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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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In mid-June I attended the Canadian Positive Psychology Conference. One of the questions I carried with me throughout the conference is how can we engage the principles of Positive Psychology to enhance our experience of the Third Act.

It is interesting to note that, at least at the conference, there was little focus on or dialogue regarding this question. Of greater interest to the attendees is the impact of Positive Psychology in education and the workplace. Understood, as this is probably where the greatest opportunities lie. And let’s not be the ‘lost generation’ in this important field of study.

Which brings me back to the whole idea of ‘Flourishing in the Third Act’. So let me share a few of my ‘take-aways’ from the conference and explore how these apply to the Third Act.

Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity and Love 2.0, was the opening key-note speaker. I find her ‘Broaden and Build’ Theory very compelling, as she examines what positivity versus negativity offers us in life. Here is a synopsis of what I took away from her presentation and how I believe this applies to our experience of the Third Act.

Central to Barbara’s research regarding Positivity is what she refers to as the Broaden and Build Theory. BROADEN implies expansive. Unlike negative emotions, which narrow people’s ideas about possible actions (eg. Response to dangerous situation) and outcomes, positive emotions do the opposite – they broaden your ideas about possible actions, open your awareness to a wider range of thoughts and actions, sparking your interest and urging you to explore and learn

Positivity opens us…our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and creative.

When I consider this concept, I see the importance for Third Acters. Here’s why. Personally I have approached this age with some reticence, largely because of the beliefs I held regarding ‘retirement’. Of course my beliefs have been fed by society’s reaction to this stage of life as well. If however, we approach the Third Act with positivity and optimism, refusing to accept what societal beliefs have been, we have this great opportunity to broaden the possibilities of what is possible, desirable and engaging for us. Key to this notion then of broadening is our ability to exercise our curiosity and explore all the possibilities that light you up and which may have been lingering for a while.

The second aspect of Fredrickson’s theory is building, or more accurately resource building.
Again, if you approach life through the lens of negativity and neutrality you will constrain your experience of your Third Act, and your knowledge, of the world. Positivity does the opposite – it draws you out to explore, to mix up your world in unexpected ways. This leads to new learning and gains in knowledge. All of this may be useful during the Third Act, giving you the opportunity to broaden your sense of possibility, leading you to curiously explore what may be next and broadening your experience and desire to learn.

The Broaden and Build Theory holds that – Positive emotions were consequential to our human ancestors because over time those good feelings broadened our ancestor’s mindsets and built their resources for the future.

Positivity broadens and builds. It transforms people and helps them become their best. And when at their best, people live longer, and they have more fulfilling lives.

In other words, they flourish.

Positivity also offers you the following:

  • It opens possibilities,
  • improves cognition (that’s important!),
  • has the physical effect of broadening and opening our posture (less stooping!),
  • and affects how you view the world.

 

Like a good diet filled with nutrients, it builds over time, improving your resilience in the face of difficulties, improving your heart rate variability and your immune systems, all essential ingredients to healthy aging.

The Third Act can be a generative time in your life and your capacity to approach it with a positive attitude enhances your ability to broaden and build your life. So let’s imagine for a moment that we all agreed to begin this great experiment where we approached each day with a few simple questions/intentions:

  • I wonder what is possible today?
  • I have always wanted to learn more about….; why not now?
  • I plan to approach each day with optimism, gratitude and wonder; to be a positive influence for both myself and others
  • What a great opportunity I now have. My obligations and responsibilities have lessened. The only responsibility I have now is ME!

Speaking about this great experiment, are you not curious about what we as Third Acters can create when we take this approach; how we may influence the future? Just sayin’!

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“You need two things to get unstuck: Clarity and Courage. And, clarity is the reward of having courage.”

It has occurred to me in the last two weeks that courage is something to embrace as the opportunities for self-expression continue to unfold in my Third Act. Why courage? I am finding it challenging to crack open the eggshell of old habits and daily routines which have governed my life for so long. One of my greatest gifts in life has been my purposefulness and goal orientation. One of my greatest liabilities in life is my purposefulness and goal orientation!

