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."
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.
Since I chose “Perspective” as my word and theme of the year, I thought it would be a good idea to check in on things, at midyear. So, I'm reviewing, dialing in on meaning and expanding views.
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.
“I realized I can find my way to the MRI room by the ceiling tiles and the exit signs.”
This is what my dear, dear friend said to me during her hospital stay. Her perspective is reeled in, tight and small, exactly as it needs to be. Her perspective is, as with all of us very close to her, laser-focused on what is happening in the moment. Pain management. More IV needle prodding. More meds. Code calls. More questions than answers. More doctors/specialists/surgeons being added to team. More note taking. Then, more answers. More prayers. Finding humor in the tunneled view.
And, more trips to the MRI room, "go 20 ceiling tiles and turn left at the exit sign."
We talked about how what was and is happening to her is sharpening her perspective. Making her braver. Cherishing deeply her sister who is steadfast by her side. Receiving love and support as true medicine. Raising her self-advocacy to a level she didn’t know she had in her. I’m in awe of her strength and marvel at her capacity for continually falling back on her inner work, her spirit.
It's true that Perspective gives you a helicopter view of things, the big picture, the long stance.
But, sometimes all you can handle is what's directly in front of you. Moment to moment. Conversation to conversation. Tile by tile. And, that's exactly how it should be in that moment.
I found I was beating myself up because I wasn't meeting my writing goals, things that are a part of my helicopter perspective. But, when I reeled it in, got really honest and acknowledged that my view is on my friend and that is my intended perspective right now, I was able to let it all go. It’s perspective that starts the process of letting go.
This is where I am.
I had referenced in the earlier post that "Perspective is your canvas," meaning that on the grand canvas of life, your wise and knowledgeable prospective is the base coat and then is augmented by the various colors with which you use to create your story and pave your path.
Sometimes, the canvas shrinks, out of necessity or out of choice. And, you feel like you're out of paint, or you've turned the paintbrush over to others, as information and input bombards you. This could be as lab test results keep rolling in. Or by incessant news coverage of depressing world events.
For me, I need to shrink the canvas so I don't lose sight of myself. For starters, for me that means turning off the news. Perspective gets wonky when it's clouded by frustration, anger and sorrow over what's happening.
And, shrinking my canvas means being present with my friend.
That's when inner perspective takes over. Inner perspective is moment to moment. It's trusting that more will be revealed in the right divine timing. It's the white space on the smaller canvas.
In time the larger canvas, the glimpse of the helicopter perspective, the wider lens will be beheld again.
Until then, this is it. Tile by tile. And, it's enough.
On a recent flight, I ran across a story about the first female pilot to fly for a major US airline. In 1973, Bonnie Tiburzi Caputo, at age 24 literally soared above that glass ceiling. Today, American Airlines continues to honor her feat by bestowing an annual $50,000 grant, aptly titled The Bonnie Award, to mid-career female filmmakers who are blazing trails and breaking through their own glass ceilings.
It got me thinking about my own personal glass ceilings and how great it feels to be looking down through the glass floor rather than up through a seemingly unpenetrable glass ceiling, where you can see it, sometimes feel and taste it but you just can't quite get there.
Some of the barriers were societally or industry-imposed and some were created and built by me. Can you relate?
Personal glass ceilings aren’t those imposed by society or industry, but rather are our own barricades that hold us back, barriers we place there out of fear. How to tell? If you’re constantly coming up with excuses for not getting what you want, then that's likely a sign that they are blocks you’ve placed there yourself. In other words, you become your own glass ceiling. Yikes.
When you think about it, even though it was a societal and industry glass ceiling that Bonnie Caputo burst through, she wouldn’t have stood a chance at piercing through the ceiling if she’d put her own fears and excuses in front of her. “They’ll never promote me because I’m a woman.” “It’s never been done before so why try.” “I have to be better than I am to do this.” It's certainly possible those thoughts were prevalent during insecure moments, but they never became her personal glass ceiling.
