“She was a seasoned person.” That was how a woman was described at a celebration of life I recently attended. “She was a seasoned person.” And, everyone nodded in agreement. It was said in such a way that it was an earned recognition, a moniker that came after many, many seasons.
It got me thinking about what that means and what it might take to get there, to become seasoned.
So, what does it mean, to be seasoned?
Certainly there’s something to be said for the years adding seasoning. Experiencing season after season becoming really good at the thing. Vocabulary.com says “seasoned describes a person who has been around forever, doing what they do and doing it well - throughout the seasons.”
I don’t know about being around forever, but certainly when you want to know something about a topic or a skill or an area of interest, you ask someone who is seasoned, or a veteran, at that thing. You want to know about the best way to travel by foot through the south of France, you’d want to ask a seasoned traveler or hiker. You want to know how to craft a meaningful piece of prose or a photograph at dusk, you’d ask a seasoned writer or photographer. You want to find a leader for your sales force or legal department, you’d ask a seasonal professional in those fields for the best results.
When one goes through the seasons, there’s a maturation process that naturally occurs. So it stands to reason that being seasoned is a goal of maturing in life.
But, I love this idea of becoming a seasoned person in life. What is it besides experience in a field of study or industry that makes someone seasoned? Someone who has rich depth of character and possession of vast qualities. Someone who displays and lives a multitude of flavors when it comes to interests and conversation and relationships and tones of attitude.
What flavors add rich seasoning to the palate of life?
Yes, experience does add seasoning
Laughter adds seasoning
Pain adds seasoning
Grief adds seasoning
Deep love adds seasoning
Longing adds seasoning
Thirst for constant learning adds seasoning
Thought that leads to change adds seasoning
Contributing knowledge to new ideas adds seasoning
Seeing and feeling the colors of the world add seasoning
Having a difficult conversation adds seasoning
A seasoned person knows who they are.
A seasoned person trusts that their wisdom, knowledge and experience is embodied. It just is. And can be called upon at all times.
A seasoned person doesn’t play games. They don’t have to.
A seasoned person doesn’t care so much anymore about what people think of them or what they do or how they do it.
Even when there is stress, a seasoned person handles it because they know they have the tools, the ingredients, to deal with it.
A seasoned person that continues to enrich their lives isn’t afraid to add new flavors to the mix. In fact, they seek them out.
“The seasoned woman is going to offer a more seasoned character. “ Robin Wright
A dear friend was visiting for the weekend and we were cooking dinner together, trying a new recipe that included the pungent Egyptian dukkah seasoning, to be added to the roasted sweet potatoes, cabbage and onions. Okay, I have a sensitive palate so I don’t do spicy well. In other words, if something’s too spicy it ruins it for me. She, on the other hand, was a big fan. And, I wanted to be game. So, she suggested adding the heavy spice to half and lightly seasoning the other half. Then, if I tasted it and liked it we could mix the two together. So, I did and we did. It was intensely herby and delicious.
It got me thinking how being a multi-dimensional and layered seasoned person means trying new things, new experiences, new ideas that add to the mixture of life.New flavors tossed into the marinade.
The beauty of becoming seasoned is that it’s organic, it’s gradual. It’s natural human transformation. It’s evolving into being our most authentic selves.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu
Becoming seasoned is not settling, but rather grounding into purpose.
Do I feel seasoned? At times, you bet I do. What’s interesting is I’m living into it, embracing it, actually rejoicing in it, a little more each day. Those little moments that present themselves when I say, “I’ve got this. This is easy.” Those things that I’m able to do without laboring, without stress, and with calm and grace.
And, those things that are a challenge but I trust that I know how to fortitude through.
Those things that I’ve practiced, studied, nurtured, worked, worn, expressed, chewed, swallowed, cooked, massaged, explored, exfoliated, babied, battered, battled, loved and owned. For years.
“In time we grow older, we grow wiser, we grow smarter, and we're better. And I feel like I'm becoming more seasoned, although I don't have my salt-and-pepper hair.”Usher
4 a.m. and I was wide awake. I could practically feel its energy and like a magnet, a moon magnet, a lunar longing, it pulled me out of bed and outside in robe and slippers, just as the eclipse of the super blue blood moon was beginning.
I texted my sister in Austin to see if she was watching. She was, so we texted as we watched it together.
