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Archive for the ‘mindfulness’ Category

The Struggle

The struggle of transition to the Third Act is a familiar one for me, one which has been embedded with fear and loss. Likewise, the journey has opened new horizons to explore and opportunities to embrace. This is the Struggle Phase of the Third Act, creating space for what is to come while releasing things from the past that no longer serve you.

Key to success at this phase of the transition experience is understanding that there can be no new beginnings without endings. Beginnings and endings are two sides of the same coin.

This is the point where you recognize that you are a creature of habit, that fundamentally you like things the way they are and have been. You really don’t want your life to change and yet it has. There are choices to be made – hang on tight and refuse to budge or take a deep breath and dive into the deep water not knowing what you might find there.

Craving for the comfort of desired events and outcomes, we ignore the uncomfortable but exhilarating gifts of living life as a continually unfolding process in which all moments are valuable. Absorbed in our ‘inner movie’, we miss the many minute transformations that enrich and ennoble our lives”
Julia Cameron, Transitions

Julia Cameron in her book of reflections and prayers for transition, suggests that you trust your own resilience and trust in the generosity of life. For me this also goes to the power of intentionality, reminding myself that the transition to the Third Act can be arduous and difficult or it can be fueled by ease and grace. I personally prefer the latter. So yes, you are in the struggle and yes, you can guide your own journey with an intentional choice.

I am transitioning into my Third Act easily and effortlessly,
enjoying the many moments of this journey,
fueled by curiosity and the power of ‘what if?”

 

Shift Happens

I began writing this blog posting over a month ago. Yes, time does fly and ‘shift’ was happening.

Jim and I have been discussing releasing our current home and property, which we call Tigh Shee (house of Peace) and what would be the best timing for this. This is a natural part of our transition to the Third Act as we have stepped away from offering retreats and we have downsized our business. We no longer require this much space and, as we grow older, the property, all 2.5 acres of it, is placing more demands on us physically as our bodies age.

On a recent trip home from Niagara on the Lake, Jim said he thought we should consider putting the house on the market next spring. Silently I said to myself OMG then drew a deep breath. That soon? We have been discussing this move for a while now and yes, sooner or later this release will happen. I found myself fully in the struggle, in a wilderness of grief and anxiety. Overwhelmed, I turned to meditation and reflection to understand what I was experiencing and why.

There are three qualities that define my persona and guide my life: purposefulness, responsibility and loyalty.

As I retreated into my struggle I began to appreciate that so much of my life here at Tigh Shee was connected to my purpose, the work I had been engaged in for the last two decades. Releasing the property feels like releasing a huge part of who I am.

Then comes responsibility – Jim and I built this place together, the gardens and our labyrinth, as a gift to ourselves, Mother Earth and others. How could I give up this responsibility now? Were we, was I, finished with this work?

And finally, loyalty. It is a challenge to release anything, anyone, that I have dedicated my life to. And yet….

I share this because while in theory I understand the struggle and the art of letting go, this past summer I have experienced the depth, width and pain of the experience. I have also come to understand that my purpose is intact and will continue to be expressed, albeit in another form. That my responsibility for our beautiful Tigh Shee has been fulfilled and now it is time for another person or family to assume the stewardship of this property. All of this understanding has been guided through reflection and prayer.

 

Space Management

So now it is your turn. The struggle is about managing the space you have in your life and questioning what you want to move forward with.

Without realizing it, you, like me, have accrued a backpack of responsibilities, beliefs, attitudes, and belongings that may or may not continue to serve you. It is time to empty the backpack, to examine fully what the contents are, to discern what continues to serve you as you move forward and to divest yourself of the rest.

I can assure you, this is not as easy as it sounds. Give it all the time, reflection, meditation, prayer, and conversations with yourself (and a higher power if necessary) to examine the contents and begin the release process.

Remember that when you release, you create space. You experience endings and you invite new beginnings.

In the moment, the decisions you make will challenge you, perhaps make you sad. Grief is a natural part of the process. All of this simply lightens the load and I can promise you that levity, optimism, and curiosity live on the other side.

 

Until Next Time,

Betty

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Waking Up

 

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.
Mark Twain

 

A former colleague of my husband Jim extolled the merits of golfing and having the ability to golf everyday once he retired. He purchased a condo townhouse in a suburb of Victoria, B.C. that was affixed to a golf course. He began his retirement joyfully believing that golf was the activity that would fill and fuel his days. Three months later he contacted Jim and asked if there was any way he could return to work or perhaps work part-time. Of course, at the point the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed on his retirement package and pension, so there was no turning back.

