Dare to Surrender

August 25, 2012

At the very beginning of this marvelous summer (or winter, for you Southern Hemisphere readers), I wrote of surrender. As any writer will tell you, we mostly write about the things we need to learn most.

And so it is with this blog.

A lot of the advice, truths and ideas I have set forth have been lessons I have learned and/or am in the process of learning. I’m walking the same path as you. While being an expert is somehow praised in our society, I am only an expert of my own life, as you are with yours. What I can say is surrender is by far the hardest, and perhaps most important, lesson we can learn.

So often we want things that are just beyond our grasp. We place great effort into it, such as writing that book proposal or convincing a client that your counsel is warranted, but what happens is what happens. And we can only do so much to influence the outcome of events.

When we enter the Surrender Room, we access a power far greater than ourselves. We are able to be highly involved with what we are doing without the attachment to the outcome. We liberate ourselves from the dependency on other people’s responses. Our truth remains, no matter the circumstances. We simply do what we need to do, then move on.

Instead of wasting our energy on things that are beyond your control, focus on the things you can.

How you choose to spend your time is one of the things you can do a lot about. You may feel trapped in a job you hate or in a relationship that needs to change, but all told, you can decide how to deal with it.

It’s not that some people have better lives than others. It is how you cope with the challenges at hand that determine the quality of your days.

I dare to surrender to the All Knowing Force. As scary as it may be, I see it as the most empowering choice we can make as human beings.

Will you join me?

 

Social connection is the healing bond that keeps us centered. When we disengage from the world, withdraw from our loved ones or wander down the path of isolation, we aren’t able to cope as well.

According to the new book, Manage Your Stress: Overcoming Stress in the Modern World, love heals. We all know this, but what is surprising is that a lack of social connection is more toxic than smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, obesity or a lack of exercise. That’s pretty significant when you think about it. You could be the physically fittest person on the planet, but without someone to love, and be loved by, you’re in bad shape after all.

A dear friend of mine entered the hospital yesterday for a fairly routine operation, but before he did, he reached out to me to tell me how scared he was. He needed reassurance and I was so glad to give it to him. It helped him manage his stress better and I felt good for being there.

That’s what it’s all about. Being there for each other to manage the ups and downs of life.

So if you are feeling stressed, reach out to someone you love today. It’s the best win-win situation you could create for yourself. And you’ll live longer, and better, for it too.

Life On Purpose

August 18, 2012

The transcience of life is never more apparent to me than when I learn of someone’s passing. Whether at their own hand (news which I have heard far too often lately) or at the hand of Fate, death is a reminder that our personal bank account of time is limited.

How much of our time is spent doing things that aren’t serving us, or worse, are actually harming us? How little time do we spend focused on the people, places and passions that really turn us on?

I’m not saying your life has to be one peak experience after another. We’d tire out quickly if we didn’t have some down time between all that luscious intensity. What I am saying is life on purpose is a lot more satisfying than aimless wandering into the “I have no idea what I want and I don’t care to find out” approach to your days.

It is upsetting to think people feel they have no other way out of their troubles than to exit this world voluntarily. There is always a way out ~ inside of life. You needn’t jump outside it to find the solution.

Repeat after me: You are not your circumstances. You have instrinsic value no matter where you are right now. Circumstances change. You can too, if you wish.

If you are reading this and feel a sense of helplessness, know that you aren’t alone. We all struggle sometimes. We are meant to help each other in this world, to raise each other up to our truest potential, to celebrate exactly who we are and to take pleasure in participating fully in all experience.

If our lives are the culmination of our choices, what do you need to do to change yours? Ah yes. Make different choices.

Now you’re talkin’…

About two months ago I made a radical change in the form of one baby step. The result was a shift in my worldview, I dropped ten pounds and have never been happier in my life.

The baby step came in the form of no more television. According to positive psychologist Martin Seligman, watching television for extended periods of time is the equivalent of placing yourself in a mild state of depression. Apathy follows.

