What is Significance?

What is significance?

I got to thinking about this, this week when someone mentioned the significance of the date 4/20, at the same time that so many significant dates are also on the calendar. Dates that signify and recognize events with special meanings, like Passover and Easter, wedding anniversaries, birthdays of loved ones who have passed on as well as those commemorating a new year. New beginnings and endings. Full moons and planet retrogrades.

It got me thinking as well about the power we have over what and where we place significance in our lives.

To be significant is to be important, to be singled out, to be considered of high value, as in one's significant other.

It's the magnitude and weight of the attention you place on it that makes it significant. And, the meaning you impose or create around it.

How do you determine what is significant in your life?

I find, more and more, with all of the many things that push and pull us every day, that discernment and careful consideration are what guide me in determining what's significant. It's a start to the essential and organic syphoning off of what is not important.

And, the bar continues to rise as we become more clear about our values and purpose. If the thing doesn't rise to meet that bar, then it makes it so much easier to focus your valued attention on what does.

Some thoughts to ponder heading into the weekend...

What meets your high bar of significance?


Overwhelmed? Shut Off The Spigots

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Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

 

I didn't even notice it until I was in tears. It finally took hold of me. I was overwhelmed.

Normally, I'm blessed to walk around with a pretty large container. In other words, I have the capacity to take on a lot. Whether it's a full house of projects with multiple deadlines, or being there for family or friends in need, or receiving and assimilating input from several sources as I walk my path. And, so often I feel fed, nourished, loved. 

So, it's not often my container overflows. This week it did.

I started noticing that every time I watched or read the news or got into a discussion about some outrageousness that was happening, I got a huge knot in my gut, a heaviness that moved up to my chest. A load that I could previously shake off. A feeling that didn't stay with me. 

This week it did. 

And, as someone who's always been independent, as an introverted extrovert, I've been a-okay with being a solo container much of the time. I don't get lonely. In fact, I have a tendency to isolate by choice, spending a lot of time alone. Some of that is built in as a writer. And, I usually don't have issues with not being a part of an event, of not being included in something.

This week I did.

It came rushing, unexpected, like a slow-motion tidal wave of wet fog. 

It tugged at me when I heard of and saw pictures of my family all enjoying each other, loving each other, while I'm half a country away. Now, I've been a long distance sibling, daughter, aunt, sister-in-law for over 20 years. And, it's not tugged at me before, not as a usual thing. I love seeing them love each other. 

This week it did.

It pulled at me when I saw pictures on social media of a bunch of friends at an event that wasn't on my radar so I wasn't there. And, then What's App inadvertently tossed me off the app so that when I re-registered I couldn't get back into a group text with some of my favorite women. I could peek into the group but I couldn't get back in. Previously, I would chalk these up to timing and other plans and technology glitches that can be fixed. They wouldn't pull at me like the anchor of an avalanche.

This week they did. 

It haunted me when I got stuck on some writing projects and rather than honing in and focusing on the project at hand I procrastinated with a game app. Normally I could relax in the game and then get back to it, refreshed.

This week I couldn't. 

What was going on? It was easy to recognize that I was feeling overwhelmed. But, there was something deeper. Different. Unfamiliar yet so familiar. Surprising, yet not. Then, it hit me, which is what caused the tears to flow. The gnawing feeling that spread like waves on a very personal shore? This was separation.

I felt separate. Separate from people I love. Separate from my writing, from the deep work I love. Separate from belonging. Disconnected from the sparks of life all around me. It was exhausting.

So, I went to the place where I usually go first for solace. I sat with pen to paper. "What's going on?" I wrote. And, nothing came.

Nothing. For several moments. Then, this whisper floated from my fingertips:

"Where am I separate from myself?"

Ah. There it was. In what ways have I split away from being? And, what has caused it? 

The response was gentle but direct. "The reason you're separate from yourself is that there's no room in your container for you. You have too many spigots coming in that are turned on full blast."

Whew, what a visual. I saw myself gasping for air, being pummeled by numerous faucets that became aggressive water hoses. It made total sense. But, it didn't make the anxiety lessen. 

As a common trait, I don't often reach out for help. I usually dig deep into my own container for solace and inner knowing. This time I did reach out. Probably because I couldn't find myself amongst the chaos. After a text to my sister, "I feel separate," she immediately called and talked me through my teary moment. And, the first thing she said, "you gotta get off the grid," reiterated the earlier message from my inner wisdom.

I knew it went deeper than just going off the grid, but it felt like a good start.

Turning off the spigots so there's space in my container for me, space for my own well to spring. 

So, I committed to get off the grid for the weekend. Then, I started listening to "Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World" by Cal Newport, on Audible, which I'd forgotten I'd purchased until after my chat with my sister. He talks about the science behind the idea that those very things you do that you think are connecting you to the world: social media, apps, news notifications, texting, are the very things that can make you feel separate, disconnected from your own humanness. He suggests a 30-day digital declutter.

This really resonated with me. I've been doing the KonMari Method (Marie Kondo) and have loved the openness it's created in my home. In fact, I bought Newport's book because it made sense to continue with the decluttering in the digital space once I was done with the home. But, with the container crisis upon me, now was the time.

