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Mindfulness

Intention, Love, Mindfulness, Nonviolent Communication, Personal Growth, Relationship

To be heard

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and could tell they were listening yet didn’t feel heard? I recently was getting to know somebody new and found myself perplexed at the lack of connection I was feeling with them. I shared with my therapist some examples of our exchanges that felt amiss. In one instance, I was talking to this person about the mood of the day, and referenced the building tension brilliantly captured  in Spike Lee’s, Do the Right Thing. That feeling when it it is so hot that it can’t get any hotter without everything boiling over into chaos, when things are on a precarious edge about to explode. I may have been overly dramatic in comparing the mood of the day to the film, but instead of engaging with what I shared, this person said to me: “Oh, I was almost in a Spike Lee video.” And proceeded to talk about that. Another time I was telling him that I loved the poetry of Coleman Barks who interprets the words of the ancient mystic, Rumi, in stunning simplicity. Again, instead of relating his experience of Rumi’s poetry or connecting to how I felt about Barks’ work, this person exclaimed, “I’ve met Coleman Barks. I’m friends with his girlfriend!” The fact that this guy is also a name-dropper is annoying, but not the real issue.  If someone tells me about a Sonic Youth song they love, I too, would likely interrupt to giddily announce that I met the band on my 16th birthday. The difference is that I would then shift back to focus on them and the feeling tone of what they were saying. I would respond not only to my own interest in the subject, but to my friend’s interest, experience, and emotions. The more important theme than the name-dropping was that this guy turned most of what I shared with him into an opportunity to talk about himself, even if it was only tangentially related. My therapist put it like this to me: “It sounds like he’s relating to the content of what you’re saying rather than relating to you.”

Relating to the content instead of the person.

For some reason the way my therapist stated this was a revelation. I thought of other friendships in which conversations lack a deeper connection and recalled a recent lunch date with a long-time friend. How was it that I could feel so drained after a meal with someone I like, someone who is sweet and kind? I thought back to our meeting–our communication never touched into that fulfilling place of sharing oneself below the personality, in a mutual exchange of feeling known, and of seeing each other, in our realness. It was something we never had in all our friendship, as much as I have tried. Our conversation constantly floats at the surface of our experiences, never drops into what we are feeling, really, what we want or who we want to be, really. When I share something, she says something that shows she was listening, with words that are similar to mine, on a topic that is similar, but it does not invite us to drop down and explore that more, does not really reflect on what was shared, it shuffles us on to a new example, and then back and forth like that. We move quickly from anecdote to story to random thought. And after an hour or two, I am weary and bored from having traveled so long yet not at all deep.

It was fairly easy for me to identify some friends and acquaintances who seem to have this superficial style of expression–harder to admit that I sometimes default into this lazy kind of relating when I don’t feel present or engaged. I started noticing myself doing this in some interactions, when I was more preoccupied with my own feelings and thoughts than I was focused on listening. We, otherwise well-meaning, caring people sometimes stay at the surface of things. Maybe we are tired, overextended, are only maintaining some friendships out of a sense of duty once we’ve grown apart.

We’re not perfect so we’re bound to do this sometimes, but if it’s a consistent pattern in some of your relationships, you might want to check out how much it’s serving  you to still be involved with that person or find a way to break this pattern and shift the energy to make for a more alive and dynamic relationship.

This practice of relating to the person rather than the content is very much what I’m learning as a counselor–to track the emotions and experience of the client who is sharing and respond with my whole being to their whole being. My life coaching trainer, Kate Courageous, reminded us of this approach with this phrase: “Coach the person, not the problem.” As friends, we don’t have to show up with the same standards that we would expect of therapists or coaches, so perhaps this is a steep demand or big ask of ourselves, but I tell you, in the words of Bjork, “it’s ever so, ever so satisfying” to really respond to the person, not the content.