It may seem simple enough to snap off the TV and do something else, but what happened thereafter for me was life-altering. Instead of flopping in front of the tube every night, I began writing more, eating less and sleeping better. I’ve even started learning French, thanks to supportive friends who have helped me tremendously (je vous adore!).  It is as though I have fully recognized that how I spend my time really does make a difference.

And it shows.

My negative emotions, while not completely eradicated, have receded to the background. Sure, I still get upset with my kids, but I am no longer subjecting myself to the constant barrage of negativity that comes from the TV.

I had no idea how impactful one decision could be.

It may seem paradoxical for someone who actually works in television and film not to want to actually watch it. I am still impressed by images on the Internet, occasionally read the newspaper and peruse business Web sites to keep up on the latest developments. But abandoning my nightly tube-watching has uplifted my spirits and has had a centering effect on my well-being.

When we look at our habits, we may think we can’t live without certain things. We may be so convinced of their inalienable place in our lives that we don’t even question the habit itself. But I bet you anything there is something you can do without and that will actually make you feel better once you depart from its stranglehold around your neck.

What happens next can be quite amazing. Suddenly new people emerge to cheer you on in your new-found authenticity. Perhaps they have been there all along, but you felt you didn’t have the time to pay attention. Or maybe they are new friends you’ve discovered because you’ve magically got so much more time through that one baby step to really enjoy them.

It is an endeavor worth pursuing. What baby step can you take today to make that radical change?

Motherhood is as sacred as Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and Yahweh combined. People often have specific notions about it so most people don’t address the topic with much neutrality.

Motherhood is a state of being. It is a relationship with others. And it signifies the perpetuation of humanity.

Therein lies the challenge.

When we start to dissect contemporary motherhood, different lines of thought emerge. There are those who think mothers should care primarily for their children (and lay succinct judgement on those who opt not to), while others believe mothers are people too who don’t stop being people once they push that baby out into the world. In their view mothers should be allowed to lay claim to things beyond childcare. Then you have a grey spectrum of people who have super ideas about what a mother should be and either aren’t one themselves or can’t remember how hard it is to raise them.

According to a recent report by the Motherhood Recuperation Society (a loose translation for Müttergenesungswerk, a German group that support moms to return to sanity in the throes of motherhood), the number of mothers in Germany who suffer from a psychological illness has increased by 33% in the last eight years.

I’m not surprised.

The increased pressure through the school system that syphens out “low performers” by age nine sets up an expectation that you, the parent (read: the mother, really) are solely responsible for the child’s ability to either make it in this highly competitive world or not. The added crush of little to no childcare available before the age of three leaves many mothers scrambling for less than ideal solutions.

Life is full of compromise. Indeed that is true. But when left alone mothers are getting sick by the thousands.

If we are to perpetuate humanity, how about a little more help? If you are a mom reading this, know that you are doing the best you can. Let’s support each other and remove those taboos.

It really is okay to be human, just like the people you are raising.

 

Anxiety. It crawls up your scalp, threatening to devour your everything. It’s never satisfied, always looking for its next victim, a predator lurking beneath your skin.

Yes, I’ve had my share of anxiety in life. It never ceases to amaze me what we do to ourselves when we let anxiety in the front door.

Take a recent phone call I had. I was nervous about it as it involved some very sensitive issues, but something inside said “Trust. Take care. All is well.” So I followed that voice into the conversation et violà! We ended it with laughter, connection and a really good feeling.

As found on SocialAd.Files.Wordpress.com

You really do get what you’re looking for. If you fear pain, it comes. If you let go, magic occurs.

The fear of pain exacerbates the pain itself. Pain is a phenomenon. Our fear intensifies the experience of it.

When you allow for space between things, you create an energetic pathway for positive energy to run through you. The key is to become the channel through which all things flow. It’s a scary prospect to let pain in. But pain is a part of life. If you fear it, it will grow.

