At the end of July I went to Kripalu in Stockbridge, Massachusetts to see author and world renowned life coach, Martha Beck. This was the first trip I planned all by myself since I was 26 and cashed in all my airline miles to fly out to Northern California and visit my uncle before he passed away. I think it's safe to say that I was overdue. The weekend was based mainly on her book Finding Your Way In A Wild New World and it was incredible!
On the last day Martha taught us a technique to interpret our dreams. In this technique you "become" an object in your dream and describe it, then ask what is it's message for you. I do not tend to be a big dream person, but it must have sunk into my brain because I have been having much more vivid dreams since I returned. A few nights ago a bag of delicious, fluffy hamburger buns appeared in my dream which was perfect since we had needed them at dinner the night before. So, the bag of hamburger buns were stuck in my mind and I decided to go all Martha on those buns. I imagined I was the buns. I imagined going deep into the bag of buns, "I am soft and deep. I am plentiful and perfect. I am abundant. I serve a purpose in a luxurious and enjoyable way." According to Martha I have actually been describing myself by becoming the buns. The idea is that what we see in others we have inside of ourselves, so I am recognizing in the buns all of these aspects of myself. Awesome!
What do I, the hamburger buns, have to tell Heather the dreamer of the buns? "You have everything you need and more and it is here for you not just to get by but to savor and enjoy!"
Excellent, right? While I was having this great epiphany I was driving into the crowded parking lot at the grocery store. "Everything I need is here for me" I repeat to myself. Yep, up front parking space opens just as I pull up. I go into the store and it is jammed. I am on sensory overload as I have just come out of this meditative wide open place into this congested busy one. I literally feel that I am being stalked by carriages and start to scurry down the aisle. I am crawling out of my skin with the feeling of this carriage chasing right behind me. Finally I turn to see who it could be. I start to laugh out loud because I am literally being chased by a carriage FULL OF HAMBURGER BUNS!
I let the grocery store employee pass me by with the buns and I follow them to the bakery. I needed to find the bread and this need was met in an enjoyable way. Thank you Hamburger Buns!
Keeping a time journal is a genius trick to find out where you are wasting time, how you really feel throughout the day from activity to activity, and what you are avoiding. To do this exercise simply begin tracking what you are doing throughout your days, from morning routines to weekend activities. Print out these sheets if you would like to have a structure to your journaling and be sure to answer the kick off questions, they will be very helpful when you review your entries.
Here is some of what I found: I was lacking in clear action steps and goals. I have a broad vision of where I am headed but no clear action steps on how to get there. It became blatantly obvious that I need to structure my time more clearly and commit weekly to manageable action steps. I also need to track more precisely what is “must do” or my firm time commitments like work and kids activities, so I can find the pockets of time that I do have available. Having a clear plan for what I can accomplish in those times and sticking to it can alleviate the guilt and overwhelm I spend much of my time experiencing. By being unprepared and unclear of what my exactly schedule is day to day and what my daily and weekly goals are, I am inefficient and often unproductive. I have decided to start a goal setting group with some close friends. We will set weekly goals, action steps and report back how it felt and if we were able to follow through. Being open and honest in this way feels vulnerable and exhilarating. Putting myself in this space with people who I know have my back and are pushing to step beyond their comfort zone too makes it all feel more fun.
The beauty of this exercise is in the simplicity of what you discover. The truth of having your daily routine in black and white to analyze means you see what you have unintentionally (or intentionally?) been avoiding. It also helps clarify your goals. Through knowing how much time you truly have available you can decide if the goals and priorities you have set are the right ones for you at this time.
I encourage you to try this and even better if you can do it with a partner. Set a time when you will report back to each other and report what you found. Review the kick off questions and see if how you’re spending your time can be tweaked to lead you in the direction of greater happiness and less frustration. Having an extra set of eyes helps you to see more clearly and not be deceived by that masterful magician, Denial!
“Our beliefs are not true in themselves, but they become true in our experience if we believe them…When you change your beliefs about money, you can master money.
You can make a conscious decision
to change your beliefs
and create more money in your life.
The choice is up to you.”
~Marc Allen, author of The Magical Path, Creating the Life of Your Dreams
Fellow blogger and Boston University grad, Darcy Jacobsen wrote about cognitive bias and it’s influence in the workplace (read full piece here). Taking two of her points and applying them in a broader sense… how our cognitive biases influence our beliefs and thus our finances:
Bias #4: “The Confirmation Bias”
People tend to ignore information which does not fit with their beliefs while they weigh agreeable information more heavily.
What it means to you: This is a great bias to remember when performance review time rolls around. Managers will be creating evaluations that fit with their beliefs about employees, and possibly discarding critical information. Make sure you provide managers with as much diverse, crowdsourced data about employee performance as possible, to avoid a single point of failure around this bias.
What it means to your finances: If your belief is “I never have enough money”, you will look for evidence to support this belief and filter our evidence that disproves it. How about the fact that you probably have food in your fridge and gas in your car… or a Fridge and a Car!