I made a list of all of the digital areas that were to be removed for 30-days:

  • Social media (unless for work. I'll hear about something if it's important)
  • All news (I'll hear about something if it's important)
  • Phone & game apps (these are my go-to for numbing out when overwhelmed. In fact, I'm addicted)
  • Email (unless work or friend/family related)
  • Google (unless work related)
  • Other websites (unless work related) 
  • No binge watching
  • No NPR

Then I wrote, "Can I do this? I must do this." After 30 days, according to Newport, we are to reassess and add things back in that are beneficial. Choose what spigots are turned on and when. 

But, turning off the spigots is only the first step to reconnecting with self. It's been just a few days and I already feel lifted by the bits of space that are showing up. It's not been easy. In fact, I'm having withdrawals and find myself sometimes fiddling with what to do with myself if I'm not on my phone. 

And, in the space, here's what's coming:

Connecting - making more of an effort to reach and connect with friends, in person. I'm already benefitting from this and look forward to doing more. Community makes you feel a part of something, less separate. So you feel more connected to yourself.

Human Touch - whatever that means to you. This weekend, it meant getting a massage. Human touch is vital for connecting with your own body. 

Gratitude - spending time in deep gratitude. For being so loved and also for loving family and friends. For an abundance universe filled with opportunity and generosity. And, for every experience and situation that brings lessons that drive and lift life. Gratitude is like a glue that puts you back together again. A life adhesive.

Prayer & Meditation - asking for guidance about will serve my highest good, and for the people and world I care about. Meditation is THE best way I've found to reconnect with myself.

Breath - I realized throughout this episode how much I was holding my breath. Just breathing deep and allowing the healing of our own breath to surge through our bodies can be so effective and helpful. Just pausing for ten deep inhales/exhales resets everything.

Focus on Purpose - when in overwhelm, there isn't time, space or energy to see through the trees. Turning off the spigots has allowed the mist and fog to clear so that I can center in on purposeful activities, like writing and storytelling.

What's Expansive - Newport talks about looking for active, new things to try. Healthy things that expand your life. For me, I'm going to take up piano lessons again and get back to French class and hiking. I'd forgotten how much music inspires, calms and fills me up. I've rediscovered music on the radio after bidding adieu to NPR for the next month. Joy and pleasure connects the fibers of our being. 

The pit in my tummy still comes in waves, but I'm finding my own inner wellspring, which is calmer and the air already feels lighter and sweeter. More space. With the spigots off, the wonder finds room again.

That's something, to be sure.


This Could Be What Matters Most

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One thing I've been noticing as I've been out and about, an uptick if you will: People are kinder. 

And, interestingly I'm not the only one in my circle noticing this. More than a few have mentioned it in some form as well. This, while so much divisiveness permeates the air around us. A swell is taking place. A swell of kindness.

A kind word in the elevator. People taking their time to lend a hand. Or, waiting patiently in line while encouraging someone else to go first, whether it's at a restaurant or in traffic. And, it's not just words, but kinder expressions, kinder eyes. Simple smiles.

There's a subtle, larger effort being expressed. A yearning for a gentler nature being embodied. 

Whatever it's been, it's been palpable. Have you noticed it?

And, #KindnessMatters.

In fact, if you Google that particular hashtag, #KindnessMatters, there's a lovely slew of initiatives and websites trumpeting the power and longevity of kindness. There were 463,000 results in .58 seconds. Some offer 30-day challenges, others inspiring stories, still others longterm initiatives with real, positive effects, changes made, lives improved.. 

It could be what matters most. Kindness. 

It may seem trite to say this, but it gives me hope. And, it raises a bigger hope that people can and will settle into their natural states of being, that of soulful, loving, yearning creatures. Maybe a bit of a pipe dream, but there's a swell that I think is worth noting, and celebrating.

Kindness provides a much needed and solid footing, a foundation from which to meet and greet the less-than-kind assaults that seem to drag down the ether, to stench the air we, at times, feel forced to breathe. 

Kindness is the air freshener. 

Kindness is the helium that will raise the otherwise heavy, negative energies; that will raise the ether, the very consciousness of society.

Kindness is love, understanding and compassion in action.

One might think of being kind as being a pushover. I would posit it's just the opposite. Kindness is a force, an essence and intention that elevates the conversation, the negotiation, the deal. 

Kindness weeds out the petty, frankly eating the petty for lunch along with a nice, crisp Rosé or meaty Cab. I jest, but the phrase, "kill them with kindness" does come to mind. The term "kill them with kindness" sparks back to the 1500's, when it referred to a mother ape who hugged her babies so hard she, well, killed them. Okay, let's not go there.

Miriam defines this phrase as "to cause discomfort to someone by treating him or her in a way that is extremely kind or helpful. Instead of returning the insult, you might try killing them with kindness."

Contemporary useful applications of this notion suggest this: Utilize kindness as a tool to diminish or diffuse (kill) the negativity, rudeness, pettiness or hate of the situation. So that eventually, the person(s) has the choice to align with the kindness, that which is innate within his or herself. A choice to situate with their own better angels. If they don't make that choice, then you have the choice to deal with it or move on.