A few weeks ago I had the most liberating experience while having a migraine. Sounds strange, right? Having suffered from migraines since I was a young adult, I typically would fear their onset. Once the blurred vision set in, I would panic, inevitably making the pain worse than it already was. But this time I decided to embrace the pain, really hug it out, as my dear friend Brian Hilliard likes to say. Lying there in the morning light, I envisioned what the migraine was trying to tell me.

“Slow down. It’s going to be alright. I need to do this for you right now. Be patient.” So I settled in for a while, listening to it talking to me like a good friend over coffee might. I thanked it for its immense courage to enter my life, knowing I would most likely reject it. But this time I didn’t. And I was filled with a level of gratitude I can barely describe.

And wouldn’t you know? That migraine left faster than ever before.

In less mindful times than the one I just mentioned, my Anxious Beast growls deep within, taking a stranglehold around my inner voice so all I see are shadows and the ever watchful eye of fear. It haunts me into the night, shaking the bed and my bones. But then, like the migraine that recently pierced my skull, I give that awful beast a gargantuan hug. I mean I really love it with all my might, looking it squarely in its beady eyes. That’s when I see the tears that motivate the beast in its incessant quest to torture everything in its midst. It fears being alone.

Silly beast. We’re never alone. How can we be? We are all one. Our shadow and our light dance together in a perpetual pirouette. When we feed the beast fear, it magnifies itself. When we feed it love, it slumbers.

The Anxious Beast may always reside within us whether it is asleep or awake, slinking quietly in the background, but if we bring love to it every time, it softens back into the fold of who we are. The result is a more profound connection with oneself and the world.

It’s all in our heads, really ~ migraines included. Now imagine a world led from the heart where pain, fear and ugliness get wrapped in a shroud of light.

Can you see it?

What Shape are You In?

June 22, 2012

We all come in different shapes and sizes. Depending on your mood, you might be feeling like a triangle right now ~ sort of sharp on the edges and not so centered. Or maybe you’re as full and round as a circle, rolling through life smooth as glass.

The stages of our lives can be reflected in geometry. We all start out as circles, exponentially multiplying cells until we turn into a not-so-geometric lima bean, then form a rounder shape once again. We come into the world whole, no matter what our bodies look like. As our personalities develop, we take on new contours. As an infant, we’re warm fuzzy roundness, but later, during that angular stage of adolescence, we might be more like a pentagon with lots of sharp points to push off the world. Then, by some miracle, we reach adulthood. Hopefully, in good shape and having recaptured a smoother line.

Even as full-blown adults, we take on different forms.

Circles are those delicious days of absolute completion. There is no beginning, no end, just harmony and flow. Other days we might feel like pyramids as we soar upward to the heavens, ever-reaching but with a solid base. On a slant, we might feel like a parallelogram that is off-kilter, but still standing.

What shape are you in today?

Say what?

Huh?

You gotta be kidding me!?

Those are all ways of saying ‘no’. They may not be eloquent choices, but they get the job done. If you have trouble being that direct (and most of us do), there are gentler versions of ‘no’ that can be equally effective without the collatoral damage to your relationships. At any rate, one can consider the word ‘no’ as a powerful way to say ‘yes’ to yourself.

Building boundaries that empower you while encouraging others to respect you is a none too easy task, especially for the people-pleasers among us. It has been proven, however, that always saying ‘yes’ to others can lead to conditions as severe as burnout and depression.

Cyndi Dale and Andrew Wald recently penned a book called Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love that shows readers how to set personal boundaries that will actually strengthen personal relationships. According to the authors, saying ‘no’ helps us to figure out who we are and who we want to be in our relationships. By setting boundaries, we keep our personal identities alive — and our personal relationships honest, balanced, and intact.

To directly quote Tina Turner: What does love have to do with it? In a word, everything.

