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Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

Last week friends of mine and their three children participated in the Hunger Awareness Challenge. Each person in the family received $10 for groceries for the week plus a selection of food products from the local foodbank. The fresh produce from the foodbank included a few potatoes, a small bag of fresh beans, an onion, two squash plus a selection canned goods, 1 quart of milk, a dozen eggs, juice and a few other items. The selection is based on what is available that week. Bare in mind now that this was intended to last a family of five for one week. Also note the three children are late teens, early twenties, not young children.

The community we live in is not a wealthy one. The average family income here is on the low side for communities in Ontario with many families existing on two incomes of minimum wage. We call these folks the working poor (probably a really strong rationale for a national minimum wage). It is these families who turn to the local food bank for assistance.

I followed my friend’s postings through the week on Facebook, both their struggles and creativity with the food choices they had to work with. Denise also shared her thoughts at one point in regard to privilege. I share this as privilege has been on the forefront on many conversations these days in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement and “white privilege”. Denise however, extends privilege beyond the boundaries of that particular conversation.

Here is what she offered:
Privilege has been running through my mind because so much of why we have not found this week as hard as we might is because of it (privilege). It sometimes seems an overused word but I think it’s important to recognize the role it plays. Outlining just some of this below:

  1. We know it’s only a week. You can do anything short term. Knowing something will get easier – that’s privilege
  2. We knew Farm Boy regularly has chicken on sale. And we are able to access any grocery store in the city because we are healthy and can walk, and also have cars or bikes. Not everyone does – that’s privilege
  3. I look at whole chicken and think 3 meals: a) roast it b) make pot pie c) soup (did not do soup in end because no vegetables left). We looked at rolled pork pieces, onions, curry paste and coconut milk (all from food bank) with purchased peppers (cheap this time of year) and made last night’s dinner out of it. We made biscuits for our pot pie because we had flour but ran out of potatoes. Knowing that these ingredients would work together as Andrew randomly saw them in food bank, knowing HOW to cook, and having the TIME to do these things – that’s privilege. Basically our knowledge and our job schedules allow us to make food go further.
  4. Not once did we think about the cost of hydro or water as we cooked. Or try to create nutritious meals on a single burner or in a microwave. That’s privilege too.
  5. We talked about how this time of year we are able to take advantage of farm fresh produce (potatoes, red peppers, tomatoes) at excellent prices if you buy in bulk. But you need storage, freezer capacity, canning ability – that’s privilege.
  6. On Monday I work late so Andrew cooks but he was late this Monday too and no one really thought about it until 6:30 when everyone was hungry. Under normal circumstances we’d have just ordered in on a night like that (privilege) or gone out (privilege) to save time and because we were all tired. Instead we got Erik flipping the burgers we got from Agape but had no buns but were able to swing by to pick some up on way home. It was still within our allotted allowance but we wouldn’t have gone if store too far away or inconvenient. That’s also privilege.
  7. We also talked this week about how we ALWAYS have cheese in. And coffee. And how if we see it on sale we buy it in bulk because we know we will use it. We also picked up this week (not as part of this challenge) our order of organic farm chickens to see us through winter. In order to do this, in order to save money and have a house full of food you have to have the money ahead of time, and we certainly would not do that on $10/person/week. Impossible. That’s privilege.

Privilege is defined as “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group”. Honestly, I have not thought of my life as privileged until recently, my awareness growing through the essays on “white privilege” and most certainly through Denise’s observations.

In discussions with Jim following Denise’s post, we also explored the following:

  1. Both Jim and I came from humble families. Neither of our families had a great deal of money and we both had mothers who saw the value in education, who encouraged us, and set expectations for us. That was privilege, recognizing that many children do not have that.
  2. Jim and I had access to decent schools through our childhood and adolescence which prepared us to go on to higher education. That was privilege.
  3. Jim and I had access to financial aid and scholarships through sports for Jim, academics for me. That was privilege.
  4. Our post secondary studies led us into careers that supported us throughout our adult years. Given the rarity of this currently, that was privilege.
  5. Yes, we both worked diligently in our respective professions. Yes, we lived a financially responsible life and have earned our retirement. And in all of this we have travelled, owned several properties, grown and learned. And this is privilege.

I could go on and I think I have made my point. So much of what we have taken for granted over our lifetimes is simply not available to others either because of lack of resources, family support, or social networks. I am not downplaying the role I played in my own success, I am simply acknowledging that I had the will, the social support and the education, the circumstances for my life to flourish. And yes, I saw this and engaged, made choices along the way to better myself. I also recognize that I have been blessed in many ways.