Shattering a glass ceiling sounds kind of messy and dangerous. I mean the notion conjures up the vision of being cut to bits by shards of sharp, cruel edges. The same kind of sharp cruel edges that come from imposing a harsh inner critic upon your dreams. Another yikes.
When put that way, how about a reframe on breaking through your own glass ceilings. Perhaps as you continue to blaze your own trail, the energy from your own heat will dissolve the barriers. Hmm, it’s a thought.
"I never thought I was breaking a glass ceiling. I just had to do what I had to do, and it never occurred to me not to." ~ Marian Wright Edelman
And, as more and more of us rise up and dissolve through more and more of our own personal glass ceilings, it stands to reason the societal and industry glass ceilings will dissolve as well.
Here are some heat-generating tools to aid your trailblazing journey upward:
Be optimistic - “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Set intentions & goals - and write things down. There's power in committing the words to paper.
Work smart and be diligent - one day after the next.
Do things that scare you - stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone. Each day stretch a little bit further. You can break it down into bite size pieces that way.
Recognize fear - give it voice and then forge ahead anyway. Often it's not as bad as you've made it out to be in your mind.
Keep track of your progress - you'll surprise yourself when you recognize the baby steps that have grown into bigger ones. All of a sudden you're there and the glass ceiling as disappeared.
Be assertive about your own worth - you are your best advocate and it starts with your own self-talk.
Here’s the thing about personal glass ceilings, as you break through one and continue to evolve into the person you’re meant to be, there will be more ceilings and barriers to dissolve. Because as we break through and start to get used to the air up there, we just keep rising and discovering and reaching for the next height or accomplishment. And, each one is a breakthrough!
So, keep soaring. Keep looking for higher personal ceilings to breakthrough.
Keep moving toward your heart’s desire.
And, take a moment to look back from time to time to appreciate your journey. Honor the accomplishment, no matter how large or small.
Spring is in the air. I had the pleasure of experiencing the first week of Spring in four different states. On a cross-country road trip with my sister, we drove a car load of my family treasures that were stored at her home in Austin to my home in Los Angeles, passing through West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. I'm still mining the rich gems from that trip...
When I got home, I entered into some Spring cleaning in order to make room for said treasures. That meant cleaning out closets and drawers. It was at times mindless work, but I found my mind was anything but "less". In fact, it was just the opposite. I had to pause to journal because I had so much to capture from my amazing sister road trip.
So, pen poised over the page, and nothing came. It’s not that my mind was blank, it’s that my mind was racing. I felt the need to go from mind-full to mindful, which meant I needed some clarity.
Mind chatter is non-stop. If it’s not about the to-do list, it’s about a conversation we had or want to have. If it’s not about the email we need to answer, it’s about how we’re judging ourselves for it. And, everything.
If it’s not about the ache in our back or knee or shoulder, it’s about the movie we watched last night and our commentary on it; or the birds chirping or the lawn mower too loud at 6 am, or the cat sitting nearby, or what we’re having for breakfast, or how fat we feel, or how great we feel; or about the article we read on student activists, or the full moon, or the latest tech darling, or the rise of consciousness, or the fall of cryptocurrencies. We’re thinking about everything except nothing, which is kind of the goal when trying to clear the mind.
I realized when my thoughts were speeding around themselves, that my mind is like that cluttered closet or drawer, where things are placed to possibly be categorized or dealt with later. And if someone calls or starts a conversation, I need to store what's on my mind at that the moment so I can get back to it later.How many thoughts do we keep in there, just in case we might need them at some point, no matter how obscure the thought, or seemingly useless the information.
It got me thinking, clean out the closet or drawer, clean out the mind!
I took a gander into the storage shelves and was kinda surprised (and not) at all that was in there, besides the obvious stuff like pens, paper and tape. I also found: old glue, flower food, loose change, a 2016 calendar, recipes, gum (no idea how old), keys (no idea what for), batteries (probably dead), picture hangers, lens cleaner, magnets, cat toys, old coupons, menus (to places I’ll never go), loose nails, loose paperclips, 3 lighters, a door stopper, etc.