Kindness in its authenticity, is true power.

Kindness is a choice. While it's true some people seem to have more of an easy kindness about them, we all have it in us, and we all can make the choice to be kind. 

I recently saw the musical, "Come From Away," set in the week following 9/11. It tells the true story of what happened when 38 planes were ordered to land outside the small Newfoundland town of Gander. 7,000 scared and confused passengers descended on the town. "Cultures clashed and tensions were high," but the townspeople took on the arduous task of caring for them, figuring it out as they went along. What rose like heat from this story was the magnitude of kindness that bolstered them all. The depth of their humanity brought us all to tears. 

Kindness. Kindness transcends labels. And, titles. And, status. It is an equalizer, second to none. 

Kindness is contagious and spreads like wildfire.

That's why I'm thinking kindness could be what matters most. So, perhaps a leading question to ask ourselves whenever we have any type of interaction: how would kindness begin this? Or respond?

Or simply utter the mantra #KindnessMatters. It really kinda does. 

Photo by Sandrachile . on Unsplash


Flip the Switch To Reveal the 2019 Word of the Year

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There's quite a bit that goes into choosing a word for the year. Inspiration, feeling the need to improve on something or selecting a greater theme that will help to powerfully guide the next twelve months, are all factors that weigh in while narrowing down the word. I find it enthralling, particularly since it becomes a writing guidepost as well. 

My word for 2019: Mindfulness

I tossed around several words, and what I found is that underneath each of the intentional words I was drawn to, was the running current of mindfulness. In other words to successfully embody anything empowering, one must be mindful to attain it.  

Mindfulness is a word that is loaded and is bandied about a lot. So, let's unpack it.

Often, for me, being mindful is what I think of after I do something that is usually a result of not being mindful. Such as when I grabbed a banana instead of my keys as I walked out my front door. It wasn't until after I locked myself out of the house and noticed the banana in my hand that I said, "Cindy! Pay attention. You need to be more mindful." Or after I tripped and twisted my ankle because I wasn't being mindful about my footing. Or when I've inhaled my meal, not really tasting it. 

So, my intention by picking Mindfulness as my 2019 word, is to being mindful as a forethought rather than an afterthought. Like buying insurance before you need it, rather than regretting not having purchased it when you realize you're unfortunately caught without it.

What does it mean to be mindful? To my way of thinking, it's being fully present and engaged, while making a thought or action that serves the moment's highest good. And, then doing it again and again.

Mindfulness and meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn says, "Mindfulness is presence of heart." Mindfulness symbol

He illustrates this with the Chinese symbol for mindfulness. The top symbol means presence and the lower symbol means heart. Presence of heart.

Flip the Switch 

Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as turning off the automatic pilot. Continually returning to the present. I like that. It's a simple switch. It's not a constant "on" switch. In other words you don't stay in a state of mindfulness. You return to a state of mindfulness.

Kind of takes the pressure off, don't you think? The invitation is always there to be in mindfulness, we just have to flip the switch in the moment. 

It's also defined as “The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”

There are certain attitudes and self-regulating indicators present when one is mindful. That of being open, curious and accepting.

Mindful.org is a wonderful place to be reminded and inspired. They say “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Mindfulness solidifies strong character by causing us to slow down and think before speaking and acting. 

Mindfulness fosters creativity by weeding out the superfluous and extraneous clutter.

In his book, "The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation," Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Many people are alive but don't touch the miracle of being alive... Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.” 

He also says, “Mindfulness shows us what is happening in our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and in the world. Through mindfulness, we avoid harming ourselves and others.” 

Mindfulness generates kindness. Kindness was going to be my word of the year, and then I realized that kindness is an essence and expression that is also generated from mindfulness. So, I played with that a bit and expanded my platform. While mindfulness is the word of the year, kindness is the theme. I intend to infuse everything with kindness and to recognize and celebrate kindness in others. Mindfully, of course.

Which led to a rather delicious portmanteau, and the name of my 2019 platform: Kindfulness. The state of mindfully being kind, being fully present in the act of kindness. 

So, I pledge to be mindful, return to mindfulness, about, well everything. Such as:

Start the day mindfully by meditating, journaling.

Make mindful choices that stem from kindness to self, to the group think and to the greater good.

Engage in mindful thought, actions and conversations.

Eat mindfully.

Be mindful in my to-do lists, keeping them clutter-free and on purpose.

I'm already noticing mindfulness and kindness - kindfulness - at work in my daily life. I'm leaning in to wherever this takes me.

What's your word or theme for 2019? My wish for you is a mindful exploration for one that feeds your soul and elevates your year. 

Title Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash


Some Healthy Year-End Perspective

 

Palm springs overlookMe, enjoying the perspective, at a Palm Springs overlook

Sometimes to move powerfully forward it’s helpful to examine with perspicacity what’s in the rearview mirror. The truth is we can’t drive skillfully without that rearview mirror.

It turns out this was a good year to gain perspective. Perspective was my word for 2018 and it proved to be useful as I landed there, time and time again. I kept reminding myself to pull back and to look at a situation through a different lens, to heed a microscopic, eye level or eagle view. It often led to epiphanies, large and small.

