There's quite a bit that goes into choosing a word for the year. Inspiration, feeling the need to improve on something or selecting a greater theme that will help to powerfully guide the next twelve months, are all factors that weigh in while narrowing down the word. I find it enthralling, particularly since it becomes a writing guidepost as well.
My word for 2019: Mindfulness
I tossed around several words, and what I found is that underneath each of the intentional words I was drawn to, was the running current of mindfulness. In other words to successfully embody anything empowering, one must be mindful to attain it.
Mindfulness is a word that is loaded and is bandied about a lot. So, let's unpack it.
Often, for me, being mindful is what I think of after I do something that is usually a result of not being mindful. Such as when I grabbed a banana instead of my keys as I walked out my front door. It wasn't until after I locked myself out of the house and noticed the banana in my hand that I said, "Cindy! Pay attention. You need to be more mindful." Or after I tripped and twisted my ankle because I wasn't being mindful about my footing. Or when I've inhaled my meal, not really tasting it.
So, my intention by picking Mindfulness as my 2019 word, is to being mindful as a forethought rather than an afterthought. Like buying insurance before you need it, rather than regretting not having purchased it when you realize you're unfortunately caught without it.
What does it mean to be mindful? To my way of thinking, it's being fully present and engaged, while making a thought or action that serves the moment's highest good. And, then doing it again and again.
Mindfulness and meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn says, "Mindfulness is presence of heart."
He illustrates this with the Chinese symbol for mindfulness. The top symbol means presence and the lower symbol means heart. Presence of heart.
Flip the Switch
Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as turning off the automatic pilot. Continually returning to the present. I like that. It's a simple switch. It's not a constant "on" switch. In other words you don't stay in a state of mindfulness. You return to a state of mindfulness.
Kind of takes the pressure off, don't you think? The invitation is always there to be in mindfulness, we just have to flip the switch in the moment.
It's also defined as “The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”
There are certain attitudes and self-regulating indicators present when one is mindful. That of being open, curious and accepting.
Mindful.org is a wonderful place to be reminded and inspired. They say “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
Mindfulness solidifies strong character by causing us to slow down and think before speaking and acting.
Mindfulness fosters creativity by weeding out the superfluous and extraneous clutter.
He also says, “Mindfulness shows us what is happening in our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and in the world. Through mindfulness, we avoid harming ourselves and others.”
Mindfulness generates kindness. Kindness was going to be my word of the year, and then I realized that kindness is an essence and expression that is also generated from mindfulness. So, I played with that a bit and expanded my platform. While mindfulness is the word of the year, kindness is the theme. I intend to infuse everything with kindness and to recognize and celebrate kindness in others. Mindfully, of course.
Which led to a rather delicious portmanteau, and the name of my 2019 platform: Kindfulness. The state of mindfully being kind, being fully present in the act of kindness.
So, I pledge to be mindful, return to mindfulness, about, well everything. Such as:
Start the day mindfully by meditating, journaling.
Make mindful choices that stem from kindness to self, to the group think and to the greater good.
Engage in mindful thought, actions and conversations.
Be mindful in my to-do lists, keeping them clutter-free and on purpose.
I'm already noticing mindfulness and kindness - kindfulness - at work in my daily life. I'm leaning in to wherever this takes me.
What's your word or theme for 2019? My wish for you is a mindful exploration for one that feeds your soul and elevates your year.
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.
Recently, around the US Independence Day, I got into a discussion with a friend about the problematic divisiveness that permeates the world right now. And, we agreed that so much of what drives the discord comes down to this:
Labels are what define a thing, or a person, or a group of people. It literally means to “identify” or to attach a meaning. A label is a “descriptive phrase or word” placed onto something.
But, when a label becomes de-meaning is when assumptions are made and rash categorical biases are formed against an entire group of people. Based on the label.
We walk around all day long putting labels on people, based on religion, political party, sexual orientation, male/female sex, socioeconomic status, body size, education, illness, profession, credit rating, etc. Most often, it’s by way of fleeting thoughts, but more and more in this socially brash society, it’s become vocal and viral, and way too common.