All stuffed in there haphazardly with the idea that their day will come; each item holding a glimmer of hope that it will be taken out and used for what it was meant to be. Not a chance of that happening while mired in the recesses of that closet!
The same can be said for our minds. There’s so much junk in there that the clarity gets buried alive, the brilliant ideas jumbled amidst the quagmire of waste. What junk are you stuffing in your mind that is not serving you and your highest good?
Clean out the closet, clean out the mind. Oh my, what to do with all of that open space?
Empty everything out at once – It’s best to start with a clean canvas or an “empty drawer.” Meditation, the practice of clearing the mind, is a great way to start. If this has proven a challenge for you, start with just a few minutes. When the chatter comes in, focus on your breath. In, out. In, out. John Viscount in “Mind What Matters: A Pep Talk for Humanity” says the moments in a still mind are deeply healing and peaceful. He says, “In the silence between your thoughts, you will tap into the larger universal mind. This is where some of your greatest work on Earth will be accomplished and you won’t even know you’re doing it.”
Examine the contents – Pay attention to each voice participating in the mind chatter. Only then can you determine which are dedicated to raising your consciousness and which are ego-driven to keep you stagnant or small or stuck. Michael Singer in the book “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself” takes it a step further by saying “There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind - you are the one who hears it…If you watch it objectively, you will come to see that much of what the voice says is meaningless…a waste of time and energy.”
Give it a wipe down – Clean out the dust and cobwebs once it’s empty. Lose a bad habit; clean out your email, in other words, delete almost everything and unsubscribe from almost all of them; let go of an unhealthy relationship that clouds your mind; have the conversation you can't stop thinking about; or exercise to release negative and low vibrational energies.
Let the space breathe – Go off the grid for a while. Disconnect your phone, put down your pen, no email, no television and no social media. Spend time with just yourself. Don’t busy your mind with more incoming junk. Stay in the space between your thoughts. Listen to your breath, feel the energy in your body. I plan to do this a lot more often!
Be very selective about what you put in there – Now that you’re space is open and clear, you have complete choice about what you allow into your mind space. Be intentional. Only invite stimuli that will nurture your clarity. Monitor what your read, see and speak. Once you're mindful of this it becomes a way of life.
Do away with the Junk Mind – You don’t need it anymore. At this point in organizing a closet or drawer, this is where you would compartmentalize the items as you put them back in the drawer, in nice little neat compartments or dividers.
But, with a clear mind you actually de-compartmentalize, doing away with the need for separation of thoughts and conflicting voices. With a clear mind, complete alignment with your oneness and universal purpose is not only possible, it’s unstoppable.
Get into daily cleaning - It's an ongoing process. When you see the thoughts gathering to dump into the junk mind stop, breathe and assess. Go back to #1. Meditate and get clear!
And, the bonus? You get to know your Self like never before, stripped bare and clean, open to all possibilities. Just think of the choices you can make from that place?
"I'll have what she's having." ~ When Harry Met Sally
I often marvel at my successful friends. I'm blessed to be surrounded by people who are riding at or near the top of their game, continually reinventing themselves and expanding their capacities for the big lives they're meant to live.
And, as a person who is continuing to unfold and evolve herself in midlife, watching them brings on a myriad of thoughts and emotions and actions. For one thing, it can be intoxicating! And, riveting. And, thought-provoking.
And, inspiring. And sometimes I think, maybe if I emulate a few of the things they're doing then that might possibly work for me too. Maybe they know something I don't and should. "I'll have what she's having."
Ever been there?
Where someone you admire is on a certain track and you wonder somewhere in your always-seeking brain, if you should be on that track too?
The upside of that is that you can learn a lot: tried and proven tips and techniques to apply to your own work and career path.
The downside? It can lead to that never-a-winner game called Comparison. Where you start looking at your life, comparing it to that person you admire or a career path you might covet or even envy. As Theodore Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." It's also the thief of success and certainly of self-fulfillment. Iyanla Vanzant said, "Comparison is an act of violence against the self." It only leaves you in a puddle of dissatisfaction and frustration.