I tried taking pictures, to capture the view that my naked eye saw. But, nothing came close so I gave up and stayed with the moon. It was incredible as a deep, blood orange veil eased over the pale blue orb.
It was chilly so I got in my car and continued watching through the moonroof. And, it was in that container, my car, that I was able to self-contain and connect to the truly awesome cosmic experience.
For several moments the moon remained blood orange as I thought about how it woke me out of a dead sleep. It almost felt urgent.
So, what the heck, I decided to ask her. "Is there something you need to tell me?"
I recalled a man I know who once had a profound entheogenic journey with the moon. He was in the middle of a spiritually transformative experience while utilizing the ancient plant medicine, Iboga, an African shrub root still used in rituals and healing journeys, when the moon gave him a deep message about his life.
It wasn’t through plant medicine that I felt this deep connection to the spectacular moon before me, at least not this time, but I felt like if I listened intently there might be something there for me too. It's often said that during a full moon it's a good time to release what isn't working anymore and to set your intentions, your goals for what you desire in life. But, in that moment, sitting in awe of her strength and beauty, all I wanted to do was question her.
What do you want to say? I asked. What am I to know? What can I receive from you? Is there something I should be doing? I asked these questions and more, out loud. And then I shut up. My eyes locked on her and I listened. Just listened, for a long time.
It got me thinking about the power and life of the moon. For that remarkable moon event to occur a lot needed to meet all at once. It's been a long time coming and the moon showed up effortlessly to do its thing. Just think about all that had to happen for these to take place in concert: a supermoon (extra large because it's closest in it's orbit to the Earth), a blue moon (the second full moon in a month), a total lunar eclipse (when the sun, Earth and moon line up) and a blood moon (the moon turns red as it passes through the Earth's shadow).
Lots of preparation had to take place, astrological planning and movement and alignment had to happen precisely to meet this particular window of opportunity, this moment in time. This was her moment. And she was ready for it.
She seemed to be waiting for my stillness, for my full attention. Then, I got it.
The moon itself was illustrating its message: This is your moment.
My whole body relaxed as I opened up and received the following message from her. And, the hit I got was that it most likely wasn't a message just for me, which is why I'm sharing it.
The Moon's Message:
This is your time.
You’ve done all of the prep work. In fact, you’ve spent a lifetime in preparation. Everything you've done has brought you here, to this moment in time. You’ve spent a lifetime of intake, studying, learning, watching, improving, gathering input.
Now is the time for output, for visibility, for communicating, by expressing intimately as well as globally, with one person and many. For imparting what you know.
You have the knowledge and wisdom. Within your stories, and you have many, you have much to share. And, you know, you know how.
It’s all coming to you. The more you use your voice, express your thoughts, share yourself, teach others, the more will come, is coming. It’s already in your field of ownership. In your flow of momentum.
Trust what you know. Trust your life experience. Trust that you’ll do it your way, authentically. Don’t worry how others are doing it. Trust your intelligence. Trust your voice. Trust your words. Trust your body, it always knows when you’re in the flow, in alignment. Trust your mind. Trust your spirit. Trust yourself.
Trust what you love.
This is your time. Everything is in alignment with where you’re supposed to be and what you’re to do, right now. And, when it’s not, trust that you’ll know that too.
No more waiting, questioning, doubting, worrying.
Own your shadows.Behind the brightness and light there is always shadow, where growth takes place. And, sometimes, as with the moon, your shadows are going to show. That's okay. Don't judge them. Don't get lost in them but rather mine the gems and lessons. They will serve you in your best moments.
"We are all like the bright moon. We still have our darker side." Kahlil Gibran
Embrace the decluttering. This is the reason things have been removed from your field of ownership. To cause a pause, an opening, space, more room to settle into what's real. [For me, it was a stolen computer. Think about where you've cleared or cleaned out space, or perhaps something you might have lost.]
So, go deep, into deep wisdom. Communicate from there. Love from there. Live from there. Be, from there.
It was like getting a permission slip from the grand master teacher.
What happened next brought it all together in a way that only moon, the sun, God and universal source could do.
As the moon set, from where I watched the entire western sky was a luminous pink. What the super blue blood moon manifested by shining in her moment, in her time, was absolute splendor. A splendor that spread over and permeated everything within its sphere. In fact, as the moon set, the sky in its rich glow, remained. The moon left a lasting impression, an impact that touched so many, just by being all that it had prepared to be.
