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How’s This For Exercise

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.

All About Me

 

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

 

Tangled Up In Knots

pen and ink city

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.

 

escher drawingThe 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 candleyucky 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.

 

The Themes of Our Lives

how to tell a story

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!

ask yourself

 

This Year, Breathe

whale breathing

It’s inevitable this time of year to not think of resolutions or at least things you wish could be different in the year ahead. It’s also inevitable that the overwhelming majority of these resolutions will be abandoned almost before the New Year even begins. While there are many reasons for this annual ritual of unrequited hope for new beginnings, the reasons for abandoning these resolutions can be quite simple. Instead of making us feel hopeful and inspired, they often remind us of how yucky we feel about ourselves or certain parts of our lives.

The resolution made from a place of self loathing, disgust or disappointment is doomed before it has a chance to even truly begin. When we set out to distance ourselves from the parts of ourselves we believe are undesirable, we are creating an even stronger attachment to those very feelings, habits and relationships. The stronger we push against something, the stronger we are connected to it. So this year go ahead and make resolutions if you feel the need. Nothing wrong with that. But take a few moments for yourself when you make them and as you think of them in the days or weeks ahead. Moments to just breathe and feel what it is to be a person who has parts of their being they wish were different. Breathe some more and allow whatever feelings come up to be felt and accepted without debate. This is you, all of you. Complicated, conflicted, confused and so completely amazing. Breathe some more and allow the blessed moments to flow. The moments when you are at peace for an inhale, when you have a blessed moment of peace.

If it all comes back on the exhale- so what, you’re human. Keep breathing and creating space in your life for more of the blessed moments of being. You are worth it.

Holiday Hustle

I am not saying I am lazy, but I do enjoy a relaxed pace in life. Once in a while it is fun to have a few days of hustle and bustle. When I am consistently busy and rushing, however, I start to get a kind of mania of accomplishment and effieciency. I start creating intricate lists scheduling activities within activities and potential quick errands to knock out while traversing the town. It is so attractive and dazzling feeling efficient and competent and organized. Yesterday I reached the tipping point when I crossed the line into certain manic, frenzied rushing about. My mind spinning 100 miles an hour as I zoomed here and there getting so much accomplished!! Somehow as the day went on my list continued to grow and instead of feeling proud of how much I had accomplished I felt desperate to simply get through to the next activity. At a certain point a realization came over me that I had gotten to that place. The place where emergency action is required. Indeed the only way I know to cure this kind of mania is to slow down and take some time to do things like meditate, breathe DEEPLY, take a step back from the rushing thoughts and realign my priorities. Why is it that slowing down like this somehow makes me feel more efficient and relaxed at the same time. Who knows, but it does. I can resume being a rational human being and actually enjoy the Holidays. Today I was the calm presence in the Holiday lines amidst the frenzied, super efficient, list makers of the world.

Waiting

I find myself so often putting off making change in any area of my life because I am intent on getting things “under control”.  I can remember a span of about a year and a half that started with the unexpected and sudden death of my father, which led to my subsequent decision to step away from the graduate program I was meant to start a week later and open a handcraft gallery instead. A few months later I was married and several months after that I lost my my uncle, who on my wedding day just a few months earlier had said to me, “Now that your father is gone I want you to think of me like your father. I want to be here for you.” During this time I can clearly remember feeling disbelief and even rage at the world around me. Why couldn’t everyone just hold still for a few freakin minutes so I could catch my breath?

As many of you who have read my blog for the last year and a half are aware there have changes underfoot with my job. In typical fashion I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for confirmation in regards to what that job is going to become before making plans with the work I truly want to be doing. Tomorrow morning I go in again for yet another meeting. It seems this just has to be the meeting when I find out for sure if I have a job, will I be working part time or full time, and will it be something I even want to do. No matter the answers I get tomorrow, I know this job is not where I truly want to be. It is not the work I feel calling out to me. It is not the work I wake up excited to learn about and practice. It is not the work that makes me feel that I am using all the gifts I have been given. That work has been sitting on the shelf, waiting in limbo to find out, “When will it be the right time to begin?”

OnparticularlyroughdayswhenImsureIcantpossiblyendure_zps531660f8

As I have prepared myself mentally for all of the presumed possibilities of what may come tomorrow, a small voice has begun to creep closer and closer. I realize it is asking me a question, “Why do you keep waiting?”

I was reading a book by Rich German recently in which he suggests imagining all of the things you are juggling in your life as rubber balls. Out of all those pick 3 to 5 that are the most important to you. He suggests you imagine these as being your crystal balls. The rubber ones you can take your eye off of from time to time if you have to. You may not want to drop them, but they will bounce back if you do.  You must always keep your crystal balls in focus because they will be damaged or destroyed if you allow them to drop. These are the things in your life that are too precious to allow them to be damaged. This last year and a half of waiting has got me wondering if I have chosen wisely my crystal balls.