It got me thinking about how we also label ourselves, and how what that does to either help or hinder our own self-growth. And, how easy it can be to start to believe the labels put on us by others as well. Politicians get elected by hammering away about labels. Marketers sell products by categorizing and labeling groups of people by demographics. They call them things like “early adopters” and “baby boomers” and “millennials”.
The second you’re born, labels are pronounced about you. What sex you are, what physical markers you have or don’t have, what kind of family you’re born into, what color you are, the area of the world you’re in.
Even, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” starts the labeling process right out of the gate, so to speak.
Eventually, we start to believe the labels and it becomes part of our story. The labels become who we are. If we let them.
What if all of those labels were stripped away?
What if we strip down to our barest humanity, down to the soul level, and treat what happens to us as mere life experience. Or it's a physical characteristic but doesn't define who we are as a person. Or it’s something we’re going through, not who we are.
My dear friend was just diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. It’s not curable. But, is manageable. So, we talked a lot about not allowing the disease to define her. She’s a healthy spiritual human being going through an unhealthy experience.
Yes, it’s going to be a challenge and yes some things will have to be different in her daily life, but she knows she could either allow the disease to drive her, to define her, or she can do whatever she can to drive and diminish the disease. To recreate her life. In other words, she can decide not to be burdened by the label.
It goes that way with any label.
Who are you without all of the labels? I mean all of them. The labels put upon you by society, but more importantly by the labels you place on yourself.
Is that a frightening notion? Or a freeing one?
To my way of thinking, it’s probably both. Life without labels is full of possibility. As in flying without constraints while also free-falling without a net. Freeing and a bit scary too.
But, once you start removing the labels, the easier it is to trust your own volition, your own self-worth, your own humanity.
Start with removing your own labels. Then, remove everyone else's.
Can you imagine what a different world it would be?
I overheard a woman speaking the other day in the elevator. Well, didn’t exactly overhear, it was a confined space and she was speaking loudly. She kept talking about how exhausted she was and that she needed to regenerate. She must have used the word regenerate ten times. At some level I could relate. In fact, the other nodding heads in the elevator gave credence to this articulated common denominator.
I love me a good “Re” word. Case in point, there are 26 of them in this piece.
It got me thinking about the impact of a good Re. It can be powerful and allows you to live your life rather than your life living you. It’s taking control of your life.
The power of the Re is that it places new energy in a new way toward, well, toward anything.
There are a lot great Re words, but here are some powerful ones to Re whatever needs a redo or a rethink or a reframe. I could go on…
Reinvent yourself by getting back to your foundation, what you love and why you do what you do.
Reinvest your time in a new and charitable way.
Reclaim your dreams, keeping them alive by articulating them on a regular basis.
Rejuvenate your attitude, turning can’t into can and don’t into do.
Refocus your energy by pausing, taking a deep breath, perhaps meditating or journaling.
Readjust your thinking, allowing yourself to come at a project from a fresh angle.
Retool your personal brand, your resume, your career intentions. A fresh approach can bring fresh results.
Recharge your physical battery; exercise, take walks midday or even rearrange your commute on the way to work.
Reignite your vision, like gently blowing on cooling embers. It’s always there, gently wake it up and bring it to life by pursuing it in thought and action, a little every day.
Redesign your plan; remove what’s not working and try something else.
Reframe your perspective, adjusting your view to gain new intelligence.
Refresh your relationships by reaching out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. And, by being present in every exchange.
And, Refuse to quit on yourself.
"Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit." ~ Napoleon Hill
Oh my, there are just so many. Review. Release. Renovate. Redecorate. Recreate. Reimagine.
Every day, you have an opportunity to hit the reboot button, in whatever way you choose.
In the way our skin renews itself every 24 hours, embracing the Re allows us to do the same thing in our lives. And, the good news is you can do and redo it again and again.
It’s truly the cycle of life. Or, in this case, the recycle of life.
She had bright orange hair that kinked around the nape of her neck. She wore a black lace miniskirt, black tights and combat boots. With a smile that lit up the room and a hyena giggle that pierced it. She greeted everyone by name and with interest. She’s my favorite Coffee Bean barrister and on that day, when I was still sitting on the edges of victimhood after my computer was stolen, she woke me up and got me present.