It takes courage to face it down, to challenge it, to understand how I trip myself up by relying on what I have always known. It is a bit of a trap, for even though we can agree that purposefulness and goal orientation is a great thing, I also see the limitations, the blinders these habits impose.

Enough self-flagellation; this is not meant to be a critique of me. The question really is ‘now what’?

In a moment of clarity, the other day I realized that what I really wanted to release was the ‘need to work’. Yes need. I don’t know how it has been for you, but I was raised in the school of responsibility, obligation and ‘shoulds’. The reality for me is that I no longer need to work. Now on the government payroll with CPP and OAP, I may not be completely set for life and I know that our financial health is strong. So what is this need thing, this drive?

In its place I would much rather embrace the joy of work and be open to whatever that may be. I still love what I do and offer clients. I thoroughly enjoy coaching, facilitation and teaching. Am I not fortunate? And there are as many opportunities out there for me now as there were 20 years ago when I started my business, perhaps even more.

And here’s where courage comes in – saying ‘NO’ to the less than perfect opportunities, releasing the work that lingers that no longer engages me, because I don’t need to hang on. This gives me the space for clarity, the opportunity for opening new avenues of connecting with and serving people. None of this is a surprise; I have been ruminating on this for a while.

I am a person that also enjoys structure and routine and again I am asking if I need it. With summer upon us, I dream of morning walks, time on the front porch in the early morning sun, gardening and painting, hammock time with a good book, evenings in the gazebo sharing a glass of wine with friends. My usual work schedule does not accommodate these things or this life style.

As I envision the July and August landscape, I see great possibility. The second week of July is fully booked with a series of workshops we will be facilitating from Quebec City to Vancouver. Yes, it will be an intense week. More importantly, by having the courage to speak honestly with our clients, we will be engaged in work that we love and which we believe will make a significant difference for our client. Clarity was our reward.

Then guess what, the remainder of July and August is a fallow field. Will I have the courage to ‘BE’ in it allowing time for new possibilities to emerge and clarity to grow?

So onto you. Some things to consider. Are some of your greatest strengths also your liabilities? It is a great exercise to recognize this.

Is it time for you to address some on the repeating patterns that have governed your life and crack open the egg? What would you like to replace these patterns with? Remember if you can’t name it, it is unlikely you will get it.

Summer is such a wonderful time to relax and allow yourself to sink into the days. Why not do so? I plan to and hope you will join me, perhaps even share with me a few of your AHA’s that show up.

Have the courage to let go of what you have always known and create space for clarity to walk in the door.

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With everything I am learning about the Third Act, one thing is glaringly clear – it is time to explore new territory. It feels like so much of my adult life was about holding back, not stepping out fully into the truth of who I wanted to be. And doesn’t it seem to you that the Third Act needs to be dedicated to being truly authentic and identifying ways to express this identity you so yearn to embrace.

Four years ago, two of my young entrepreneur coaching clients embarked on an adventure by opening their own art studio. Yes, it does seem that the ‘Y’ generation is more daring than we ‘baby boomers’. When I saw their first workshop advertised, I sent them a congratulatory note to which they replied, “we have signed you up”.

My first instinct was to refuse. Fortunately, some internal craving or deep-seated instinct stopped me from doing so. I accepted the offer. That was just slightly more than four years ago.

Yesterday, along with Your Arts Council for Cornwall and the Counties, I hosted my first Art Exhibit. With excitement and trepidation, I decided to step out. It is not about the event however, exploring this new territory has really been about finding me. As a student of art when I was young, taking numerous courses in drawing, painting and designing, I was well on my way to having a strong creative presence. And then I put it all away, for 30 years. There was no specific reason, no ego inflicting crisis; I simply stopped. Doesn’t it make you wonder why and doesn’t it cause YOU to reflect on what you put away that may be begging to be let out of the bottle again?