Hey, it's human to go there. I was there recently, after rejoicing in a friend's big successes, I caught myself in the downward spiral of comparison. Then, it went on to other fabulous friends who are kicking ass too. I started to question what path I was on, if perhaps I should be refocusing in some similar directions. Questioning all things like timing and choices and that started to lead to tiny thoughts of regret. Ugh.
Well, there's one I did know for sure, and that was this train of thought was going nowhere good.
So, I got quiet. I did some deep work around it with some comrades who held me to my own fire, kept me accountable. I went underneath it, digging for the truths I've relied on over and over again. Then, in the midst of the quiet, when the competing inner voices had been silenced, I got the message I was meant to hear.
And, it was loud and clear: "Stay in your lane."
Stay in your lane.
And, it was an aha. Because the truth is whenever I've ventured over into someone else's lane for awhile, the lane of another writer or creative businesswoman where I want what she's having, I find that, beyond being inspired by them, I'm left chasing my tail and spinning my wheels. Why? Because it's their lane. It's not mine.
As soon as I step back over into my lane I'm reminded of what I do and what I love about what I do. Stay with that, my higher wisdom told me. Ground yourself in there, in the loving impact of your own lane.
It reminded me of a piece I'd written a couple years about a similar topic:
In a “60 Minutes” interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony Award-winning creator of the musical HAMILTON, Lin-Manuel talked about attending a school for gifted children. He said he looked around and everyone was smarter than him, he was “surrounded by genius, genius kids.” The interviewer asked him, “So why do you think I’m sitting here talking to you and not one of your classmates?” He said, “I picked a lane and started running faster than anyone else.”
“I picked a lane!” That lane led to the intense hard work and dedication that made him a true pioneer, recreating the modern Broadway musical. And, man is he ever in his purpose. His lane just continues to widen and elevate him and everyone around him.
This time around, it made me think about how sometimes we can lose direction when we try to run in a lane that doesn't lead to our own purposeful work, so much so that we lose sight for a moment of what that was supposed to be.
When I got that concise, powerful message I felt something shift in my thinking, back to what's in alignment for my truth. The simple truth is I don't want to be in anyone else's lane. No one should.
It’s just so simple.We make things so complicated at times and comparison, that pesky devil, robs us of living our most intentional and satisfying life. When seeking outside of ourselves - outside our lane - we follow someone else’s lead down their road, ending up chasing a goal or dream that was never ours to begin with. Then, we lose our way, our path becomes less clear, albeit hidden behind something other than our own truth. We then try to override our most meaningful intentions by trying to make them fit a different outcome, rather than simply trusting the truth and power of our own lane.
So, how to get back there? Get still, find your footing again. Then, deal with what's right there, inside you and in front of you. Listen to your own wisdom. Remind yourself what you love and where you're amazing. Remember the reasons you share what you share. Discuss it with your support team, those who know you and have your highest best interests at heart.
And, follow your heart's deepest intentions.
So, good reminder, yes? I say stick to your lane. And, I'll see you along the way.
I was bouncing around from thing to thing, flitting between writing and movies and articles and chapters and musings and organizing. It created a feeling of unsettle.
“I’m meandering,” I said to Gracie, who is ever present by my side. She looked at me mid-purr. "So what else is new," her look said. (at first I wrote 'what else is knew?" which made me laugh because there's true there too).
I do meander. Aimlessly at times, so that I can almost get dizzy from the spinning. Breathe.
Meander is fun to say, it's kind of a whimsical word. It basically means to “follow a winding course,” and is often used when referred to streams or bodies of water, “the stream meandered across the valley.”
People meander through a conversation, which can be interesting and deep and unexpected. That’s what makes for good conversation. Unless there’s a point to be made, and when everything is said except the point, you’d say, “he meandered around it but never said it.”