As I watched her interact with a woman, going beyond your basic barrister and customer moment, I was surprised as I got tears in my eyes. I was suddenly really emotional.
It continued throughout the morning. But, what I realized is that they weren’t tears of sadness or loss. I had certainly shed several tears bearing those descriptions. No, these were tears of gratitude. And, hope. And little flickers of joy. Life. Humanity.
I choose this.
I was still feeling anger and wanted vengeance at some level. I’d just received a denial of claim from the valet company who’d parked my car when it was robbed, which felt like being victimized all over again. And, was getting no response from the garage company where my car was vandalized. I wanted to see the security camera footage. I wanted to catch someone to make someone responsible for the crime. Every morning I woke up with a nervous stomach. The butterflies of vengeance.
Then I saw this Lao Tzu quote: “Victimhood is staying in the suffering.”
Those feelings of gratitude, as surprising as they came, softened the edge of vengeance enough to see through it.
Gratitude reminded me that to dig deep into my own personal power for what to do next. Gratitude reminded me that people are good and most often want to do the right thing.
I appealed to a person at the valet company, with kindness, with directness. And, it worked. They paid for my broken window. Gratitude.
My insurance company (Liberty Mutual rocks) took care of me. I felt heard, believed and resolved. More gratitude.
I felt empowered. Which I realized was the antidote to the suffering. The key to unlock the gate in order to leave victim-hood.
But, could I put it behind me? The nervous stomach still persisted. It still gnawed at me that someone needed to pay for what they did. But, I noticed that what was really underneath the nervousness was something more.
The thing is, I really wanted to just move on. But, I felt guilty about that. Was I giving up if I let them get away with committing a crime against me, and who knows how many others? Why did I want to pursue it? Because, I felt guilty if I didn’t.
Is it giving up if I let it go? Or if I let it go, is that giving up?
It got me thinking about the difference between giving up and letting go. It seems there’s a fine line between them yet they’re vastly different. It comes down to the feeling behind it, the intention inside it, and the embodiment of it. It's a mindset shift.
Then, it got me thinking about all of the other areas in life where giving up or letting go can either hold you down or set you free. Where things didn’t happen like you’d planned. Where a dream fell short of realization, over and over again. Or when you wake up one day and look around at your life and things aren’t what you thought they’d be.
In this context of giving up:
Giving up is staying stuck in the what ifs. The if-only’s. The I-won’t-be-successful-unless-that-thing-happens. The expectations that start to feel unhealthy.
Giving up is the stomach ache. It’s catching your breath and holding it. It’s shoulders that hug your ears. It’s the energy that gets stuck. It feels heavy. Like being deep under water and holding your breath, in the moment right before panic sets in.
Giving up feels sad and like failure. Falling just short, or way short. Always wondering what could have been. It feels like letting yourself down or letting another down who might have invested time and energy.
Giving up is a never-ending feeling of not quite getting there, of feeling less than.
Giving up is rooted in regret.
It can live in your psyche and permeate everything. Giving up shackles you to the very thing you’re trying to release.
Giving up keeps you in the past.
Letting go, on the other hand, is a beautiful release.
Letting go isacknowledgment of the ending of something, a moment, a life phase, an exhausted effort, a situation that doesn’t serve anymore. Whether it's a relationship or a job or a long ago goal imagined in a former self.
Letting go is releasing what isn’t working anymore. What you have no control over. Events in the past that have nothing to do with the present. That can’t be changed because they’re over with, gone, dead and buried in the past which has nothing to do with right now.
"Letting go is the exhale." Andrea Quinn
Letting go feels like a full breath with an exhale that courses all the way through the body. It feeds the present not the past. It fills it up while at the same time creates alive energetic space where the “stuff” has been taking up room.
Letting go is an unlocking.
It’s the oxygen tank under the water.
It’s the turbo fuel injection.
With letting go, comes clarity. It clears the fog.