The message continued:
When you are in your time, in alignment with your truth, your soul's work, your supermoon divinity, the result is a splendor of life riches which will have a lasting impact not only on you but on everything and everyone you come into contact with.
Then, as the moon hung for a final few moments, it greeted the most glorious sunrise. It was as if they both acknowledged each other’s beauty and purpose in their collective duty to serve the universe. It was as if the sun said, "Well done." And, the moon responded, "You take it from here." It was awesome to witness.
The next morning as I left home before dawn, the still super blue moon was hanging high above a crystal blue horizon. Once again bidding a bonjour and adieu to the sun as it rose with a gold and orange fanfare.
And, it got me thinking about how she's still in her moment, this moment. It’s still her time. She showed up to do her job. She didn't sit back and rest on her laurels, convincing herself that her moment had past or stop herself out of fear that she won't be able to live up to her previous splendor. No, because what happened the night before only further solidified her purpose, her power, her strength, her time, as she just continues to express herself, shining her light as only she can. She's the friggin' moon. It's always her time.
As I drove toward my destination I passed a billboard that said, and I kid you not:
You just can’t make this stuff up.
It was a sign, on a sign.
So, if there was something that resonated with you in that very cool message from the moon, that stayed with you, that hit you where you live, then it's definitely meant for you too.
This is your time. Trust it. Be it. Live it. Own it.
“Where are the cars parked?” I asked the valet attendant.
“Behind the restaurant, inside a garage,” he said.
“So it’s secure? I have my computer in here,” I said.
“Yes,” he said and nodded. For whatever reason, I felt safe enough to take his word for it. To trust.
Two hours later, you guessed it, when the same driver brought my car back around, the passenger window had been shattered and the one thing taken out of my car was the leather bag containing my MacBook Pro, which had been placed in the dark bag on the black floor, in a locked car inside their secured garage. To say I was suspicious was an understatement. And, believe me, I didn’t like feeling that way. I believe in people. I trust in people.
I’d like to say I was clear-minded, pummeling questions at the driver and his manager. I’d like to say I had the wherewithal to investigate. Instead, I crumbled, right there on the street outside The Village restaurant in Studio City. Thankfully I was with my dear friend who had a much clearer head than I did. She supervised the situation and helped me navigate.
She said, “Please tell me you’re backed up.” The blood drained from my face. Mouth cotton dry. Crying loudly on Ventura Blvd. Feeling stupid and angry at myself and then scared about the unknowns that surrounded me. Who took it? Why did they take it? Was it just for the hardware? Identity theft? It was a deep pit in my stomach.
This is what violation felt like.
Because here’s the thing. I knew the instant my computer was gone that I hadn’t properly backed it up. And, so much was lost. Beyond the photos and memories, so much deep writing. Gone. A novel I’d been working on. Gone, along with all of my notes. Drafts of screenplays. First drafts of articles not yet published. So much creation. Gone.
Then, I entered the phase of police reports and insurance claims and claims against the valet company and changing passwords and Lifelock memberships and phone calls to Apple and texts and calls from family and friends offering support and advice and shoulders.
This was what violation felt like. This is what being the victim of crime felt like.
And, because I have no idea if the computer was wiped clean right away or if the thieves took a tour of my virtual home, I vacillated, still vacillate, between feeling like my virtual house went up in flames, and feeling like I’m stark naked with my intimate personal info stamped across my forehead as the sleazy characters stroll leisurely around, looking at me and everything else, and I can’t cover myself up or do anything about it.
I honestly think, after a week of wondering, that it’s the former of those two scenarios. Hardware wiped clean and sold. I’m actually now praying that’s what happened.
Also, in my computer bag were three journals, two old ones, some of the source material for the memoir I’m writing, along with my newest one. I had them all with me because that morning I spent some really great time writing at Coffee Bean before heading into the office.
The memoir, and all files associated it with it, also gone. Although, the first saving grace in all of this, and there are several, is I emailed myself a draft about a month ago. Grace.
Another, for which I’m so grateful, I still have my old laptop. So, older files, photos, original drafts and records are still there. For whatever reason, it doesn’t really matter now what it was, I didn’t back up my new one, for the past 2.5 years.