Art in my sixties has also been an entirely different experience. As I picked up the brush again, I envisioned myself as a Georgia O’Keefe, boldly painted flowers filling the canvases. So I did.

Life Force

This did not inspire me. It was what I used to paint those many years ago. The subject matter did not engage me. I asked myself why I was painting these images and the only answer I could find was ‘it’s safe’.

Do I want to be safe? Is this a great Third Act Choice? Or was it time to explore new territories, to seek inspiration from within, from my surroundings, certainly from different sources. A friend of mine suggested that I take a look at the daily images posted by NASA. With a small amount of cynicism, I did and there is where the magic began. The result was Synapse and the birth of what I now refer to as Earth Energy Art.

Synapse

This felt like a riskier choice. People like flowers. I wondered if they would like energy art. They do!

And it doesn’t matter.

The Third Act is just that, the third and final act of life. I asked myself, am I here to please others or me? The answer – you can guess.

The Third Act is your chance to explore new territory. Do it for yourself. It is not selfish, in fact, it is anything but. It is your opportunity to model to others both the wisdom and impact of showing up in life authentically.

There are no rules for this time in your life, only the ones you decide to self-impose.

What is it that you yearn to do, feel or experience?

What is it that you have pushed away for years and you now yearn to harness?

What is stopping you?

Time to step up and step out! Time to explore those territories that will light you up. If not now, when?

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There are moments in your life where, in an instant, everything changes. And more often than not, it is something that you are expecting and perhaps wanting to avoid dealing with. An undercurrent of hints and signs present themselves to you and still, you keep trucking along, head turned away from the obvious, believing that if you hold your focus elsewhere, the obvious will not happen.

Then, BOOM! The unexpected/expected happens.

Part of the Third Act for many of us is having parents approaching the Forth Act (if such a term has been coined). I am the proud ‘outlaw’ of two aging parents-in law named Dorothy and Ron, ages 87 and 86 respectively. While physically healthy, both of them are experiencing levels of memory loss, judgment lapses and dementia. Dorothy has been most affected by this, leaving Ron as the primary care-giver. More recently it has been evident that Ron’s health has also been changing and, while all of us have been observing this, it has been easier to believe that things would just keep ticking along.

As I write this, Ron has been hospitalized following a weekend meltdown called pneumonia, which in the elderly is often missed, presenting as confusion, paranoia, memory loss and decompensation. This is where we found ourselves. Everything has changed as we as a family face the reality that they may no longer be able to live independently.

I am fully aware that this is yet another rite of passage for Third Acters and perhaps a perfect example of how we also approach our own aging and Third Act planning. You know that one day you will retire, in some way, and it is easy to avoid looking at it or planning for it. And then one day, your employer tells you it is time to pack up your desk, to ‘retire’ and you are shocked and completely unprepared. How is it possible you could not see this coming?

BOOM!

One day you are working, and the next day you are not. And in your avoidance, you are completely unprepared for the inevitable. What do you do now?

Chances are, the hints and signs were in your consciousness even though you were looking the other way. In our current dilemma, I had already called in the local psycho-geriatric team for Dorothy and we were waiting for Ron’s assessment to be scheduled. This at least was the first step in connecting us to community services. In other words, we have a place to start.

You do as well and the first step is to simply relax, breathe, and recognize the opportunity that stretches before you. It is fair to say that you will miss your J.O.B. You will miss the routine, the work itself, the social connections and more. All of this can re-created in a new way and first, give yourself an opportunity to recognize that stepping away from your J.O.B. is a significant loss. It is part of how you have defined yourself for many years and it is not only appropriate but important to grieve this loss.

This is the first important step of your Third Act. Experiencing and expressing the loss you may feel, allows you to release it and create space for what’s next in your life.

Do yourself a favor and book some time with a massage therapist, an energy worker (Reiki, Integrated Energy, or networking chiropractic), or any practitioner that can support you in moving forward. Consider meditation, yoga, physical work outs of any description. Avoid signing up for every volunteer opportunity offered to you because others know you now have loads of free time. Trust me, this is not a solution.

