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Archive for the ‘mindfulness’ Category

For some reason I awoke this morning in a searching frame of mind. What kept emerging through this search was GRACE. I have always considered GRACE as one of the four pillars of my work and life. I define it as ‘ Being is a state of Grace with the world and within your relationships; allowing yourself to surrender and be in the flow.’

As I continued my rumination my mind tracked back, remembering a chapter in the ME FIRST Playbook in regard to the GRACE Diet. Themes repeat themselves in my life and I saw this as a SIGN to resurrect and review some of the tools and exercises I have created in the past. Memory is an interesting thing for me as I often lose sight of what I have written and taught over the years, not in a way that invalidates it, simply that my mind marches on.

Given the body of work I have accumulated, moving on at this point may mean returning to what I have known and practiced and resurrect the principles, ideas and teaching which have been the backbone of my work. Since I have been called back to GRACE, I have decided to use this as my starting point.

The GRACE Diet was created to address the junk food diet many of us feed ourselves on a daily basis. I am not referring to the food you put into your body in the context of what you consume, rather the diet you are feeding your spirit. Are your words to self spiritually uplifting or depleting? And if you have developed the art of putting yourself down, how can you begin re-programming that inner conversation. This is where the GRACE diet comes in, an acronym standing for Gratitude, Respect, Acknowledgment, Courage and Enthusiasm.

Gratitude: gratitude practices are bountiful these days, whether you keep a gratitude journal, have a daily practice of sharing gratitude with friends, or at the end of day as a before bed ritual. It is easy to assume that such a simple practice is fluffy or unsubstantial yet research has shown that those who practice gratitude regularly are more positive in their view of themselves and of life. Knowing this, why not give it a try. I can personally testify that I have had a daily gratitude practice for over twenty years and it is an activity that fuels my positivity every day.

Here is your opportunity– try the 21 day gratitude challenge, recording 3-5 gratitudes every day for 21 days in a gratitude journal and see what happens. Gratitude helps you notice what is right with your life.

Respect: I am referring to self-respect. In fact you can not elicit respect from others if you do not respect yourself. This is a simple truth. Time to check your inner dialogue and listen to the stories you are weaving about yourself. Remember that a large portion of your story was never yours; it was given to you by others – a parent, a teacher, a friend, some external source. What they saw or believed is not yours to own. Respect implies that you begin to see the truth of who you are and re-direct the inner-critic to becoming your inner-coach. Most importantly begin simply with I am enough.

Your opportunity: listen in to your inner dialogue, record the five most common things you tell yourself and, if they are not uplifting, re-write them. Now say them to yourself repeatedly. You are now in the process of ‘neural re-programming’, creating a new inner pathway.

Acknowledgment: acknowledgment marries gratitude and respect, in fact I often refer to self-acknowledgment as the highest form of gratitude. This takes respect a step deeper but encouraging you to see the gifts and strengths you possess, the impact you have in the world, the important roles you play in the lives of others. This is no small thing even though you may not feel important. I refer to it as the highest form of gratitude as self- acknowledgment means thanking your higher power for the gifts you possess, whether this refers to your abilities within your career, as a parent of family member, for your creativity or expertise. It goes like this, ‘I acknowledge my love for writing and relaying messages of hope and selfness to others.’

Your opportunity: as part of the 21 day gratitude journal, add on 2-3 self-acknowledgment statements. You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself. BTW a great source for self-acknowledgment can be harvested from the feedback you receive from others.

Courage: courage is the backbone of GRACE. The ME FIRST journey is not for the faint of heart, it is for the brave. It is easy to go through life accepting everything, never addressing your inner dialogue and riding the wave of self-deprecation. It may not be healthy yet many people will not addressing it on. Trust me; it takes courage to face yourself, go inward, re-shape the inner landscape, face the self-critic and tell him/her they are out of date, and design a new conversation. And those who choose not to join you on the journey will share their skepticism and endeavor to pull you back. Courage, listening to your heart – it desperately wants to heal, which wants to guide you forward into a more positive and beneficial relationship with yourself.

Your opportunity: create a daily practice where you pause, reflect and ask your heart, not your head, what it wants. Simply listen in.