Letting go is removing yourself from the one-foot-in-one-foot-out syndrome. You know that place, right?
The profound gratitude was the beginning, the way in, to letting go for me.
I was still holding the grief and violation in my body so went to see a wonderful reiki healer who helped me to work the energy out, to release it.
It was during that session when I felt a complete and full feeling of gratitude that it all happened. I actually felt grateful that the event happened.
I released the attachment to the violation. It was something that happened to me, but I let go of the suffering. And, the guilt for wanting to move on.
Letting go put it in my past where it actually is anyway.
Letting go is a 4-letter word. Letting go is love.
“What’s the solution, not what’s the excuse?” Jack Canfield
Sometimes, it’s a deep-seated desire or lifelong dream that you’re not ready to give up on. The feeling of giving it up can feel like you’re giving up on yourself. Believe me, I'm a lifelong proponent of not giving up on your deepest dreams.
But, this is where letting go becomes a powerful tool for not giving up on yourself, where you move out of victimhood and into empowerment.
The language of victimhood is full of blame and self-pity and resentment and regret and excuses.
The language of empowerment is about the solutions and taking back your power and letting go of the energy that’s keeping you stagnant.
"When you don’t want to let go of it yet, trust that there’s a better way." Dina Strada
The empowering choice is to let go of old expectations around it, of what you wanted it to be or thought it would look like, all those years ago.
The empowering choice is to change the thoughts within the dream or goal or relationship. It all starts there.
Give that desire or dream or goal or relationship a fresh conversation. Bring it into the here and now. Modernize it. Give is a new wardrobe. Apply today’s technology to it. Reframe it. Be open to a new way.
For me, the clarity that came from letting go of what happened with my computer, and all of the stuff that come along with that situation, has freed me to look more closely at what's really important. To inventory other things I've been hanging onto, dreams and otherwise. Reviewing and releasing some. Reframing, changing the thoughts and conversation around others. Recommitting in a new way.
I love the little moments, the game-changers that shift things, changing everything from that moment on. This was one of them.
I was doing a Creative Jam Session with a client recently, a woman who is brilliant at what she does. I mean crazy brilliant.
We were brainstorming on creative ideas to get her business going in a new way.
“She intimidates me,” she said, talking about a high-profile woman for whom she’d done some coaching.
I understood. The woman had some really impressive creds, was a genius at what she did and was running a large event where she was required to speak, which is where my client was coaching her.
She floated quickly through the comment, “She intimidates me.”
It got me thinking about the idea of intimidation and more apropos to our discussion, the meaning and weight placed on it.
One definition of Intimidation is defined as "inducing fear or a sense of inferiority."
To my way of thinking Intimidation is a wall. It’s a stopper. It’s a dam that cuts off flow.
It creates a hierarchy, a ranking order that’s created in your mind. When you allow someone to intimidate you, you place yourself in the state of inferiority.
The truth is, it’s not real. It’s a story you make up to keep yourself safe and small, to stay in place. Even when we’re not at all aware of it.
You can’t go anywhere when you’re in intimidation, at least not anywhere forward. How can you build a successful anything if you’re intimidated by the very people you want to work with, have hire you, partner with.
Meet Them Here
I asked what it was that she found intimidating about the woman. And, it was all of those things that made the woman fabulous, the qualities that described exactly the type of client she is hoping to attract.
And, yet, I said, “she hired you to help her with something she’s lacking, something she’s not good at. And, that you are. Her expertise isn’t yours, but yours isn’t hers either.”
The thing is, you carry intimidation into the room with you. When you’re intimidated it makes you weaker and not fully authentic. It’s an unlevel playing field with jagged surfaces and bumpy paths.
I said, "it sounds like you’re in awe of her. You admire her."
And, the energy in the room shifted. “Oh, that’s so true,” she said. That was it.
And, based on the feedback my client received, the feeling was very mutual. Chances were very strong that this high-profile woman was in awe too, perhaps even a little intimidated.
So, what if you took intimidation out of the equation?