What Donald had forgotten was that a hobby or an interest is great as a part-time activity. It is enjoyable and it is fun, and so many other things. It is not however something that will engage you full-time unless you have set your sights on becoming a master golfer in your age category. An interest/hobby quickly becomes boring. It has no inherent meaning.

A former coaching client of mine, Joan, contacted me because she felt she was on the verge of burning out. She had retired from a busy corporate position with CN three years prior. Upon retiring, she embarked on a mission to volunteer for everything and anything as this is what she felt she ‘should’ do. She filled her time. Unfortunately, before jumping into the ‘volunteer fire’, she did not take any time to discern what was important, engaging or truly of interest to her. Once having volunteered with various organizations however, the expectation was that she would be available for certain hours and uphold her volunteer commitment.

As I met with Joan it was clear that she was tired, frustrated and bored. Yes, she was ‘engaged’ in busyness, and she was not passionate about anything.

Both these examples demonstrate that busyness does not equal meaning. In approaching the Third Act, it is wise to take time before jumping into activities simply because they pass the time. The Third Act is a significant time in life, affording you the opportunity to shift mindfully from being busy to simply being.

I recognize this is a significant shift. The world of work which you are transitioning from had scheduled your time and filled your days for years. Now you look forward and you see vacant space. You fear being bored, disengaged, useless and more. Trust me – I have visited all of those feelings. Despite this, time is your friend not your enemy. It is an opportunity to explore, to ponder, to search for what’s next, understanding that just because you are no longer in the working world, meaning and purpose continue to retain their importance.

The Wake-Up Call
It is healthy and perhaps even necessary to pause before leaping into activities, just as Donald and Joan learned. It is a time to ‘unlearn’ the habits associated with whatever occupation you were engaged with, and time to learn more about ‘being” vs doing. Given time and space for this, there comes a time when you begin to wonder, “is that all there is?”

It occurs to you that there has to be more to life. As Joseph Campbell explains in The Heroes Journey, it is more than simply the meaning of life, it is the experience of being alive. What does being alive look like? You have the opportunity of defining this for yourself,

Most of us want to have a sense of being involved in something meaningful. Identifying what that might be is not always obvious. It requires some digging, some discovery regarding the question, “what is my reason for being here/my purpose?”

This might be a ground-breaking opportunity for you as it may be new territory. Not everyone explores meaning and purpose early in life. If this is the first time in your life that you have ever stopped to consider your purpose or your passion, relish the opportunity and the wisdom in doing so. Chances are you have a lot of years before you in which to pursue the opportunities that interest you.

And remember, so many of you went to work, and then you worked and worked, nose to the grindstone, in a routine that served you well and supported you and your families. Then one day you have a  J.O.B. Graduation (Justifiable Occupation or Business). The structure and routine created by your work has vanished.

It is only then that you find yourself asking these questions of yourself, to identify what is next for you. The opportunity is to match this with purpose, meaning and passion.

What Do YOU Want?
As you consider the question, what’s next, take time to consider what it is you want. As I have learned this is rarely clear for people. There is usually great accuracy in reciting what you don’t want but not the opposite.

Clarity is important. Now is the time to switch the ‘do not wants’ into new language. ‘Do not wants’ become reality. I don’t want to be bored and you are bored. I don’t want to be disengaged and you are.

A focus on what you don’t want only reinforces this energy and attracts more of the same.

Step One – be clear about what you want. Listen to your language. Convert any ‘do nots’ into a language that will serve you.

Start now – complete this sentence: I want…..

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Every once in a while I reach into my bookcase and pull out an old friend – a book read months or years ago which is not forgotten yet not at the fore front of memory. This morning I reached for John O’Donohue’s books, specifically Bless the Space Between Us. I think it is best to describe O’Donohue as a ‘Celtic Mystic’. whatever category I place him in, his words speak to me. This morning it was a blessing for retirement:

This is where your life has arrived,
After all the years of effort and toil;
Look back with graciousness and thanks
On all your great and quiet achievements.

You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let you heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons.

Have the courage for a new approach to time:
Allow it to slow until you find freedom
To draw alongside the mystery you hold
And befriend your own beauty of soul.

Now is the time to enjoy your heart’s desire,
To live the dreams you’ve waited for,
To awaken the depths beyond your work
And enter into your infinite source.

There are so many lines in this poem/blessing that sing to me.

What is left undone – do I even know? what do I need/want to say that has been unsaid; what is it I want to express in art or writing that has not yet been painted or written?; what is it I want to see, explore or experience which has not yet been seen? This is the opportunity of the Third Act. Time to create a ‘bucket list’?