Enthusiasm: begin to identify moments of joy in your life; pay attention to what lifts you up; limit your access to negative news (lord knows there is plenty of that these days), and play with people who generally have an optimistic attitude. In other words, feed your enthusiasm for life. Allow yourself to dream and consider the future. Share those dreams with others and encourage them to share theirs. Create a vision board that lights you up and which, when you look at it, inspires you.

Your opportunity: back to the 21 day gratitude journal, add 1-2 things which are fueling your joy and enthusiasm each day. One of mine: I am enthusiastic about the new opportunities opening to me at this time in my life. (BTW I have no idea what they are, I simply trust they exist!).

Let me close with a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh: “ If you are capable of living deeply one moment of your life, you can learn to,live the same way in all other moments of your life.”

The GRACE diet is a recipe for emotional and spiritual health that can sustain you and lead you to a more meaningful life.

Blessings and Until Next Time,

 

Betty

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Living in the Mystery

On December 30th, the brink of the arrival of a new year and a new decade, I read the following quote by Brian Andreas, author and cartoonist:

“I don’t know how long I can do this,” he said. “

I think the Universe has different plans for me and
we sat there in silence and I thought to myself
this is the thing we all come to and this is the thing we all fight
and If I am lucky enough to lose (the fight),
our lives become beautiful with mystery again
and I sat silent because that is not something that can be said.”

Beautiful with mystery.

These words resonated with me. And as for the entire quote, I do believe the Universe has plans for me which I am not yet aware of, and yes, I have in my own way need fighting the fight for, like anyone else, change and uncertainty can be a bit scary. The quote goes to the heart of everything I have been exploring over the last couple of years from thriving in the third act to sitting on the threshold.

I do love when words wake me up. As I began to contemplate what living a life beautiful with mystery looks like, I felt that light within me being re-ignited. Mystery suggests curiosity, wonder, imagination and more. And yes, it is undefined, has no boundaries or framework. It suggests allowing life to unfold, engaging patience and trust, embracing new ideas and notions.

OMG, that is scary. That means being in flow. That means no New Years Resolutions, lofty goals, and all the should and must do’s. It means living in the moment, being intentional and clear with your wants and desires, understanding what brings you joy and lights you up, paying attention to the roadSIGNS and when opportunities present themselves, taking action.

Yes, I do live my life this way and yes, I have done so for a long time. And I am not an expert, I remain a student. I want a life filled with mystery.


Entitled Inner Space, this feels like Living in the Mystery!

Staying Upbeat

Sometimes when I am writing about life and living, I wonder if I am being naïve. I am well aware that we in Canada and other civilized nations have the great privilege of working on ourselves and determining the choices by which we want to live. Meanwhile, around the world, millions of people struggle to simply put one foot in front of the other every day. You can feel guilty or you can express gratitude and do your personal work, understanding that your work matters to the world. This is an important reminder.

Likewise, the news. As I write this blog, 2020 began with catastrophic wildfires in Australia, a pending war in Iran because of the stupidity and will of one man…I could continue. As an empath, the situation in Australia had led me to feel great sadness at the loss of millions of animals and maybe the termination of certain species. These events challenge my optimistic spirit even as I endeavor to embrace the mystery.

Two days ago I listened to an interview with Margaret Wheatley, a well know leadership guru and community builder. She spoke to the despair she feels with the state of today’s world. Despair, a word not generally in my vocabulary and yet, exactly what I have been experiencing. As Meg continued, she described her new relationship with despair. Although she felt despair was something she always avoided, she now believes that it is perfect experience it, be in it, move through it. Avoiding it only buries the feelings.

Considering this, I realize that staying upbeat means acknowledging the feelings you have, experiencing then to the extent they need to be experienced, crying if you need to or finding another way to release. Feeling emotional pain, moving through it, and then returning to the mystery is a key step of remaining resilient in a challenging world.

Wheatley went on to share her current work (BTW she is now 76), a program for developing ‘Warriors for the Human Spirit’. To quote her,

We need leaders who recognize the harm being done
to people and planet through the dominant practices that
control, ignore, abuse, and oppress the human spirit.
We need leaders who put service over self,
stand steadfast in crises and failures, and
who display unshakable faith that
people can be generous, creative, and kind.

