Awareness

A Stolen Laptop, a Cautionary Tale and a Phoenix

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

“Where are the cars parked?” I asked the valet attendant.

“Behind the restaurant, inside a garage,” he said.

“So it’s secure? I have my computer in here,” I said. 

“Yes,” he said and nodded. For whatever reason, I felt safe enough to take his word for it. To trust.

Two hours later, you guessed it, when the same driver brought my car back around, the passenger window had been shattered and the one thing taken out of my car was the leather bag containing my MacBook Pro, which had been placed in the dark bag on the black floor, in a locked car inside their secured garage. To say I was suspicious was an understatement. And, believe me, I didn’t like feeling that way. I believe in people. I trust in people.

I’d like to say I was clear-minded, pummeling questions at the driver and his manager. I’d like to say I had the wherewithal to investigate. Instead, I crumbled, right there on the street outside The Village restaurant in Studio City. Thankfully I was with my dear friend who had a much clearer head than I did. She supervised the situation and helped me navigate.

She said, “Please tell me you’re backed up.” The blood drained from my face. Mouth cotton dry. Crying loudly on Ventura Blvd. Feeling stupid and angry at myself and then scared about the unknowns that surrounded me. Who took it? Why did they take it? Was it just for the hardware? Identity theft? It was a deep pit in my stomach.

This is what violation felt like.

Because here’s the thing. I knew the instant my computer was gone that I hadn’t properly backed it up. And, so much was lost. Beyond the photos and memories, so much deep writing. Gone. A novel I’d been working on. Gone, along with all of my notes. Drafts of screenplays. First drafts of articles not yet published. So much creation. Gone.

Then, I entered the phase of police reports and insurance claims and claims against the valet company and changing passwords and Lifelock memberships and phone calls to Apple and texts and calls from family and friends offering support and advice and shoulders.

This was what violation felt like. This is what being the victim of crime felt like.

And, because I have no idea if the computer was wiped clean right away or if the thieves took a tour of my virtual home, I vacillated, still vacillate, between feeling like my virtual house went up in flames, and feeling like I’m stark naked with my intimate personal info stamped across my forehead as the sleazy characters stroll leisurely around, looking at me and everything else, and I can’t cover myself up or do anything about it.

I honestly think, after a week of wondering, that it’s the former of those two scenarios. Hardware wiped clean and sold. I’m actually now praying that’s what happened.

Also, in my computer bag were three journals, two old ones, some of the source material for the memoir I’m writing, along with my newest one. I had them all with me because that morning I spent some really great time writing at Coffee Bean before heading into the office.

The memoir, and all files associated it with it, also gone. Although, the first saving grace in all of this, and there are several, is I emailed myself a draft about a month ago. Grace.

Another, for which I’m so grateful, I still have my old laptop. So, older files, photos, original drafts and records are still there. For whatever reason, it doesn’t really matter now what it was, I didn’t back up my new one, for the past 2.5 years.

I went home that night and powered up my old laptop. And, in the midst of my heartbreak, which I couldn’t yet define, a warm feeling came over me, like after being embraced by an old friend. That old 15-inch Mac, my old faithful, with the wallpaper painting that always made me smile – Vladimir Kush’s Diary of Discoveries – gave me a place to land that night. It felt like restart point, or at least a familiar resting point.

And, then, after a couple of long days and sleepless nights, when I wanted to journal again, I pulled out an old favorite and started in the middle where I’d left off back then, 15 years earlier.

We Join This Program Already in Progress

It got me thinking about where I was after the loss. My first thought was that I had to start over, with all that was gone. But, the truth is I was starting over mid-scene. Mid-step. In the middle of the dance. Midsentence. In progress. As in, we are joining this program already in progress.

I can’t pick up where I left off because where I left off, as it was all written, doesn’t exist anymore.

I found myself wanting to dig and see what was there, what is still there, of what I’d created. What would rise out of the ashes of those lost files, forgotten words once expressed to be revisited another time, characters developed, broken down plots, heroines and heroes conceived and nurtured until they were on their own, photographs flashed to capture moments now passed.

I closed my eyes and suddenly the image of a phoenix appeared before me.

The Phoenix Rises

A phoenix is a magnificent, mythical bird with wild colorful plumes that burns itself to ashes every 500 years and then is born again, signifying regeneration and renewal. If someone or something is a phoenix, it means they return again after seeming to disappear or be destroyed. Out of the ashes of the disaster, a phoenix of recovery can rise.

What happens to the phoenix after it rises? What becomes of the ashes? Does a phoenix go back and sift through its ashes for remnants of what was left behind? All questions coursing through my mind.

"You've seen my descent, now watch my rising." ~ Rumi  

What is my phoenix?

I had dinner the next night with some dear friends, all of whom are successful writers, working professionals. I love these dinners. We’ve been getting together, the same group, for 18 years. We always do an around-the-table catch-up and it’s been a joy to be alongside them as their careers have risen. And, these women are killing it with lots of exciting things – bestselling books, TV shows, movies – out in the world and currently in creation. Usually, I’m a much more lively participant, giddy for everyone.

But, that night I still had ashes in my head and in my ears, which made everything a bit muted and cloudy. I kept thinking about all of my own creations that were in the ashes as well. And, that victim part of me that was still very much present felt like I would never catch up because I was going to have to start over.