Befriend your own beauty of soul – now this suggested finally releasing the self-critic, a lifelong companion, and seeing the beauty that lives within me: my strengths, my gifts, my wisdom, my experience, all that I still have to offer which has taken a life time to hone. This calls for new conversations with self and my soul, a little bit of neural re-programming.

To awaken the depths beyond your work – awaken! doesn’t this feel a bit like letting the genie out of the lantern. Despite a naturally curious mind I am still a creature of comfort and the known. Habits sustain me. Somehow the notion of ‘beyond my work’ suggests there is so much more to explore which of course fuels my curiosity but also scares me just a little. The great ‘what if’ this leads to a more interesting view of life, or what if there is so much more that I just do not see?

As I transition into this new land, it is these short yet powerful phrases that put me on notice and perhaps remind me that it is not so much what I am doing at the moment but more about who I am being. Being allows me to receive, reflect and ponder before jumping into any new beginnings, to continue to play in the Neutral Zone of life, feed both my curiosity and creativity and DREAM.

I would love to hear your thoughts on O’Donohue’s words.

Until next time,

Betty

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crossing-over

Crossing Over

Between two worlds you
linger, waiting for freedom.
Choice is everything.

I feel compelled to write about the conversations and work we did with my mother-in-law Dorothy during her recent illness, choices that were designed to offer her freedom.

In a world that has sometimes become sterile, devoid of the important intimate conversations of living and dying, it is easy to let things slide. We believe we cannot speak of what’s next or talk opening about death. It has however, been my learning that these are not only important conversations, they are life-giving.

Certainly, as a family none of us wanted to see Dorothy leave us; she is loved and certainly a formidable matriarch and presence in our lives. Yet as she was fading, we also spoke openly about the possibility of her leaving and that all we wanted was to support her choice, to allow her the freedom to leave or stay.

During her sickest days, each of us spoke gently with her, reassuring her that we would support whatever decision she made. I personally spent time with her massaging her back and legs, offering comfort, and holding the intention for ‘highest good’. I understood that highest good for her may not seem so for me.

The other choice we offered mom was ‘energy work’, something called IET or Integrated Energy Therapy. This technique is designed to communicate at the spiritual level and when you are as ill as Dorothy was, the spiritual gate is wide open. Our therapist, Genevieve, is gifted, gentle, mindful and truly tuned in. Working with this technique offered mom the additional energy she required to pursue freedom in whatever form she chose.

I believe that the combination of the family support we offered Dorothy, the honesty and the energy work, gave her a conduit in which to fully understand the choices available to her. She was embraced by love and respect. There was no drama, just a family united. And I believe this has made the difference in her recovery as she is alive again, in a way she was not even before she became sick.

Living is dying and dying is living. It serves no one to steer away from this reality and in fact allows us to be more whole as human beings. Dorothy chose life, for now, and in this choice I am observing a new zest for life.

My lesson in all of this is that we simply need to offer one another the freedom of choice, to know that living or dying is a personal choice that we get to make for ourselves. Giving permission to others to make this choice , to unselfishly let them go if we must, is the greatest gift we can offer another.

FREEDOM!

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Five months have passed since my last blog. I won’t record all the usual platitudes related to time passing too quickly; time has simply passed. the time needed to wonder and wander, to reflect and explore, to experience sadness and grief as well as curiosity and exhilaration. This is the great duality of any journey forward, of the inevitable changes that life offers us.

In my ‘weekly courage’ message this morning, was the following: Spirit has little regard for human comfort. The spiritual path is one of relentless change and letting go until you are stripped of all that is no longer working for you.

That pretty much sums it up. My experience of the last few months has been one of re-evaluating what occupies me. To the notion of what I refer to as ‘Space Management’, I am exploring what takes up space in my life and asking is it important, does it make a difference to me and others, is it something I want to continue to do and more. It is a challenge for as I examine each question I have begun to realize that many of my ‘doings’ stem from a sense of obligation, of duty, which I have to say surprises me. I had thought that my choices were predicated on what is truly important and engaging. Not always so!

What now, I ask. Back to the origins of this blog: learning to release what no longer serves me, relaxing in the space I am creating, allowing highest good opportunities to show themselves to me. OMG this sounds so easy and OMG it is not. I find myself in judgment, and occasionally worry. What if my new life is not as engaging as the life I am leaving behind? Yes this is silliness I know and yet, I am sure you will agree if you are on the journey with me, that it is real.