Margaret Wheatley

I may need to investigate this further, being a warrior for the Human Spirit. It feels like the path I have been on or could be– a roadSIGN?

 

Unraveling

In a previous blog I wrote about sitting on the threshold, which is equivalent to living in the mystery. I also shared my thoughts on responsibility and how taking, being and living responsibility has been a hallmark for this life’s journey. This was my work of 2019, or so I thought. After noticing the old habits of assuming responsibility for others and for who knows what else, I now realize that responsibility is an enormous, thick knitted sweater I have been wearing since my earliest memory. I am now unraveling it, stitch by stitch, row by row. I am making progress and every now and then I run into a knot which takes effort to undo so that I can continue unraveling. Evidently this work continues in 2020.

 

I have shared my insights regarding responsibility with a number of folks now and have been met with tears, AHA’s, OMG’s, and more. It seems I am not alone. And so, in approaching a new year, a new decade, an upcoming transition, I encourage you to practice, embrace, be open to the following:

 

  • Begin living in the mystery. Ask yourself what you want at this time in your life, what brings you joy, what lights you up? And play there for a while.
  • Be intentional, pay attention for the roadSIGNS, and when opportunities appear, explore them.
  • If you are sad, if you feel despair, allow it, understand it, move though it. Always remember that for all the bad/detrimental events occurring in the world, there of hundreds of uplifting events occurring. Direct your attention to these as well and look at your life through the eyes of gratitude.
  • Assess what you are assuming responsibility for. Before jumping in to rescue anyone or takeover a situation, ask yourself, “Is this my responsibility? Is this mine to own? If I take responsibility am I helping or hindering others in their learning and living?

 

Final Thoughts:

Last evening I watched An Astronaut’s Guide to Optimism 2020, with Chris Hadfield. I encourage you to take a look, as it creates perspective and balance in what is happening in our world.

 

Until next time…..

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Following my last blog regarding ‘curiosity and mindset’, I had the opportunity to facilitate  ‘Vision Book’ Workshop for a few friends. I admit, I am a bit of a Vision Board junkie and I enjoy the creativity and intuition that underlines this activity. It is also an apt way to explore, reflect and yes, cultivate one’s curiosity.

I also enjoy reviewing the boards months later and recognizing those aspects of the vision that have manifested. That said, vision boards get discarded, eventually. I gave at least ten to the fire pit last summer as we were de-cluttering the office.

I began to wonder what it would be like to create a Vision Book – would it be any less amazing? Would it be easier or more challenging to organize? What would be different? It did occur to me that it would be much easier to keep, and to follow my journey as it evolved. I had in fact played with this idea several years ago, and still had the book – only a few pages used. And so, I present to you the experiment.

Page One

Questions! Nothing cultivates curiosity like questions and more questions. You don’t need to find the answers, at least immediately. As Rilke wrote: “Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. ” I love this quote as well as the idea that we will grow into the answer, which as Rilke suggested, at a time when we are ready.

Questions are like intentions. While you may not have the answer at the moment and you are opening up the space for the answer to arrive. Paying attention to what the responses might be, and when an answer does appear, having the curiosity and the will to explore, are the next vital steps. That said, “what defines me?” seems like the eternal question, one that changes with the seasons, which shifts with life experience, learning and experience, and one to travel with everyday. Hence, this is Page One!

Finally on this page comes “I am that unexplainable impulse!” Yeah, I hope so! not that I want to surprise you as much as I want to surprise myself, with spontaneous, perhaps even erratic impulsive choices. That could be FUN!

Page Two

This is my ‘Mindfulness’ page, reminding me of the importance of stillness, quieting my mind, being in the moment. I know only well enough, that there is no space for answers in an overly busy life. An even in semi-retirement I can find lots of ways to be busy. Busy however, does not mean engaged or inspired; it is simply doing.

I love the pose, although my knees no longer bend that way, but it is beautiful and evokes breath, peace, and serenity. With that is the statement ‘the only thing standing between me and fun is….awakening.” This over and amazing photo of storm and light; and isn’t this a great representation of what awakening is like. You can read the other words captured on the page. Two that strike me now in review are: ‘uncork extraordinary’ and ‘add whimsy to your morning’. Seeing these messages I can see an underlying trend –> Lighten Up!

