The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere. That is why so much of social life is exhausting; one is wearing a mask. I have shed my mask."

Further, she speaks of simplifying our lives, noting "what extraordinary spiritual freedom and peace such simplification can bring."

As we near the end of this extraordinarily busy time of year—and think about how we want to enter a brand new year—it's a good time to reflect on letting go of masks, living in authenticity and simplifying our lives.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Peace and joy to you!

I don't know which of the December holidays you celebrate. I celebrate Christmas today—so I will keep this short and sweet.

Whichever holiday you celebrate, I send you my very best wishes for a meaningful, peaceful and joyful time of year—and wish you a multitude of moments in the new year that take your breath away!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Be watchful—and sensitive

I'm writing this on December 21—the start of winter and the shortest day. My congregation is having a "Blue Christmas" service tonight for those who may not experience Christmas this year as a joyful event. There are so many reasons that might be true: illness, business setback, job loss—and in our congregation, two deaths just this week in addition to others in the past few months. This service will be more subdued than the others this weekend.

It's always good to remember that not everyone experiences happiness, joy or feelings of peace and serenity at this time of year. It's a good time to be respectful of where others are in their life journey and what's happening with them.

Just yesterday, in fact, my fiance and I had lunch out. We were served by a woman who has served us many times before. When we asked how she was, she appeared near tears. I asked what was wrong, and she told us how her mother-in-law had just died suddenly. Her husband's mother was an essential part of their family's life and had been expected to pull through the diagnosis she got only two months earlier. Now they were facing a funeral and a huge gap in their lives ... all just days before Christmas.

Stay tuned in to what people are feeling. Pay attention. We cannot assume this time of year is a warm, fuzzy or joyful time for everyone. It's a good time to show compassion and love to all those we meet. Who knows what even a smile can mean to someone you see on the street or in a store?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Embrace the questions

I find such joy in reading the words and wisdom of others and then running it through my own experiences and filters to see what it might be saying for me—and what I might even pass along to others from that endeavor.

Mark Nepo is one of my favorite authors and poets. He is so honest and real, and that helps me dig down beneath any masks and beliefs that really no longer work but that I may not yet have shed.

In his book Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What is Sacred, he says: "So being here involves more than just reacting to the things that come at us. It requires that we initiate a love affair with all that calls to us, seen and unseen; that we run with open arms into questions and moments of living as urgently as we do burning buildings to retrieve who and what we love."

Despite my best efforts to stay awake and be truly present each day, I often feel that I do too much reacting to what comes at me. I sometimes avoid the questions I should be asking because deep down I know they'll be uncomfortable and may lead me somewhere outside my comfort zone. So I like the image of running "with open arms into questions." Hmmm, what might that lead me to?

How does that strike you?

Monday, December 18, 2017

About those dreams...

Have you ever lost a dream? Perhaps you lived it for a while and then it slipped away. Or maybe it never came to fruition at all.

Yes, I've surely had that happen, too. That is why when I read the words of Wendell Berry last week, they stopped me in my tracks. I'm still reflecting on them. Here's what he said:

"It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work; and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey."

Might it be that sometimes we are so focused on a dream and what we think is our real purpose that we lose sight of the bigger picture? That we see a dream as an end point rather than as a state of being?

Years ago I heard that we don't keep dreams alive; dreams keep us alive. So perhaps it's the act of dreaming itself that's important.

What do you think?

Friday, December 15, 2017

Love & peace at the center

Even in the midst of this season when we think about peace on earth, we see and hear so many signs of hatred and violence—even in the comments on social media and in news programs.

Again, I'm drawn to those who have been peace-makers throughout history. So the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which I recently saw in a series of quotes upon which to reflect, definitely spoke to my heart:

"Non-violence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."

Oh, my, that hit me where it hurts ... because I will confess that some of the things I read and hear lately have brought angry and violent thoughts into my mind. I don't want to become that which I intensely dislike. So King's words are a good reminder to me.

You, too? Let's help each other keep love and peace at the center of our lives.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Such riches we each have!

I recently came across this Henry David Thoreau quote and absolutely loved it. It seems so appropriate for this season, too, when the focus can easily be on consumerism. Buy, buy, buy. Here it is for your enjoyment and reflection, too:

"It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite—only a sense of existence. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment."

Isn't that wonderful? Stop for a moment today and reflect on the indefinite and infinite riches you have: body parts that operate (even if we slow down as we age!), sunshine, beauty in nature, family and friends, life itself, our very breath and so much more.

Savor it all. Give thanks for it all. Remember that no run on a bank can drain it!