Here are some ideas for how to breathe in some vitality into a connection that feels lifeless and lacking depth

  • Admit when you’re not up to it. If you can’t really attend to the act of listening because of your own stress, mood, introversion, or tiredness, accept and acknowledge this fact without judgment and schedule another time to have a conversation.
  • Make eye contact. Focus in on the connection, on each moment.
  • Don’t multi-task. Listen while listening, don’t get distracted by some other activity.
  • Bring mindful attention to the act of listening. Become aware of what you are hearing in each moment, of the fact that you are attending to this person’s voice, of your breath and sensations while you listen, turn it into a meditation.
  • Tune into the feelings behind what the other person is saying. Imagine what moods and thoughts they have as they are relating their story to you.
  • Ask them open questions to go deeper and resist the urge to move on to another subject.
  • Refrain from advice-giving, one-upping their story with a “bigger, badder, more extreme” version of your own, or pitying them. Stay with their feelings and thoughts rather than imposing your own or adding your opinions.
  • Speak up. Say it out loud if you are feeling disconnected from your friend or the topic–ask to experiment with either a new subject matter or style of conversation.
Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Emotions, grounding, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Radical Acceptance, Sacred justice, Self-love, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Suffering

Lovingkindness in action

Yesterday, when House Republicans voted in favor of replacing the Affordable Care Act with their own version that would raise insurance costs, exclude benefits for an astonishing array of “preexisting conditions,” and cut taxes for the rich while penalizing the poor and middle class, I witnessed the tremendous wave of anger and pain that so many in our country were feeling, those who depend on the flawed yet essential coverage that ACA provides us and those with loved ones who rely on these benefits. Sure, this system is far from perfect, but it allows so many who previously were uninsured or underinsured to finally have the safety net to access care and get medications they need to live without going into debt. Feelings of despair and outrage are a natural response to such self-serving, irresponsible, and cruel legislation. I want to share, though, that as we make space for the pain we feel, we can also experiment with some alternate responses, to help us cope and build resilience in the face of a long 4 years. For my readership outside of the US, i am sure these ideas can be applied to other situations in which injustice and power-hungry demagogues prevail in your own lives.

  • Take action. Lovingkindness is the inspiration for my coaching practice, and is the deep compassion I want us to all have for ourselves and others. Lovingkindness means responding to our own needs and the needs of those around us.  Some people’s response to seeing anger in others’ is judgment, and claims that this is a “negative” or “toxic” emotion to be avoided. Some who identify with new age spirituality want to hold onto bliss experiences and therefore stay out of politics and avoid difficult subjects like poverty and racism. I’ve seen others spread the notion that love will conquer all, as if we don’t have to actually do anything but radiate some emotion and all will be well.  No spirituality is worth anything if it does not care about the suffering of others. Anger is an energy of protection, fierce compassion, and a commitment to justice. Honor its place and channel it into appropriate, loving action. While politics may be unsavory, they are a fact of how power is marshaled in our society to the benefit of some and to the detriment of a great many. We must be invested in the fate of those around us. We are responsible for standing up for what is right, making our voices heard, and holding our representatives accountable by making calls, donating to campaigns and causes for justice, and voting. Some of you might be called to run for office, and if so, that is great! But we don’t need to make this kind of commitment in order to be involved. Start here. Call your senators to oppose the AHCA. Or text “resist” to 50409 to easily contact your senators. Donate to organizations doing work for immigrants, refugees, racial equity, the environment. Find what resonates with you.
  • Focus on the facts. It is painful to realize that so many members of Congress are okay with gutting healthcare for our most vulnerable citizens. This is heartbreaking. And we also can get grounded in the moment and remind ourselves that this was only the first step to passing the AHCA. No one is yet being harmed or hurt by this bill. This is not to deny the potential threat posed, but to help propel us into moving with resolve to working to make sure it does not get through the Senate, and to help us not suffer so much with the imagined torment and dying that could happen under AHCA. We do not need to jump to the future yet and create nightmare scenes in our head that cause us more panic and pain. Stay in the present, focus on what is happening in the moment. Nobody is dying or being denied coverage due to this bill, and if we get consumed with fear over what could happen in the future, we may not be as effective in taking steps to stop it in the now.
  • Accept reality. This has 2 important pieces for me. The first, is understanding that given who these Republican leaders are and looking at the evidence of their values that came through in recent years of intransigence, racism, misogyny, and greed, it is not at all surprising that they passed this legislation yesterday. I can ease some of the suffering and preserve some of the wasted energy that comes out of saying, “I can’t believe they did this heartless thing,” and instead, with complete acceptance of reality say, “It makes a lot of sense, knowing what I know about these people, that they would behave in a manner consistent with a lack of heart and lack of mercy.” This does not change the facts or say they are okay or good, but helps me to not argue with the truth of what is happening. The second piece is similar. I ask: what part of me is refusing to accept that this is happening? In what ways am I resisting that this legislation and this awful administration is part of our reality? I am down with the #resistance, don’t get me wrong. Political action and justice organizing are essential, and, I think, more effective if they come from a place of radical acceptance. Check out this therapist’s advice on staying sane through these difficult times, using the principal of radical acceptance of reality. We aren’t saying things are acceptable as in good, but that we when we accept that things are the way they are, we can more effectively change them.