Page Three

Let your passion define your journey. Interestingly I read this morning that happiness is rooted in pleasure (passion) and purpose. This is a fitting definition for me as I understand the importance of purpose, passion and pleasure in defining our lives. This is the root of my exploration at the moment. Capturing what is important to me at this phase of life, and how s my purpose/passion has grown, changed , evolved. An important question to hold and fed by wake-up calls, wisdom, stepping up and out and embracing the plot twists.

Page Four

Who is my tribe? What and who inspires me? What am I willing to stand-up for? What is my contribution to building a better world? What do I rejoice in?

People in circle, dancing and celebrating. This picture reminds me of the power of the circle and how I enjoy facilitating and helping others find their answers to the same questions I am asking myself. And yes, this is a response to my purpose and passion.

Final Word

These are the first four pages of my vision book. I may share the others; there are ten in total. More importantly, I hope this inspires you to give yourself the gift of an afternoon and with a few good magazines (O Magazine is the best), a pair of scissors, a glue stick and a blank book or canvas, that you take the time to explore.

Begin by setting a simple intention such as, “I am open to new possibilities for expressing myself, living my life, engaging in my Third Act, …..”

Choose a few magazines and begin going through them. Allow yourself to respond to images and words, tearing out whatever appeals to you. After thirty minutes or so, stop yourself; this may be a challenge!

Review the images and cut or tear them down to size. you may begin to see themes emerge. Lay all the words and images out on a large surface and see what emerges as you compile them. The begin to paste. Let your intuition guide you. There are no rules! AND, have FUN!

Once completed take time to review, then step away. In the following days, take another look. What do you see? What shows up that you did not see before? If you are really brave, share with a friend and allow them to share what they see or to ask you questions? This adds another layer.

Until next time…..

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As 2019 approaches, more quickly than I would like to admit, I find myself reflecting over the weeks and months of 2018 and sinking into the many lessons that have popped into my life during this time. As I have not written my blog now for several months, I thought I might take the time to share what I have been thinking about and consider what is important in forging forward.

Learning to Walk Again
I am now officially bionic, or at least in my view. On January 5th and July 11th of this past year, I received two new knees. Even as I write this, doesn’t it sound and seem just a little weird; the idea that my used and very arthritic knees could be replaced by Titanium and Teflon. Cool!

And as I write this and consider that I met my Orthopedic surgeon just over a year ago, I am feeling blessed by the presence of a small miracle. I can walk again, easily and effortlessly. I can no longer kneel or do squats (Darn!) and so what!

Yes, I am being a bit glib as I hesitate to mention how challenging the journey has been. I have had to both literally and figuratively learn to walk again. Literally, because it had been at least four years since I had been able to walk with comfort. This was a huge blow to me as I am a ‘distance walker’ priding myself in walking 6 km or more 3-4 times per week. Walking was where I found solace, quiet and answers, my meditation. All of this had come to a grinding halt. I had had to learn other ways and means of deriving the same benefits walking could no longer offer me.

And although walking has returned, I quickly realized that a few years of less than optimal physical activity had left my walking muscles tight, shortened and weak. Indeed, I have had to learn to walk again, heel to toe, engaging hips, knees and torso. You would think that as a former physical therapist this would have been obvious. My thoughts – it’s not obvious until it happens to you.

And then there was the metaphorical learning to walk again. In the last few years I have stepped more fully into my third act. Knee surgeries, and a few other health hiccups this past year, have given me ample time to rest in the ‘neutral zone’ of transition; time to wonder, reflect, explore and probe the possibilities of what’s next. Going slow is not my usual speed. I enjoy action. This has been new territory for me. I continue to learn how to walk in this space.

Love, Loss and Lessons
In August my brother-in-law David left us. He died by his own hands; yes, it is difficult for me to say – suicide. This act is one of those things that you hear about and which happens to other families. And now it arrives on our doorstep.