I write this to encourage all of to take a step back and to recognize privilege in our own lives. Why? Honestly this reflection and understanding is making me far more compassionate and less judgmental regarding how others live and the choices they make. we never know the back story. AND, I am also basking in gratitude for the life I have experienced.

Until next time….

Thanks to Denise Nielsen for her postings.

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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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The pressure is on, the Christmas rush has begun. Black Friday and now, Cyber Monday are behind you yet you still have a thousand things to do. There is baking and decorating and partying and…..OMG I am out of breath. The list of to do’s stretches for three pages and every other minute you are adding another item to the list. And you just noticed that as long as this list is YOU ARE NOT ON IT!

STOP! Come up for air. I am giving you permission to make this season easier on you. By the way, this is not only a suggestion, I think you will find that it is a must do. Are you ready?

The 1% Rule

1 percent rule

Here is my recommendation for you for this upcoming season – dedicate 1% of everyday to YOU. I will save you the trouble of calculating it: 1% of 24 hours equals 14.4 minutes. Oh go crazy, make it 15 minutes each day.

Here is how it works. This time slot of 15 minutes must be used for you and only you. It is a time for BEING not doing. That means it is not a time dedicated to lengthening the ’to do’ list, or shopping, or chatting with a friend. It is meant to renew you and re-energize you which means it is a 15 minute pause for no one but you. No friends are invited to share it unless you are being quiet together.

I hear your panic, how could you possibly fill 15 minutes if you are not allowed to DO anything! What a concept. Ready for some suggestions:

  1. A 15 minute meditation
  2. A massage
  3. A warm bath to candlelight, eyes closed, soft music playing
  4. Dancing by yourself around the living room
  5. A nap
  6. A 15 minute walk in nature
  7. A break where you simply allow yourself to breathe and escape
  8. A yoga class

 

My final suggestion I refer to as Book Ends. This one I have to explain as it is a strategy I teach as part of our ME FIRST Program. First, split the time into two chunks of 7-8 minutes each.

Book ends

Dedicate the first chunk to early morning. Before you jump out of bed in the morning, consider your day. Breathe into it. Before you review your ‘to do’ list for the day, check in with who you plan to BE that day. Example, “I am calm and energized.” Next set your intentions for the day. Example: My day will unfold easily and effortlessly. Everything on my ‘to do list’ will occur naturally.” This approach allows YOU to be clear on what you are attracting that day as well as  influence the energy around you.

The second chunk of 7-8 minutes is for your evening. As you lay your head to rest, and before you go to sleep, take a moment to review your day and to express gratitude for how the day unfolded. Remember the intention you set in the morning and notice how this influenced the activities and interactions of your day. Should you fall asleep while doing this, consider this – you will fall asleep in gratitude.

The Book Ends are designed to lift your spirits. By being intentional in the morning, you have more influence regarding how things unfold in your life and by being grateful in the evening, you hold yourself in a positive energy field. Overtime this simple practice will keep you spiritually uplifted and feeling less exhausted by the pace of your life. And yes, it is a strategy for any season, not just this one.

What will this do for YOU?

In times when expectations of self and others are high, the thing that suffers the most is making time for self. I recognize that placing yourself on your priority list at this time of year seems like an impossible task. Or is it? Can anyone not claim 15 minutes each day for oneself? In my view 15 minutes is a chewable chunk that anyone can bite off and dedicate daily to oneself.

The benefits are simple, a strategy for keeping yourself healthy and resilient during one of the busiest and most demanding seasons. Your health allows you to then be fully of service to others, just as you choose to be, and to land in the holidays with energy and an ability to actually enjoy the festivities. Unless I am wrong, many of those whom I see preparing for the season become so engrossed in getting ready that they are totally pooped when Xmas arrives. This year make a choice to change this.

Final Thoughts

Here is my final challenge. For the next 21-days, dedicate 15 minutes each day for you. Use any of the techniques listed above. It takes 21 days to establish a new habit and this is one habit I believe you will want to continue.

 

Betty Healey

 

Betty Healey is an award-winning author, coach and inspiring speaker. You can book Betty for a workshop or speaking engagement at www.roadSIGNS.ca or contact her at betty@roadSIGNS.ca.

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On the heels of Meatless Monday, I have decided that every Tuesday also requires a specific theme. In considering what this might be, two SIGNS triggered my choice. First was a conversation with one of my clients who decided that October was going to be gratitude month in her organization and coincidentally, October began on a Tuesday. Secondly, October is the month to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, surely another significant indicator.