Learn to ‘BE’ for a while, giving yourself that important opportunity to know yourself and assess what is important to you today and in the future.

Welcome to your Third Act!

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For the fifth year in a row, Jim and I hosted Goddess Camp on the weekend of August 17-18th. I always approach this weekend with a sense of excitement and trepidation. Why? Because it changes every year; there is no set plan, it simply arrives. And then there are the quizzical looks I receive from others when we begin advertising the event, that “I say what?” expression followed by “Goddess Camp?” The look grows when I share that the camp is also for men at which point the conversation shifts to “yeah, right!”

All this to say that the idea of Goddess Camp requires some explanation. The concept began with my desire to understand ways in which the world is changing. I hear the experts talking about energy shifts and of course we just experienced the 2012 phenomenon. It’s not like you can nail it down. Like gravity you know that the energy around you is shifting but you cannot see it, touch it or even name it. It simply is.

Part of this current phenomenon is the shift from masculine to feminine energy. This claim triggered my research. Did it mean simply that women are taking over?

As I discovered the shift to feminine energy or to the Divine Feminine as it is called, is an opportunity for women to step into their power and for men to step into their heart. It is not about men versus women, it is simply a learning opportunity for all of us to grow with the changing times. And so Goddess Camp was birthed around the question, how can we facilitate this shift for both men and women.

Each year we listen to what is happening around us, the conversation we hear, the concerns expressed by our coaching clients and retreat participants, and simply what we observe. This past year I was struck by how disembodied people have become. As a former physiotherapist I have a developed an eye for observing people and their relationship with their bodies. I began to notice that in fact, people were not really in their bodies, they seemed to be living in the space around their bodies.

This created the challenge for Goddess Camp. In the world I live in, we speak of the body-mind-spirit connection in almost everything we do. The conundrum posed by our observations was how do people make the body-mind-spirit connection if they are not really in their bodies – there is a missing link.

The idea for this year’s Goddess Camp was birthed. We began to focus on activities in which we could offer our campers grounding and ways in which to be in their bodies differently. With that clarity we set our intentions for the event.

I am always delighted with how life informs us once the intentions are set and then observe who crosses our path. In the months preceding the weekend I found myself attracted to two individuals whom I felt could help us create magic. Enter Sandra, a belly dancer par excellence, who led our participants through a series of moves which led to a full 3 minute choreography by the end of the second day. You could visibly see the shift in energy and how each person had a new sense of their physicality.

GC 2013

Secondly came Rosanne, who led our campers through several meditations/journeys, each one grounding individuals in one of the energy chakras. Again, observing the changes across the two days, I could see the significant shift in energy and body relationship. Mission accomplished!

Final Word
Goddess Camp lessons apply to everyday life, imparting the importance of having a relationship with your body. You grow to understand the need for self-care versus self-neglect,  for acknowledging your body for what it offers you versus complaining about what it doesn’t do and for communicating with your body in a way that allows your body to share what is going on.

Learn to stay grounded through your breath, through frequent ‘body check-in’s’, or by walking barefoot. All of these have been proven to dramatically change your energy and bring you back to your body.

This may seem like an odd lesson to learn. You may be saying, “really, could I possibly be living outside my body?’ The answer is yes, there are times when we all do. The sensation is usually one of feeling disconnected and ungrounded. Begin to grow your awareness and simply check in. Your body needs you!

 

Coming Soon:

Living Your Strengths Coaching Circle begins September 24th. For details go to http://www.roadsigns.ca/wp/our-focus/conscious-communication-for-self-discovery/coaching/coaching-circle/

ME FIRST Retreat: The next program is October 19-20th. You can register at: http://www.roadsigns.ca/wp/our-focus/conscious-communication-for-self-discovery/retreats-programs/me-first/

Until next time…

Betty

 

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In recent years much has been said about our ability to work under less than perfect conditions. There are a variety of things that happen within the modern day workplace which continually attract attention these days, issues such as the ‘toxic boss or colleague’, bullying (yes! It’s not just an issue for kids!), feeling underemployed or underappreciated, and simply spinning from the many demands placed upon you.