I’ve always loved bookstores and could wile away hours, meandering through the aisles of books and miles of stories contained therein. I miss that. It's just not the same to meander about through online bookstores.
You can meander through a day off, which is one of my favorite things to do, to give myself permission to just flow from one thing to the next. The truth is some of my best ideas present themselves on days like that, when I wander through, yes aimlessly.
It made me look at the word and it’s meaning more closely. I started playing with it. Me-ander. Or for fun, if I just plunk down an innocuous “w” in there, meander becomes me-wander.
Which then makes me wonder.
Is it really wandering aimlessly? Sure, sometimes. When there’s no specific intent or goal.
More often than not, for me, it’s wandering with too many aims at once.
But, meandering, to an artist, to a writer, to a creator? What about the freedom that comes from it? The wonder? The wonder of the wander.
There is wonder in the wander, when you remove the judgment and become more open. Give yourself permission. Permission is key.
“There’s gold in them thar hills.” – Mark Twain, in The American Claiment
There’s gold to discover in the meander; treasures in the sand on the long beach walk; vistas to relish on the Sunday drive, through the mind or otherwise.
There is so much value in just thinking. Many success leaders, such as Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, carve out time in their day to do just that. Think.
How great would it be if an entire class in school was devoted to just thinking. An hour of time just to encourage kids to learn from their own minds. Where the only recommended materials were a journal and a sketchpad.
"What's your favorite class?"
"Thinking 101. I'm learning so much from myself."
"Yeah, it's my favorite too."
Or if a time-out was instead a think-out. Hmm. I guess it is, really. "You sit here and think about what you said to your sister."
What if you put a little purpose behind the meander? If you gave it some aim. Is there such a thing as aim-fully meandering instead of aimless?
It could be as simple as asking a question or stating a simple intent for the day or the time in front of you.
Deep questions can lead to deep thinking.
"What will inspire me today?" "Am I living fully?" "What does my heart want?"
Or pick a word.
I have a bag of word cards and often pick a word at the beginning of day, or before I go to sleep or upon journaling. I like to think that energetically there’s a reason I picked that particular word.
It could be "clarity" or "simplicity" or "trust" or "collaboration."
So, then it becomes a backdrop, an intent.
Then the meandering has aim. Try wandering around, examining, kicking the tires, massaging, splitting open and devouring it with a freedom from any expectation. There's gold thar.
Wonder with purpose. And curiosity.
Or just enjoy the meander, the wonder of the wander, the blissfulness of the aimlessness.
Sure, focus and prioritizing and completion are important. But, that’s another post.
This one, happily, was the result of a shameless and aimless me, wandering.
It Starts With the Word of the Year. And, the word is Perspective.
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.
It 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. 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 often comes when you're not expecting it. At least it did for me.
Photo credit: Yoann Boyer
It was the middle of the night. The year was 2002. I was tossing and turning, thrashing in and out of the sheets because I alternated between sweating and freezing. No, I wasn’t ill. No, I wasn’t having a hot flash. But, my breath was hot as I sighed, the weight of the world on each exhale.
Dark Night of the Soul
I’ve come to understand I was having what could be known as a “dark night of the soul.”
The origin of this phrase goes back to a 16th century poem by Spanish Poet St. John of the Cross, where the poem narrates "the journey of the soul to mystical union with God." Eckhart Tolle defines it today as, “…a collapse of a perceived meaning in life, an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaningless…what really has collapsed is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it.”
This was exactly what was happening to me. My mind was engaged in a war of purpose, while I pleaded, cried, even screamed in prayer.
Ever had one of those, a dark night of the soul? It can be triggered by any number of things – anything that can rock your current existence, from a personal tragedy or loss, to a deep feeling of loss of direction or purpose.
But, as Eckhart said, the dark night of the soul “awakens you into something deeper… A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life. It’s a kind of re-birth.” A spiritual awakening.
Well, I’ve experienced a few nights (and days) like this as I’ve evolved and grown in my human experience and as my consciousness has expanded. And, they can be gut and heart wrenching to go through. But, there are two that stand out as re-birth moments in my purpose – in 2002 and very recently – and what’s so mysterious and awesome is that they’re connected.