So, this is my invitation to all my readers to begin focusing on gratitude and, just in case you don’t make time daily for this, to mark every Tuesday, from this point forward, as the day to acknowledge your gratitudes. From now on think of Tuesday as GratiTuesday (nice play on words, non?)

By the way, introducing gratitude into your life has been shown to have many benefits, not the least of which is to look at life differently and to bring your attention to all the great and good things happening in your life. Having a gratitude practice been shown to increase positivity, improve your sense of well-being and make you more attractive energetically to others. For those of you who are parents, introducing children to a gratitude practice has been shown to improve self-esteem and academic performance. Most importantly, gratitude is FREE!

To help you to get started, I have created an acronym based on GRATITUDE.

G =         Great, finding ways to notice and celebrate all the amazing things happening in your life and around you that you typically fail to notice.

R =          Respect, respecting yourself enough to acknowledge yourself for your accomplishments rather than noticing what you fail to get done; taking opportunities to model respect to others by acknowledging their greatness

A=          Awareness, paying attention to life, seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary, noticing the SIGNS which cross your path every day and which may be passing you by, pausing and wondering what it all means

T=           Truth, telling yourself the truth about who you are, activating your self-coach so as to tune of the inner critic (who does not tell the truth), reminding yourself that you are unique and that every day you make a difference in the life of at least one other person

I=            Intuition, listening to and living from what you know is right for you, embracing your great qualities and strengths and living from that place, allowing your heart to guide your actions while turning down the volume on all of life’s ‘shoulds’

T=           Team/Community, surrounding yourself with your perfect team, those who you love and who love you, those who are your fans and who see you uniqueness and celebrate your contributions

U=          Unconstrained FUN, laughter and joy and sharing this with your family and friends, engaging in activities which light you up!

D=          Daring, engaging in at least one new activity or adventure every month, taking the risk to stretch your pre-conceived notion of who you are and being successful, then celebrating your success.

E=           Environment, taking in random acts of beauty, sunrises and sunsets, the kaleidoscope of fall colors or the pristine whiteness of new snow, a thoughtful letter or complement from a friend or client, noticing that beauty lives in your environment every day.

Gratitude

Putting Gratitude into Practice:
Here’s the plan, if you dare to join me. Each GratiTuesday, post your gratitudes on Facebook, record your gratitudes in a special ‘gratitude journal’ or share your gratitudes with your family just before dinner or while tucking your kids into bed. Make it a weekly practice and have some fun sharing with others. I actually think this is way more exciting than Meatless Monday!

Until next time….

Betty

Upcoming Events:

ME FIRST Retreat: October 19-20th, 2013
Step away from the busyness of your life and re-acquaint yourself with YOU. This two day program is designed to bring you into the present, defining who you are today and who you are choosing to be as you move forward. Details at: http://www.roadsigns.ca/upcoming-retreats-events/

Living Your Strengths: November 23rd, 2013
Using the Lumina Spark Portrait, you will identify your preferred qualities/strengths and learn how to live and leverage your strengths in service of YOU. Details at: http://www.roadsigns.ca/upcoming-retreats-events/

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Last week I had the privilege of attending a networking event for entrepreneurs. I chose this event at it was billed as The Gratitude Circle. There have been many ‘gratitude roadSIGNS’ in my life of late from simple conversations, to radio programs, to articles, all extolling the importance of gratitude in our lives. In contrast to this however, I continue to find that many people are not aware of the idea of a ‘gratitude practice’ or the important role gratitude can play in your life.

Being Consciously Aware
Bringing gratitude into your life is really a ‘mindfulness practice’, specifically taking the time to become consciously aware of what your day has offered you and to express gratitude for the many apparently insignificant things that have shown up. For example: a colorful morning sky, an inspiring song on the radio on your way to work, a heartfelt interaction with another person, meeting a client’s needs and receiving great feedback on a job well done, a shared moment after work with a few friends, a great dinner with your family, seeing the first hummingbird of the season, or simply having great health and feeling amazing.

Notice how actively unconscious most of us are. Consider this; you get in the car every morning to drive to work. You arrive and as you pull into your parking spot you suddenly realize, wow, I am already here. I didn’t even notice the drive in – I was on autopilot. The radio was blaring yet I didn’t hear anything anyone said as they were all talking at the same time. I didn’t notice anything along the way – did I miss something? OMG, I really am living in auto-pilot! The day continues, and because much of your life is routine, it slips by, the details of the day unnoticed.