Offer yourself empathy, place your hands on the places in your body that are feeling constricted, tense, nauseous, or twisted up in pain and offer some soothing words and spacious breaths of allowance–it is understandable to feel distraught when those entrusted to protect people are intent to cause pain. But don’t get stuck there. Pick up the phone, focus on the facts, be honest about what is happening, and put that incredible compassion you have into action.

 

Adventure, Autumn, Celebration, Compassion, Dreams, Emotions, Experimentation, Freedom, grounding, Healing, Intention, Life Coaching, Life Path, Mindfulness, Open, Personal Growth, Self-love, Soul, Suffering, Support, Wisdom

Letting go, creating change, a practice for magicians and wizards of self-love

A beautiful, sunny day that began with a walk with a friend and dogs, with weekend weather that’s allowed the delicious coziness of light sweaters and leggings.  An exciting new beginning as I’m catapulted into my life as a full-time graduate student, in a field fully aligned with my mind and heart, where I’m getting daily affirmation that I am on the right path. Also, close enough to my return from France that I still can recall how freeing the experience of traveling alone feels in my body, and can easily connect to the joy of walking miles a day on cobblestone to be wowed by gardens, castles, vineyards, ornate bridges, rose windows, public transit, and pain au chocolat.  These are days to cherish and savor.

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I turned 37 in July and when I left 36, I entered into possibility and adventure. I started inhabiting myself more completely, without the inner struggle and conflict that marked past years of grappling with career and relationship confusion, sapping my energy and attention (more on that, soon). I feel fully engaged and in my life, and I feel satisfied.

Except for when I don’t. There are times I forget and feel impatient about where I am on the journey. Instead of staying open to possibility and adventure, I close down around my desires and feel like I can’t be me until things or situations arrive or can’t be truly happy until things are arranged to my liking.

In some ways ending a 2 year relationship and starting out a Masters program can seem like certainties, specific finalities or futures planned out. Yet being single and in “beginner’s mind” as I embark on the path to becoming a counselor, so much is unknown and undefined. This is a vulnerable place to be, but truly, we all never know what will happen, even if things seem solid, small changes sometimes have a big impact, and small changes can happen at a moment’s notice.

For me, these next couple years will be a process of getting to know my philosophical orientation and professional identity as a counselor, getting to know people and clarifying my relationship goals and what I want to give and receive in my romantic life. There are a billion things I want for my life at 37 and beyond, some of which I am pursuing by going back to school for counseling, taking on new coaching clients, meeting people online and dating, dancing at home and in community, and forging friendships as I release old connections that I’ve outgrown. The constant practice, for me, is to not close up around my wants and get attached to outcome, to not craft an identity that I then get stuck in and am unable to flex and grow from, and to not feel discouraged when what I believe I want is not already here.

So, here I share a practice that I do to build my awareness around where I am attached and where I summon all the power of life and love within and without to break these fear-based patterns.

I meditate in stillness and quiet for 10-25 minutes before moving into this practice. Establishing the connection of meditation helps me listen more deeply to what is true under the surface grasping and whining. Then I go inward and check out what I am holding onto, what thoughts are driving my emotions and behaviors, what stories I’m telling myself, then I name all of it as I pull in a “clearing statement” from Access Consciousness, to help me cut through it with sharp awareness, wisdom, and compassion.  The clearing statement is like the abracadabra of a magical spell…”I  create as I speak,” or “May it be so,” invoking the power of language and intention to create change.

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Even in times of joy–sometimes especially, as we may be clinging on to things as they are, worried about losing what is going well–we can experience anxiety and insecurity. As this very amazing moment in my life opens me up to learning new things and loving new people, I find a lot of fear in and around my chest, a tightening jaw, flurried belly flops, repetitive thoughts pulling me into a spiral of anxiety, and a tenderness about emotional, intellectual, and spiritual risks that I am taking.