I went home that night and powered up my old laptop. And, in the midst of my heartbreak, which I couldn’t yet define, a warm feeling came over me, like after being embraced by an old friend. That old 15-inch Mac, my old faithful, with the wallpaper painting that always made me smile – Vladimir Kush’s Diary of Discoveries – gave me a place to land that night. It felt like restart point, or at least a familiar resting point.
And, then, after a couple of long days and sleepless nights, when I wanted to journal again, I pulled out an old favorite and started in the middle where I’d left off back then, 15 years earlier.
We Join This Program Already in Progress
It got me thinking about where I was after the loss. My first thought was that I had to start over, with all that was gone. But, the truth is I was starting over mid-scene. Mid-step. In the middle of the dance. Midsentence. In progress. As in, we are joining this program already in progress.
I can’t pick up where I left off because where I left off, as it was all written, doesn’t exist anymore.
I found myself wanting to dig and see what was there, what is still there, of what I’d created. What would rise out of the ashes of those lost files, forgotten words once expressed to be revisited another time, characters developed, broken down plots, heroines and heroes conceived and nurtured until they were on their own, photographs flashed to capture moments now passed.
I closed my eyes and suddenly the image of a phoenix appeared before me.
The Phoenix Rises
A phoenix is a magnificent, mythical bird with wild colorful plumes that burns itself to ashes every 500 years and then is born again, signifying regeneration and renewal. If someone or something is a phoenix, it means they return again after seeming to disappear or be destroyed. Out of the ashes of the disaster, a phoenix of recovery can rise.
What happens to the phoenix after it rises? What becomes of the ashes? Does a phoenix go back and sift through its ashes for remnants of what was left behind? All questions coursing through my mind.
"You've seen my descent, now watch my rising." ~ Rumi
What is my phoenix?
I had dinner the next night with some dear friends, all of whom are successful writers, working professionals. I love these dinners. We’ve been getting together, the same group, for 18 years. We always do an around-the-table catch-up and it’s been a joy to be alongside them as their careers have risen. And, these women are killing it with lots of exciting things – bestselling books, TV shows, movies – out in the world and currently in creation. Usually, I’m a much more lively participant, giddy for everyone.
But, that night I still had ashes in my head and in my ears, which made everything a bit muted and cloudy. I kept thinking about all of my own creations that were in the ashes as well. And, that victim part of me that was still very much present felt like I would never catch up because I was going to have to start over.
I thought a lot about the dinner over the weekend as I purposefully stayed quiet, in meditation, prayer and with pen in hand.
And, here’s what happened. I was visited several more times by the image of my phoenix. And each time, something floated up from the ashes.
Creation. Over and again. Creation. Create. That was the gift from the dinner with my incredibly talented friends.
Remembering that creativity is my lifeforce.
Creativity is my resilience.
My phoenix is just that.
The Phoenix of Re-creation and Creation
And, the re-creation isn’t wracking my brain cells searching for the words and ideas I’ve lost. Not to wallow in the ashes of mourning. I have to believe a rising phoenix wouldn’t do that either.
But, rather re-creation is to mine the ashes, for the gold, for the wisdom that rises to the surface, and to trust that the best parts of creation will float up and remain, providing a new foundation that builds at the level of season, wisdom and embodied knowledge and ideas.
That’s where new creation begins. I can work with that. As my brilliant friend, writer/director/producer Kelli Bennett says all the time, “Create from what you have.”
I have to believe what’s coming from this will be more streamlined, focused and on purpose.
My higher-self showed me how much clutter was actually stored on that stolen laptop. I captured everything, every little wisp of an idea, saving it for a time when I’d get to it. And, most of them lived there, ignored.
It will be really interesting what plays out in all of this cleared space. One thing’s true. I can’t stop writing.
Phoenix Guiding Principles
So many things have bubbled up as a result of this crime, much of which will take some time to process and release: shame, anger and regret to name a few. But, what the phoenix is showing me, the way to heal is by remembering my own guiding principles.
To start by being present. To stop reliving the moment, rewriting the scene in my head, where I took the bag with me instead of leaving it the car. It’s over and done with. I can’t change what happened so replaying it with what I’d have done differently isn’t helpful.
And, then doubling down on the tenets I try to live by, the values that rise like the Phoenix, and take me from feeling helpless to feeling empowered again.