So as part of my year-end perspective I thought I’d use all of those lenses to reflect, glean and analyze what I learned and then let go of what’s not useful anymore. It’s using that gut instinct (what felt good and what didn’t) that we all have, to discern what to take into 2019 and what to leave in good ole 2018. It takes a bit of patience to cull through the cornucopia of hills and valleys in order to mine the jewels and the evergreen value, but if you take pen to paper, add a little curiosity, and allow the awe and the grime rise to the surface then pretty soon you’ll have a list of lessons that resonate.

For me, what shines through now are the gifts that came from the lows that then bolstered the highs. Here are some of mine. Hopefully it will inspire some of yours as well.

Life Is Buoyant

It was between the fray and the calm, when subtle inner whispers crescendoed, where it continually became apparent how buoyant life is. 

Creativity is My Phoenix

On day 28 my laptop was stolen, which felt like a virtual house on fire, primarily because it wasn’t backed up. And, on day 38 I found myself in deep gratitude for the phoenix that rose from the ashes. That phoenix was my creativity, it’s what saved me.

Gratitude Floats

I found that gratitude floats, as does love. Lighter than air, they are both high vibrations. And, when we infuse some gratitude and love into our down times of sadness, grief, low self-esteem – all low vibrations – it can’t help but raise our spirits. Sometimes it’s simply a question: What am I grateful for right now in this experience? What can I love about myself right now? Then, wait for a soft feeling of relief. We are resilient creatures and gratitude and love are what make us so.

Love is Unstoppable

With so much negativity that pervaded our national psyche this past year, it was the greater love, agape love, that got so many of us through. Surging love for ourselves, from ourselves to the greater love of all we hold dear is what helped. It’s become a movement; talking about lifting ideas, spreading kindness and focusing on what’s good in others and in our lives. That’s a perennial movement worth carrying forward.

We all have the capacity for that kind of love.

Self-Healing is Self-Evident

While I, and so many of my peeps, talked about aches and pains, none compared to what I watched my dear friend go through when she became very ill this year. I felt helpless as I witnessed her mysterious ailments multiply and as her team of doctors grew. It was scary for her and all who love her. Thankfully, after weeks of tests it was not a dire prognosis and her condition is one that is manageable. There have been days when getting out of bed was a chore, yet I continue to marvel at her and her strong will and constitution. And, her dedication to self-healing. She actively engages her health team and her circle of friends and family. It’s been a journey for all of us, as we dove into TLC with a vengeance, and it was a testament to staying fervently on the road.

Stretch Beyond Personal Horizons

Travel was a captivating part of my year, making a cross-country road trip with my sister, traversing the Loire Valley of France with dear friends and taking a Mexican cruise with my parents. Each took me out of my little bubble of comfort and stretched my horizons, not just the travel aspect of it, but looking for the whimsy, while leaning into new rhythms and contrasts truly elevated my life experience. More of that please!

Focus of Where You’re Relentless

As a person who has a to-do list that’s much too long, there were times when I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing all that I wanted to do. But, as I sit here on the bridge between 2018 & 2019, writing down all that I did do, it’s evident that the relentless passions that fuel my soul are what drove my year’s high points, and are what are catapulting me into 2019. And, what I say to myself about those key items that didn’t get done, I say: “Not yet.” I also say, to quote a dear friend of mine, “streamline.” In other words, remove some of those things from the never-ending to-do list that only drag down the anticipation of the yet.

Going through this year-end perspective exercise will make trimming the to-do list so much easier. Whatever I’m not relentless about goes away. Avocations become more vocational.

Simplicity and staying centered on what fascinates and enriches my life, these are what I’m carrying forward. Being intentional, with hopefully a little luck thrown in for measure.

One thing I really enjoyed over the year was my Quick Sunday Read newsletter where I included a Word of the Week, a word that was floating around in the zeitgeist, words that were examined and reframed into interesting uses. I used all of the year’s words in this post to honor that! They are underlined (unlinked). The only one I haven’t used yet is portmanteau, a word than means a mashup of two or more words that then creates another word. I was trying to think of one that would be great to end with, just for shiggles.

So, before I ring off to watch my favorite dramedy, I decided to chillax, ponder an emoticon or two (decided that was Jabberwocky) and just say, hope you had a great year filled with much goodness that you look forward to carrying into next year.

And, thank you so much for reading and sharing Thought Changer. It means the world.


Life is a Laboratory

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In a recent discussion with a group of seekers, we were talking about a new thought concept, a mindset shift. It was a challenge for some of us. I said it's an experiment, just try it on for size, see how it fits.

It got me thinking about how life is really made up of a series of experiments. When you think about it, life is a laboratory. 

A laboratory is the place where the scientist explores, experiments, gets messy, fails, tries again and then reorganizes and experiments again. 

Life is the open space, the playground, the highway, the laboratory when we experiment within our human experience. We're always experimenting, as our own life scientist, trying things on to see if they fit. 

Whether it's a new shampoo or sweater, or a different car make, or a different route to work, or a fresh perspective, or a different part of the world, or a new thought pattern that leads to a different action, or a new relationship or a new way of being in a current relationship, or a new career path, or a new word we haven't used before. 