The process of tuning into all of this, speaking it, and clearing it out went like this the other day (note–these words came out spontaneously and were captured on audio so I could share with you–it is always unknown, unplanned, and uttered from the wisdom of the moment):

ALL THE WAYS I let fear pull me around, hook me in. All the ways I lose trust. All the ways I abandon myself and focus on someone else making me whole. All the ways I grab and cling and want to control life or know the future and ensure an outcome. All the ways I contract and get tight and small around my desires. Destroy and uncreate all of that. “Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

ALL THE WAYS that I leave myself, my truth, my wholeness and grasp at something outside. All the ways I think someone can fulfill me, all the ways I feel afraid of rejection, abandonment, of not being lovable. Destroy and uncreate all of that. “Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

ALL THE WAYS I forget that I’m already whole and already loved, all the ways I lose touch with my own heart and go into lack…all the ways I dwell in sadness and fear, that I feel sorry for myself. All the ways that I push away my experience and reject my emotions. Destroy and uncreate all of that. Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

ALL THE WAYS I get self-absorbed and make my pain the center of the world, all the ways I don’t show up for others and don’t reach out to connect, or make my sadness bigger than everything else on earth, including my own heart. Destroy and uncreate all of that. Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

ALL THE WAYS I believe I’m smarter than everyone, the ways I judge and criticize, all the ways I want to be right, all the ways I am not open to learning and challenging my world view. And all the ways I make myself small, don’t use my voice, doubt my intelligence and contributions. Destroy and uncreate all of that. Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POD, POC, All 9, Shorts, Boys and Beyonds.”

Having been said, make it so, now. Activate growth, change, and healing.

Clearly, I could (and did) go on…that was just a part of what felt up for me on 1 day. I share this to show you that we are in this human experience together–all the ways we undermine our own happiness by identifying it as outside of us or in the future, when some external goal is reached. All the ways we humans think we are missing something and fixate on lack. All the ways we forget who we are. These are so common! This practice can help us see these for what they are and to get underneath, in the wise mind that knows the wholeness we already are, in the tenderness of our oh so human vulnerability. Vulnerability is not about something being absent, but the presence and fullness of love, compassion, and open-heartedness.

Naming our habits can build awareness. We cultivate the counter-habit of catching ourselves in the act, not to chastise but to chuckle, and say…there’s that again, that energy of wanting to control, that tendency to place the responsibility of my fulfillment on someone/something else.

When we truly believe in change, we see it leaving our field, we feel our bodies lighten from the lost weight of worry and grasping. It will come back, and we will practice again.We stay in compassion for ourselves and our habits. And sometimes, we forget all this meditation and magic and have a good cry with a friend and a cathartic release of all our crap, and move deeper into love with ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

Celebration, Compassion, Emotions, Freedom, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Open, Personal Growth, Power Within, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation

On suffering and the overcoming of it.

When I look at the tragic photos and news, I see both the horrors of the bombs and shootings and the thousands of helpers who have rushed in to care for all the suffering. It shows that the world has both suffering and the overcoming of it. It is in the overcoming of it that we are called to respond.
–Jack Kornfield on Paris attacks, November 2015

 

wall-1405964_1920US primary politics. Orlando. Brexit. Blocked immigration reform. Istanbul.

With distressing and heartbreaking headlines in the news, compounded with our own personal challenges, these past few weeks have been a time of heaviness and high emotions for many. Despite or maybe because of these private losses and tragic world events, I decided to focus on the small daily things that bring me joy or inspire me: the Carolina wren scaling my window screen in the morning, the scent of gardenias in front of my apartment, the outpouring of love after the Pulse tragedy and the music that love brought to me in the form of a mix made by a Chicago friend, and many moments of connection shared with loved ones and animals.

I acknowledge and allow the grief and heartache, while also doing my best to not add more suffering to the world. Following the lead of one of the women who I coach in an online women’s support network, who vowed to not get embroiled in heated social media debates that would do little to change policy yet do much to create stress and bitterness, I refrained, as well, and practiced privately sending compassion to each person who posted a view opposing mine online.

I understand why some cannot move beyond grief, fear, and anger. Particularly those whose communities are at the center of tragedies, bloodshed, or political upheaval. I, myself, treasure my own early experiences in gay bars. In the late 90s, the Hide and Seek in Colorado Springs, offered a glimpse into what beautiful worlds are possible when people are free to be themselves, living out their own personal style, flair, and fabulousness. The bar, and those I danced with there–the tight-knit friend group I found in undergrad–introduced me to brave love, universal acceptance, embodied sexuality, and authentic living. And even as I comprehend how grossly this sacrosanct experience was violated, I still choose to live in the celebratory space of my own queer heart that was raised lovingly during late nights at the Hide and Seek, by college friends in the LGBTQ community, and the fairy godnurturing queer friends of my early 20s, like T, who shared my love of girl groups and made me feel Supreme.