Gratitude Kindness Compassion Truth Honesty Positivity Creativity Trust (I still do and will, only now with a bit more discernment) Love
And, a really big one that is the gateway to finally letting go and releasing all with the ashes: Forgiveness. Forgiving myself as well as forgiving those who victimized me. Not quite there yet, but I know that’s the key to being free to really rise.
So, please, please, please learn from my cautionary tale. Back that shit up. Protect yourself. And, listen to that little voice, the one that said 'take your bag', the one that always knows what’s best.
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
I was on the phone with my sister discussing an upcoming call about cryptocurrencies. She asked if I was going to tune in. I felt my breath quicken and my stomach churn, and it hit me. “I don’t have the personal bandwidth to take anything else into my brain right now,” I said.
My next call was to make a doctor’s appointment when up popped a message on my phone: “You’re almost out of storage.”
Twenty minutes later Outlook sent me an email: “Your mailbox is nearly full.” And, I had to laugh out loud. No kidding!
Seriously, all three things happened within 45 minutes. Okay, okay I get it! I have no more bandwidth and am almost out of storage. The truth is I have a lot going on and that morning I realized just how overloaded I’ve been. I know I’m not alone on that score.
How has it affected me? Full disclosure, it was my cardiologist I was calling to make an appointment. My heart’s been racing enough to keep me up at night, I’ve been sighing heavily, often, and I’ve been forgetting things, like where I am and where I’m going. Pretty scary at times, actually. Fortunately, it looks like everything is fine physically and we’re altering medications which can also affect the ticker. All good. AND, he told me to slow down.
My Smartphone told me to “manage my settings” in order to deal with the dwindling amount of storage space, giving the choice to either buy more space or clean out existing apps/files to make room for what I want to keep and for when I want to add anything new. It’s pretty simple on a phone as you just go through your existing apps, examine how much storage they require and then decide if it’s worth keeping.
This is literal and metaphorical. First of all, think of your life as a big file cabinet, or dresser or basket or closet. Everything you’re working on, classes you’re taking, jobs you’re performing, all commitments, everything in your life is in that space. I’m calling mine a closet: my life closet. All lined up -- or actually kind of piled haphazardly -- are the four classes I’m taking, including all of the projects and homework involved, my work assignments, relationships, book clubs, writers groups and all other time commitments.
My life in a metaphorical closet.
Now, now take everything out of your life closet. Everything. Empty out your “space” by mentally removing them from your mental bandwidth.
One way is to list them out, don’t worry about the order yet, just get them all down. Or what I did, give every item an index card. Lay them out on the floor. Get them out of your head and onto the physical plane.
Sit in the Emptiness –
Interestingly, while I was going through this process I pulled a healing card for inspiration. The word on the card was Emptiness. I know, you just can’t make this stuff up. That inspired this next step.
Once you empty your life space and clear off your mental bandwidth, spend some quality time in the emptiness. Breathe into it for several moments. Take a look around at all of that room, the vastness of it, free from mental clutter. Feel the time open up as well, no deadlines, no ticking clock.
There will be plenty of time to get back to all of those index cards on your floor. But, now is the time to honor your life space. What I discovered was how powerful my life energy is and how sacred my attention is in utilizing my life energy for my highest good.
Truly, take as much time as is necessary to truly honor how special and powerful your life energy is. Appreciate the sacredness of your attention because when it comes time to put things back in your life space, this will be vitally important.
Rank Them –
So, look at your list or your index cards. As on your Smartphone, give each item a value based on how much storage they require, how important they are to you in your life, timeliness, and joy.
This is where you spend time with each thing. As Marie Kondō espouses, pick up each item and hold it, only keeping what brings you joy.
“The act of discarding things on its own will never bring joy to your life. Discarding is not the point; what matters is keeping those things that bring you joy." Marie Kondō
Conduct a Yes Survey
As you ponder each item in front of you, ask yourself these questions, or a version of these questions:
Does this bring me joy? If it’s not a hell yes, it’s probably a no.
Does this feel in alignment with my heart’s desire?
"Why go knocking at every other door? Go knock at the door of your own heart." Rumi
Does this serve my highest good and/or the highest good of others?
Will this connect the dots between other items on my list?
Does it feel good in my body?
If you answer yes to these questions, then it’s worth your sacred attention and is deserving of valuable space in your life. If the answer is No to any of these, release them.
Is this a time and energy suck?