I am very proud and happy to say that I have taken some steps to move forward in creating my career. I am moving the Life and Friendship classes to the Self Center in Winchester, MA. This location gives me many advantages and feels like a big step forward. I will also be partnering with Wendy Carlson in teaching some upcoming classes. She is starting a similar healing and teaching business and it feels great to have some company. I have added a bunch of Upcoming Events and I am so looking forward to meeting a lot of new people. If you do not live in the Boston area but are interested in learning more please sign up for my monthly newsletter or call/email me to schedule a Free 20 Minute Session. You will get a feel for the work we can do together and if it feels like a good fit for you. 781~367~5751 or heather@lifeandfriendship.com

Change things up

We started a long overdue ban on electronics from 9 am to 5 pm at our house. I grew up in a home that often did not even have a television and when we did its use was closely monitored. I didn’t want my kids to grow up feeling like watching t.v. was an illicit activity. As so often happens I did the opposite with my kids of what was done with me.  I was finding that my kids were so irritable and disrespectful to each other (modelling the behavior in the shows they watch), rarely played outside, ate snacks non-stop often sneaking and hiding food, and were getting  overweight. In other words, things were getting a little out of control.

The results of the electronics ban have been wonderful. My kids are getting along much better, playing together more, outside way more and snacking much less. The most shocking part to me has been how easily my kids took to this new normal. I should have done this ages ago!

I started thinking about how my kids never would have made these changes on their own probably believing their lives would be absolute torture. Which naturally got me wondering, why do we wait for a rock bottom, health crisis, divorce papers, or loss of a job to buckle down and make changes that should have been made ages ago? Why does it have to get so bad that we can’t take it anymore to finally try to make it better? Believe me I know all of the excuses.  The truth is, change doesn’t have to be so hard. It is just learning a new habit. Will you  backslide, cheat, screw up? Probably.

Try this. Try not judging yourself for not doing it right and just notice how it feels when you do it the “old” way. Does it still feel normal? If it feels yucky and like something you don’t want in your life anymore, acknowledge that. Next time you reach for the chips, think about skipping the gym, start yelling at the kids, cutting corners at work, or whatever your “thing” is, try to take an extra second to choose. Start making a new habit that feels good and gets you closer to where you want to be.

If you have just been handed something unexpected, maybe the universe is giving you the opportunity to stop ignoring the change you need to make. I know, easy for me to say, but what if…

Accountability

Accountability can be a real bummer! What a drag to have to do what you said you were going to do, when you said you would do it! What if you aren’t in the mood? What if you don’t feel good, you’re tired, pissed off, or can do it later? How much of what should get done at work or home would actually get done if no one was there to check on us? Think about how hard you probably work to get to that long list of things you have been meaning to do before you host a big party. The reason I bring this up is that I am coming to believe that personal change of any kind is much the same.

I can promise myself that I am going to get in shape, replant the flower bed, keep a gratitude journal, pursue my passion, follow my marketing plan, but if nobody knows…I was reminded of this yesterday when speaking with a friend. I have made my marketing plan for my seminars, (if you have no idea what I am talking about please check out my Brighten Your Light page), and feeling great. She was asking me when the next seminar will be for the first group of graduates. Great, this is in my plan! “Oh, that’s in my marketing plan. I am going to try to have one before the end of school which is June 19th. I know the end of school gets crazy with parties and I am not sure what our topic will be.” Hear me weaseling out already?

When I tell women about my seminars for the first time they are usually on board with the concept, lots of head nodding and smiling. Then I explain that I want to incorporate accountability and sharing your dreams and the party is over. One woman literally looked like she wanted to puke. Seriously people, I know it is really hard, but if you want to change any part of your life, I believe you really have to put it out there. Tell someone you trust to be gentle if that’s what you need. Tell someone you know will tease the hell out of you if that is more motivating. Whatever works for you. Inertia is a powerful force and getting some accountability is a great way to get that ball rolling.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Yesterday I put the finishing touches on my script for the Acting and Improvisation seminar today. The conversation will be about ways to live a  happier life and finding Joy. Sounds pretty good, right?

Below are a few of my favorite tips and quotes I found in the process.

The Boldlife.com listed 12 ways to find Joy. My two favorite were:

#2. Live Your Own Life. Forget what others want and expect of you. The beauty of your life is you choose who you want in it and what you do with it. Find your passion and purpose. Look for mentors. Create adventure. Have fun. Be kind. Stay true to yourself.

and

#3. Enjoy your journey. “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.” –Hafiz of Persia. Life is precious and doesn’t have to be difficult.