Here is the other side. I have released several aspects of business and with each release I do feel lighter. I am enjoying the freedom afforded me as the result of fewer clients and projects on the books. I enjoyed the opportunities the lengthy fall provided and hours spent in the garden.I recently qualified in a new psychometric evaluation called Lumina Emotion which I look forward to offering others. I have more time to paint and write, if I chose.

Here is my observation – it is easy to get bogged down in what you are giving up and lose sight of what is opening up. It is challenging to trust your intentions and let them unfold when the time is right. It is equally challenging to be patient with the process and forgiving of yourself when you have an emotional reaction to the changes in your life. All this to say, this is the journey, this is the experience of being stripped down and letting go.

So to all of you out there who are, like me, walking in your Third Act, I have simply this advice to offer you today. Love yourself and love the journey. Embrace what you feel, cry if you must. Allow yourself the opportunity of stripping away the stuff that fills your space but no longer fuels your spirit. It is your time; it is my time. We do get to choose and I for one plan to choose well. And I get it, now may not be the time for choosing as I am still releasing. The space needs some more de-cluttering and organization before I begin redecorating.

infusing-the-grid

Infusing the GRID,
Peace, love, courage, grace streaming
into the seams of  life.

This painting, Infusing the GRID with its companion Haiku,  is an apt metaphor for the experience of this journey. As you infuse your grid, chose that which fuels your spirit and helps you create the Third Act which is distinctly yours.

Until next time…..

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During the Positive Psychology conference, one of my favorite workshops was with a colleague of mine Marla Warner who led us through a number of mindfulness activates. She actually saved my day as this was the final workshop of the afternoon and I was feeling the fatigue of a full conference schedule. Her presentation and the activities were a clear reminder of how restorative mindfulness is.

Just to clarify, many people assume that mindfulness is meditation. In fact, meditation is a form of mindfulness, and mindfulness is so much more. As defined by Jon Kabat Zin, mindfulness means ‘paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally’.

In recent weeks, with a full schedule and the task of working with Jim’s family to mover his parents to a Senior Citizen’s residence, I have engaged mindfulness in many ways. First, I have a daily routine which includes a number of exercises and stretches. At the end of the routine I have a mantra is use as follows: I am the Light of my Soul, I am bountiful, I am beautiful, I am bliss, I AM, I AM. This is followed by an Ohm and the setting of my intentions for the day.

Regardless of your choices, a daily practice such as this immediately brings you to a mindful state. Accompanied by breathing, this type of practice brings you to a place of calmness and clarity.

The second aspect which has kept me grounded throughout a time of significant transition, are the intentions set for new beginnings, in this case on behalf of our family. Living intentionally, stating clearly what you want to attract to your life, is a mindful act. Bringing yourself back to these intentions repeatedly, keeps you grounded, centered and focused. These are just a couple of examples of integrating mindful practices in your day.

Of course mindfulness is linked to positivity. As a practice mindfulness can help you literally sever the link between negative thoughts and emotions. The practice forces you to stop and to notice what is rummaging around in your head and what feelings are associated with these thought patterns. Without noticing, without being mindful, you cannot begin re-programing your thoughts.

So what can one be mindful of on a daily basis? Breath, contact, movement (such as walking a labyrinth), bodily sensations, feelings and emotions, thoughts attitudes and beliefs. You begin to realize that there is so much you take for granted on a daily basis without examining what unconsciously propels you forward in life.

Mindfulness is a skill – it takes practice. Over time it changes the way your brain works – you can use it to break down the circuits that promote negativity and build the circuits linked to positivity, taking advantage of “neuroplasticity”, the fact that your brain can be re-programmed.
Research regarding mindfulness includes the following benefits:

decreased blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension, reduced cholesterol, improved immunity, reduced pain and anxiety, improved sleep, and decreased inflammation.

Add to this, mindfulness leads to more optimism and decreased depression, greater self-awareness, the opportunity to change negative thought patterns, improved coping abilities, greater efficiency and productivity, improved learning capabilities and memory, and developing a sense of inner calm.

As you review this list, can you see the opportunities for all of us in our Third Act. The great gift of this time in our life is that you get to choose how you live. Many of you have the gift of more time. An important and useful part of this time is the investment in a few mindful practices which can serve to help you stay grounded, to intentionally explore the options for this time in your life and invest in your health.

Some Additional Mindful Practices: Meditation; Prayer, Yoga, Creative endeavors, Gratitude Practices, Mindful Eating (putting the fork down between bites and savoring the flavors), acknowledgement of others and what they bring into your life, washing dishes, gardening and so much more.

Consider this my invitation to you to put aside time every day for yourself for some type of mindful practice.

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