But back in 2002, it had been four years since I’d uprooted my life in Michigan to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the arts, acting particularly at the time. I’d had a few trickles of success: some theatre roles, a co-star spot on NYPD BLUE, and several national commercials (McDonald’s paid for the redecoration of my West Hollywood condo). And, I had started writing, mostly so I could write roles for myself in which I could act. I wrote and starred in a tiny short film that I used to help me get an agent. I wrote a piece for an industry workshop. And, I wrote my first script, which placed in a prestigious screenwriting competition and helped me get my first literary manager.
But, so much of it felt like an uphill climb. I felt like I had a gift, but I felt split. I enjoyed the making of the art, but the business was daunting. And, if I’m being honest, which at this point that’s all I can be, I wasn’t sure I wanted the acting thing badly enough to do what I knew it was going to take, that being a guerrilla approach to self-promotion. Whenever I did it, it didn’t feel authentic. And, I certainly didn’t enjoy it. And, truthfully, I didn’t think I was a good enough actor to break through the fray of other actors who really, really, really wanted it. The writing was still fairly new, although I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was ten. And, I didn’t know what to do with it, really. Self-promotion was going to be involved with that too.
So anyway. That night. With the soul. Some of these unvoiced and hidden truths were swimming around in my subconscious. Some of them I wasn’t ready to admit because I was determined to find my purpose, and I didn’t give up easily. As a lifelong seeker that was a force that was innate. My body was in pain as I stiffened on top of my mattress; my mouth was dry and I became aware that I was constantly sighing heavily, audibly a whisper of wanting that led to my conversation with God, my Source, my Higher Wisdom.
“God, what am I to do? Why is this so difficult? If it’s my purpose shouldn’t it be easier?”
The silence was beyond deafening, until another sigh of desperation exploded from me. “Why did you give me these gifts?” More silence. My cat, Callie, who had previously become very bored with my bed-top one-woman show of angst, came slinking back into the room. Like she wanted to hear the answer to this as well.
“Please help me. What am I supposed to do?”
And, then it came. An answer I wasn’t expecting, but it was very direct, short and surprisingly sweet. It made me bolt up from bed.
“Write meaningful prose that will change people’s lives.”
What? I can tell you, those were not my words. I didn’t use the word prose. But, that’s what I was told. “Write meaningful prose that will change people’s lives.”
Was that the call of my calling?
That’s when it became the “aha night” when I heard the call of the soul.
My body relaxed as I settled into this new mantra of truth. A mantra that has carried me ever since. So, my focus became writing. I’ve evolved into a pretty good storyteller, screenwriting mostly, my wheelhouse being characters, primarily women, who are in self-discovery, smart, sardonic women with big flaws. Heroines who also have dark nights of the soul. And, there’s movement around a few of them, although it’s Hollywood movement, which can mimic molasses. I’m okay with that though. All in the right timing, with the right people. And, this blog Thought Changer, was birthed from that mantra as it's about changing your life, an idea, an expression, a thought at a time.
Calling fulfilled? Maybe. At times it feels that way.
But, something has recently shifted around it, causing more angst. Oy!
After breaking my wrist and taking the time to reassess priorities, I decided to concentrate on writing a novel that I’ve been researching for awhile.
Also, during this time of rehabilitation I’d engaged with a couple of healers for energy healing sessions. Now, this may sound a little woo-woo for some, but hey this is my world, these are my peeps and it’s how I roll. So, hang with me. I love exploring different healing modalities and they have opened up my life and expanded my mind. Anyway, during the course of the sessions with both of these women, they received strong messages from my angels, spirit guides and loved ones that I’m supposed to do some more deep writing about myself. Both of them said the same thing, on separate occasions: I have a story of my own to tell. And, I said, "Aw thanks. I’ll definitely do that some day." And then I filed it away under the category “maybe someday when I’m interesting.” But these readings happened at a time when there was a lot of quiet in my life, so I heard it on a deeper level. Oh, and they also gave me specific topics and events I’m supposed to write about. Yeah, I know, but that's exactly what happened.