We do not need to wilt or shrivel when these horrors happen. We can mobilize for change, we can show up for others in need, and we can live our lives by following the lead of those who dance in the night–loving our own bodies loving other bodies, uplifted, buoyed, and emboldened by solidarity. It’s what happens when we totally embrace and inhabit who we are, and allow ourselves to be loved in a radically open and nonjudgmental way. Not to paint a naively Utopian picture or diminish the high rates of suicide, terror and discrimination facing LGBTQ people, but at their best, this is what queer spaces create: collective, often joyful, overcoming of suffering.

Overcoming does not mean we won’t feel the pain any less, or that we aren’t aware of our broken hearts–it is that we have learned to use that heartache to connect with ourselves and others. Vulnerability can bring us more deeply into the human experience and allows us to love that much more fiercely and compassionately.

We can do our own spiritual work that attends to the overcoming of suffering–the more practiced we are, personally, in the overcoming, the more we can share and serve others in healing themselves, as well. This is worthy work: your personal growth and transformation. It ripples out and allows you to show up strong for a weary world. You loving yourself without apology may give someone else permission to reveal who they are. Even better when we have strength in numbers. Find others around you who are willing to live courageously, wholeheartedly, and come together to create our world anew…we need you!

Awareness of Sensation, Balance, Compassion, Embodiment, Emotions, grounding, Healing, Life Coaching, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Self-love, Suffering, Whole Body

The 5 S’s of handling distress

Sometimes a big emotion rolls in and seems to take over without warning.  We may be flooded with sadness, possessed by anger or jealousy, or perhaps we get caught in an argument or crisis and our whole system seems to get overloaded and overwhelmed in an instant. When we get triggered, we can help to re-set our nervous systems and calm our body, heart, and mind. Move through these 5 steps when you catch yourself stressed out or upset. If you’re interacting with others or in a public situation, simply excuse yourself by saying you need to go to the restroom or outside for a moment…no need to give a “why.”

STOP

press pause on the moment. don’t react. just take a deep, spacious breath in…and out.

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SOFTEN

notice your body. is there tension? loosen, let go, and soften your whole body. your jaw–relax it. your shoulders–lower them. with your strong emotions, you may only be able to do this a teeny tiny bit. that’s great…just a notch. turn down the volume of the situation by signalling to the body that it can soften a little smidgen. feel into the softness as much as you are able.

SCAN

close your eyes (if you’re able) and go into your body with your awareness. turn within. see inside your heart, your belly, legs, feet, arms and hands, throat and neck, head. draw your attention on what is happening inside. check out the energy in your chest area, behind your eyes, in your gut, feel within your muscles and bones…tune in and scan to see what it feels like inside you. breathe here for a few minutes.

SENSE

turning from the internal to the external: are you hot? cold? how do your clothes feel on your skin? how does the air touching your skin feel? what sounds do you hear? what do you see all around you–looking up, down, and side to side? observe as if you were a scientist just exploring and doing an inventory of what the 5 senses are picking up.

SOOTHE

take 3 full belly breaths in and out. find some way to soothe yourself. a cup of tea? a walk in nature? a piece of music? a healing mantra? petting a dog? choose something that soothes and restores.

~practice, rinse, repeat.~

Compassion, Freedom, Healing, Intention, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Open, Relationship, Self-love, Spirituality, Suffering

Freedom from Wanting

Last week in gathering with spiritual friends–2 women with whom I’ve been meeting for 2 years to share in sacred circle (or triangle) about our relationship with meditation, self-awareness, and trans/personal growth–we sat together and followed a guided meditation practice by Sharon Salzberg.

Our group moves through inspirational books together, though our meetings are not strictly book discussions. We open up, reflect, and listen to one another as we grapple with how the questions, quests, and heart lessons in these works land in our everyday lives.

We recently started traveling through life with Salzberg’s book, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, as our companion. We began our first evening together with this book by listening to a 15 minute lovingkindness practice available on Insight Timer.*

The practice is like most metta meditations: well-wishes and compassion sent first to self and then expanding outward to wider circles of people, creatures, beings–friends who are kind to us, strangers we feel neutral towards, people with whom we have conflict, broader communities of beings and the world of life.