At the wake, watching a series of slides featuring Dave and the way he lived, looking into his eyes, I asked my brother-in-law Todd where Dave went to. We were both puzzled. This is the hidden story of depression and anxiety and our inability as a society to understand the pain, hopelessness and frazzled brains that leads to this choice. Dave’s descent into all of this was rapid and insidious. Therapy, medications, support – nothing reached him.

The lesson for me, as I hope it is for our family, has been to exercise my understanding, to celebrate who he was in health (an amazing father, husband and citizen), and to exercise non-judgment. I have endeavored to understand that he died of depression, as malignant and aggressive as any cancer I have ever experienced. I am sad; our family is sad. We are a relatively tight knit family and a hole had been punched in the fabric of who we are.

And on the other side, Jim and I have been privileged to be part of Mary’s journey. My sister-in-law has amazed me with her courage, her ability to face this sudden loss and the effect this has on her life, her capacity to support her three children, and most importantly, to move on. She is and has been a role model for all of us.

Cultivating Curiosity
When I grow up, I want to be….. How many times do you hear that from youngsters and the occasional adult. And, do we really want to grow up. Doesn’t it imply that there is an endpoint to reach. And once reached, then what? This has me wondering.

I have decided that growing up is overrated. That end point I mentioned feels too finite, that once I reach it I will have learned all I need to know, that growing up is the death of curiosity. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration AND…..

If I have learned anything over this past year is that curiosity is the life blood of remaining young and vibrant; it may even be a significant antidote to aging. Curiosity is more than just learning although learning is definitely involved. For me it is living with the ‘what if …’ What if I made different choices, what if I go in this direction, turn that corner, jump, leap or run. What if I stopped doing all the things I habitually do and do well, what would show up? What if I created more ‘being’ space, what would I learn or experience? What if I traveled and explored more, what surprises would reveal themselves to me?

You get the drift. I recognize not everyone will agree with me just as I understand that curiosity is like breath to me. And with that understanding, I will continue to cultivate curiosity and to endeavor to understand what is left for me to be and do as I continue my life journey. Care to join me?

Living in the White Space
Take out a clean sheet of paper. Now take a pen or pencil and draw a dot on the paper. You chose how large. Step away, avert your gaze for a moment. Now look at it again. What do you see?

Most people will see the black dot. Do you? What else do you see? Do you see the white space around the dot? Which occupies more of the paper, the black dot or the white space?

Imagine for a moment that the black dot represents all the negativity around you – sickness, loss, negative news, fake news. Yes, these are the things that both capture and hold our attention. And yet, in reality, they are only a single black dot in the whole. Negative events exist in a field of other events, mostly positive and uplifting, small miracles happening around us, generally unwitnessed because the black dot holds our attention.

I want to learn to live in the white space. I fear that the black dots may take over and I will lose my sense of optimism. The white space does not imply ignorance, it simply means learning to be in the small miracles of everyday from waking up, to a new flower or fresh snow, to the abundance of life and to the good and great things happening in the world around us.

I remember listening to an Abraham (Esther Hicks) tape a few years ago on the topic of negative news. She was counselling an audience member with a fatalistic and downward spiraling attitude and reminding him that for every piece of negative news reported, there are thousands of uplifting and positive events occurring and unreported. Fear makes news. Love does not.

And so part of my learning to walk again, despite the changes and challenges contained within 2018, is to remain in the white space, to identify the daily miracles, to cultivate my curiosity and seek out the amazing things that are happening around me.

I would love to hear your thoughts and observations.

Wishing everyone a joyful holiday season and celebration.

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This is a dangerous thing, or at least that what my husband believes. It seems that whenever I tell him “I’ve been thinking” it implicates him as well. This is not always true and as you can imagine, some of my plans cannot be executed solo.

It has been awhile since I have written. Recovery from my knee surgery has occupied the lion’s share of the last few weeks, as well as planning a staycation when are plans to travel to Portugal were circumvented by a medical incident. I shared this in a Facebook posting as follows:

Making Lemonade:

Four weeks ago today I landed in the ER with “atrial fibrillation” (rapid, irregular heartbeat). Unexpected, surprising as this was a first and very scared. As the cause was unknown and is yet to be determined (although I have my suspicions) we were advised to cancel our trip to Portugal scheduled for Feb. 25th. The disappointment was huge, tears were shed. We had both been looking forward to escaping winter and shedding the cabin fever that had accumulated.