Monday, December 11, 2017

A peaceful path

One of my favorite inspirational authors, Jan L. Richardson, in her book In Wisdom's Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season wrote this prayer/poem:

"The path before me: may I walk it in peace.
"The path behind me: may I leave it in peace.
"And the path within me: O God, may it be peace indeed."

I really love that. This is a time of year when we hear a lot about "peace on earth" and we talk a lot about it. But I have to ask myself: What am I doing about peace on earth? Most days, I don't feel so peaceful inside—particularly if I'm trying to be an engaged U.S. and global citizen!

So I really should post this prayer/poem on my bathroom mirror so I see it regularly. If you like it, you may want to consider doing that as well.

Here's to more peace in our lives—for if several of us can live out this prayer/poem in our lives, we'll be putting that peaceful energy out into the world. That can only be a good thing, right?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Thank your body

Earlier this week at my yoga class, when several people complained about aches and pains, our instructor reminded us of how much all the parts of our body do and have done for us. Take our feet, for example, she pointed out—think of the miles and miles they've taken you, think of how they've supported you, and think of how they continue to serve you as you get done what needs doing.

Look at your hands and consider the joy and comfort they've brought others, all that they have done and continue to do. Take time to consider your whole body, inside and out, and what each part does. Amazing, right?

She reminded us of how much we take every part of our body for granted, and she encouraged us to thank each part and take good care of our bodies.

What a great reminder. The yoga session that day was enveloped in the gratitude each of us felt for our bodies. Yoga is always a good start to my day and to my week. But that Monday morning session was exceptional and got my week off to a good start. I don't want to forget that.

Take time today to consider all your body has done and continues to do for you. Find ways to care for it and thank it!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Change is afoot

Some of my friends have had experiences recently—ranging from job loss to loss of dear friends (too young to have their lives over) to jobs going sour to confronting the aging process and its losses along with its opportunities.

Each of these women admits to asking the questions that originally caused me to create my Way2Grow Life Coaching practice:

• Who am I now?
• Where am I going?
• What do I want to do with the rest of my life?
• What's my purpose now?
• What does successful living look like for me?

These questions and more are part of this stage of life where we have accumulated a wealth of experiences, some good and some difficult, but all of which have taught us a thing or two. It seems we're never done learning, however, particularly if we're paying attention. It's always a good time to stop and ask the questions above and others—to re-evaluate where we are and where we're going. It's also a good time to consider what needs to be shed, whether that's old ideas, resentments, personas that don't fit, friends who aren't good for us, jobs that are toxic, etc.

Where are you now? And what might you need to change? What losses do you need to grieve or tend to? If you'd like to talk about this, I invite you to contact me. I offer a complimentary coaching session; all you need to do is let me know and we'll go from there.

Monday, December 4, 2017

You are not alone

I'm sure your email inbox gets packed just as full as mine does. A few days ago I noticed another email from Gabby Giffords, the former U.S. Congresswoman from Arizona who survived an assassination attempt in 2011, asking that I contribute to help fight gun violence. In her email she talked about how most of the goals any of us set require the support and help of others. Our accomplishments and those times we've overcome adversity have no doubt been undergirded by support from others.

Giffords quoted Althea Gibson, the first African-American to win a Grand Slam tennis title, "No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you."

We do well to remember that. It really does take a village—not just to raise children but for adults to get through life, too.

What are you facing right now? Are you feeling alone? Are you tapping the human resources around you to help you face this? Remember, you don't have to go it alone. There are always people in our lives who stand ready and willing to support and help. It honors them when we allow them to help, too. We don't need to leap tall buildings all by ourselves!

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Accentuate the positive

So on Wednesday I talked about committing to writing and mailing a thank-you note to someone each day for 30 days. I haven't started yet but I do want to try this. I know it will be good for my attitude!

That brings me to my Thimble List, which I noticed pinned to my office wall. It's been there for a while, but I must confess that I hadn't read it over for some time.

Do you know what a Thimble List is? It's different from a Bucket List (those big-ticket items you want to do before you die). A Thimble List is a list of very small ways to savor life.

Anyway, one of the items I have on mine is: Give at least one compliment each day to someone.

That seems to go hand-in-hand with the idea of a thank-you note to someone each day. It's the idea of noticing the good things others do, isn't it? Complimenting them. Thanking them. It's all about putting good energy out into the atmosphere. It's about building each other up. And it's all about shifting our focus to the good in the world rather than always focusing on the negative things (and there are plenty of those without training our focus on them!).

I've decided it's time to get back to my Thimble List, particularly the compliment-a-day item. What might you put on your Thimble List?