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September 2017

Here's What Happens When You're Not Being Present

And, what to do about it so you are.

  Grocery store

Big weekend plans were looming, with house-guests and an event that’s been a year in the planning. Everything coming together. Ticking off the to-do list, with still-needing-to-be-done phone calls and emails and conversations rolling around in my head and a ball of nerves in my gut. But, I’m gettin’ it done. I think.

A couple days beforehand I head to the grocery store to get stocked up, and I take time to fill a beautiful cart with necessities and delectables including a lush mint plant. I smile as I picture serving fresh mint water to my guests. 

I get to the cash register. “Oh, I don’t have my wallet,” I say, with a bit of a panic rushing into my voice as I dig through my purse. It's never not in my purse.

“Is it in your car?” the helpful cashier asks. I try to think of the last time I used it. The mind is blank. But wait, I can write a check. I forget about my checkbook because who writes checks anymore.

“Yes,” she says. So I write the check. “Oh, but I need your ID,” she says sweetly.

“It’s in my wallet,” I say flatly. (sorry but adverbs are kind of key in this story) Meanwhile, I’m answering texts and she’s bagged up my gorgeous groceries into my favorite shopping bag (it has lemons on it so you get how special it is). Seriously, I feel like Martha Stewart with my perfect bag of yummy goods, with the mint leaves cascading over the top. So, I run out to my car to look, while she holds the line for me.

Sure enough, there’s the wallet, sitting lazily on the front seat.

Out of breath, I pay for the groceries, while the lovely people in line behind me wait patiently. The cashier tells me to have a better day and I roll the cart happily to my car, my lemon bag bouncing along inside the cart. One more thing to check off my list. I start the car and drive off, my head already at home, making dinner and following up on stuff for the event.

I pull into the driveway, and you’ve probably guessed, I left that gorgeous bag of groceries. In the cart. In the parking lot. Twenty minutes away. Of course, I sit in my driveway and call the store. After five minutes someone finally answers (seriously five minutes) and the woman, her name was Angel (truly), is so kind and looks all over that parking lot and store for my pretty lemon-enhanced bag. Of course, it's not there.

I was so mad! First and foremost at myself. How could I do that? I mean, I was really beating myself up. What an idiot! What a waste of time and money! Then, I got mad at whoever took it. Couldn't they see what a special bag it was and that it surely meant something to the person who owned it? I mean, who does that?

And, then that’s when I took a breath. Who does that? Who takes a bag of groceries that clearly someone forgot?

Someone who needs it, that’s who. I have to believe that my beautiful bag of deliciousness went home with someone who could really use it. A friend of mine said, “Someone who didn’t need the groceries would have rolled the cart back into the store so that whoever left them could come back and get them.” She’s so right. Another friend shed a beautiful light on it when he said, “You made a donation to someone you don’t know and will never receive thanks for it. How great is that?” He’s also right. He now asks, “Did you stop at the store where you made a donation?” I love that.

It got me thinking about how un-present I was. I wasn’t at all present. In my head, I was 20 miles and three days away from that parking lot when I got into the car and drove off.

Then, get this. The next morning I put on my makeup. Twice. I was 10,000 miles away from my bathroom, in some other mental stratosphere adding to my to-do list. So I applied my makeup a second time, not realizing it until I was almost done. Sure, my makeup looked great, but I was a mess. Later the same day I walked off and left my keys at the office.

I. Was. Not. Present. Not even in the vicinity of being in the Now.

There's an even deeper reveal here - the real lesson - not only was I not being present with myself and what was in front me, I wasn’t being mindful. At all. My head wasn't in the game, which never results in a winning proposition. And it only makes sense that if I'm not being mindful while putting groceries in my car and putting on my makeup, where else am I being mind-less?

Being mindful is the action of being present. To be deliberate and mindful in all of one’s actions is to be fully present, in the now.

So, my friends, learn from my stumble… Here's how I came back. 

Take a moment - just stop.

Pay attention - to what's in front of you.