I thought a lot about the dinner over the weekend as I purposefully stayed quiet, in meditation, prayer and with pen in hand.

And, here’s what happened. I was visited several more times by the image of my phoenix. And each time, something floated up from the ashes.

Creation. Over and again. Creation. Create. That was the gift from the dinner with my incredibly talented friends.

Remembering that creativity is my lifeforce.

Creativity is my resilience.

My phoenix is just that.

The Phoenix of Re-creation and Creation

And, the re-creation isn’t wracking my brain cells searching for the words and ideas I’ve lost. Not to wallow in the ashes of mourning. I have to believe a rising phoenix wouldn’t do that either.

But, rather re-creation is to mine the ashes, for the gold, for the wisdom that rises to the surface, and to trust that the best parts of creation will float up and remain, providing a new foundation that builds at the level of season, wisdom and embodied knowledge and ideas.

That’s where new creation begins. I can work with that. As my brilliant friend, writer/director/producer Kelli Bennett says all the time, “Create from what you have.”

I have to believe what’s coming from this will be more streamlined, focused and on purpose.

My higher-self showed me how much clutter was actually stored on that stolen laptop. I captured everything, every little wisp of an idea, saving it for a time when I’d get to it. And, most of them lived there, ignored.

It will be really interesting what plays out in all of this cleared space. One thing’s true. I can’t stop writing.

Phoenix Guiding Principles

So many things have bubbled up as a result of this crime, much of which will take some time to process and release: shame, anger and regret to name a few. But, what the phoenix is showing me, the way to heal is by remembering my own guiding principles.

To start by being present. To stop reliving the moment, rewriting the scene in my head, where I took the bag with me instead of leaving it the car. It’s over and done with. I can’t change what happened so replaying it with what I’d have done differently isn’t helpful.

And, then doubling down on the tenets I try to live by, the values that rise like the Phoenix, and take me from feeling helpless to feeling empowered again.

Gratitude
Kindness
Compassion
Truth
Honesty
Positivity
Creativity
Trust (I still do and will, only now with a bit more discernment)
Love


And, a really big one that is the gateway to finally letting go and releasing all with the ashes: Forgiveness. Forgiving myself as well as forgiving those who victimized me. Not quite there yet, but I know that’s the key to being free to really rise.

So, please, please, please learn from my cautionary tale. Back that shit up. Protect yourself. And, listen to that little voice, the one that said 'take your bag', the one that always knows what’s best.


How About Less of This and More of That in 2018

It Starts With the Word of the Year. And, the word is Perspective.

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Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

 I’ve been thinking a lot about Perspective.

This is one of my favorite times of year, when things start fresh, slates are clean, the canvas is fresh, new journals are cracked opened, solid lists of resolutions and goals are constructed and the reset buttons are pushed.

But, I don’t think it’s really possible to completely start with a completely clean slate or canvas because old stories and patterns are still there underneath the surface, ready to become visible. Often it's when we’re just ready to breakthrough or soar that they rear their little heads.

This is where the idea of Perspective comes in.

It’s such a great word and I think is vital to make the most out of the transition from year to year, from an end to a beginning.

Often when someone has a shift take place in his or her life or career, it’s because of change in perspective.

I watched a recent interview with James Franco, who is soaring right now with his already awards-darling film THE DISASTER ARTIST. Franco, as he says, “from the outside perspective it looked like I had this great career,” and he did. At one point he was in a play of Broadway, making a film during the day and flying to LA weekly to teach classes. He couldn’t get enough and thought, as an artist, the more he did the better. But, he “was depressed.”

That’s when he slowed down long enough to look at his life and shift his perspective. It took twenty years, but now he’s approaching his life and career, which shines brighter than ever, with this: “Hard work does pay off. But what I didn't realize is that you need balance, and you cannot make your happiness contingent on work, or on anything outside of you, for that matter, right? At the risk of sounding cheesy, it's gotta be a more spiritual thing. I didn't learn that until a year ago," he said.

Without this point of view it’s likely he wouldn’t have been able to present such a nuanced film because the truth is your current perspective permeates everything you do. And, THE DISASTER ARTIST is all about perspective.

Perspective can make you lighten up and not take things so seriously, while at the same time Perspective can help you get really serious about the most important things.

Perspective gives you a helicopter view. This bird’s eye view allows you to look through history, even beyond the last year, without attachment (or less attachment) to the circumstance so you can extract the jewel.

And, Perspective is what helps you hone in to reveal the truth underneath your old stories including whatever pattern or emotion you have attached to it.

It’s Perspective that starts the process of letting go.

It’s been interesting, as I’m writing my memoir; Perspective is my number one ally, shocking, as it has been at times. As I examine my old journals I've found that over the years I wrote about some of the same issues, fears and desires, over and over again. Like over and over again. At first I was like, ‘Damn Girl, you’re stuck in your story. When will you get it?’

Then, I decided to remove judgment from the question, and it changed my perspective. It became, ‘Wow isn’t it revealing how attached I was to parts of my story and the spiral of comfort and familiarity of discomfort that came from telling it to myself and others?”

Now, that I can work with. In truth, each time I asked those same questions or pondered similar issues I was moving through and past something, working through a relationship issue or breaking through a life or career barrier.