So how do you protect yourself? How do you remain resilient?

During the closing session of our most recent Coaching Circle in Cornwall, we all put our heads together and came up with the following strategies:

  • Practice Gratitude – In the day to day working of life and living, we humans have the habit of focusing on the negative events and happenings of life. When you switch gears and re-focus on those aspects for which you are grateful, it lifts your spirits. Having a gratitude practice where you do this on a daily basis, creates resilience.
  • Don’t Take It Personally – Create space between yourself and the negative nellies in your life. Their stuff is their stuff and always remember not to take what they have to say      personally. It has nothing to do with you.
  • Speak UP – Learn to speak up for yourself and to speak from your authentic self. You cannot expect others to know what you want or what you are thinking.
  • Stay Positive – Appreciate that everything that happens in life is perfect; it is there for a reason and a lesson. Learn from mistakes or hiccups, laugh at yourself, and move on with this new lesson tucked under your arm.
  • Flip-It! – whenever you find yourself focusing on what you don’t want; flip it to what you do want. Remember you attract what you focus on.

Attraction2

  • Go Downstream – If you find yourself in a battle with yourself, your work or someone else, change directions. Recognize that you are swimming upstream and ask yourself what it would take to change directions to downstream.
  • Be clear on your ‘I AM” – Your I AM statement represents who you are choosing to be in any situation. It is your source of inner power and clarity. It begins by saying to yourself I AM —-, breathing it in, feeling it and radiating it.
  • Attract your  Perfect Tribe – Be clear on who you want to surround yourself with. Make sure these are people who lift you up and love you unconditionally.
  • Have ME FIRST time – Commit to a minimum of 15 minutes/day of ME FIRST time. This is time just for you, not to be shared, for breathing, meditation, setting your ‘I  AM’ statements or for gratitude.
  • Space Management – It’s not really about time management, it’s about space management . Be  clear about your ‘have to’s’ versus your ‘can do’s’. You can all do lots  of things, the question is do you want to, is it necessary or does it  belong to you or someone else.
  • Develop your NO-How      – Be clear on your boundaries. Know what your priorities and t your responsibilities are. Develop your ability to say NO to what is not yours to own or take care of.
  • Single Task – Much attention has been given to our ability to multi-task. The thing is it doesn’t  really work. You find yourself with many balls in the air yet nothing ever  really gets completed. Learn to set your priorities and take on one task  at a time. When you bring tasks to completion, you will grow your  self-esteem and confidence.
  • Affirm Yourself –Check in and make sure you are not diminishing yourself with negative inner talk. You are in charge of this. Become consciously aware of what you are saying to yourself and change the message to something uplifting.
  • Self-Acknowledgement – When you receive complements form others, accept them graciously and simply say ‘Thank-You’.  Take it in like a sponge and acknowledge yourself for the complement you just received.
  • Choose Inspiring Messaging – Monitor what you choose to read or watch and choose that which inspires you. A highly recommend two sources of daily messages: www.tut.com and www.pattidigh.com.
  • Listen to Your Body – When you feel unwell or something hurts, turn inward and have a  conversation with your body. Ask “what are you trying to communicate to me?” then listen. It’s better than anything a doctor can give you.
  • Laugh a Lot – Find a friend to have fun with or watch some comedy, whatever it takes to bring laughter into your world. Laughter is a great healer.
  • Go with the Flow – Notice where the big rocks or obstacles in your life are and move around them versus pushing against them. As one member of our group shared, “It’s easier to ride the horse in the  direction the horse is going!”

You will recognize that these suggestions really are just common sense and yet, common sense is not common! I encourage you to take this list and pin it up in a place where it is fully  visible and then practice 1, 2 or more of these suggestions daily.

Until next time…

 

Betty

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