The website best-personal-growth.com lists 7 ways to cultivate gratitude. I love #7 on their list:

Forgive yourself and others. By forgiving yourself and others you lay down great burdens and allow yourself to enjoy the present moment.

The website womenspeak.com excerpts a book written by professor Martin Seligman, the author of  Authentic Happiness, Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. They list 11 things that “Happiness High” people do to find joy. These are the two that jumped out at me:

#3. Take time to remember the kid in you. Take time to be fun-loving. Get excited and have fun.

#11. Find your calling. Don’t take up space in the world and give nothing back in return. Share your talents and your skills with the world. Don’t worry, you’ll find many things to share if you just pay attention.

The number one way to be happier and find Joy on all of the lists and articles I found was to be grateful, cultivate gratitude and look for what’s right.

I love the pod casts from Tara Brach who teaches from a Buddhist perspective. She teaches about being focused on one thing and that one thing being all that you see. She says, “If a pickpocket meets a Saint, what does the pickpocket see? A Saint’s pocket.”

Focus on finding what you have in your life to be grateful for. It is easy, free and will probably make you a whole lot happier.

The Nebulous Others

I recently heard an interview with Gina Otto who is the author of  a fabulous book called Cassandra’s Angel. She described the moment she decided to change her life. She was working at a glamorous photo shoot for a diet soda commercial on the beach in Malibu. Suddenly she realized she was a part of the money-making machine fueling the insecurities of girls and women. She immediately quit her job. She started going around to middle schools and talking to girls. I wish I had her exact quote here.  Basically she would tell the kids that they were being tricked by photo shopped images of anorexic models. Gina explains that these images are designed to make the girls  feel inadequate and want to buy diet soda, make up, diet pills, etc. She immediately started a campaign to help girls embrace themselves as they are.

She wrote the phenomenally successful book, Cassandra’s Angel and has recently gone on a national tour  and has written a musical of the book. The story is about a little girl who hears the stories everyone tells her about herself. She hears how she is too this and too that. She also hears the voice inside of herself about who she is, and it doesn’t match what she is being told. One day she is feeling very badly about the whole situation. She goes outside to sit on a rock and think. Along comes her angel who tells her not to believe the stories but to believe in herself. Wherever Gina Otto goes adults, kids, girls, and boys all come to her with tears in their eyes saying, “This is me. I am that person.” The take away message to ask yourself is, “What would you do if you didn’t believe the story?”

This interview hit home for me. How many times have I felt that if I was thinner, funnier, somehow different,  I could be that person I felt I truly was inside. For those of you reading this who don’t know me I am a very tall woman. At 5’10 1/2″ I have spent my life in flats. If I have ever bought shoes that add any height, they have been quickly buried under the bed. Well, I decided that was pretty silly. I thought about Marianne Williams saying I shouldn’t be small to make others feel large. I bought myself a pair of clogs which easily put me over 6′ tall and I wear those suckers all over the place!

Somehow I thought I was invisible. Seriously I felt I could fade into the background and people wouldn’t notice me. Why? Why did I want to be invisible? I don’t have all the answers to that question. I was waiting to be noticed. I was waiting for someone else to tell me I was okay and special and that I should be heard. I felt this so strongly when I had my son. He was not always the easiest child. Basically anywhere we went that involved other children was a disaster. It was only a matter of time until he hit another kid at the playground or  refused to follow directions at gymnastics class. He would become so overstimulated in a group setting that he would become loud, irrational and basically just lose it. We were not fading into the background!

I knew in my gut there was something wrong but I didn’t know what. What I wanted more than anything was to be there for my son. To find an answer for him so he could thrive. I wanted my son to feel  my love for him and know he was safe with me. I know I failed on many occasions.

Inside of my own head I heard the judgement of the “Nebulous Others”. I was not present with my son but was consumed by what I thought others were thinking. I reacted in the way I hoped would make me look best to others. This is not what my son needed from me. As I began to realize this I knew I needed to change. I spoke with little boy about how much I loved him. We strategized ways for him to get more in control of himself. I was able to own my reactions and started to catch myself when  I became  more worried about others opinions than supporting my child. It wasn’t helpful to beat myself up. It’s just how I am. I needed to accept that about myself before I could find a different way to react. I am so proud of my relationship with my son. I know he feels the love I have for him and it is a strong base for him to spring from out into the world.

I recently read a post called stop sabotaging your own success http://whenihavetime.com/2012/02/16/stop-sabotaging-your-own-success-a-manifesto/  . This is basically a collection of quotes speaking about just that. One of my favorites was:

I am so done with letting my own insecurities, self-doubts, and regrets hold me back. –Sarah J Bray

Me too. My thighs are not perfect, my boobs- forget about it, my furniture is stained, my dishes don’t match… and I don’t care! All of that is not enough of a reason for me to hold myself back, anymore.