Try. Fail. Try again. Succeed.

One of the most important aspects of the laboratory is the notion that a failure is an integral part of the experiment. It's not, necessarily, a dead end. But rather, a failure provides answers and clues as to where to go next and where not to go next.

Have you found yourself quitting because you hit a wall, or got a no, or couldn't find the solution, or because success hasn't come? If the answer's yes, trust me you're not alone.

Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." If he didn't believe in the laboratory which included failure, would he have discovered electricity? Probably not. He also said, "I've never done a day's work in my life. It was all fun." So there's that!

Or Einstein. He said, "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." If he wouldn't have allowed and embraced failure as fuel in his laboratory he would not have discovered the Theory of Relativity. He also said, "Failure is success in progress."

[Related: "6 Reasons Why Progress, Not Perfection"]

Or Henry Ford. Or Madame Curie. Or DaVinci. Or JK Rowling. Or Beethoven. Or Lady Gaga. Or Steve Jobs. Or Mother Teresa. Or Oprah Winfrey. Or Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Or Sally Ride, who said, "All adventures, especially into new territory are scary." The list goes on. And on. And on.

Embrace the Yet

Yet it such a lovely word! And, yet is an important tool to use in your life laboratory. The yet is encouragement. The yet is taking failure and reframing it into a phase, a phase that's part of progress. Yet is progress. "It hasn't happen, yet." 

Life is a laboratory.

So, experiment. Play. Explore. Fail. Embrace the yet... Experiment some more. Brainstorm. Change. Succeed.

Repeat. 

[Related: "The Trifecta of Failure"]

[Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash]


Becoming Undone

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One year older. In anticipation of my birthday, I got a facial chemical peel, doing what I can to trick the aging clock. Or at the very least make myself feel a bit better as I elevate into another year.

Day three, I looked a bit like the Walking Dead. Skin cracking with every smile and grimace. And, peeling. Ay caramba. Peeling. Peeling off the dead and used skin to make room for the new. I tried helping it along, but the last bits seemed to be gripping on for dear life. Finally shedding when they were good and ready. 

I took myself for a massage and afterward ran some errands where I got into a lengthy conversation with an adorable bud tender at a dispensary. I had a fleeting thought about the fact that I wasn’t wearing a stitch of makeup, something I would have never done not too long ago, not to mention the fact that I was still peeling like an orange.

And, it hit me. I didn’t care. In the past I would have gone out of my way to explain the peeling, etc. To explain and apologize for myself. 

I was undone.

And, have to say I felt pretty damn good about it. As I approached this birthday in my 5th decade, I thought, isn't that kind of the goal, to be gloriously undone? That all of the work we do on ourselves as we mature in life, is really about becoming undone? Peeling back the layers of all of the various conditioning we’ve spent a lifetime applying. Because what is revealed, or left, when we’re peeled, undone, is nothing short of our true self.

As I noodle on my annual birthday post, culling shareable lessons I’ve learned, I’m thinking about what I’m shedding, what I’ve let go of at this point in my life, things I just don’t care about anymore, that no longer trigger reactions, internal nor external. And, also what I’m still gripping onto, old paradigms that still feel safe or patterned, no matter how stale and old they might seem. Some are new discoveries and all of them are snippets of truth.

It feels cathartic and appropriate, and at once welcome and dreaded.

Paying Attention

Paying attention to how our body reacts. It’s often the best clue to our truth.

I’ve noticed that sometimes the first clue telling you whether you’re done with something, or not - whether it’s a habit, fear or behavior - is when you see it others. It got me thinking. When you see it so loudly in others, is it because it's echoing loudly within you as something you need to pay attention to, to work through? Or does it mean, seeing it so clearly play out in another, that you’re done with it in yourself, you’re ready to move on?

I would posit it’s both. If it’s a feeling of internal discomfort, like a stomach ache or feeling of agitation, then it’s likely a trigger telling you that it mirrors something in you, either something that you do or something you don’t. If you just feel done and it doesn't trigger a reaction, then you've processed it, moved past it.

A fellow meditator in Insight Timer had this quote next to her name: “Seeking and finding all the barriers within.” Indeed.

One that came up for me recently happened when I was with a friend who was asking for help in promoting her upcoming course, a course I’ve taken three times so really believe in. This woman is a very powerful asker. She easily puts it out there and asks often. It gave me a stomach ache. I shared this with her because that’s what we do with each other, putting it out in the open to examine.

Because, what this was, was a gift of discovery. I was uncomfortable with her powerful ask because I’m not comfortable asking. This isn’t new information. But, what was new is the first big lesson this past year I want to share.

Some Lessons in Un-ing

Be unapologetic.

Not in an I’m-sorry-I-hurt-you kind of an apology. But, in the deep-rooted apology that we sometimes carry in our energy. Where we’re apologizing for ourselves. Do you catch yourself saying “I’m sorry” when it wasn’t really warranted? I’ve done it at times. And I cringe now when I see others do it as well. I see how it diminishes them, like they’re apologizing for their very existence.

