Are You a Life Architect?

November 16, 2012

Actually, you are. Everyone is. Each of us builds our lives by the decisions we make.

Because I am susceptible to gloomy thoughts on gloomy days, I carefully contemplated how to spend my fall and early winter. It occurred to me that I could avoid what I used to think was the inevitable seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that plagues me at this time of year if I were to reconstruct the way I do things around the holiday season. So, like an architect, I drafted up a blueprint of how I’d like to feel.

“Cheery, joyful, at peace,” I wrote at the top of the page. Knowing that lack of sunlight makes me less than happy, I booked a flight to California, the sunniest place on the planet, or so it seemed, the morning after our arrival. It helped tremendously.

Even though I am back under a blanket of fog, just looking at the photos and videos I took remind me that the sun will shine again.

If you feel trapped, take a moment to consider what might be causing that feeling. Is it your circumstances or merely your feelings about your situation that are holding you back? Do you need a mindshift or a physical shift to release blocked energy to put you back into the flow of life?

Life architecture doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to deconstruct every aspect of yourself or your life to alter your plans. Perhaps you only need to tear down a wall or two to make room for new space. Or maybe you require an addition to your already fabulous construct to make yourself feel complete? It could be that you need a complete overhaul, in which case you’ll need to invite some friends to help you out.

What I have learned this year is that those friends are there, waiting for you in the wings, if you ask them. With hammers and pencils and casseroles in their hands, they want to contribute to you just as you have always contributed to them.

Architects rarely work alone. It takes a village to build something new. Assemble your award-winning team and get on with the business of life.