Get present - not tomorrow, a week from now, or 10 minutes away. Get in the here and now.

And, be mindful. Mindful while making coffee, mindful while eating, mindful while paying for groceries and loading in the car, mindful in conversations and relationships and most importantly, be mindful with yourself. Really pay attention to each action and moment.

Be mindful toward every thing and everything. 

Oh, and when I went back to the store - because I still had to stock up - I asked for a new bag with lemons on it, 'cause it's still my favorite. And, when I told the cashier what had happened to the previous one, just because it made a good story, she gave it to me for free. Actually she gave me two. So, I'm thinking I made out on that deal, mindfully.

 


Listen to Your GPS: You Just Might Learn Something

Walking path
Photo by Julien Lux on Unsplash

It was the umpteenth time I’d driven to Los Angeles International Airport in the nearly 20 years I’ve lived in LA. And, in all those times I’d never taken the route Google Maps took me recently. It was a winding path that led me down streets and through sections of the city that were entirely new to me.

Previously I’d stuck to habitual routes, commonly known directions or the straight shot, even when traffic was abominable.

I laughed at how often I second-guessed the navigation system, overriding the guidance, thinking I knew better, so that whatever GPS I was following had to constantly recalibrate.

So, this time I decided to go with it, even as I retorted to Google: “Really? Are you sure about that?” To which she said, “In 1000 feet, turn left on Crenshaw.” “Okay, let’s see,” I said, still thinking I was going to outsmart her.

She guided me down small streets then back onto previously trusted thoroughfares only to within moments take me off the beaten path again. At one point she said, “Due to congestion ahead, I have another route that will save you four minutes? Interested?” (Really she did). In the past I would have ignored the suggestion and kept on my way, because I knew better or didn’t trust that she really knew what she was talking about. But, this time I was intrigued. So I said okay. Sure enough, I got there earlier and felt gratified that I’d learned something new that day.

I also noticed another important thing. I was completely engaged in the journey. The new way I was being shown really woke me up. Rather than operating by rote or by habit I was fully present with the guidance. Hmm.

It got me thinking about how often we ignore guidance, inner or otherwise. Even after we’ve asked for help or guidance or direction, we ignore or second-guess the answers that come. We brush off that little inkling, the soft whisper of a suggestion because we’ve never done it that way before, or because one of any number of fears creep up and tell us it will be wrong or not good enough or too hard. Or it’s the old, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Well, sometimes even if it ain’t broke there could be another, better way, a way that will flow if we only give it a chance.

What I can say about listening and following the guidance I was given (and asked for), is it was easy, smooth, interesting and surprising calm.

A few days later, to continue the experiment, I completely surrendered again to the GPS guidance for another jaunt across town. It was all I could do not to go the familiar way. Truth was, I wanted help on the best way to get there during morning rush hour for an early morning meeting. So I asked for guidance. Twice, when I knew the guided route would lead to a busy intersection without a light, I stayed on the “proven” path. Actually spoke out loud, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Only to be then stopped in a ridiculous traffic jam. Okay, okay, I said. I’ll try it your way. And, even though there wasn’t a light where she had me turn left, it was much faster and got me smoothly though the area.

Okay, lessons learned. The same lessons apply when it comes to listening to your own guidance, whether it’s someone else’s advice or your inner voice.

Ask for help and let go of preconceived notions. Sometimes there are experts and people with experience who know better.

Listen to your own inner voice or higher power. So often it’s the inner GPS guide that we ignore, that powerful voice of wisdom and inner truth.

Sometimes it’s hard to hear the right message coming through because of all of the chatter coming at you, all the time. I had a conversation with a wise friend awhile back when I was feeling particularly stressed with all I had in front of me. I was amped up and shut down. She said, “I think you’re getting too much input. Taking in too much information.” She was so right. I was taking in so much information from so many directions that I couldn’t hear my own guidance to make my right choices.

At the end of the day that’s the most important voice and guide you’ll hear.