Do I keep losing interest or find myself not thinking about this?
The decision is obvious if you get a yes to either of these.
Give Yourself Permission
Once you’ve gone through this process with each life item in front of you, give yourself permission to delete, cancel, remove or quit the things that aren’t a 'hell yes' in the joy, alignment and soul’s calling departments.
This is where a lot of us stop ourselves. We’ve spent good money on classes or products or partnerships so there’s a part of us that can feel like a failure or a quitter if we don't complete them or hang onto them for good measure. But, the only person you’re failing or quitting is you, if you don’t end what isn’t doing you any good anyway.
So give yourself permission. Quit! Cancel! Delete!
Marie Kondō says to honor each thing before you release it, thanking it for it's contribution to your life. It helps.
It really opens so much more time and space for all of the high vibrational in-alignment things in your life that you love. Keep doing more of those!
Mindfully Fill Your Closet
Now that you’ve carefully and thoughtfully selected those, and only those, things in your life that answer all of those yes questions, it’s time to place them back in your life space.
Slot them in mindfully, allowing the room, time and care they deserve.
Now, take a step back and give it a good look. How does it make you feel? What a joyful and purposeful life you’ll have redesigned for yourself.
Now, when something new comes along, you’ll take much greater care in what you place in your life space. It’s very special in there; you’re creating with purpose and intention.
I know for me, my intuition now has a clear guide. If I don’t get a hell yes, it’s not getting in!
Here’s Another Clear Guide
If you want to further expand your thinking while elevating and operating your life at a higher level, please check out my simple 8-step checklist that will help you get there.
I’m finding that some of my most treasured time these days is spent listening to, advising, encouraging, mentoring and enjoying young adults. It’s happened organically, sometimes out of the blue, as so often wonderful things do. I find myself, when in these situations, wanting to give them shortcuts, to tell them what I’ve learned along the way that might give them a leg up or that might save them from the angst or hardship or heartache that I went through when I was their age.
Then, of course, I realize I can’t “save” them but can perhaps shed some light on a different or experienced perspective. I still remember those loving influences early in my adult life, often recalling the gems, now metaphorical or thematic, that still guide me.
It got me thinking, as I’ve counseled these incredible, curious, bright, seeking, voracious people, is how often my words are echoes and whispers of what I would have told my 20-something self, given the chance.
So, on this birthday in the midst of my fifth decade I decided to do just that.
I had to laugh because once I got started it became a pretty darned long list of things I wished I’d known at the time, things that would have definitely saved me from a headache or two.
For the sake of time and space, here are 12, plus one from one my most trusted life guides.
1. Don’t dim your light or dumb yourself down for anyone. This one’s big and happens way too much.
You may find yourself in situations when you feel others are cutting you off or belittling your opinions or points of view. Two remarkable young women in the last two weeks shared stories about this happening in their jobs. If you feel someone is trying to sniff out your light (you know who the light-sniffers are) know it’s usually because they’re afraid of their own. They feel threatened by you because they only want to shine too. By standing powerfully in your own presence, fully, you really allow them to do the same. They still may not be comfortable around you, but that’s okay.
You were brought into this world to shine in your own unique specific way. To use your gifts as no one else can. The God source in you is infinite and powerfully bright; when you dim it in order to make others feel more comfortable or less insecure, you also dim your God source. You cut off your divinity by being less than who you are. And, over time those external voices can start to become your own negative self-talk.
2. Women, help other women. This goes hand in hand with the above. Nothing is more disheartening than when you see a woman not giving other women a chance or opportunity to be seen, heard or hired, because of her own insecurities and limiting personal power. The thing is when a woman clips another woman’s wings, she clips her own. We need to help each other. It goes for men too, but I see it as an epidemic with women.
3. Don’t hide your gifts from the world for fear of not being enough, or worse, of being too much. Playing small is doing you and the world a disservice.
4. Trust your own inner voice, your God voice. It is your best and highest counsel. Seek its wisdom every day. It always knows what's best for you and the situation you're in. Get quiet and listen. Often.
5. Life isn’t like you thought it would be – Let go of what it’s supposed to look like. Surrender to the flow of life and you’ll be less disappointed and more engaged by life’s twists and turns. They’ll be a part of what is beautiful about life.