Gratitude Lifts YOU Up!
Gratitude gives you an opportunity to look at your life through the lens of positivity. In her book entitled Positivity, Barbara Fredrickson states that the old story is that anything that feels good is merely a distraction – trivial, inconsequential and expendable. The new story however, backed by science, is that these same good feelings are the active ingredients needed to allow us to flourish, that is feel good about ourselves and our lives. This begins by learning to cherish those special moments in your life, bringing your focus to what you are grateful for.

By cherishing those special moments in your life, you begin to feel better about yourself. This allows you to be more resilient. Research has demonstrated that feeling positive about your life, which is the end product of gratitude, has far-reaching benefits including building a stronger immune system, a cardio-vascular system which is less reactive to stress, and increased optimism. Finally, if you feel better about YOU today, there is a good chance that you will feel better about YOU tomorrow.

I have nothing to be Grateful for!
I do hear this, often!  A former coaching client of mine shared that she had nothing in her life to be grateful for, no one loved her and she was all alone. I asked her to take a closer look at her life, her relationship with her son, and her relationship with her colleagues. When she did this, she realized that she had a great deal of love in her life and when she expressed gratitude for this, more love appeared. At the point that I had begun speaking with her, she was engaged in a contentious divorce and child-custody battle with her former husband. As she shifted her focus to love and being grateful, her relationship with him changed and he dropped the suit.

Gratitude shifts your awareness and changes your energy. When your energy changes, so does the energy around you.

Gratitude

Final Word
Gratitude is a powerful energy, bringing you into a conscious relationship with what is right with your life. I encourage you, just as I do my clients, to begin some type of Gratitude Practice as part of your life. This can be a Gratitude Journal where you record your daily gratitudes or, my favorite one, sharing what you are grateful for with your family as you sit down for dinner.

Whatever your choice, know that gratitude will change your life – it has been proven scientifically!

Until next time…

Betty Healey

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In the wake of the devastating attack on one of the most prestigious races in North America, the Boston Marathon, I am choosing to focus on an inspiring lessons rather than the devastation.

If you have watched the images of the explosions you will have noticed that one of the runners fell down from the impact of the explosion, just before reaching the finish line. The runner’s name is Bill Iffrig, a 78 year old gentleman from Washington state who was completing his 3rd Boston marathon.

In his own words Bill described the impact of the blast, a shockwave which turned his legs into noodles. Although dazed, he recovered, and once back on his feet was determined to finish the race. Imagine, despite the devastation around him and being literally knocked off his feet, he decided to finish the race.

This is an inspiration for me – I hope it is for you as well. Never mind that Bill is 78, never mind that he was dazed and pummeled by the blast, he still had the drive and the focus to finish the race. That takes courage and purpose, a lesson which I believe all of us can learn from.

In watching CNN today (yes I admit I tuned in), much of the focus was on the fear such an incident creates and how people go on. The truth – you choose to finish the race.

There are so many things that get in the way, that can keep you from fulfilling your dreams or living your life as you choose it to be. As a life coach and ME FIRST facilitator, I see the casualties every day, the symptoms of a ‘life unlived’.

Fear is the biggest foe, whether it is the fear created by an incident such as that experienced in Boston yesterday, or a fear that is much more subtle and simply whittles away at your self-confidence.

In her book I Will not Die an Unlived Life, author Dawna Markova describes fear as passion without breath. Fear, she suggests, takes our breath away and for all the wrong reasons. Markova goes on to say that to be fully alive, the only choice you have is to move closer to what it is you fear rather than veering away from it. When you veer away, you can’t finish the race.

Each of you have a race you want to win, whether this is a project that beckons to be finished, a desire that remains unfulfilled, a relationship that needs healing, or  a journey that keeps calling to you. Stop and consider your life for a moment and ask the question, ‘What is left undone for me to finish?”

In sitting with one of my coaching clients this morning, the complaint that was voiced was what to DO and who to BE next. There is a common malaise that I am witnessing which related to too many projects on the go, too few ever brought to completion. The race is never finished.

Completion is important. It leads to a sense of fulfillment; you experience a sense of success. Success breeds self-esteem which in turn builds self-confidence.

When you have too many balls in the air, too many incomplete projects, your fall into overwhelm. Overwhelm is a state where your energies are scattered, where priorities are unclear and where there is no strategy or direction for moving forward.  The only way to shift or change this is to simply stop, choose one project, put everything else in the ‘parking lot’, move forward with that one project and bring it to completion. Finish the race. Once completed, you can celebrate your accomplishment and move on to the next project.

I call this breaking life into chewable chunks. I am certainly guilty of occasionally biting off more than I can chew, and I easily fall into overwhelm. The only strategy is to simplify, to understand that I don’t have to give up anything but that I do need to put some things in the parking lot for another time. And like you, I do love the feeling that comes with completing something. I like to finish the race.