My big aha came when I realized there are times when my ask has an apology built into it. Where I don’t say the words, but my energy is “I’m sorry, but do you have time to meet with me?” “I’m sorry but can I send you my script?” “I’m sorry, but do you have time to talk?” It’s disempowering and paralyzing. And, not an ask that requires a powerful positive response.

It’s apologizing for yourself in a way that hits one of the most basic core fears. I’m not enough. It’s fulfilling early conditioning of not wanting to impose ourselves on others.

My friend, the powerful asker, said that when she asks, she’s not thinking about herself, she’s thinking about what she’s sharing and how much it’s going to help the person or groups of people she’s asking. It’s a much more powerful intention behind the ask. It’s not a question if she’s enough.

So, no more apologizing. BTW, I have a stomach ache as I’m writing that. Hey, I’m working on it… Understanding it deeply, acknowledging it outloud, is the first step toward letting it go. Be unapologetic. 

Be undefended.

Releasing the need to prove yourself to anyone, including yourself, that’s being undefended. It’s truly shedding all pretenses and language that are used in defending yourself or proving your position.

Next time you feel the urge to say something like, “I’ve known that for a long time,” or “I’m the one who told her/him about that/to do that long before this person said…,” or “I’m better at…” take a closer look. 

Here’s an invitation to take a look at your motive for saying it. Even if it’s the truth. Ask yourself, are you asking it to prove something? To defend yourself? Are you looking for some kind of validation? If so, try not saying it. Be undefended. Remove your guards. Can you imagine how much more real our relationships would be, as undefended? Be undefended.

“With an undefended heart we can fall in love with life over and over, every day.” Tara Brach

Be un-enmeshed.

“Enmeshment is a description of a relationship between two or more people in which personal boundaries are permeable and unclear.” 

When you put yourself in the middle of someone else’s situation because you want to help, it’s easy to get emotionally entangled. It can be hard to extract yourself once you’ve placed yourself there. A dear old friend is in town this week and we got in a great discussion about this. She's the one who shed a powerful light on this notion of enmeshing and its ramifications. The process of becoming un-enmeshed starts with setting emotional boundaries for yourself, where you are still compassionate and helpful, but with a healthy detachment. Be un-enmeshed. 

Be unexplained.

When no is just a no, or a yes is just a yes, without feeling the need to explain why you’re saying no or yes, that’s freedom. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. Try it. Thank you, but no. No more unnecessary explaining. Be unexplained. 

Be unencumbered.

Where you feeling burdened? To be unencumbered is to be burden-less. When something is burdening, look at what you’re receiving from it, because you’re receiving something or you wouldn’t be doing it, or allowing it.

If it’s unhealthy, unburden yourself. If you can’t, if it’s very real obligation, sometimes it’s a simple shift in feeling or intention. Are you providing a service, something that’s serving someone else’s highest good? Unencumbering is either releasing the burden or reframing it in a way that serves. Be unencumbered.

Be unlabeled.

I really felt this one at my class reunion this year. I found it fascinating to hear about what old classmates have done in their lives, and while the launching pad may have been “what do you do?” it became, for me, about their passions and what still brings a sparkle to their eyes. I didn’t care in the least about what some may have perceived as labels, or accomplishments that came with labels.

I had a slight trepidation heading into the event as I wore one of my labels across my forehead - childless - as so often the discussion would turn to family. But, I quickly realized that I was the one who placed it there and I was the only one focused on it. Letting that go and just being present erased the label. The truth is, I am, but it’s not a label. It’s a important part of me that has shaped my path.

I also noticed how some, one in particular, fell back into old labels. “That was my nemesis in high school,” dredging up old resentments that clearly still weighed. That one was really loud, as in I’m so done with that. Let it go, it was forty years ago! So, be unlabeled.

Be un-supposed.

“Supposed to” is passive, as in it’s a directive that’s happening to me, rather than a directive I’m helping navigate. It means ”I’m not the one in charge." As if someone or something else is dictating. It reflects the feeling of "required to", as in, follow the rules. It's confining, rigid. You’re not “supposed to” do anything. Making it more about your intention or deep desire is empowering and self-directive. Be un-supposed.

So, on my birthday I’m embracing the un’s. Because, what’s left, shining and fresh and real as a resulting of the un-doning, is the feeling of true self-ness, that of self love.

It is the best gift you can give yourself. Any day. Any time.


Embrace Your Pace: Life Lessons from the Turtle

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“I’m procrastinating,” I said. “It’s my inner nemesis.” As soon as I said it, I got a stomach ache, like I was revealing and also judging an integral part of myself.

And, my brilliant writer friend said, “Process is tricky.” Ah, you said a mouthful there, sister.

A few days earlier I'd received an intuitive reading from the wise Dina Strada. One of the hits she got was that “things are going to take longer than you think.” And, I thought, Grrr. How much longer? It feels like it’s taking forever for things to happen, as in career, love, body health, etc.

Then, she said, “Keep doing your work and surrender to your timing.” Ah. “You can’t rush it.” Double ah. It literally made me exhale. Rather than feeling more frustrating, it felt true.

I believe in divine timing and it’s something I discuss often with friends, colleagues and clients. And, I also often find myself trying to beat the clock, divine or otherwise.