It’s been said people meet you where you are. So, if you’re continually intimidated, it's likely that the people who will meet you there are those who use intimidation, by those who are fed by the power of intimidating others to get what they want. Those relationships will not grow you, your relationships or your business.
Those playing at the higher levels won’t put up with the out-of-balance energy between you. They may not be able to explain exactly why, but they won’t want to work with you.
However, if you meet them at awe, then that's a reciprocal relationship that flows in a positive direction. And, you’ll be met at a higher level, at the higher vibration of awe.
It levels the playing field. Intimidation does not. Awe and admiration do.
So, change the meaning of and reframe your meeting reference point.
Zig Ziglar said, "The playing field of life is not level, and to compete in the game of life, you need an equalizer."
Here are some equalizers that level the intersection:
Meet each other at Awe.
Meet each other at Admiration
Meet each other at Expertise
Meet each other at Respect
Meet each other at Talent
That’s powerful. A true intersection of equals. A meeting that magnetizes and grows and nourishes. And, keeps people coming back for more.
So, who intimidates you? Be honest with yourself. There’s no shame in it.
Recognize the positive qualities that you admire, that you’re in awe of. Turn the mirror on what you bring to the table. What you’re offering.
Meet them there.
If they don’t return to the level playing field, turn and walk the other way. As Empowerment Coach Andrea Quinn calls it when someone doesn't meet you at your standards and qualities: “Not your people.”
Removing intimidation from the equation was the game changer for moving my client’s creative business forward.
Sometimes it’s hard to figure what it is that’s stopping us, keeping us from starting something or from following through or taking it to the next level.
We can’t see the clear path through the fog, or more accurately through the forest of obstacles we’ve placed in front of us. Intimidation is one of those obstacles.
Getting clear on your own talent, expertise, awe, will provide the beacon to remove the obstacle and that will lead you to the right people. Your people.
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.
"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.
‘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.
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.
To leap – Just Reach For It. Push past the best of your last best.
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
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 forlack.
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
Here's a fresh take on what can be a debilitating force.
Photo by Becca Matimba on Unsplash
By Cindy Yantis
"Focused attention yields the best results." - Melinda Hughes
Melinda is my personal trainer and the owner of The Strength Shoppe, a high-intensity training (HIT) facility in Pasadena, California. And, this quote, from their website, exemplifies what most I've learned from training with her.
HIT is a slow burn, really intense, focused workout where with each weightlifting exercise you exhaust an isolated muscle or group of muscles to a slow count of ten. It's also called Super Slow, Slow Cadence, Power of 10, or Resistance Training.
It takes such focused concentration to get through a set of the slow ten. The tendency is to put all of your body behind trying to lift the weight. That's when Melinda says to direct your brain to focus on the specific body part so that the target muscles are worked to their max. That wasn't something I'd done before.
I was amazed at how when you place your undivided attention, singly, on one body part, you can actually feel the isolated muscle doing its thing. The brain is so powerful. Then, the rest of the body is just there to support.
Toward the end of the set, the weight is so heavy that it barely moves, if at all. This is when the body's flight or fight response starts to kick in, wanting to give up or drop the weight. And, that's when Melinda says to "lean into the fire instead of pushing past it." It is, in fact, what provides the most benefit, leaning into the resistance.
In a recent yoga class, we were holding a lower body twist, for several moments. My hip flexors were screaming at me. That's when the instructor said in her soft zen voice, "Allow your awareness to go to the place of resistance. Focus on softening the edges, the tissues around the resistance. Now, find the place in yourself where you can settle deeper into it."
This all got me thinking about the broader force of Resistance and how it shows up in other ways. Everywhere, to be more exact.
In truth, I've been thinking about resistance a lot lately. What I’m noticing is that as I’m moving up and forward with projects in some new ways and at higher levels that I haven’t tried before, I’m meeting an internal resistance that feels like a gust of wind connected to an electric fence. It can be a really powerful force that pushes and pulls at the same time.
“Where there is power, there is resistance.” - Michel Foucault
THE LAW OF RESISTANCE
There are schools of thought that put Resistance right up there with the other powerful laws of the universe including the laws of Attraction, of Polarity, of Vibration, and of Compensation to name a few.