Thank you Bill Iffrig for the lesson.  As we all send our blessings for healing to those who suffered loss and injury in yesterday’s race, we can also be grateful to the unsung heroes like Bill who teach us valuable lessons for our own life.

Whatever your race may be, I invite you to commit to finishing the race. Make your life count for something. Do it for yourself first and remember that when you make this choice, you are also serving others.

And live by these words from Dawna Markova:

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I chose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

Until Next time

Betty Healey

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Circle of friends on our back deck

It is the day before Canadian Thanksgiving. I have taken a few moments before preparing supper to consider the day ahead and to enumerate a few of the things for which I have gratitude. It is not difficult – good health, great friends, family, a spirit community, our glorious Tigh Shee now painted with the many hues of fall, amazing work, and of course, three felines who love us unconditionally.

Princess Cleo

I am wondering what it is about the human experience that allows us to forget all these gifts, all these sources of abundance, in the day-to-day. Busy-ness takes its toll, not just in stealing our breath but in creating amnesia regarding the important things in life.

Last evening and again this afternoon I had the privilege of officiating two weddings. I love that moment when the groom is standing next to me in anticipation, the music starts and the guests stand and the wedding party enters. As the bride begins down the aisle and her eyes find her groom, you can feel the magic in the air, the love and the promise of life ahead. At that moment I say a quiet blessing for the couple, wishing for them all I have experienced in marriage, the great and the challenging, and the will to stay the course. Marriage is an abundant experience when you allow it to be. I hate to see it trivialized.

I am meandering and I am thinking that the kitchen is calling me. To all my Canadian friends and family, Happy Thanksgiving. To my American friends, happy Columbus day, and to everyone else simply be happy!

Happiness

 

Until next time…

Betty

 

 

 

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“If you don’t look after your body, what house are you going to live in?” I am coiled up in a pretzel like yoga pose as our instructor cites this quote from some unknown author. At that moment it wasn’t clear to me if I was actually being kind and taking care of my body – my hamstrings were screaming too loud! Despite this, and five yoga classes later, I am appreciating the slight advance in my flexibility and a greater sense of well-being.

Back to the quote – it keeps rolling around in my head and I have found myself musing more and more about ‘my house’. Mostly I have been realizing how, over the last 60 years, I have really not appreciated my body, and have certainly not treated it like my house. If my body could only talk, what stories it would tell! I have abused it with unhealthy choices. I have criticized it for not being perfect – too fat, too round, too flat chested, too….

Rarely have I stopped to appreciate the appendages that fall from my pelvis nor have I thanked these sturdy legs of mine for standing with me through thick and thin, for walking me through difficulties and triumphs, and for supporting me wherever I go. Rarely have I acknowledged my arms and hands for giving and receiving hugs, for assisting me as I reach for what I want and pushing away what I don’t, or for simply allowing me to wash my face, brush my teeth and comb my hair.

I have not consciously thanked my heart for pumping life giving blood through my arteries and veins every moment of every day. Nor have I expressed gratitude to my lungs for ‘prana’, the breath of life. Then there is my brain which serves as computer central for everything I do, feel and think – how neglectful have I been of her as she helps me navigate the complexity of everyday living?

Isn’t it time to step up and to become consciously aware of the gift our bodies are? Although your body, like mine, may not be absolutely ‘perfect’ (at least in our eyes), it is still pretty darn amazing.

The day I turned 60, I stood in front of a full length mirror and spoke to the reflection, “This is what 60 looks like”. After years of war with my physical form I had finally made peace. My only regret is that it took me 6 decades to get there. How much time I had wasted trying to be more perfect in one way or another? What a waste of time and energy this was.

I like the peaceful place I have now landed in. I am filled with gratitude for my skin, bones, flesh and fat and every molecule that completes my physical form.

Thanks to my yoga instructor, I was pulled back and offered yet again another reminder to love, honor and cherish me and in doing so, to take care of my body. Yoga is new to me and I think it will be staying around for a while as it is teaching me a new relationship with my house.

What about you – will you join me and identify one thing you can do for you that honors the house you live in. It doesn’t have to be yoga; it can be as simple as stopping from time to time, taking a deep breath and on the exhale expressing appreciation to your body. It is really not a stretch. It starts with closing your eyes and saying to your body “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for your endurance, for your support and for housing my spirit”.

By the way, if you do not appreciate you and if you do not look after YOU, who will?

Until next time…

Betty

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