Interestingly, the moment after Dina said it - you can’t rush it - the image of a turtle, a grand old tortoise, popped into my head. I mentioned it and it brought the intuitive message to a whole new level for me. Embracing my pace. Just like the tortoise.

Some lessons from the turtle

It sent me discovering, to see what kind of guidance the wise turtle has for me and other tortoise-like folk. Ted Andrews, in his book “Animal Speak”, says turtles symbolize longevity and wisdom. They’re in it for the long haul. “Long life and groundedness…on some level, the turtle knows it has all the time in the world.”

Lesson: She teaches us to look at our relationship with time. Where to slow down, to speed up, to surrender to the pause. Sometimes the pause is the best thing to serve the pace.

Turtles carry their homes on their backs. They never leave their home, but more importantly their home never leaves them. They already have everything they need to survive and thrive.

Lesson: Read previous sentence.

When a turtle gets flipped onto its back, everything gets tossed askew. But, the turtle literally uses its strong neck and head to lift and flip itself upright again.

Lesson: Trust your own wisdom and knowledge when in a bind. Use your head. And, don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t.

A turtle is opportunistic and takes her time to notice when an ample opportunity crosses her path. In the fable “The Tortoise and the Hare,” sometimes the hare is moving so fast, with her eye on the prize, that she misses opportunities as she whizzes by and she’s so busy trying outwit and outrun and to be the best, that she exhausts herself.

The tortoise is at her pace so she can slow down and seize moments to explore. She goes within herself, literally, to assess. The tortoise doesn’t try to be the hare or to buy into the hare’s latest online program, “Six Simple Steps to Win the Race Every Time.” That may work for the hare. This is not a judgment on the hare; the hare has a different process which works for the hare. But, it doesn’t work for everyone. The tortoise has the goal to cross the finish line too, but in a way that works within the tortoise framework. In a tortoise lane. On the tortoise clock.

It's funny, I often say, "I gotta light a fire under my butt," as way of motivating myself to move faster. Hmm, I wonder what would happen if you lit a fire under a tortoise's butt. Turtle soup? I'm just saying.

Lesson: It’s not about winning, because that often becomes about someone else’s race. Following someone else’s get-rich-quick scheme or shortcut to success may not work for you, at least not until you slow down enough to know what resonates and what feels right. For you.

The turtle is low to the ground and feels the vibrations of all that’s around her. It’s in that place that she trusts her pace, whether to speed up, slow down or pause.

Lesson: listen to your own vibrations and when you do listen to other's input, pause to listen to your own decision. Don’t be rushed.

No excuses

There’s a shadow side to the tortoise energy. It’s using all of this as an excuse, relying simply on this knowledge that things happen as they happen, resting on laurels with the hope that somehow your brilliance will be discovered.

A wise healer said to me one time, “There’s no shortcut to enlightenment.” The same goes for trusting your own pace. Divine timing isn’t esoteric. It’s doing the work that pulls you, that’s in your heart, that’s in your lane. And, trusting that the next levels of enlightenment or success or completion will unfold at the right time, your right time.

Then, when it does happen, it’s deeper and richer and more meaningful, as well as being authentic.

I’ve experienced this over and over again in my lifetime. My family has always said I march to the beat of my own drummer. Yes, that’s true. That’s because I’m a frigging tortoise! I’m a slow build, in it for the long haul. And, what’s interesting, when there have been times of fast success or a quick leap up, I often have to pause to catch up with myself. Gotta say, the turtle does that too!

Watch the work, not the time

I recently watched a documentary about artisans in France, designers who create and supply the design houses with very specialized elements, like pleats. An entire company and all they make are pleats.

Or an outfit that creates only the tiny artificial flowers that adorn a larger design. This artist said, “It’s under my skin, this work. It takes a lifetime. And, there’s history behind it.”

One atelier, a milliner, who makes the most beautiful couture hats, struck me. He created a wooden mold in its completion in order to build the perfect hat. He said, “You don’t watch the clock. You watch the work. Every one takes the time it takes.” I’m guessing he’s a turtle too.

Embrace your pace

So, back to my friend’s comment about process being tricky, it’s so true. You can’t judge it. Sometimes, it isn't procrastination, it's a necessary element, part of the project or work's unfolding. 

The freedom, the permission, is knowing that pace is part of the process. We turtles take our own sweet time, but we always get there.


What's Through That Portal?

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What's behind that door? Looking at these spectacular doors it's kind of a delicious mystery. 

When I was in France recently, I found myself taking numerous photos of doors. Doors that were weathered by history and by the lives of those who had ventured through them. Some wandering aimlessly, some with direction and purpose. Some opening to welcome in weary travelers and others entering with the relief of being home. 

Doors that seemed to be portals to other times, certainly to other worlds and memories of other worlds.

The doors in these photos were in seemingly frozen-in-time villages in the French countryside and Loire valley that I simply fell in love with. I could see myself there, passing over one of these thresholds, creating a life there.

Portals fascinate. What lurks on just the other side and beyond? What answers lie in waiting? Are there secret codes or keys that unlock their gateways and life treasures? 