Well, that scared the crap out of me. I think because I knew what that was going to mean. Raw, hard truths that are challenging enough to admit to myself, let alone put out there to the world for others to read. And, my perception is that memoirists have really interesting lives that include huge events - often tragic and dysfunctional family lives - that catapult them into subjects of literary fame. I don't have that. I have a wonderful family that functions pretty well, most of the time.
But, there are some dark and transforming moments, as with any life. So, what did I do? I decided my new novel would be based on some real events in my life. I gave the main character some of my story, writing actual scenes from my life into it and recreating them. That way, I could embellish them and create a much more interesting story than what mine is or would be. That felt like the perfect solution! Much easier to hide behind a fictional character than to reveal anything messy about myself. I don’t show the world my messy. And, I could really write it! Write what you know, right? So, I wrote a few of those chapters and laid out a kickass outline that I was excited about.
Then, I stopped writing. I literally couldn’t write. I researched and made notes. But, I wasn’t writing the novel. I didn't know what to do with her, this character that was sort of me, but wasn't at all me. Procrastination became an appointment in my daily calendar. And. It. Was. Frustrating. Any prolificacy that I’d previously experienced when on a project had left the building.
When the Call Comes Again
So, I created a weekend writing retreat to help me focus. I got a lot done, both on the novel outline and the blog. I was tapping into some deep work. Although something was still in the way, scenes just weren't forming.
As part of the retreat I took part in an herbal tea meditation and breath workshop. The healing breath work was very intense. As the practitioner, Melissa Terese Young, told us, the consistent and deep breath pattern when done for an extended period of time (we did it for close to an hour) over oxygenates your brain and body and puts you into a meditative, and at times alternative, state. A lot came up for me during the session around my novel, my work and more aspirational questions than answers came forth.
That night, in bed, is when the 2nd night of the soul took place. Tossing and turning. I couldn’t sleep and I was feeling a collision of purpose coming. The difference this time is I had some sense of navigation because I’d been here before. So, again I prayed and I asked, “What is stopping me?” “Why have I been so stuck in my writing?” “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?” "Please guide me on what's next."
In the silence that followed, a small voice came. “Write meaningful prose that will change YOUR life.” Hmmm. It went on. “Take your story back and tell your own story.” And, the deeper message I got was that the more I dove into my own truths, pains, revelations and transformations, the deeper the connection will be with those who read it, connection to that deep wanting and truth within themselves too.
Now that is a calling that rings really true. And, it petrifies me.
"Every time I picked up a pen, this grinding, unnamed fear overcame me—later identified as fear that my real self would spill out. One can’t mount a stripper pole wearing a metal diving suit. What I needed to write kept simmering up while I wrote down everything but that. In fact, I kept ginning out reasons that writing reality was impossible. I cranked up therapy and drank like a fish.” ― Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir
So, I’m committing to it, to writing those scenes from my own life, whether it’s about the loss of a baby and a marriage, the depths of food addiction, the perils of the hysterically funny and tragic voices in my head as I discovered boys and ran up against mean girls, the shame of pretty, the Miss America Pageant, the path of being a childless woman, the eye-opening metaphors that shifted my perspective and my own spiritual exploration, from Sunday school to shamanic journeys in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle. It’s all game and I have no idea what it’s going to look like or what path the story will take.
But, it’s calling. So, I’m answering the call. And guess what? It's pouring out of me, like a waterfall of life.
So, how do you know when your call is calling?
The best way I know is to:
Ask those deep questions - and then get quiet. Really quiet.
Listen intently - to what your inner voice tells you. It may be a soft whisper, or it may be a shout that makes you jump out of bed.
Pay attention - when your entire being feels in accord with that voice, pay close attention.