After a couple of days of living in this space, we both decided that this lemon needed to be turned into lemonade. I signed up at NAV Fit and began swimming twice per week. Jim played hockey locally. We began walking short distances. We checked out events in Ottawa and Montreal and scheduled plays and other events. We went for a spa day. In other words, we set about enjoying our “staycation”.

Today marks our return date from Portugal, where it has been raining most of the time we were supposed to be there, and I am celebrating what has been an amazing four weeks’ vacation. Attitude is everything; that has been my most enduring lesson. I have lingered in bed a little longer in the mornings, meditating and being grateful for the day, I have read more books, I feel regenerated. And isn’t that the goal of any vacation.

When faced again with lemons, and I am sure there will be opportunities, I plan to feel what needs to be felt, move on and make some lemonade.

Turning around this unexpected situation required some planning, an attitude adjustment and a wee bit of thinking. There is much more to share however; here are a couple highlights.

Forgiveness
My staycation allowed me ample time for reflection and reading. One of the books I chose was Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto. After listening to Mark interviewed on CBC radio, I was completely attracted to the book and to exploring a topic which has long been important to me.

The book is a memoir dedicated to his grandparents Hugh MacLean and Mitsue Sakamoto, both of whom experienced incredible hardship during WW2, Hugh as a prisoner of war in a Japanese Camp and Mitsue as a Japanese Canadian expelled from her BC home to labor in Southern Alberta.

Can you imagine the first time these people met around a kitchen table when their respective children decided to wed? The book describes Mark’s grandparents’ journeys, and how these journeys formed him and led him to understand forgiveness.

I learned long ago that to forgive was to give yourself a gift, for those that you refuse to forgive have no idea that they have wronged you. Not forgiving others causes you pain, not the unforgiven. To forgive is to release oneself from the pain and the burden. I also learned that forgiving never implies agreement or condoning the actions of another. These two learnings have helped me time and time again.

“Forgiveness is moving on. It is a daily act that looks forward. Forgiveness smiles.”
Mark Sakamoto

 

Self-Confidence, Self-Esteem and Self-Worth
I have long-held the opinion that self-esteem and self-confidence are different. I believed that as despite thinking very little of myself for much of my life, this did not stop me from having the confidence to try things.

In her book Wire Your Brain for Confidence, Louise Jewell describes self-esteem as one’s global evaluation of self and one’s self-worth. By contrast, self-confidence is defined as the belief you can do things well or succeed, feeling the capacity to cope with things. You can have one without the other. Finally, she also describes self-efficacy which is essentially the courage to act.

It occurs to me that these days it is self-efficacy that I need the most. Yes, I have spent a life time in action, I have always had goals to be reached, I have always been willing to dive in and see what happens. This seems to have changed recently however, as I step away from the business that has kept me occupied for over 20 years. Frankly, I feel a bit lost. And while I know that the sense of being lost is very much part of the transition process, that neutral zone of discovery, I have to say it doesn’t feel that comfortable.

In looking further into self-efficacy and saving myself from falling into a self-judgmental hole, Jewell goes on to recommend several ways of retaining one’s sense of self-efficacy including setting goals, perseverance (which I also consider to be GRIT), and expecting positive outcomes. Of all of these perseverance rings most true for me, bringing me back to GRIT which is defined as Passion + Perseverance.

What I have been thinking is that it is time for me, perhaps all of us, to define our passion for this phase of our life, that thing that lights us up or which we want to influence in some way and then set about defining how this can happen. All of this requires esteem and belief in oneself, the confidence and courage to try what might be new things. It all feels a bit like starting over.

 

This is some of what I have been thinking about, finding my way through what some days feels like a maze and other days feel like a vast open field. Either way I have a couple of solid intentions for the journey forward:

  • A happy healthy body, resilient and strong
  • Work/projects/activities which both inspire and engage me and which contribute in someway to the betterment of our world.

Sounds simple….Maybe not….Jumping in anyway!