Your dreams are waiting for you. Build a life that welcomes them and I promise you they will come true.

~~~~

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Somewhere in the Dance

November 6, 2012

The framed picture spoke a thousand words in just a few:

“I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile I keep dancing.”

Your heart can dance even if your feet cannot. As I recently posted, life is a dance. The partners we choose make all the difference. You might not be able to choose the family you are born into, but you can choose the people that surround you. You can choose who to hang out with and who to let go. You get to decide whether to waltz or do the Texas swing.

You might fall down every once in a while, or trip over life’s unpleasantness. But as long as your heart keeps beating, you can remain somewhere in the dance.

Where are you in yours?

The Blessing Way

October 29, 2012

Fourteen years ago I stood in my mother’s living room, pregnant with my first child and excited about the next step in our lives. My mother’s fairy godmother friend performed a ceremony she called “A Blessing Way,” a ritual that ushered us into a new phase as parents. Considering I never thought I’d get married, much less have children, it was an important moment of transition for me.

Blessings can accompany us throughout our lives. Rites of passage such as weddings, funerals, or in our case, Blessing Ways, symbolize the recognition of new constellations. It is a celebration of life and all that it entails.

The grieving process has its own hidden blessings as we transition from one identity to the next. Perhaps we are widowed, separated or even divorced. The social stigma that often accompanies the exiting of a partnership can be unbearable. It is simply not acceptable in most cultures. Or if it is tolerated, it is seen by most as utter failure.

But what if there really is a way to look at such change as a blessing? Departure as a sacred opening and transcendence versus the death of a relationship? Peace and wholeness instead of sadness, anger and disappointment?

Blessings can heal. Whenever I give away clothes to our local Salvation Army, I bless them and the people who will wear them next before placing them in the bin. Or if I leave a vacation rental, I bless the space where we have been, sending energy to the next set of people who will dwell there.

We are all balls of energy, light and grace. How we move about the earth and interact with others truly matters. Blessings can be the cohesive strings of love that connect us all. A kind word, spoken to all of humanity from your heart, can raise up the collective in profound ways.

What blessing can you speak today?

 

The Principles of Yes

October 20, 2012

Going Slow means saying no.

But not always.

When we say “no” to certain opportunities, we are saying “yes” to the possibility of others. We are creating space for what is meant to come into our lives. But many of us fear that space, that moment of nothingness, that void in our hearts and souls that we feel compelled to fill with something, anything. Oftentimes we fill it with noise ~ whether it’s the TV, the radio or our own chatter.

Taking time to be quiet will give you the strength to get to “yes”.

The principles of “yes” do not mean you affirm everything everyone wants from you. Nor does it mean you are a yes man to anyone. It means you are standing firm in your power and in your belief in yourself. You are saying “yes” to the life you want to lead.

As I have often said, when we say “no” to someone or something, we are actually saying “yes” to ourselves. The first tenet in the principles of “yes” is to be clear about what is important to you.

Action items:

  • Name five things that have a priority in your life.
  • List an action for each one that you can undertake to support that belief.
  • If you can’t think of an action, reevaluate your list of priorities. Are you walking your talk or just paying lip service to those things? You may find you have entirely different priorities than you realized. Knowing this will help you get back into alignment with “yes”.

The second tenet of “yes” is to understand that even when we say “yes” to something, it may not turn out as we had planned. Maybe we say “yes” to a project that we think will be fulfilling, only to discover it wasn’t at all what it seemed. You may feel disappointed that things turned out that way, but in saying “yes,” you learned exactly what you needed to learn at that time. Trust that saying “yes” with conviction will lead you down the path you need to take, even if that path seems scary.

The third tenet of “yes” requires that you listen deeply to what you are affirming. Are you saying “yes” to the actual experience or are you saying “yes” to that pretty picture in your mind, painted with wild expectations? This tenet is based on the high involvement/low attachment idea. You are highly engaged in what you are doing without expectation that it will turn out at all.

Pretty Zen, huh?

The final tenet of “yes” is the contagion factor. When you smile out into the world with an aura of “yes”, others will notice and want to know where you got it. Glowing from the inside out, you can share your “yes” story with them.

Sharing your “yes” moments with others will make the world a better place. It will encourage them to do the same for themselves. Can you imagine a world in which we all dance to the rhythm of  our personal “yes”? Oh, yeeeeeesssss!

The Art of Listening

October 16, 2012

Listening. It is a hard skill to learn.

The irony is we have an innate ability to listen. In fact, it has been necessary for our survival as a species.

Before we learned to speak, we had to listen to our parents.

Before we lived in safe housing, we had to listen for predators.

Before we had radio, television or the Internet, we had to listen to each other.

Before you can learn a foreign language well, you have to listen to a native speaker.


Then, as with any kind of language acquisition, we start to talk and talk and talk, but rarely really hear.