Self-love is not narcissism. It’s a life-sustaining force. The authors offer several ways to build beautiful boundaries to let love in ~both from others and from ourselves.

How you are going to say ‘yes’ to yourself today?

What Do Your Boundaries Say About You?
By Cyndi Dale and Andrew Wald
Adapted from Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love

In our lives — and in relationships — we create personal boundaries to define the space we call our own. We set boundaries and say “no” with our words, but even more so with our behavior and actions: we may tell white lies, come up with excuses, or throw ourselves into activities like work, working out, or volunteering — essentially creating boundaries by making ourselves unavailable.

Boundaries may sound negative, but in reality, they are very important and help to define our personal identities. For example, being the nurturer or a people-pleaser comes with boundaries that fit those roles. Being the boss or the guru comes with a different set of boundaries that keep those identities intact. In this sense, personal boundaries allow us to “locate” ourselves within relationships (or within the world) in a way that’s familiar and safe. Our boundaries help us to honor the balance between taking care of ourselves, and taking care of others.

Here are four practices that will empower you to update your personal boundaries and take ownership of your life:

Honor yourself. What parts of your life are in need of care or attention? On a daily basis, find simple ways to honor yourself. Choose three things you like doing every day, and then do them. You might pick something as simple as taking a walk, reading, or having lunch with family or friends. Whatever you choose, know that you deserve to have pleasure, so let pleasure be your guide.

Soothe yourself. Are you living the life you want to live? Or do you feel like you are stuck and don’t have a choice in what’s happening? In these moments, stop and recognize the feeling of “choiceless­ness,” check your assumptions, and acknowledge the needs and desires you’re afraid won’t get met. With practice, you will find that cultivating the awareness of choice is profoundly soothing to your soul.

Embrace choice. Every time we make a decision, we have an opportunity to determine a course of action: “Do I stay here and face the situation, or do I run out the door?” By recognizing that you have control over your own reactions, you’ll also have the opportunity to reinforce, change, or alter your boundaries.

Accept yourself and your life lessons. Shame and disappointment about our lives causes us to create false boundaries and interactions with the people we care about most. It’s important to accept who you are and what has happened in your life. When faced with a challenge or disappointment, ask yourself: “What is my lesson here? How is this challenge a way for my soul to grow?” Use your answers to create boundaries that reflect acceptance of your true self.

*****
Cyndi Dale is an internationally respected author, cross-cultural healer, and spiritual scholar with over 35,000 client sessions and trainings across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Andrew Wald, LCSW-C, is a psychotherapist with advanced certifications in Imago Relationship Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Together, they have co-authored the new book, Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love (June 2012).

A recent Workplace Survey conducted in eleven countries by the global executive staffing firm, Robert Half International, found that your  boss can be a source of great stress. Duh? Not surprising, but the reason can often be attributed to a lack of management skills, not just to the fact that he or she may be a jerk.

Other stressors in the modern workplace include:

  • increased workload
  • too few people to handle the job
  • unpleasant work environment (colleagues and office gossip)
  • inappropriate pressure from the boss
It sounds to me as if the modern workplace could use a huge dose of slow.
First, it is no wonder that more and more people are stressed out, given the bare bones staff with which many industries are forced to operate. Then, consider placing someone ill-equipped in a position of power. Add too few resources such as time, money and personnel, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.
Management skills are something everyone can learn. Just take a look at this beautiful performance leadership matrix, developed by Dan McCarthy,  Director of Executive Development Programs (EDP) at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire.