Bias #8: “The Spacing Effect”
Information is better recalled if exposure to it is repeated over a longer span of time, rather than occurring only once or grouped together in time.
What it means to you: This means that your initiatives should be focused on long-term, iterative campaigns and programs to induce change, with many “touches” to encourage learning and information retention, rather than one-time, “big-bang” events, awards or announcements.
What it means to your finances: The VAST majority of our money beliefs are formed in childhood, so we have been “touching” these beliefs for a long time. Writing a new belief of abundance and ease which initiates a “long-term , iterative campaign” which will encourage you to learn and retain a new way of believing and creating. Try changing from a belief of scarcity and victim-hood to one of empowerment and abundance, “Everything I need to create financial abundance is already inside of me.” (Find more new beliefs and ways to uncover your traps here)
I have a few new habits that are making me feel pretty good. To combat my exercise deficit, I have started taking the stairs in the morning at work. I climb up to the top of the building, six floors, and then back down to my office on the fourth. While it is not enough exercise for optimum health, it is certainly better than nothing and is something I am doing consistently and I feel pretty good about it.
As I started my ascent to the sixth floor a few weeks ago I actually began to listen to the inner dialogue running through my brain. It was the usual hits: too lazy, too fat, too grumpy, in other words not enough of this and too much of that. Throw in some “as usual-s” to round it all out. It dawned on me that I had been berating myself since I had gotten out of bed that morning. I decided to drown out the outrageous negativity with relentless positivity. Fight fire with fire, right?
I started marching up the stairs to a little ditty that goes a little something like this:
“I am healthy, wealthy and wise,
I am healthy, wealthy and wise,
I am pretty,
I am worthy,
I am funny,
and I smell good,
I am healthy, wealthy and wise.
Besides ridiculous, I started to feel so much better almost immediately. This is my go to now when my brain starts it slow descent into self-flagellation and misery. Okay, I feel a bit like Stuart Smalley, but it shuts down my inner mean girl!
Next time your inner critic gets out of control, try this exercise.
Take out a piece of paper and label one side Likes and the other side Dislikes. Leave the Dislikes side for later (or never), it’s always an option. Then start filling out the Likes. Don’t worry if they are not real things or not valuable to anyone or marketable. Just start listing things you like about yourself.
Why not spend more time finding things to like about yourself? After all, “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person that you are.” ~Marilyn Munroe
Allowing sounds so easy when you say it. “Me, worried? No, I am allowing the best possible outcome to unfold in this delicate, urgent, seemingly desperate situation.” Allowing is deceptively difficult because it involves a whole lot of NOT doing. Just thinking about NOT doing makes me start to feel like I need to make a list of all the things I will not do so I can remember to not do them… repeatedly.
Why? We all know at some level of our consciousness that our lives can flip in a moment. Accidents happen, diagnoses happen, wrinkles happen, crazy unexpected stuff happens and yet we grip with every ounce of ourselves to our belief that we know not only what is best for ourselves but also how to make it appear in our lives. We rarely stop to allow the idea that what we can imagine for ourselves as the best possible outcome is completely limited by just that, what we can imagine. For example, if we are absorbed by thoughts of how great it would be if we were able to just zip into the Quickie Mart for that over priced gallon of milk without a horrendously long line, we may just step over a winning scratch ticket that blows past our feet as we rush in the door. I recently read about an “Optimism” study in which researchers placed a small amount of money ($1 to $5) on the floor in the hall outside their interview room. The study participants would pass through the hall alone before entering the interview room. The researchers found that the optimistic individuals were much more likely to enter the room in a happy mood waving the money and explaining how they had just found it in the hall. The less optimistic participants were likely to walk right past the money without ever having seen it.
When we get ourselves into a space of allowing it doesn’t mean we give up or stop going to work or start eating ice cream until the money truck shows up. It means we consciously choose to be open to unexpected answers and solutions. In order to allow in this way, we must accept that we matter. Implicit in this belief system is the knowledge that a power greater than ourselves loves us enough to allow us to experience the life of our choosing. Why not respectfully request from life the found money kind of miracles that appear effortlessly? Then sit back and allow- make a list if you have to!
Imagine waking up on a quiet, snowy Saturday morning cocooned from the frosty cold outside your window by the comfort of warm blankets and the knowledge that you have nowhere you have to be. As you open your eyes, you see your beloved wife standing next to the bed gazing down at you. As your eyes awaken further and focus more clearly, you realize something is not quite right with the sweet woman you married so many years ago. First of all, she is wearing the same paint splattered, baggy sweats she has had on for the last two days. She has apparently decided that showering was a waste of time since she wasn’t planning on putting on anything resembling an outfit. Also she seems pretty… pissed off. “Good morning, Honey. What’s going on?” You say hopefully.
“Well, I am not doing good, at all. We need to talk. There is some stuff that I am really not okay with.”
That’s when you see the fiery, slightly deranged glow to her eyes and you know what today will bring. You perform the most instinctual act of self preservation possible in this situation. You roll over, pull the covers up to your ears, and go back to sleep.