And, I realized that each round of questioning, or even angst, started from the previous ending point because I had some experience and Perspective to lay the groundwork.

It can take some time for Perspective to form. And, it can take an instant.

Perspective IS the Canvas

So, what if rather than starting the year with a clean slate or canvas or blank page, what if Perspective is the base coat, the backdrop, the color with which you paint your resolutions, write your story and pave your path. What if Perspective is the canvas?

Use your Perspective to lift out, carve out the pieces that are useful and will serve your now, your present and your future.

It starts with culling through the last year and using the perspective of being a year more experienced and wiser to cut out the prizes, the things that worked, to carry forward and then leave the rest behind.

Betsy mccallIt reminded me of when I was ten and eleven; I eagerly anticipated the mail at the beginning of every month, for that’s when McCall’s Magazine would arrive. I quickly flipped every page, slowing as I came toward the back until I found the Betsy McCall Paper Dolls. Every month it would be a surprise how Betsy would show up and her outfit, which was cutout alongside her, would be a sign of the season.

Sometimes I would cut them out straight from the magazine; other times I’d tear out the page and then when I was ready I used my round tipped scissors to carefully slice around each tab and edge. Then, I would dress my paper doll in her new garb and take her with me on whatever adventure I'd planned. 

It was the same thing while looking back at the achievements, events, situations and relationships over the last year. I flipped through the metaphorical history book to cut out the gems, the prizes, the lessons. I then sliced around what wasn’t needed anymore, breaking the pattern and leaving the remnants behind. 

Or, remember the carnival claw machine, where after you put your token in you took control of the giant claw in order to try and grab the toy of your desire. ClawMachine It was hard sometimes to get that thing to mind you and to weed through what you didn’t want so you could capture the prize, which was sometimes at the bottom of the heap.  

While pulling out what worked and what I’m carrying forward into 2018, I found it wasn’t the circumstances or specifics that bubbled to the surface, but rather the perspectives, the lessons learned, that were the prizes that are providing the starting points for what’s next. The new foundation and starting line.

It’s Perspective that keeps you from going backward.

For example, breaking my wrist taught me to get quiet, listen within and the power of single-tasking over multi-tasking.

And, speaking up and asking for closure at the end of a brief relationship taught me how much the relationships we choose (and we’re always choosing) provide a very truthful mirror.

It’s Perspective that allows us to do better, be better. Perspective is where wisdom, experience and courage not only get you started on the next thing, but Perspective is also what takes you across the finish line.

It’s seeing patterns through the lens of your now wisdom to change your inner dialogue which shifts mindset and ups your actions. It all starts with Perspective.

Which is why Perspective is my word for 2018

I’m rereading Michael Singer’s “Untethered Soul,” which is a great companion to Perspective. In it, he talks about the inner dialog, the incessant voice in our head that judges everything. You know the voice. Stop for a moment during the day and pay attention. It literally never stops. The voice is what drives us through the day, through life, good or bad. It drives us crazy!

Singer says you are not that voice, You are the one hearing the voice, you’re “the witness.” He says the “only real solution” to change and improving our way to enlightenment, “is to take the seat of Witness Consciousness and completely change your frame of reference. To attain true inner freedom, you must be able to objectively watch your problems instead of being lost in them. No solution can possibly exist while you’re lost in the energy of a problem.”

The same can be said for patterns in old stories or the emotions that keep you attached to them. Witness consciousness and Perspective are what lift and change things. As Singer says, the incessant voice will never stop, but you can change your relationship to it.

So, if you continually look at opportunities and self-growth through the lens of Perspective then it’s your own wisdom that leads the way. Combine that with asking what your heart wants, it’s a winning combo.

This year, with Perspective, I’m thinking in terms of more and less.

Perhaps some will resonate and you’ll come up with your own. What are you so over and done with, and what do you want to increase to elevate your life?

Some of mine have to do with my personal lesses and mores. And, some have to do what and who I want to surround myself with.

More and Less of This and That

  • Less input; More output. This is number one for me. Too much input clouds the output.
  • Less resistance; More surrender.
  • Less social media; More real life connections
  • Less fear; More faith
  • Less busyness; More focused action
  • Less going with the flow; More flow within structure
  • Less being an island and going it alone; More collaboration, partnering and asking for help
  • Less judgment; More curiosity and awareness
  • Less negative; More positive
  • Less talking; More listening
  • Less talking; More thinking
  • Less chaos; More moments of stillness
  • Less drama; More peaceful expression of truth
  • Less weight on other’s opinions; More self-trust, self-acceptance and self-reliance
  • Less hierarchy; More knowing importance of self value
  • Less perfection; More just doing it.
  • Less competition; More just doing it.
  • Less indecision; More just doing it.

So... Perspective in 2018 is part helicopter pilot, part conscious witness, part paper doll artiste and part bold creator.

It’s looking good so far! Happy New Year!

 


I Took a Leap of Faith: 3 Major Things I Learned

What Happened Afterward Was the Clincher

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"If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self." ~ Napoleon Hill

I pick my racehorses because of their names. I do the same thing when filling out my March Madness bracket, choosing the teams by the names that I like. Believe or not, I actually won the office pool one year by doing just that. I have an affinity for Jayhawks and Wildcats, so there you go! Names and titles inspire me.