Until next time

Betty

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A friend and fellow coach recently visited her homeland following a few years of living in Canada. Upon returning, she and her husband felt drawn back to the area and are now contemplating this as a possible choice for their retirement. And while this is a few years off, she and I began to reflect on our shared journeys of ‘coming home’.

Jim and I recently decided that post Tigh Shee, our current home, we will live in Cornwall, the city where we both grew up. Now I did not plan on this as I was happy to move away and move on from Cornwall when I left at 19, not anticipating that I would ever chose to return. And here we are…coming home?

Likewise, both of us have been playing with ‘what’s next’? Neither of us are in the mood or have the desire to be pounding the pavement promoting our services. Both of us continue to work, or as we prefer to say ‘play’ as when work is what you love, it does not seem like work. And likewise, we have both been allowing the work to come to us with the intention of attracting what is in our ‘highest good’. So far this approach has been filling our schedule to the extent that we want..

Back to the idea of ‘coming home’, there is this theory that you cannot go home again. I believe that there are two sides to this saying.

First, you cannot go home if going home means returning to the ways things once were and expecting that life will be the same. This is not possible as you have changed, life has changed, others have changed, everything has changed.

On the other hand, there is another side of coming home, the side that encourages you to get back in touch with YOU as you once were, before all the layers of responsibility fell on your shoulders, before you went to work and lost yourself. It is a remembering process and the de-cluttering process we discuss in the Third Act. Back to your roots and what is truly important to you today and for the immediate future; free of the expectations of others, free of the rules you have had to play by to be successful, free to be YOU.

And it is a simpler you – beneath all the layers, the years of clutter, the should’s and more, there is an essential you who knows what is important and what is meaningful. I am not saying it is always easy to see who you once were, I am simply saying that ‘coming home’ is a process, one that requires attention, reflection, and a few probing questions.

Reclaiming yourself, as you once wanted to be and can be now, is the process of coming home and being fully engaged in your Third Act.

Conscious Aging

In an article by Kerry Temple-Wood, I was made aware of a new term: eldering. Okay I sometimes think that we actually try too hard to invent new language for an emerging situation. Eldering does not resonate with me however, the definition does: Conscious Aging.

The article begins with the call to Boom rather than Bust as we age, addressing the ageist society we currently live by cultivating an attitude that honors our value. This means it is our work to create new roadmaps for ourselves, and become new role models for society.

The author goes on to share:
We have the opportunity to open the doorway—to forge the path of aging consciously, successfully, and mindfully. As we pioneer a new aging process, we can honor our ripening by making life-enhancing choices to become both radiant and wise. …

As parents and community members, we try everything in our power to support our young people with healthy self-esteem, confidence, skills, and resilience. Why then, do we sell ourselves short past 50?

Why do we let ourselves be sold to, convinced that aging is negative, to be avoided and fought against?

Why is older, experienced, and hopefully wiser, not better?

If “youth is wasted on the young,” then why are we not taking the lessons and experiences we’ve learned, and putting them to better use for ourselves and our communities as we age?

Temple-Wood closes with a call to action which reminds us to check in with our own mindset in regard to aging. Have we assumed it will be all downhill from here or are we prepared to set our course for aging mindfully, consciously and with intention?

This is where I am setting my sights!

 

Until next time…

Betty

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Compassion seems to be the theme running through my life and the lives of others these days. It could also be that I am noticing all the signs as I prepare for a retreat mid-October entitled ‘The Healing Power of Self-Compassion’.

So what have I been noticing?

First is Ed, a 65 + fellow who was participating in a program called Choices and where I was a guest facilitator. My topic was the importance of goals and intentions. While the class was diverse, participants of different age groups as well as reasons for being there, it was clear that Ed was struggling with his Third Act choices.

Although my interaction with him was as part of the group, what I saw was an amazing fellow who did not believe in himself, his worth or what he had to offer the world. At the end of the morning he expressed his desire to simply find his voice and identify opportunities for feeling some level of confidence in speaking.

What was really holding him back was his self-critic, literally roaring in his ear. As I have learned, this voice generally shouts: “You are not worth it” and/or “Who do you think you are”. And that is very damaging, especially when it isolates you and makes you feel like you are the only person who has this voice.