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In this focused endeavor of sending love, health, and peace to self, friend, foe, familiar and unfamiliar souls, I noticed something happen. In only 15 minutes i felt a sense of fulfillment, ease, and warmth that had felt out of reach for me all week.  In my ruminating and longing, hours and days before,  in my busy and noisy mind, my worry about the future, desire for different outcomes or pushing away of sadness or loneliness, I’d created a lot of suffering–all rooted in wanting to be happy. And in the simple attention on happiness as it already exists in my own present moment–and sharing that with others–suddenly that suffering was gone. In wanting to be happy, I felt pain. In connecting to happiness and wishing it for others, I felt…happy. It is unbelievably simple. Maybe I can’t metta myself into happiness 24/7, but this provides a tool to heal ourselves and pull us out of thoughts that cause suffering when we are really feeling down or lost.

A simple mantra and a focused heart can cut through such hurtful thoughts about our shortcomings, our failures, our regrets, our fears about the future, and all that ails us in a culture in which shame, self-hate, and self-doubt are so common.

A lovingkindness meditation will be some variation of these metta phrases:

May I be free from harm. May I be happy. May I be healthy. My I feel peace.

May you be free from harm. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you feel peace.

May all beings be free from harm. May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings feel peace.

Starting by turning inward, then to specific persons we like and don’t like, and then global communities.

 

Another that I practiced this week:

this is a moment of suffering. suffering is a part of life and all beings suffer.

may i be kind to myself. may all beings feel peace.

Repeating for several minutes (when something is troubling you set a timer and keep cycling through)

it’s an antidote to the wanting and despair that so often fills our minds. may you feel peace!

*Insight Timer an app that is free to download with many excellent offerings and a handy dandy chime timer for meditation.
Awareness of Sensation, Embodiment, Emotions, grounding, Meditation, Mindfulness, Silence, Soul, Spirituality, Whole Body

In 2016? Resolve to do more of nothing + more loving.

I’ve long been suspicious of the popular tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions. I see a profit-driven mass media stoking people’s fears and insecurities and using marketing tactics that exploit our vulnerability by getting us to feel bad about ourselves and to invest in self-improvement products and memberships. It can amp up the frenzied and fast-paced tendency to seek for satisfaction from external goals or by trying to live up to unrealistic societal ideals of adventure, fitness, balance, or beauty.

On the other hand, there is something inspiring and powerful in the ritual of resolutions. That so many people are focusing energy and attention on intention at the same time, can fuel our own motivation and support us.  How do we set goals that bring us into more of a sense of our own power and wisdom within? How do we trust we are moving at our own perfect pace and keep encouraging ourselves to love ourselves when things are hard or we mess up?

I am totally thrilled to have assembled a group of awesome women to support one another in our goals through my women’s whole wellness group that starts meeting online on January 1st. And I love list-making and box-checking from my to-dos. But the 2 most important tips I want to share for the arrival of 2016 are not about what to do but more about what not to do.

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  1. Do not be hard on yourself! Please be kind, remind…yourself of how much you’ve done, how far you’ve come. Validate your feelings. Cheer yourself on and note successes. Do not use resolutions to beat yourself up, to judge or criticize yourself, compare yourself, or feel like a failure. Discouraging thoughts, harsh judgments when you fall off track do not help–they harm! They do not help motivate or change your behavior for the better. They do not come from a place of love or heart. Anytime you catch yourself in a hateful or mean thought about yourself, your emotions, energy level, progress on your goals, press PAUSE and take 3 deep belly breaths. Put your hand on your heart and offer some supportive and gentle words–to the part that let you down AND the part that is disappointed. The disappointed part has a message and a fear–acknowledge and love it. But remember you are much more likely to meet your goals and live up to your vision when you live from a place of compassion for yourself.
  2. Sit and do nothing. This is a quiet kind of courage–of going against the grain of our culture and the pressure to accomplish lofty, amazing, magical things in the new year. Believe that what needs to happen will happen–and with much more power and clarity behind it when you are moving from a centered and calm body, spirit, mind. It is brave to sit with ourselves quietly–5, 10, 20, 30 minutes a day, because when are just present to our experience without phones, friends, netflix, music we begin to FEEL the extraordinary sensations and emotions that are happening within us. Sometimes these can feel uncomfy, overwhelming, frightening, ungrounding, or giddy. Can you sit and BE and allow with the gentlness of holding a baby. Feel that icky feeling move through you as you would attend to an infant, vulnerable, innocent…maybe the infant is shitting on you and crying and screaming…how do you hold and be with an annoying baby? Curious to know their needs? Understanding their discomfort? Listening for cues of how you can help? Compassion for their suffering? Be with yourself like you would be with a baby. Set a timer. Monday 5 minutes, Tuesday 1o, Wednesday 15, Thursday 20, Friday 25. Can you go up to 30 on the weekend? Breathe, listen, feel, and be.