So, when it came to choosing a challenge on the Ropes Course, I saw “Leap of Faith” on the list and jotted my name down without even thinking about it. Then, I asked which was the hardest one, and the woman said, “You just signed up for it.”

Now, if you know me, you know this is not like me. At all. I don’t normally do hard physical challenges that could put my life in danger, as a rule.

But, I was there, at the women’s weekend retreat Campowerment, to push past my own personal boundaries, to dig deep and move beyond where I’ve been, so I wrote my name on the line next to: “Leap of Faith.”

What exactly is a Leap of Faith?

Various definitions include, “an act of believing in or attempting something whose existence or outcome cannot be proved.”

Or “an act of believing something that is not easily believed,”

Or, “to do or believe in something or someone even when the circumstances are not visible or touchable.”

Or, “to jump from, to, over and/or on an object that's at certain distinctive distance and height.”

This particular leap of faith started simply as the last one. I was to climb to the top of a 30-foot pole and attempt to stand on top before jumping for a trapeze bar hanging a few feet away.

But, it quickly became a stunning breakthrough that shone a light in all areas of my life.

WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

 

The leap started when I made the decision. I had no idea what I was getting into. I just decided to trust and go for it. So, I showed up at the Ropes Course at the allotted time.

As soon as I saw other women scaling the pole and struggling to stand up, I mean really struggle, I began looking for excuses not to do it. “I broke my wrist a few months ago,” “I get vertigo,” “I don’t like heights.” Suddenly, I was so sick of those voices in my head that are so bloody brilliant at coming up with excuses. So, I escorted them off the premises and joined the support team on the ground, cheering on the women and prepping my psyche for what was to come.

There was really was no way to prep. The coach, whose name was Zen, was on the ground with words of encouragement all through the process. He asked me, “What are you afraid of?” I told him I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to balance. I’m out of balance. Whoa.

He said, “Trust your balance.” Okay.

After a relatively easy climb, until I reached the top and realized, without anything to grab onto, I had only my own lower body strength to rely on to hoist myself up.

And, I thought, there is absolutely 100% no way I can do this. I was completely stuck, hunched over the top of a telephone pole in the middle of a field tucked in the mountains of Malibu, California. But, the thought of the pretty picture I struck was the furthest thing from my mind.

Zen asked, “What are you afraid of? Say it out loud.”

I said, “I don’t think I have the strength in my legs to lift me up to the top.” He repeated it and acknowledged it and said, “Okay let’s think about something else. What do you want to do next?”

After a moment I said, “Put my right foot on top of the pole.”

“What’s there now?” he asked.

“My thumb,” I said.

“Okay, just look at your thumb and only your thumb. Don’t think about anything but your thumb.”

I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever focused so fully on one single thing, my thumb, and only my right thumb, which was pressed so flat and hard I thought I might leave a dent.

And, then as if it had a will of it’s own, my right foot stepped up and replaced my thumb. It felt like a huge victory. It was a solid footing.

So, I’ve got one foot on top and the other is glued to the rung on the side of the pole. At that point I thought; I’m good. I hit a wall and thought; I’m kind of done. I can’t go any further but I’m okay with that because I’ve gone further than I thought I would. If I just let go now, I’m okay with that.

That’s when something happened. The wall that I hit became transparent. The wall melted away and I could see the other side.

Just a glimpse of what it would feel and look like to stand on that doggone pole. So, I refocused.

It took everything in me, literally everything between mind and body, to lift and place the other foot on the 9-inch surface.

I stood up, albeit rather wobbly, but finally balanced and sturdy. I yelled, “I’m balanced.” Actually, I said, "I'm f*^king balanced," because I was blown away by how much I'd gotten caught up in the story of being out of balance, of not trusting my balance. Thank you, Zen! 

I spread my arms and look out at the horizon over the Pacific Ocean.

JUST REACH FOR IT

Coach Zen said, “Don’t look at the horizon. Keep focused on what’s next.”

And, “next” was to jump off the top of my pole, where I’d become quite comfortable, leaping to catch the  hanging trapeze bar. And, it looked far.

I felt a little dizzy at the prospects. Leap 2

‘What are you going to do?” Zen asked. 

“I’m going to reach for it.”

The awesome women on the ground gave me a countdown. And I leapt.

And, I caught it. Whoop. A sure hard grip. No residuals of the former broken wrist.

JUST THE NEXT STEP

When I was back on the ground, Zen asked me, “How’d you do it?”

“Just the next step,” I said, no hesitation. It was so simple, even when it was hard. I was elated; in a pure joy of knowing I could do something I seriously didn’t think was possible in the moment.

Just the next step meant pushing past the best of my last best.

My dad just to tell my sister and I, when we were up against something we were afraid of, or were challenged by, he said, “Mind over matter.”

Mind over matter. I finally got it. Just the next step was mind over matter. Will over substance. Not letting anything cloud or hinder what was next. Just the next step, and then just the next step. 

It felt huge and expansive.

WITH EXPANSION COMES CONTRACTION, THEN INTEGRATION

The major high lasted for a few days. Entering back into pedestrian life after a breakthrough can be tricky. You want the expansion to last and it can be hard to understand why it doesn’t, why you might feel a little sad, or all you want to do is take a nap.