Courtesy of GreatLeadershipbyDan.com

According to Dan’s nifty model, if you’re forcing people to take action, but it has no impact on performance, that’s just plain nagging (note to self: remember the next time you insist that your kids brush their teeth RIGHT NOW, that maybe it could wait a minute). If you’re asking for action and it does impact performance, that’s managing (if, say, it’s been a while since they brushed). No action, no impact ~ you’re on vacation. No action, BIG IMPACT ~ you’re an osterich leader.
Some may have more inherent leadership talent than others, but giving people the tools to do their job will place everyone in a better position. I’m a big fan of guided training; that is, offer up pre-assessment, the training itself, then follow up with a post-training assessment. Life’s in the details. That goes for work too. For all you HR folks listening out there: follow up is everything to ensure your return on investment (ROI) hit the mark. Would you throw money at something just to say you did it? Of course not! The same goes for training. It’s worth seeing what stuck and what didn’t.
Imagine being led by someone who knows less than you? Perhaps you are a technical wizard, while your supervisor made a move across industries to land the job above you.
Now imagine how you might become an invaluable resource to that person because you know your stuff. Your boss will come to you in a pinch. Being a go-to person places you in your own position of power. You are indispensible. Chances are he or she won’t toss you under the bus (or the boss?), as long as you’re performing.
And that’s the clincher. Performance depends a great deal on your office environment. If you can’t stand the people you work with, you are more likely to experience low levels of motivation. That’s when it’s time for an assessment of your own. What are you willing to live with? What not?

Burnout syndrome*, once considered a ‘manager’s disease’, affects people across all industries. A slow-creeping form of exhaustion accumulated over years of perfectionismstress and overwhelm, burnout is not just reserved for the highest-ranking professionals. It can happen to anyone.

Health care workers are cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) as particularly prone to job burnout. Using an Iranian psychiatric hospital as an example, the WHO found that 96% of all mental health care workers experienced some level of burnout while a full half of the study respondents experienced a high-level of job burnout. 

What is job burnout?

Herbert Freudenberger, a German-American clinical psychologist, is said to have coined the phrase “job burnout,” defined as “a state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward.” (African Journal of Agricultural Research  Vol. 5(17), pp. 2321-2325, 4 September, 2010) What was once high job motivation sinks to the depths of despair and apathy.

What causes burnout?

The causes can be varied, depending on a person’s situation. Not only work-related stress, but also lifestyle issues can lead to a high rate of burnout. Working consistent long hours, having little familial or social support, sleeping and exercising less can hinder the rejuvenation process all human beings require to lead happy, fulfilling lives.

Are some personalities more prone to burnout than others?

It is said that perfectionists and pessimists are more susceptible to burnout as it is in their very nature to push harder and harder to reach their goals. Workers that lack the necessary skills to complete their tasks, coupled with a lack of confidence, the inability to relax and so-called Type A personalities, are also at risk.

What are some of the signs?

The Mayo Clinic Web site suggests answering the following questions, quoted below:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?

If you have answered yes to several of these questions, you may be on your way to burnout. The important thing is to seek medical advice from your doctor to determine whether the cause of your symptoms are burnout-related or have some other origin such as a malfunctioning thyroid or clinical depression.

How can you prevent burnout?

If you answered ‘no’ to most of the above questions, but are still concerned that it could happen to you, consider the following strategies:

1.    Just say ‘no’. Setting boundaries early with others should not be considered walls, but paths to your sanity.

2.    Slow down on purpose. Set your own speed limit. Walk slower than normal. Breathe.

3.    Recognize your inner perfectionist. If you give 115% every day, you will use up more of yourself than you have. Allow for 80% every once in a while. Use the other 20% you saved for self-renewal.

4.    Exercise. According to the German Society of Neurology, even fifteen minutes of movement every day can extend your lifespan by three years.

5.    Note your stress points. If you start to feel that cortisol (the stress hormone) tingle move up your spine, identify the situation and write it down for later analysis. The more self-aware you become in stress situations, the more control you can get over them.

6.    Make a date with yourself every day. Close the door to your office and just be. Pacing yourself will ensure sustained energy throughout the entire day.

What other strategies have you found useful to embrace the power of slow?

 

*This post should not be considered medical advice so if you are considered about your mental health, please seek medical consultation immediately.

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