 

Compassion, Gratitude, Intention, Joy, Life Coaching, Love, Mindfulness, Soul

Happy Lovegiving

Maybe it was the fraught family gatherings. Or perhaps the shady origins of a holiday that perpetuates a myth of white settlers living in harmony with the indigenous and glosses over the violence of colonization. Oh, there was also the elevation of indulgence and gluttony in a culture that worships consumerism. Some or all of this led me, in college, to adopt a tradition of fasting and solitude on Thanksgiving. I’ve since softened my stance on the yearly tradition of pigging out and convening with family and friends. Even though there is a bit of mourning and solemnity in the day for me still, I am more open to joining in on a day that is about gratitude and the abundance of the earth.

But why reserve such appreciation for 1 day out of the year? As we return to the generous and thankful spirit of the season, we can remember how life is enhanced when we live from the heart year-round.

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I am calling it Happy Lovegiving, not only for November, but a way of being each day. To kick it off, here is a practice I invite you to try out:

For the next 2 weeks, call, email, or write  someone every day to appreciate and thank them and send some love. See how you feel when you give gratitude, compliment, and shower with people with love. Brainstorm some people now who’ve impacted you in ways, big and small. 2nd grade teacher? Someone who introduced you to great music? A constant and consistent friend? A mentor? Someone who smiles at you and takes the time to listen to your answer to the question, “How are you?” If there is someone you need to thank who is not with you today, consider finding a photo and saying your thanks in its presence, while lighting a candle. Or, pass on your message to someone they were close to.

And in honor of this Lovegiving, I am announcing my coaching will be offered by donation for the time being. My normal rate has been $50 for an hour of focused coaching with practices tailored to your goals and contact between sessions. Now, I’d like to invite anyone who is interested in receiving emotional and spiritual guidance into their own wisdom to schedule a session at no charge. After we meet, over phone or in person, you can make a donation. In the Buddhist tradition this is called dana, giving freely from the heart. I will give freely from my heart–my time, attention, and coaching process –and if you feel moved, you may give a donation from your heart. Create the year you want in 2016. Book a session now.

I am thankful to all of you for believing in the power of Lovingkindness, reading my blog, & supporting my work! Happy Lovegiving today, tomorrow, and every day.

Adventure, Compassion, Curiosity, Discernment, Failure, Intention, Life Coaching, Life Path, Mindfulness, Open, Personal Growth, Radical Acceptance, Self-love, Transformation, Whole Body, Wisdom

The Big Fat Happy Yes of No

Today I ask: when we have a relationship, job, or lifestyle that doesn’t feel like a fit–can we view these as successful and proud achievements that are part of our path? Can we look at our seeming missteps with gratitude for helping to point us in the direction of truer callings and better matches?

I clocked out of work for the last time yesterday filled with elation, excitement, and pride.

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While in my 3 years at social services, I may have struggled, cried, felt powerless, and discovered that it was not the job for me, I wholeheartedly consider my time there a success. Successful because I worked hard to learn policy, programs, and software in order to fulfill my responsibilities. And successful because I used my strengths of compassion, listening, and presence to serve and advocate for some of the highest needs people in my community. But more importantly, I consider it a success that I learned this job was not the right fit for me. It is a success that I quit. It is a success because I love myself and my life enough to move on and claim my true path.

We can tend to look at our past relationships and jobs that didn’t work out as failures or mistakes. Yet more often than not, these are the choices we needed to make with the information we had at the time, with the sense of self and confidence we had at the time, to gain the clarity and poise we need to get even closer to living out what we most desire. They were the best choice we could have made knowing what we knew then. The information we gain from those experiences, then allows us to make even more attuned and informed choices moving forward.

If we are open and aware, they help us to know ourselves better, and to invite us out to new edges of growth and emotional and spiritual risk.

When we recognize that something isn’t working, we are not just saying “No” to that relationship or job, we are saying a big fat happy “YES” to ourselves. The secret is:  keep saying “Yes.”  Keep listening to that stirring of inner passion and heart whisper that told you this isn’t quite what you need, and refine, re-calibrate and trust that, in time, the Nos will move you towards your bigger, fatter, happier YESes.