I kind of crashed. And, I listened to others who were having a similar experience after their breakthroughs from the weekend, and there were a lot of breakthroughs. Some called it backlash.

Then, I remembered.

It’s completely natural to contract after a major expansion. In fact, it’s necessary during the integration process.

That’s when it hit me. The integration that takes place afterward, after the leap, after the breakthrough, is the most important part. And, contraction is a vital to integration. The backlash is the contraction.

Developing strong integration skills means understanding the contraction is part of the process. It’s important to embrace the contraction as a key phase in moving forward at the higher level you found when you took the leap.

The contraction is there to allow yourself to catch up, to take a breath, a pause, to fully incorporate the new mindset, the new feelings in your body, the new energy that wants to course through you. It gives the whole of you a chance to say, “Hold on, I want this and I need a moment – or a few – to sit in all of this bigness, this knowing that I’ve got this.”

A healthy reframe of contraction is to think of it as a pause. It may feel kind of icky and stuck, but it’s a pause so you can fully step in and inhabit the expansion.

In the past, I’ve been undone and done-in by the contraction phase, to the point where it’s stopped me, where it felt like stumbling backwards. But, this time, it didn’t last very long. I’ve done a ton of integrating the last several years, and have made it an integral part of my own evolution as a human being.

It was the leap, the leap of faith that was a culmination in which everything led up to that moment, that self-trust to move beyond what was before. It felt like the graduation to the next grade, to the PhD level of life mastery.

I thought the leap would be the victory, but it was just the beginning.

The full experience is to push through your limit and then to fully integrate the lessons learned from the expansions and contractions. Those lead to the next step up or leap where the process starts all over again.

Since Camp and the leap, I’ve noticed that I’ve moved forward. I’ve completed more things. I’ve put down over 50,000 words on my book. I’ve launched a new program. I’m written a lot more articles, and published them. I’ve made new connections and I feel my current relationships becoming more honest, deeper.

I feel different but the same. I feel the same but different.

I’m bolder while at the same time becoming gentler, more real.

It came at the right time in my growth, education, evolution. Unpeeling, unfolding to what's coming next.

THE THREE THINGS AGAIN

This breaks the leap or breakthrough down into three steps or phases.

  1. A leap starts to happen by taking Just the Next Step. Laser focus on just the next move, eye of the target, not the horizon. Nothing else matters in that moment. Nothing.
  2. To leap – Just Reach For It. Push past the best of your last best.
  3. Integrate – that’s the most important part of a breakthrough experience. It’s alchemical to integrate. Allow yourself to catch up. The actual change happens during integration, not during the leap itself.

A leap is a breakthrough. It ups your ante. Embrace it. Every time.

“There are many talented people who haven't fulfilled their dreams because they over thought it, or they were too cautious, and were unwilling to make the leap of faith.” James Cameron


Gratitude is the Highest Attitude

 Here's Why & How It Works 

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Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

It’s very in vogue to talk about gratitude. Have you noticed? It’s kind of everywhere. People writing about it, talking about it, recording it in gratitude journals, texting in gratitude chains, creating memes about it and gathering around dinner tables to honor it.

The truth is, being grateful has never been out of vogue. And, there’s a simple explanation for that.

Because Gratitude Works

The law of attraction is grounded in gratitude. When you express what you’re grateful for, in a powerfully energetic way, the universe conspires and moves to give you more of what you’re grateful for. It's the simplest form of 'what you focus on expands.'  

Lack and Gratitude are Polar Opposite Energies 

When you feel you’re lacking something, the moment you shift to a place of gratitude you’re no longer in lack. Even if it’s just for a moment. So, when you think about, if you spend more time in an attitude of gratitude there’s more room for abundance and less and less space for lack.

It’s a pretty simple concept actually.

I interviewed a West African shaman a couple of years ago for a book project. His tribe, members of the Bwiti tradition, subscribe to one, and only one, simple prayer:

“Thank you for this new day.”

They begin each morning with the same declaration: “Thank you for this new day.” Each day is a fresh, clean slate, a new journey. With this simple prayer of gratitude, their minds are clear for what blessings are to come. He said “Every day we come with new thoughts, clear from yesterday’s thoughts."

It's such simple clarity. They live in the present moment in an attitude grounded in gratitude. They are happy people with a deep loving tradition of family and community. 

"Gratitude is heaven itself." William Blake

Living in The High Attitudes

An attitude is defined loosely as a feeling or way of thinking that affect’s a person’s mood or behavior. It's a manner or disposition.

To my way of thinking, you could also think of an attitude as a spiritual level of consciousness. Sometimes it’s easier to wrap your brain around the idea of shifting or adjusting your attitude rather than the notion of lifting your consciousness, which can sometimes feel a bit esoteric. 

The highest attitudes are those that resonate and vibrate at the highest levels of energy, leaving you with a fuller feeling of vitality, contentment and joie de vivre.

The high attitudes:

An attitude of love.
An attitude of understanding.
An attitude of grace.
An attitude of compassion.
An attitude of gratitude.

Gratitude is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega of pinnacle attitudes. 