There are so many great portal stories in literature, where the hero or heroine passes through one and finds a whole new adventure, a new way of being where choices made change lives. Think of Dorothy's front door in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or the wardrobe in Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. There's something powerful about the sense of wonder that takes over, a freshness of spirit and Vivre, as one embarks on life's new direction.

I'm thinking about portals and pathways a lot right now. As various life choices present themselves. 

And, as it so happens and as I write this, we are in the midst of a powerful cosmic portal. It's all the more timely, this notion of doors or gateways or portals opening. A dear friend shared this with me this week and I've become a little obsessed with it.

It's called 8-8 Lion's Gate. It happens every year on August 8th, but this year it's auspicious because three days later on 8/11, the Leo New Moon partial solar eclipse takes place, the most extraordinary since the powerful lunar eclipse on 8/11/99. And, in the meantime, there's a massive convergence of planets taking place that "brings the potential for healing your relationship with your essential self."

So, on 8-8 the Lion's Gate cracked open, which signifies a huge cosmic shift, change coming, and invites an opening for transformation and manifestation. There are a bunch of articles on the internet that explain it much better than I could.

Like here, where she talks the meaning of the numerology too: "8 is the number for the balance of power and infinity. 11 is a gateway for transformation. A powerful combo." 

And here: "this can be an influx of divine wisdom."

And hereI love what he says, "The positive energies combining 8-8 Lions Gate with the Leo New Moon Eclipse create a groundswell of heart expansion, creative pursuits, and explosive new growth. Deep dive into the spiral momentum of rapid ascension."

Basically, the time window between the 8/8/18 Lionsgate and the lunar eclipse on 8/11/18 provides a portal for deeper understanding, letting go of what doesn't serve you anymore and calling in your higher purpose.

Sign me up!

Portals are also internal openings into your own truth. In other words, a phrase or thought can crack open an opportunity for growth.

“Vulnerability is the portal to feeling. Feeling is the portal to strength.” ― A.D. Posey

A portal of communication is also an opening for open-hearted discussion and relationship.

Transparency is the portal to real authenticity.

"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." ― James Joyce

So, how about taking a bit of time this weekend, while in the midst of Leo the Lion's Gateway of transformation, and ask for what you want in life. 

Light a candle. Feel the energies in your body. Interestingly, you can feel it if you get quiet and still enough.

“Praise is the portal to the presence of God.” ― David Brazzeal, from Pray Like a Gourmet: Creative Ways to Feed Your Soul

Meditate and pray to let go of what isn't working in your life and then to receive your higher calling. It's a powerful prayer and one that's worth repeating. A lot.

Then, release it all under the new moon. 

Enjoy this portal. I'll see you on the other side. It's a wonder what awaits! 


Freedom From Labels is Where it Begins

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Recently, around the US Independence Day, I got into a discussion with a friend about the problematic divisiveness that permeates the world right now. And, we agreed that so much of what drives the discord comes down to this:

Labels

Labels are what define a thing, or a person, or a group of people. It literally means to “identify” or to attach a meaning. A label is a “descriptive phrase or word” placed onto something.

But, when a label becomes de-meaning is when assumptions are made and rash categorical biases are formed against an entire group of people. Based on the label.

We walk around all day long putting labels on people, based on religion, political party, sexual orientation, male/female sex, socioeconomic status, body size, education, illness, profession, credit rating, etc. Most often, it’s by way of fleeting thoughts, but more and more in this socially brash society, it’s become vocal and viral, and way too common.

It got me thinking about how we also label ourselves, and how what that does to either help or hinder our own self-growth. And, how easy it can be to start to believe the labels put on us by others as well. Politicians get elected by hammering away about labels. Marketers sell products by categorizing and labeling groups of people by demographics. They call them things like “early adopters” and “baby boomers” and “millennials”.

The second you’re born, labels are pronounced about you. What sex you are, what physical markers you have or don’t have, what kind of family you’re born into, what color you are, the area of the world you’re in.

Even, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” starts the labeling process right out of the gate, so to speak.

Eventually, we start to believe the labels and it becomes part of our story. The labels become who we are. If we let them.

What if all of those labels were stripped away?

What if we strip down to our barest humanity, down to the soul level, and treat what happens to us as mere life experience. Or it's a physical characteristic but doesn't define who we are as a person. Or it’s something we’re going through, not who we are. 

My dear friend was just diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. It’s not curable. But, is manageable. So, we talked a lot about not allowing the disease to define her. She’s a healthy spiritual human being going through an unhealthy experience.

Yes, it’s going to be a challenge and yes some things will have to be different in her daily life, but she knows she could either allow the disease to drive her, to define her, or she can do whatever she can to drive and diminish the disease. To recreate her life. In other words, she can decide not to be burdened by the label.

It goes that way with any label. 

Who are you without all of the labels? I mean all of them. The labels put upon you by society, but more importantly by the labels you place on yourself.

Is that a frightening notion? Or a freeing one? 

To my way of thinking, it’s probably both. Life without labels is full of possibility. As in flying without constraints while also free-falling without a net. Freeing and a bit scary too.

But, once you start removing the labels, the easier it is to trust your own volition, your own self-worth, your own humanity.

Start with removing your own labels. Then, remove everyone else's.

Can you imagine what a different world it would be?