Often, when we follow our inner impulse and act with courage in honor of what we need, we quickly then backpedal into fear or succumb to mainstream narratives about what is normal or what we “should” be doing. I, for instance, “should” have waited to leave my job until I had another one lined up, or I “should” worry about how I will pay my bills.

I believe that if we make choices from love and trust rather than what society tells us we should do, we are much more likely to land back in our inner wisdom and feel peace with each decision, instead of finding ourselves in another job that pays the bills, but does not feed our souls, or in a relationship that is comforting, but not fulfilling.

So, if you consider the last relationship that didn’t meet your needs, the last job that caused you stress or boredom, can you see the success in your awareness that it wasn’t what you wanted? Can you feel proud for choosing to leave to honor your deeper desires and potential? Can you see how this was an essential experience along the way to where you are going, that showed you the next step to take? Can you keep listening, with courage, to the Nos, even as it challenges convention and norms and ideas about what you “should” do?seascape

It isn’t always the right time for us to leave, of course, and we can also feel proud if we stay and find ways to reduce stress, or stimulate and challenge ourselves, or take responsibility for our own joy. That was my path for many years in the “wrong” jobs. But then there was a “No” inside me whose voice grew louder and more insistent, which I could no longer placate with creative work arounds and spiritual strategies of radical acceptance.

I took the risk and now will own it instead of freaking out (okay, maybe I will freak out a bit). I keep coming back to my body’s cues, my heart’s longings, and am making choices that feel fruitful–emotionally, spiritually, and financially, while also allowing for vulnerability of uncertainty, because the fulfillment of my dreams and expression of strengths make it worth it.

Now is the time to embrace the Yes of adventure, unknown, radical trust in my deeper vocation and lifework. And to feel proud of my so-called failures and Nos for getting me there.

 

Balance, Curiosity, Discernment, Dreams, Experimentation, Freedom, grounding, Intention, Joy, Life Coaching, Mindfulness, Open, Self-love

Logging out and tuning In

goldToday is a day of firsts.

The first day of being fully self-employed after leaving my 8 to 5. First post out to you from this sense of freedom. The first day of creating the life I want to live.

It is also the first day of a month-long fast from social media. That’s right–I won’t be going online to update my status, check trending topics, or even follow marketing strategies for my coaching practice on Facebook, because I would rather focus my time on connecting with myself in meditation, with nature on walks in the woods, with my dreams by accomplishing my goals, and with friends and loved ones through voice to voice, face to face, heart to heart connection.

I remember a time before the web, when my attention felt longer, more open, and my curiosity guided me to more creative endeavors and outings. When I felt calmer, more centered, and more connected to those around me. I am not one to dismiss technology altogether and I am grateful for all the ways social media has brought me and my coaching practice in contact with new people around the world as well as giving me a glimpse into the lives of old friends and family who are far away. This is all meaningful and I do not fault social media for making it anything other than satisfying and enhancing everyday life. If it has the power to pull me in and change my brain and my life, it is because I allow it to.

And so, I do value a good Facebreak now and then, a hiatus from social media, to get the sense of life slowed down back into my bones, to open up more space in my field of awareness, to remember the richness of being tuned in to my inside and the bigger and bolder outside…outside of screens and memes. I go offline to reconnect to the vast array of potential for connection, wildness, and love that lives beyond the internet.

When I return, I carry with me more balance and boundaries around how I spend my time online. It tends to erode–the busier and more chaotic things feel, the more I seem to scramble for false refuge in uncalming diversions. And so, I catch myself and press pause, yet again.

Can today be a day of firsts for you? What would you like to start doing today? You could start with setting an intention or take a 5 minute break to sit mindfully and listen to your breath. Can you schedule your first coaching session to unleash your inner power and creative energy? What can you do today to feed your soul?

Or perhaps you want to consider your own relationship to social media. What are you not doing with the time you spend on social media? What are you keeping yourself from doing or feeling when you fall into Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest for hours? When are these social media sites bringing you joy and connection? When are they improving your life? When are you using these to distract yourself, procrastinate, numb out, avoid, or compare and judge yourself?

Maybe it’s time for your first break from social media. You can begin with a baby break of a day or 2, and just see…what do you notice? I’d love to hear your thoughts and discoveries!