"I made up my mind to never have another bad day in my life. I dove into an endless sea of gratitude from which I've never emerged." Patch Adams

You know when you, or someone else, is having a “bad attitude.” You’re unhappy, angry, finding flaw with everything around you, often having a hard time shaking the milieu of discontent. And, you may have heard the words (or said them to that someone else), “You seriously need an attitude adjustment.”

Here's where gratitude comes in. What you start with just voicing or internalizing a feeling of gratitude, in whatever moment or situation you’re in, being grateful leads to understanding and compassion and grace and love. Find just one thing in that bad-attitude moment to be grateful for. It starts the shift, the adjustment to a higher attitude.

The Bookend Effect 

And, here's the beauty about the bookend effect of gratitude.

Each of the high attitudes mentioned above, rises again to a place of gratitude.
You can't not be grateful, when you're in a state of love, understanding or compassion.

It’s a powerful cycle. It creates a continual cause and effect, a mobius, an infinity of wellbeing and enlightened living. Gratitude begets love, which begets gratitude. 

That’s why gratitude is the highest attitude.

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others." Cicero

According to science, gratitude has some added benefits:

  • Gratitude boosts your health.
  • Gratitude makes your happier. 25% happier science says.
  • Gratitude fosters compassion and surging feelings of love.
  • Gratitude gives you more energy, higher emotional intelligence, feelings of being connected to something greater than yourself.
  • Gratitude makes you less anxious and makes you sleep better.
  • Gratitude creates a stronger desire for being charitable & generous.

Start and end with an attitude of gratitude. You’ll get used to air up there.


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.

 


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.

 


Want to Grow? Look Beyond What You Know

There's so much there to find.

Edge of water

The temp read 101 degrees as I pulled into Ralph’s parking lot. It was a challenge as usual to find a parking spot which was further exasperated by the fact that I was hot and didn’t want to walk a mile to the door. So, again as usual, I trekked up and down the rows of parked cars watching for brake lights indicating someone was pulling out.

I turned down the last row, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a ramp. I have no idea why I had never noticed this any of the numerous times I’d been to this grocery store, but today it felt it had been put there just for me. It led to underground parking and as I drove down the ramp it was like finding a secret passage way. I found a spot right by the door so I whipped my Mini Cooper S into place.

I grabbed a cart and rode up the elevator next to a man with a beard and a twinkle in his eye that made me think of Merlin the magician, or a young Professor Dumbledore. I said, “This is the first time I’ve parked down here. It’s like a whole new world.” Without skipping a beat, he said, “a whole new world that’s a whole lot cooler.” Well said, Professor.

It got me thinking about what can happen when you look beyond what you already know, or think you know.

How often do you find yourself thinking something won't work because the thing you tried, failed to make it happen? Or a solution to a problem feels less than satisfactory, but it was the general consensus so it's what you go with? Or you've fallen into a habit or routine that used to work for you but it's lost it's power or value, however you keep doing it because it's what you've always done? Or you just can't figure it out so you quit? Or you can't find something, so you give up?

We've all done it. No judgment here. Heck I didn't even know there was underground parking at a shopping center I've been going to every week for almost two years!

But, what I experienced made me realize - or remember- that there's always another way. There's always something beyond what we already know. There's nearly always another way into it. 

So... Want to grow? Look beyond what you know.

Or simply ask, what else is there? What's beyond what I already know? Take a breath and allow the answer to reveal itself.

Then go there. You never know. Looking beyond what you know could lead to a secret passage way to exactly where you want to be. 

"Unless you try to do something beyond what you've already mastered, you will never grow." Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Related: Here's What It Means to Level Up


How to Be Free in Mind, Body & Spirit

James-padolsey-232265

I've been wondering what our beautiful bald eagle has been thinking lately. Does she worry about her home? Is she afraid for her loved ones? Does she know her species is endangered? Has she had to reframe her sense of freedom? It's been awhile since I've seen an eagle in person, but I recall how easily she took flight and soared, completely in charge of her own air. I imagined how she went about the business of being an eagle, creating the best world she knew how, protecting herself and her species, despite the downturn that continues to take place in her universe.

I can relate. It got me thinking, again, about our own micro-freedoms, and by this I'm taking about freedom of thought, freedom of body and freedom of spirit. To my way of thinking, nurturing these freedoms is the starting point, like putting on your own oxygen mask. 

I'm fascinated about this topic and know that these micro-freedoms lead to an opening, an allowing and a freer way of being.

To honor our micro-freedoms I feel inclined to share three pertinent posts to inspire you.

8 Ways to Re-Create Your American Dream -  George Carlin said, "It's called the American Dream 'cause you have to be asleep to believe it."  Funny irony, for which Mr. Carlin was the master. But, my mindset has changed around the whole concept of this shared national ideal. Or I should say former shared ideal.  Read more for 8 suggestions or areas to free yourself from the old to welcome your new. 

And,

What is Your Personal Sense of Independence? - There’s much that we take for granted, living where we live in these great and complicated United States. The freedom to do so certainly started with our forward-thinking founding fathers. They set forth a whole new way of being, and living, with independence.

A true feeling of independence starts with an energy, a force that fuels and permeates a sagacity of human spirit, a spirit that manifests as personal power, something that is at times forgotten or lost in the chaos of the daily grind. To my way of thinking, this personal sovereignty is a combination of both mindset and sense, a combo that reminds us of whom we are meant to be. Let us begin with some core senses or deeper places of wisdom. Read more about 7 senses that form a healthy state of personal independence.