This was the scene at my house on a recent morning. First of all, God Bless my husband. He eventually got out of bed and, quite wisely, out of the house. Leaving me to unravel the tangled knots my mind had tied itself into. The relentless snow and it’s subsequent disruption to the normal pattern of my daily life was a fun break in the beginning. I tackled a pretty major home reno project I had been thinking about for some time. I enjoyed being home (in my sweats) and having no place to be for a while. At some point my mind started turning on itself in a misguided, cannibalistic act of survival.
The more I tried to reason my way out of the encroaching thoughts of failure, doom, shame and desolation the more they turned back in on themselves as if ensconced in the endless maze of an Escher drawing. The vague memory of a lecture I attended many years ago floated into my consciousness. The context of the lecture was different, but the principles applied to my situation completely. Imagine a triangle and imagine written on the three sides of the triangle are the words thoughts, actions, and feelings. Each side of the triangle holds up the others. If you alter one of the sides in some way, the shape of the entire triangle changes dramatically. So I was having no luck in changing the tone and tenor of my thoughts. I could alter my behavior! I showered, ate some healthy food, threw in a little laundry and felt a bit better. Although the sticky goop of despair still flowed freely in the form of discouraging and hopeless thoughts, I had an action plan. Find things that felt like relief and do them. For me that means: meditate, shower, call friends, work, declutter, and any activity that reminds and reconnects me to my feeling of connection or Oneness.
If you find yourself tangled up in a knot of good old fashioned yuck, try changing some behavior completely unrelated to the yucky part. Something little that makes you feel good. Clean off your dresser, put out fresh flowers, walk the dog, anything that feels like relief. Notice which people in your life make you feel this way too and seek them out. Focus your attention on what feels different than the yuck you have become accustomed to and watch for flickers of that something different. There are bigger forces than us at work in the Universe, I have it on good authority that February was an astrological butt kicking! Why would the entire solar system conspire to wring us like old dishrags? Who knows, but I suspect it has a lot to do with Yin and Yang, day and night, light and dark. Light yourself a candle in the dark and guard it ferociously when the winds begin to howl. It is through the blessings of the light that we make our way through the darkness and because of the dark we can appreciate
the beauty in the light.
Lives have themes. Recurrent experiences that appear in one form or another throughout our existence. These themes weave themselves intricately into all parts of our existence and all phases of our lives. Who knows how and why we choose these themes for ourselves. Do we pick them before we come into the physical world as lessons we chose to learn, are they shaped by our family patterns, do we simply act as magnets attracting to us that which we are holding inside? Whatever the reason… there is a reason, a deep gift of levity and magic that is ours when we accept our themes as constructs we have cobbled together. Our themes give us a framework of belief and help us organize our perceptions of the world, they also limit what we allow ourselves to experience by acting as blinders to the infinite universe of Possibilities.
We need do nothing more than notice. Notice how we have a refrain of self doubt or disgust, a refrain of self pity or outrage. Then allow ourselves the luxury of stopping for a moment and asking ourselves, “What would I rather have? What would I have room for in my life if all of my space wasn’t consumed with this?” All it takes is a moment to step out from under your story and allow the magic to drop into your life. What you do with whatever shows up is your business!
I am in the process of creating and defining a career for myself that feels like the perfect fit for who I am. “Sounds great, how do you do that exactly?” You might be wondering.
I wish I knew! This is me, out here winging it!
Let me start with what I know I want:
What I know I don’t want:
Following my plan of an alphabetical inspiration based on the months of the year, this month’s theme is synthesis. According to freedictionary.com the word synthesis means, “To combine so as to form a new and complex product.” This seems to me what we all do on a smaller or larger scale throughout our lives. Synthesize our new experiences into our being to enjoy more complex and fuller lives. What about our rough spots, thorny patches, places we dare not tread, or the places we cannot stop returning to? The memories and beliefs which cannot seem to synthesize but rather continue to define for better or worse some aspect of who we are.
Those are the places where the flow stops and the energy sticks. What I believe is that you need to give yourself permission to release and move on. Even though you don’t know what moving on will look like. We all become habituated to being a certain way. Thinking of releasing the intense pain you feel when you remember a really ugly break up, for example, seems like a no brainer. “Of course I want to let go of that so I can move on to a new fresh relationship”, right? Well, maybe hanging onto that pain has become my security blanket. It is always there for me. It protects me from the mistake of making myself vulnerable to the same pain in the future. I can pull this memory out any time and even feel special and unique in the quality and flavor of my sadness.
We don’t do this because we are stupid, bad, lazy, or weak. We do this because we are human. Permission to let these painful parts synthesize and become a part of our tapestry is what open us up to the fullness we are meant to experience. By letting go of our identity as the one who was cheated on, the one who cheated, the one who never gets what they want, the one who nobody listens to, the most beautiful, the least beautiful, the favorite child… we open to all the other possible us-es we could be.
Who would you be if you told a different story?
Wow! Got right to it after my summer break with a heavy one right out of the gate. Check out my upcoming event page to see what’s cooking for the Fall.