Michael Singer talked about this in his book The Surrender Experiment. He was as a ponytail-wearing yogi in college when he made the decision to surrender to life, to be present with each moment and to see what was being asked of him in that moment. And, he’s had a very big, roller coaster life where he built several businesses, one of which became a billion dollar public company that went through serious trials and tribulations, things you and I will hopefully never experience. And, he became the best-selling author of The Untethered Soul. All the while, surrendering to what life brought his way. “Over the years I had come to see that I really had no idea where life was going to put me. And, in truth, it was none of my business. My job was to simply continue surrendering and serving what was put in front of me.” BTW, he's still a ponytail-wearing yogi. So relax, let life flow.
6. When you mess up, own up – and as quickly as possible. This is a repeat from my birthday post last year, but worth repeating. It keeps your side of the street clean so you don’t keep stumbling over obstacles you create, or co-create. And, don’t ever throw others under the bus. The blame game keeps you small.
7. Give credit where credit is due. Honor and champion others for their ideas and contributions. It fosters trust, loyalty and authenticity in your relationships.
8. Don’t ghost on people. In other words, don’t just disappear or not respond when you’re afraid of rejecting someone or if you don’t want to do something. When you do ghost, it’s the ultimate rejection. Just state your truth and move on.
9. Make your life’s mission about how it will make an impact on others. When you do that it will be the guide post and touchstone for a meaningful life. It becomes your legacy.
10. Self-love is the most important love. It’s the strongest foundation from which to build any relationship. The only foundation, actually. You really can’t fully love others until you fully love yourself.
11. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. And, think. It’s pretty simple. Be with people who fill you up.
12. Focus on your attitude. You often can’t control what happens. The only thing you can control is how you react to it.
Fellow birthday girl, my beloved Mom, who turns 80 today, has a wonderful life full of wisdom, laughter and love. By the way, Mom is rehearsing to sing a solo ("Hello Dolly") in her theatre company's upcoming show. I mean, this woman! Happy Birthday, Mom! So, of course I asked her what she would tell her 25-year-old self. She said:
13. Don’t worry about the small stuff. And, be more patient. Things usually work out for the best.
The simplest thing I would tell myself is Life is meant to unfold. Learn, educate yourself, continue to seek and strive for excellence, but life is going to happen the way it’s going to happen.
It was the umpteenth time I’d driven to Los Angeles International Airport in the nearly 20 years I’ve lived in LA. And, in all those times I’d never taken the route Google Maps took me recently. It was a winding path that led me down streets and through sections of the city that were entirely new to me.
Previously I’d stuck to habitual routes, commonly known directions or the straight shot, even when traffic was abominable.
I laughed at how often I second-guessed the navigation system, overriding the guidance, thinking I knew better, so that whatever GPS I was following had to constantly recalibrate.
So, this time I decided to go with it, even as I retorted to Google: “Really? Are you sure about that?” To which she said, “In 1000 feet, turn left on Crenshaw.” “Okay, let’s see,” I said, still thinking I was going to outsmart her.
She guided me down small streets then back onto previously trusted thoroughfares only to within moments take me off the beaten path again. At one point she said, “Due to congestion ahead, I have another route that will save you four minutes? Interested?” (Really she did). In the past I would have ignored the suggestion and kept on my way, because I knew better or didn’t trust that she really knew what she was talking about. But, this time I was intrigued. So I said okay. Sure enough, I got there earlier and felt gratified that I’d learned something new that day.
I also noticed another important thing. I was completely engaged in the journey. The new way I was being shown really woke me up. Rather than operating by rote or by habit I was fully present with the guidance. Hmm.
It got me thinking about how often we ignore guidance, inner or otherwise. Even after we’ve asked for help or guidance or direction, we ignore or second-guess the answers that come. We brush off that little inkling, the soft whisper of a suggestion because we’ve never done it that way before, or because one of any number of fears creep up and tell us it will be wrong or not good enough or too hard. Or it’s the old, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
Well, sometimes even if it ain’t broke there could be another, better way, a way that will flow if we only give it a chance.
What I can say about listening and following the guidance I was given (and asked for), is it was easy, smooth, interesting and surprising calm.