When I pulled the word prompt card of the day, these two were stuck together. Exploration and risk. Are they meant to be linked? The two words often appear together when talking about science, business and space: Exploration and the risk assessment thereof.
But, it got me thinking about how a marriage between the two ideas offers an interesting allegory for life.
I think of exploration as a road of discovery. Forging around corners of the unknown. Being open to newness. Trying things on for size. Dipping into an experience before fully committing. Digging deep in the microcosm of a thing and then connecting the dots and meaning therein.
So, an explorer? An explorer is a seeker, a questioner, a non-settler. Can an explorer ever really be settled, or are they not happy unless in the field of exploration? Always looking around the next bend?
Risk on the other hand, to my way of thinking, takes exploration to the next level. To safely explore is coloring within the lines. Certainly nothing wrong with that, although often the outcome can be rather beige.
However exploration with risk, skating on the edge of discomfort, where a choice made could be dangerous in terms of success or failure, yet doing it anyway: that’s risky exploration and is about being truly alive.
Risk-takers often jump without a net, the ultimate in self-trust. They dance in the precipice between staying small and living large.
The time that comes to mind for me is when I made the big cross country move from Michigan to LA to pursue the arts. I had never lived more than three hours from home and I was leaving my comfort zone and everything I knew to forge and explore the bumpy road of discovery. It felt like a big risk because I was heading into the unknown in a much bigger way than I'd done before. I could fail, fall flat on my face. But, I went anyway and it was such an exciting, temperature-raising time in my life.
Risk doesn’t have to be through grand public gestures. Internal risk involves leaping outside of our comfort zone. In fact, the switch often has to happen there, internally, before the great things transpire in our world.
The pillow talk between these two bedfellows is passionate and limitless and at times volatile, volatile only in terms of their mutual vibration, vibration that pushes them beyond what or who they were before. Surrendering to this powerful marriage means to continually step up, to grab onto exploration and risk and go, simply go. It’s momentum and marks the powerful agreement that this undeniable nuptial demands.
Now that’s a tête-à-tête I want to be a part of. I’ll even share the pillow.
Is it just me, or are people more in tune to the change of the seasons this year? Spring gently eased into Summer, marked by the Summer Solstice and made all of the more special this year with the anticipation of the Supermoon on June 23rd, the day when the Earth is closest to the moon. Get your cameras ready!
I remember craving Summer as a kid, watching the seconds on the clock the last day of school, joining a choir of thousands as we all sang along to Alice Cooper's "School's Out for the Summer." The rush of expectation is still palpable as those long languid days, and all that come with them, approach us.
But, it's more than sunshine, long walks on the beach and 4th of JulyBBQ's that are cause for pause. There's an energetic shift that takes place as one season rolls into the next. It got me thinking about endings and beginnings, how the end point of one thing is also the starting point of another, and how the seasons build upon one other so that the ending and beginning also represent a continuation, an evolution. The Spring collective energy is all about newness, planting seeds, birth and re-birth; while the Summer energy is about gestating, slowing down, listening and allowing the time to linger.
When you think about it, if we would allow ourselves to go with the flow of the seasonal energetic shifts, life would unfold in the way it's meant to. Many times, when our heads get in the way and we impose our own next steps and deadlines, it causes more stress than success. However, listening to our hearts and connecting to a higher source will never fail in putting us on the divine right path in the divine right timing.
In other words, the Spring energy time is when we burst or birth a desire or plant the seed for a big idea, nurture and feed the desire infusing it with hard work and faith or belief. The Summer energy time is when we allow it to flourish, letting go to the greater power of the universe, surrendering it to God so He can do His thing. Rest, be lazy, take a siesta, get inspired, fall in love with the beauty around you, enjoy the Summer!
So, then what happens is we're ready to flow easily and effortless into the next season, when the Autumn Equinox takes place, which is all about harvesting and manifesting. Well, that makes sense!
Sounds like a pretty great guide for life!
"To everything - turn, turn, turn There is a season - turn, turn, turn And a time for every purpose under heaven." ~ The Byrds
Be the seasons...
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