And, one more about a key ingredient to living in a free mind, body and spirit:

Letting Go is a Four-Letter Word - I’ve come to the conclusion that letting go is one of the hardest things to do in life, proven by the fact that there are literally thousands of books (328,000 in Amazon alone), articles, seminars and schools of thought on the subject of letting go, available to us hangers-on who at times find it nearly impossible to let go. To my way of thinking, letting go is the greatest way we can honor ourselves, and the only way to evolve into the best version of ourselves. Letting go means taking back control over our emotions, thoughts and actions. Because the truth is, the hanging on, the very root of any attachment, is formed in the mind, so the letting go must take place there as well. So, here are some suggestions for changing our thoughts and creating room for a new way of thinking.

"So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains. And we never even know we have the key." ~ from the Eagles

Oh, yes we do have liberty, with the keys to the freedom of our minds, bodies and spirits, and no one can take them away from us. 


Raise Your Thoughts to Raise the World

 

Love hands

There have been some renovations at my home recently and I was awakened early Saturday morning by the vibration of some power tools in the backyard. The foundation was literally humming and it quickly shifted my energy, making me want to get up and get something accomplished.

It got me thinking about the impact of vibration on energy, thoughts and consciousness, particularly after the past couple tumultuous weeks. I noticed how ill I felt after days of reading divisive, combative and hateful posts on social media as well watching the increase of frightening actions based on hate and fear. You can feel the divisiveness in your mind, body and spirit. It’s splintering.

FB post

 

So much so that I took a break from all media for a few days. After I posted this, I started thinking more about the power of raising our thoughts to raise the world.

 

 A few nights later I spent an evening with a group of people – people I would call highly conscious – and the collective pain and grief were palpable in regards to what's happening in our nation right now as well as the residuals of the divisive election season. We were all shell shocked and taken by surprise at how deeply we’ve been affected. Many of us felt fractured and torn, down deep, by the discord that’s come to be, by the ground swell of a low, fear-based vibration that’s coming to light.

The Power of the Collective

During that evening I came to understand more the true power of the collective consciousness. Power that can either surge low when people speak despicably toward one another and the seeds are planted for further hate mongering. Or power that can soar high through thoughts, words and actions that foster love, compassion, understanding, forgiveness and a collective healing.

David R. Hawkins in his book, Transcending the Levels of Consciousness: The Stairway to Enlightenment,” says that “consciousness evolves through progressive levels of power that can be calibrated as to relative strength.” In other words, each level of consciousness is mirrored with an emotion that carries a measurement of vibration. The lower the calibration number, the lower the vibration and the lower the emotion.

The measurements under 250 on his scale of consciousness are fear-based levels - despair, anger, hate, regret, grief - that lead to what he calls disempowerment: destruction, despondency, humiliation, withdrawal, misery, tragedy. The calibrations 250-1000+ are the love-based levels - willingness, acceptance, love, joy, reason, peace - that lead to empowerment: intention, understanding, forgiveness, revelation, bliss, transfiguration and the highest being pure enlightenment, which is the level of Christ, Buddha, etc.

HAWKINS' MAP OF THE SCALE OF CONSCIOUSNESS

The Map of Consciousness is a wise guide to live by. The goal is to evolve toward and operate from the higher levels or vibrations of consciousness.

Imagine from this perspective, the power of raising the collective consciousness. That's an unstoppable force of healing and love. And, it starts with each of us.

The Effects on Society

In fact, in his book “Healing and Recovery,” Hawkins illustrates the effects of the levels of consciousness on society. 

Society correlation level_and_problems

 

You can see how the lower levels of thought and consciousness breed the types of behavior we’ve been seeing come forward more recently. But, the power to change it is within us.

How do you make a shift?

It’s human to feel all of the levels from time to time. This is where choice and self-awareness come into play.

When you feel anxiety or despair over what's in front of you, start by recognizing what you’re feeling and what’s underneath it? Is it fear? Is so, of what? Is it anger? Naming it is the first step to raising the thoughts around it.

A lot of people are feeling anger right now, on all sides of the coin. It's a valid and real emotion. In a 2015 article, "A Clear Map to Your Spiritual Enlightenment," Hawkins says about anger: 

"Anger is very obviously a high energy emotion. However, if an angry person knows how to utilize that anger constructively instead of destructively, it can energize resolve and determination.

Anger in the form of resentment may lead to hatred, grievances, grudges, and eventually even to murder or war. But the process going on in consciousness is one of expansion; for example, when an animal is angry, it swells up. When the cat gets angry, its tail swells up to almost twice its normal size, and the cat tries to look imposing. The biological purpose of expansion is to intimidate one's apparent enemy. The energy of anger can be positive if used to pursue something better, allowing us to move up to the next level."

When you find yourself at one of the fear-based levels, take a pause. Give yourself some love and then blast the situation, person or experience with some love as well. Soon you’ll find yourself out of that place and on our way up a level of consciousness.

Activism coming from raised thoughts and higher consciousness, particularly as a collective force, will result in a much stronger, love-abiding nation and peaceful world.