In observing my children, I have noticed that their adolescent brain development has made them unable to absorb certain kinds of sounds, such as the words “Clean up your room.”, “That dish belongs just left of where you put it, namely the dishwasher!”, or “Do you really think muddy shoes belong on your feet going up the stairs?” But teenagers aside, we adults have similar issues about listening to one another.

We only hear a fraction of what is really being said. A lot of it has to do with our filters through which we process information. She said, “X” so she must mean “Y”. We make up all kinds of meanings to interpret what a person has spoken based on our past experience.

But all we have is now. Every moment gives birth to a new possibility, a new world, a new way to enhance your relationships with others. If you let that world in, you wouldn’t believe what happens! All that tangled energy gets released. Blockages, like an ice cube in hot water, dissolve.

In Paulo Coelho’s book Aleph he writes:

“In magic -and in life – there is only the present moment, the now. You can’t measure time the way you measure the distance between two points. “Time” doesn’t pass. We human beings have enormous difficulty in focusing on the present; we’re always thinking about what we did, about how we could have done it better, about the consequences of our actions, and about why we didn’t act as we should have. Or else we think about the future, about what we’re going to do tomorrow, what precautions we should take, what dangers await us around the next corner, how to avoid what we don’t want and how to get what we have always dreamed of.”

If we stopped for a moment to really be with that person who is talking instead of with our own brain chatter, we might hear the intended meaning more clearly.

We all have our assumptions that we carry into conversations. But imagine what it would feel like to remove those assumptions for just one of them you will have today. Instead of assuming your neighbor will be grouchy, thereby affecting how you will greet her, take away those pretenses with an open mind. Or what if your boss, whom you assume isn’t a morning person, is someone you don’t avoid this morning, but instead approach with the intention to listen to whatever he says. Draw closer and you might find he is dropping clues as to why his face is so mean every morning.

Every one of us leaves a trace of what we are really saying in the room; a deep listener can hear it.

I’m up for the challenge to listen better today. Are you?

That last statement of the pitch was what really hit home. As a long-time blogger, I receive countless pitches from PR folks about their various products, causes and ideas. It is rare that I respond to one, mainly because a good story is really hard to find amongst the massive onslaught of commercialized messages.

But this one is a story worth telling.

Christy Turlington Burns, Every Mother Counts

It is a fact that when women are healthier, societies overall are healthier.

Global health advocate and former model Christy Turlington Burns is participating in the ING Marathon on November 4 along with Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter, World Renowned Tattoo Artist Scott Campbell, The Smile Co-Owner Carlos Quirarte, Oiselle Founder/CEO Sally Bergesen and 45 other runners, to raise money and awareness for her non-profit organization, Every Mother Counts (EMC). To expand the reach of this effort, Every Mother Counts is calling on supporters everywhere to create their own team, and participate in a 5K run/walk in their town on November 4 while the EMC team hits the pavement in New York City.

Did you know that 5k is less than the average distance a pregnant woman in the developing world must travel to receive the basic health care she needs to deliver her baby?

Let’s face it. 5K is simply too far to walk for a woman who is 9 months pregnant, in labor, and has no access to transportation.  By walking or running in communities across the country, Every Mother Counts aims to raise awareness of this simple but devastating barrier and empower people everywhere to get involved in helping women to overcome it.

How to join: It is as simple as grabbing a couple of friends and going for a 5K run/walk during the official ING New York City Marathon. Make a sign, tell friends on social media about your efforts. Then share your photos and stories with Every Mother Counts on our facebook page or by email at info@everymothercounts.org.

Three additional ways to help support the un-official run:

1.       Purchase the official Every Mother Counts marathon team shirt for your team and all proceeds will go to EMC. This year, team EMC will be outfitted by Oiselle, a growing women’s apparel company dedicated to female runners and EMC’s official athletic apparel sponsor. You can purchase team jerseys from the “EMC Collection,” on oiselle.com, and 40% of the proceeds will go to Every Mother Counts.

2.       Join our Team by setting up your own CrowdRise page here and have friends and family sponsor your run by making donations through CrowdRise. All proceeds will go to EMC.

3. Please use Charity Miles, a free app that enables you to earn 25¢ per mile for Every Mother Counts, whenever you walk or run. It’s a free, easy way to raise both money and awareness for Every Mother Counts.  And you can use it any time you walk or run— even if you’re not doing a full 5K.  Please download the app to your iPhone or Android today. Every Mile Counts!

I’ve downloaded the app, which is based on your GPS so it is best to use outside (and not indoors where I tried to log exactly how much distance I run up and down the stairs all day).

You win through exercise. Pregnant women win through the help they need.

Let’s run/walk so others don’t have to.

Your Life: Summed Up

October 9, 2012

The average American spends nine years of his life watching television and two million commercials. Only two weeks of his life is spent kissing another person. Imagine if those numbers were reversed (and probably are in some countries!).

The average Joe spends 4,050 hours at a standstill in traffic (that is the equivalent of 506 nights of sleep), 4,320 hours at traffic lights, 5,365 hours talking on the phone and 122,400 hours working. He will have walked 35,000 miles in a lifetime, which is equal to walking from Paris to Shanghai and back ~ twice. At the same time, he will drive 798,000 miles: That’s 3.5 times to the moon and back.