The answer for me after that conversation was to quiet the chatter, all of it, for a while. I took a break from input, got back to meditating and journaling and took a good long breath. Then, I could hear the whispers of truth that guided me.

So, perhaps give your GPS system a break and listen. You just might wake up and forge a new path.


These Words Can Change Your Mindset

 

Thought-catalog-214785

I recently reconnected with an old friend with whom I'd been out of touch for several years. She's going through a challenging transition which includes selling her home, something she doesn't want to do, but has to. Interestingly, I went through a similar transition at about the same time we'd last spoken. So, the timing of our phone reconnect all of sudden seemed rather divinely directed. I shared something with her that someone said to me during that time that shifted everything for me. And, when I said the words, she had a very similar reaction.

It got me thinking about how much words, when you hear them at the right time, can shift mindset in an instant.

From a place of boy-have-I-been-there, I shared my experience with her. I was laid off in 2008 and was out of steady work for over two years. I was in a daily struggle to try and keep my house. During that time, my friend and financial advisor, Lisa Gould, was a lifeline of truth. We often discussed various alternatives and on this particular phone call it was a brass tacks breakdown of what it would take for me to, in fact, hang on to the house. And, it literally felt like hanging on for dear life. I loved that house and my identity was ingrained with being its owner, making every little inch of it mine and sharing it with others. It gave my life a meaning that came from years of creating the meaning, by habit, by stories about the American Dream and that home ownership was an integral part of being a successful adult. I felt like a failure if I couldn't keep my home. 

When I discussed all of this with Lisa, during the brass tacks chat, she said, "Wouldn't you rather set yourself up for success than protect yourself from failure?" 

Wait, what? Say that again, I said. 

"Wouldn't you rather set yourself up for success than protect yourself from failure?" 

I still remember where I was sitting when I heard those words. Literally everything shifted in my body, my face felt flush and I felt alive, like I had choices. And, what shifted was my mindset.

And, the reason it made such an impact in that moment, is that I was ready to hear it, to receive and to incorporate it. That's when mindset shift happens. You hear or read something just at the moment when you're ready. It wasn't until she said it that I saw that's exactly what I'd been doing: trying like crazy to protect myself from failure.

Protecting yourself from failure is looking over your shoulder, stopping the bleeding with a bandaid that doesn't hold, being in a constant state of shame for fear of what others might think and always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's painful and a self-generating cycle of doom. You feel like a loser.

Because here's the thing, since what you focus on expands (another phrase that's a true mindset shifter), protecting yourself from failure focuses your attention on the impending failure. 

Setting yourself up for success is looking forward, cutting your losses and moving on so they're not shackles holding you down. It's knowing that your circumstances don't define you, it's what you do with and about the circumstances, that do. Setting yourself up for success becomes all about intention. When you focus on your intentions for success, then success expands. 

Gary Zukav in The Seat of Soul said, "You create your reality with your intentions." So, if your intention is to protect from failing, then you'll be in that state. And, if your intention is to continually be serving your highest good with your choices which lead to success, then you'll be living in that state. 

Well, that changed everything for me at that time. Literally in that moment, my home became a house, brick and mortar. It removed the emotion which is what was keeping me so attached. The emotion is what linked to the shame and feeling of failure. In a success mindset, it became a transaction that freed me to rebuild. Was it hard? You bet. Short selling my house was a huge financial hit. But, I recognize it as a moment in my life, a circumstance I went through. Once it was done it cut the chains that held me back, in so many ways that went beyond selling the house. Because when your mindset is changed it effects everything.

I remind myself often of Lisa's words. And, when I find myself in a conversation like I had with my old friend, I share them as well. With life's ebbs and flows, this phrase has ongoing benefits in my life. It's one of my mantras now.

Whenever I see Lisa I tell her how profound it was and that it needs to be the subtitle of her book! 

What words or phrases have shifted your mindset? Make them a mantra and share them with others. It's the best way to not only expand your own life, but expand and raise the collective consciousness as well.