It starts with one raised thought at a time.


What's Your Fall Back Plan?

And, How's Your Foundation

  Aleksandra-mazur-80011-unsplash


Reminders abounded for us to change our clocks to standard time again this weekend. And, always when that happens, I stop for a second to remember whether I get to sleep in an hour longer or need to get up an hour earlier. Then, I recall the old adage: In the fall you fall back and in the spring you spring forward.

So we’re falling back into standard time. There’s a certain comfort in that, as if things are setting into the way they’re supposed to be, into the solid foundation of time.

It got me thinking about my own foundation and how important it is to feel a solid base underneath, a smooth platform from which to create, to thrive, to live.

I can tell when it's not solid beneath me. 

How do I know this? I notice little things slipping, like home routines that keep my house in order, and self-care commitments like journaling, meditating and exercising, and responding to emails and messages in a timely manner.

Or if I'm not writing. When that happens I know something’s off. It pokes holes in my foundation because all of those things are vitally important to me and are the elements or standards that I fall back on. I start to feel a sense of disconnection, from myself and from others.

Seismic Shift in Foundation

There are many things that can cause this shift on the personal Richter scale. Internal conflict and expansion of consciousness can both be uncomfortable and take up space and energy. Those I prefer and welcome because to my way of thinking they are signs of growth and the louder they are the better because that means change is coming.

But, for me I think what’s creating craters the size of potholes in my foundation is external. Certainly, it’s easy to get overloaded with obligations and opportunity. However, something else has crept in that has been a shock to my very being, and one that I didn’t see coming. And, I know I’m not alone.

It’s the divisiveness, fear and hatred that have surfaced so fully in this election season. It has rocked me to my core. I watch as it causes hateful exchanges on social media between “friends,” creates deep rifts in families and fosters a canyon-like chasm of discord throughout humanity.

There’s almost a gladiator mentality that has descended upon us, where you watch incessantly and feed rabidly on the lowest of the low, of what began as a need to be informed and to know the truth, became an insatiable addiction to dribbles of manipulated truths, conspiracy theories and one-upmanship for digging up the worst stories possible about the other. It’s worse than politics. It’s dirty pool. It’s cannibalism of the human spirit.

And, it saddens me deeply, simply as a human being. I find myself in a constant state of disbelief because in my heart of hearts I know it’s not real. Is it? That this fear-driven chorus won’t last. Will it?

Well, with potholes and cracks in my personal foundation it’s easy to see why things have been slightly askew. For me, is started with forgoing my beloved morning routine of meditating, journaling and exercising for waking up, rolling over and flipping on the morning news. It just spread out from there to other areas of my life.

Time to Reflect, Reframe and Rebuild the Foundation.

Deepak Chopra said recently that you must have “willingness to let your consciousness and awareness expand.”

When I heard this, the first word I thought of was compassion. Ah, that made me breathe deeply. Those breaths of compassion started to slowly fill the holes in my foundation, like liquid settling into place. And, as this happened I felt an opening.

This started with feeling compassion for the fear flooding the ether right now; compassion for the people in fear who lash out in pain and hate; compassion for leaders, compassion for followers, compassion for those seeking a better existence and have no idea how to get it. And, compassion for myself as disgust fills my mouth and tastes like metal and as I feel my own raw humanness. Compassion then leads to understanding, tolerance, love and a sense of center.

The power of compassion, along with the notion of time falling back into standard, got me thinking about the elements or standards of a strong foundation, and remembering them is bringing me back into alignment, back on solid ground. 

7 Standards of Foundation:

  1. Core Values – remind yourself what really matters to you, what base values are non-negotiable. For me it’s respect, for self and others, living and speaking my truth, understanding and honoring differences and being kind.
  2. Wisdom – guidance from your higher self that all will be okay, within. And when the within is solid and firm with personal conviction based on core truths, the external shite won’t and can’t annihilate the foundation.
  3. Soul Food – what feeds your soul and fills you up? Re-focusing on that which makes your spirit sing fosters a feeling of wholeness. For me it’s all of those things I’ve been missing of late: writing, self-care and home routines. Maybe it’s running or teaching or being with family or knitting, whatever it is for you, make it front and center.
  4. Deeper Connections – this means heart-to-heart, person-to-person connections, intimate relationship vs. crowd surfacing on social media, piano bar vs. rock concert. For me this will mean disconnecting to connect, spending less time online and more time face to face.
  5. Presence – being fully present with what’s real and happening each moment in your life. This means recognizing and letting go of distractions. They’re everywhere and can weaken your foundation.
  6. Conscious Languaging – how you speak to others, including comments and posts online, and how you speak to yourself. Ask yourself if this is the highest vibration of conversation you can possibly have. If you hesitate, take a moment and reconsider. This is not about holding back your voice, but rather giving your voice it’s highest power to communicate, to heal, to value.
  7. Solid Surroundings – only allow environments and people within your inner sphere who are going to nourish and strengthen your foundation.

So, as the clocks fall back into standard time, consider this:

How is your foundation? What do you know you can fall back on, solidly? Where are your convictions? What are your core values? What feeds and deeply enriches you? What makes you feel connected?

Fall consciously into your own standards of foundation. It’s nothing less than home.

Photo by Aleksandra Mazur on Unsplash

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