If you look at these staggering statistics, it makes you realize how much of our time is spent with machines, not Nature or even each other. It makes me want to hug a tree and remember that we are all connected to everything: Not just through Facebook, but through our ultimate purpose in life, which is to love each other with all our might.

How will you spend your day today?

Life Summed Up

The Worthiness of YOU

October 1, 2012

Dangling on a limb is what monkeys do. They think nothing of swinging from branch to branch high in the sky, flicking bugs off each other and humping anyone they see as a ‘How do you do’. To be a monkey must be so much fun. And they never once ask themselves, “Am I worthy?”

Proudest Monkey, power of slowIn a Ted talk from 2010, social scientist Bréne Brown, who studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame, asked herself the meaning of human connection. Like monkeys, we need a sense of belonging to not only survive, but also to thrive. What she discovered was that what unravels connection is our sense of shame. Simply put, shame is the fear of being disconnected, and yet it is the very thing that disconnects us from ourselves and others. It is the emotion that questions our worthiness.

What underlies this sense of shame is excruciating vulnerability. In order for us to feel a sense of connection, we have to be willing to really be seen by others ~ warts and all. It takes courage to make yourself vulnerable like that.

What I witnessed this weekend is it is truly worth it. My friend Albert Frantz, Husband and I went to Oktoberfest yesterday. As a classically trained pianist living in Vienna, Albert decided spontaneously that it was time to conduct the Oktoberfest tent orchestra. Clear-headed and focused (it was early on in the evening!), he approached the conductor and asked if he might take up the baton for one song.

The amazing thing? The conductor said yes. And Albert got to live out a dream because he believed he was worthy of doing so.

“It is fun to make exhibitions of our inhibitions,” he said.

He’s so right!

Brown discovered that people who have a sense of worthiness also have a strong sense of belonging and connection. They, like our monkeys in the trees, don’t question whether they are worthy or not. They simply believe they are worthy of love. As I have mentioned before, our belief systems carve out the pathway of our lives. If we believe we are worthy, we’re right! If we believe we are not, no external circumstances can change those feelings. The origin of all emotion comes from within.

So I ask you: what’s holding you back from living out your dreams? Everyone has intrinsic value. The moment you discover your worth is the moment your life can really begin.

Out of Control

September 28, 2012

Our modern age has given us so many new tools to manage ourselves. iPhones, laptops, PCs, traffic navigators, you name it. In effect, these gadgets offer us a semblance of control. And feeling in control is necessary for our mental health.

And yet we really aren’t in control as much as we think we are. That is why Facebook is so intoxicating. Updating your status, checking in with others, posting feelings, thoughts and memories provide us with pseudo-connection with others. But we don’t really hear their voices, feel their feelings or see their faces as they express these things. In addition, Facebook is another way of controlling our image. I like to call it Fakebook because in reality, who is going to admit that they just did something less than reputable, yet perhaps very human?

As connected and controlled as our lives appear, it is a virtual world we create when we use these social media platforms. Our real lives on the ground are the ones we need to nurture the most because there is no substitute for a physical hug when you need it.  It takes a moment of thought. It takes a human touch. And it takes time.

Everything else is a neatly controlled world, a cartoon version of ourselves.

I’m for being real. Are you?

 

Running on Empty

September 24, 2012

Serenity Stewart sang in her minivan. Occasionally, she’d step in front of a choir and do the same. But for years she hid her secret gift of song, in which she had been classically trained, just to get by.

With four children to raise on her own, she kept her creative self locked away while she did what she needed to do. Working as an office administrator for a busy health care practice, Serenity ran a tight ship, always looking after others.

But that creative self needed to live. It took Serenity’s nearly dying to breathe life back into it.

In July 2005 she suffered a brain aneurysm that left her bleeding out of her nose and even her eyes. As she lay on the cold ER table, her last view was of the gorgeous doctor with tan, tight arms scrubbing up for surgery.

“God, this can’t be my last vision,” she spoke to the sky. “Look at how beautiful this doctor is. I’ve got some unfinished business to do!” It was this sense of humor that got her through the next months of recovery. For the first time in her life, she started to strip away the layers of “mainstream” as she calls it to really live. In an act of self-discovery, she began to realize that an empty vase has the most potential.

“Every possibility starts with courage,” she told me over the phone. She took a year off and sailed around the world. She discovered her passion for deep sea fishing and even caught a marlin off the coast of San Diego. She literally emptied herself out to start anew.

Serenity now sings jazz reminiscent of the 1940s. Hers is sultry music that speaks of a long-lost era of community and togetherness. At the end of September she will start her P.S. I Love You tour, which will land her in Paris next March (yes, I’ll be going!).

Music helps her and her audience tune into the healing energy that only music can bring. It is a meditation, and a dedication, to life.

Listen to one of her songs today. You will be glad you did!

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