Jasmine Contor Dawson in "Aliens to Zebras: Dictionary for a New World" defines the Law of Resistance is: "That which an individual pursues in anguish or anxiety, will inevitably remain elusive."
In thinking about this, I was drawn to read again from Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art.” He’s my go-to expert about resistance, which he calls “most toxic force on the planet.” In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to this beautiful, terrible monster.
He says: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.” He talks about how it's the root of so much unhappiness and “to yield to resistance deforms the spirit.” Pressfield considers resistance as strong a force field as gravity or electromagnetic, in that it can’t be “seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt.”
It’s an internal force, is always there and its aim is to repel.
He also says this. “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
So, when you're at the threshold, or the crossroads, feeling the pull to where your soul wants to go, succumbing to resistance can keep you at the crossroads. Forever.
LIVING IN THE CROSSROADS
Resistance can also show up as doubt that results in inaction.
People have gotten stuck in doubt, and at some point, they came to a crossroads and found "themselves rooted there, with one foot firmly planted on each side of the intersection. Alas, they never moved off the dime. They procrastinated. Dithered. Finally, they put a folding chair smack in the center of that crossroads and lived there for the rest of their lives. After a while, they forgot entirely that there even was a crossroads-forgot that there was a choice."
Ugh! When I first read that a few years ago I felt the floor fall out from under me. It was a huge wakeup call. I realized how I'd allowed resistance to stop me enough, over and over, so much so that I'd set up camp at the crossroads! I became Mayor of Crossroads, USA!
HERE'S THE GOOD NEWS
However, as Stephen Pressfield also says, “Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer resistance.”
In addressing how to get out of the crossroads, Stephen Cope quotes the teaching in the "Bhagavad Gita: the Path of Inaction-in-Action," where Krishna says, "There is a certain kind of action that leads to freedom and fulfillment… an action that is always aligned with our true nature." Cope says this "is the action motivated by dharma. This is the action taken in the service of our sacred calling, our vocation."
So, then it's possible to embrace resistance, as an ally rather a foe.
"In dharma, it is possible to take passionate action without creating suffering." - Stephen Cope
To my way of thinking there’s something kind of comforting about that. When you think about it, if you welcome the resistance and recognize it as a threshold or crossroads through which you must pass to accomplish the next step toward your dream, purpose, and destiny, then when you make it your ally, it becomes part of your journey rather than a hindrance keeping you from moving forward.
"Hey, Luke. May the Force be with you." Hans Solo
When you fight resistance or procrastinate because of it, you're not present. Get present by talking about and releasing the fear that's underneath and fueling the resistance.
LEANING INTO THE FIRE
I know for me, I know when I'm in resistance about something, nine-times-out-of-ten it's something I need to do - for my body, for my work, for my life, for my soul. So leaning into it feels easier, and not only doable but necessary, and powerful.
Focus on it. As in my yoga and HIT experience, focusing on the resistance softens its edges because your awareness and attention are pointed towards it.
Be with it. Get present. Being in the now with the force restores inner strength and balance.
Get vulnerable. Brene Brown says, "Vulnerability is not about fear and grief and disappointment. It's the birthplace of everything we're hungry for…Most people believe vulnerability is weakness. But really, vulnerability is courage. So -
Be courageous. Lean into the resistance and go forward.
Get creative. Creativity and spontaneity are energizing positive forces that help counterbalance the negative force of resistance.
And, Trust. Trust in all of these - focus, presence, vulnerability, courage, creativity and spontaneity.
They carry you through the threshold of resistance and across the crossroads of to your soul life, your purposeful life.
Interestingly, Pressfield also says that the resistance is only there when you’re faced with an up level. There’s no resistance going down, only up. Think about that for a moment. So, when resistance comes, welcome it because it only means you're on your way up.
“To fly we have to have resistance.” Maya Lin
So, I’ve decided to lean in, to be with resistance. I know it’s always going to be there. So instead of fighting it, I’m going to walk through it. Take one more step. Stretch beyond what I did yesterday. And, tomorrow will stretch beyond what I did today.