A few days later, to continue the experiment, I completely surrendered again to the GPS guidance for another jaunt across town. It was all I could do not to go the familiar way. Truth was, I wanted help on the best way to get there during morning rush hour for an early morning meeting. So I asked for guidance. Twice, when I knew the guided route would lead to a busy intersection without a light, I stayed on the “proven” path. Actually spoke out loud, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Only to be then stopped in a ridiculous traffic jam. Okay, okay, I said. I’ll try it your way. And, even though there wasn’t a light where she had me turn left, it was much faster and got me smoothly though the area.
Okay, lessons learned. The same lessons apply when it comes to listening to your own guidance, whether it’s someone else’s advice or your inner voice.
Ask for help and let go of preconceived notions. Sometimes there are experts and people with experience who know better.
Listen to your own inner voice or higher power. So often it’s the inner GPS guide that we ignore, that powerful voice of wisdom and inner truth.
Sometimes it’s hard to hear the right message coming through because of all of the chatter coming at you, all the time. I had a conversation with a wise friend awhile back when I was feeling particularly stressed with all I had in front of me. I was amped up and shut down. She said, “I think you’re getting too much input. Taking in too much information.” She was so right. I was taking in so much information from so many directions that I couldn’t hear my own guidance to make my right choices.
At the end of the day that’s the most important voice and guide you’ll hear.
The answer for me after that conversation was to quiet the chatter, all of it, for a while. I took a break from input, got back to meditating and journaling and took a good long breath. Then, I could hear the whispers of truth that guided me.
So, perhaps give your GPS system a break and listen. You just might wake up and forge a new path.
Do this one thing and it will change the way you live your life. And, it's simpler than you might think.
photo by Isabela Kronemberger
I was going to be seeing some people I hadn’t seen in awhile, a couple of them with whom I shared some history. Enough history that I had some angst about seeing them. Enough so that I started rehearsing dialog in my head days before, playing out various scenarios – some good, some not so good – and rummaging in my closet to decide what to wear so that I looked more at ease than I felt.
Ever been there? Sometimes it can take over and become another character in the room, the character that plays out the scenarios which stops you from being present with what’s really happening in the moment. Stops you from being you.
At a recent women’s retreat I was part of fabulous discussion where we tapped into a notion that flipped a switch for all of us. The idea of being Available. Wha??? Certainly, it's a word we're all familiar with, but this way of thinking about it was new and enthralling.
To get to that aha moment, we acknowledged where in our lives we were not there, where things felt stuck or stagnant or scary. Where we stopped ourselves from moving forward or from having a tough discussion or from asking for what we want/need. Where we had showed up halfway for fear of the not knowing, or where we edited ourselves down to being a fraction of who we are because of wanting to avoid conflict. Where we were trying to control the situation so much that we put others off and eventually lost control in a bigger way.
So we asked, what’s the shift that will change who we are in those circumstances? It’s more than being authentic, although that’s vital too. It’s more than being present. It’s more than being open.
It’s being actively present and open, which we determined meant being Available.
Being Available means being actively present and open. That unlocked the gateway. Or rather, blasted it wide open!
Then, we gave it voice, which birthed a mantra that carries you boldly into any situation. It literally calms and revs your energy at the time. It centers you, gives you confidence and allows your heart to lead the way. And, being mindfully available is a starter, not a stopper. And, it’s simple.
Follow “I’m available” with whatever you’re about to do, or what you're desiring to make happen.
I’m available for this meeting.
I’m available for this discussion.
I’m available for my next, better job. I’m available for this interview
I’m available for, to and in this relationship.
I’m available for this phone call.
I’m available for this date.
I’m available for my body to be healthy.
I’m available for and to my best life.
Try it! I’m available…
It makes it even more powerful when you incorporate it into conversation with people. "I'm available to and for creating the best solution for all of us." Taking ownership of your availability is so incredibly empowering.
Being in a state and mindset of availability allows you to really show up. It can be a baby step toward fulfilling a big goal, or toward conquering a fear. Just be available for the baby step, and just the baby step. Then, the next step and the next. And, when the big opportunity presents itself, you’re ready and AVAILABLE!
Being available - and stating that you're available - helps to release expectations and false foregone conclusions.
Being available means being undefended, knowing there's nothing you have to defend. Being defensive or defended closes off your availability. You're just available and that's enough.
Consistently being available makes what seemed impossible much more possible. It removes the chains that have held you back from all that is possible for you.
Thus begins a new way of thinking, of showing up for ourselves and to the world. I do it all the time now and guess what? I'm available!