Next is Eileen who I met just last evening. A former nurse and nurse educator, you can see that this is a woman with great knowledge and a desire to share. Because she is also a survivor of coronary disease, she also has firsthand knowledge of  heart care for women. In other words, she is impressive.

In a conversation with her during a New Beginnings Workshop, she expressed her sense of being under-engaged, feeling a lack of purpose. The critical part of her was telling her that this was the time in her life for her to take care of her and that this was the most important focus. After all she had dedicated her life to caring for others. During our conversation I pointed out to her that this is not an either-or discussion. This is a trap I believe many of us fall into, that to focus on ‘ME FIRST” is a unilateral event however, by my definition ME FIRST is predicated on selfness – taking care of self so as to leverage one’s ability to care for others.

As our conversation continued, I suggested to Eileen that perhaps it was a ‘both-and’ conversation, that she could focus on self-care as well as continuing to offer her gifts to others. In doing so I encouraged her to dip into the past, her experiences and wisdom, harvest the gems and notice her passion, and attract opportunities for engaging these. As the discussion continued, I could see her simply ‘light-up’.

 

We Are Our Own Worst Enemy
For both Ed and Eileen, it was evident their self-critics were having a field day. This is the absence of self-compassion. The stories they were telling themselves, the criticism they were levying upon their shoulders, were undermining their enjoyment of life. They would never have dreamed of criticizing others in this way and this is what happens. You are much harder on yourself than you would ever be on others.

This needs to stop. All of us need to step into a role of being our own best friend and ally, that person who sits in our corner and lifts us up and stops putting us down. Trust me, self-criticism will never lead to happiness, only self-compassion can do that.

 

The Three Steps to Self-Compassion

Based on the research of psychologists Kristen Neff and Brene Brown, there are three essential components in cultivating self-compassion:

  1. Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgment
    Self-kindness is simply easing up, being gentler and kinder in your comments to yourself. You can start by considering what you might say to someone else in a similar circumstance. What words of caring or encouragement would you offer a child, a spouse, a friend or a colleague facing a specific situation. Now offer those words to yourself. You are just as deserving, just as important, just as gifted. There is absolutely no need for you to put yourself down.
    Secondly, when facing a situation where you are tempted to come down hard on yourself, think before you leap. Ask yourself what you really need at that moment. Do you really need more criticism making the situation worse, or do you need some loving kindness. Consider the difference this might make for you in moving forward.
  2. Common Humanity vs Isolation
    As someone who has great mastery in self-criticism, I can tell you that for many years I thought I was the only one who thought this way, who could be genuinely mean to myself. You see, this is something we just don’t talk about. Sometimes I wonder if we should have a party and all come as our respective self-critics!
    When I began to discuss this with other about 20 years ago, I discovered very quickly that I was not alone, that most of us had a ‘Negative Nellie’ sitting on our shoulder who was willing to jump in at any point and reek emotional havoc.
    The second aspect of self-compassion is to recognize that you are not alone, that being imperfect is part of the human experience. We all have an inner-critic – it is best to simply accept him/her, shake hands with that devil and move on. It is helpful to share his/her words and messages with others. You may be surprised at other people’s stories about themselves.
    Also recognize that making mistakes, which is the self-critic’s fuel, is normal. And, not only is it normal, it is important for mistakes are where we learn and grow.
  3. Mindfulness vs Over-Identification
    So how do you start. My experience has been that much of the critical noise in my head is like elevator music. It is playing constantly and I am not mindfully aware of it. The first step in taming the critic is to become aware of what you are actually telling yourself, to pay attention to the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are showing up.
    Then you can exercise compassion and come back to kindness and ask yourself, “what would I rather think or feel? What other behaviors would be better for me?”

In other words, you begin learning to re-program the critic. You make compassionate choices which lift you up, which celebrate who you are, and which acknowledge your gifts.

This may seem like a lot of work, and it is, and it is important work.

A little compassion goes a long way and can help you have the most amazing Third Act journey. It no longer serves you to put yourself down, and it no longer serves anyone else either. It is time for you to live up to all the potential stored inside of you. This will be fueled by every ounce of compassion you can give yourself.

Take a look at this short video as well:

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