How We Drown, Float or Swim

A client recently sent me a note telling me they were drowning. I knew they had a lot of responsibilities, many balls in air to juggle. I offered them an option, perhaps they could consider flipping over on their back and floating. What does this mean? It means that the ability to recognize when we are, (drowning, floating or swimming) might help us either sustain if we are swimming or flip over to float if we are indeed drowning. This analogy is where we find ourselves daily, hourly and sometimes minute to minute. 

Below are some tips meant as a triage to help you identify where you are and where you want to go. 

Drowning: When I feel like I am drowning a couple of things may be occurring; I am trying to do too much and or I have unrealistic expectations of what I or others can do in the moment. 

  • Stop, take a breath and name what I am feeling, overwhelmed, drowning, exhausted. Being able to identify what phase I am in helps to address it and put it in perspective. 
  • Prioritize 2-3 needs and let the rest go. Let go of expectations on what I think should matter or get done.
  • Do something physical to in order to help letting go, a short walk, yoga, cleaning out a drawer… do some small act that will allow a mental shift or restart.
  • Flip over and float with the sole purpose of keeping my head above water and just do the top 2-3 priorities until I feel ready for more. 

Floating: Here I am maintaining and catching my breath. I am not making headway or progress in areas. I have prioritized wellness, quality of work, and life over unrealistic expectations from myself or others in this moment. 

  • Take deep belly breaths in order to unlock all of my brain from the fight, flight or freeze mode. I make better decisions and choices when calm and thoughtful.
  • Maintain keeping my head above water and assess where I am and what really is important. What are my wants and needs? Be clear on the differences between them. 
  • Rest, replenish and plan when is a good time to test the waters and swim for small distances building endurance. Then try it, always returning to float to rest and replenish. 

Swim: This is when I am moving in a direction I desire; I am making gradual progress toward a goal. I feel stable and competent in my direction and the ability to right myself when things go wrong.  

  • Focus on what I have control over even if it is my reaction to the world around me. I am responsible for my actions and words, so by taking time to consider them thoughtfully is important. 
  • Pace myself in a realistic way by assessing the external and internal conditions that are present. Take control of my direction, action, choices and speed.     
  • Understand what is mine to fix and what is someone else’s. Enabling others undermines them. We all have our own individual course and each of us has choice to act or not. Know that not choosing is also a choice.   

Remembering to check-in with ourselves all day, every day on where we are allows us agency over our lives through conscious choice. Putting our head down and plowing through our days, months or years invites dysfunction. In doing that we chance making ourselves ill, damaging valued relationships and our reputation. If we don’t pay attention to where and how we are, we can’t get to where we want to go. Changing a small thing can net big results, you know this to be true if you have ever tried to go to sleep with a mosquito in your bedroom. – Kyra

For more information about my coaching go to Trueroadtraveler.com.

Posted in Change, choices, Faith, Fear, foundation of change, Health and Wellness, humor, intent, Learning, mind shifts, Stress, Stressed Out, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Note to Self…

Dear Kyra,

You are forgetting some things these days, important things.  Things that cost you blood, sweat and tears to learn. I know you are stressed and it’s looking a lot like the end of the world. There are those dark, nuclear winter orange skies in the daytime. There’s unemployment, a global pandemic, really the list goes on and on.

First up; it’s not the end of the world, really, it just feels like it.  In fact, you are forgetting that just because you think something doesn’t make it true, even if it feels true. You just thought it is all. Without a closer look using your curiosity and discovery, and maybe even data it’s just an idea, something you thought. A story you are telling yourself. Okay wait, this is not the best delivery system for you, you like lists. I know myself; I just forget it sometimes is all…

  1. Trust yourself. You can do this; it never has mattered what this is… you always figure it out. I know the learning curve is a bitch and you hate her, but she teaches us grace, humility and patience. Plus, she gives you something to write about.

2. Champagne is good any night of the week, it goes with everything.

3.  Kindness is king, not just for others but for yourself. If you are not kind to yourself you will burn out, crank out, if you don’t live from the inside out when it comes to kindness.

4.  Napping is essential for creativity, as is “goofing off”, daydreaming, wandering and playing. Answers come when you let go of the problem. It’s hard but unclench your fucking fists, just sometimes… okay? How else can you receive without open hands?

5.  Eat healthy, move daily, laugh a lot, try to sleep. These were the basic operating instructions you got when you showed up to this rodeo. If you don’t take care of the equipment, game over. So, prioritize it, do it, do your best. It really matters and so do you.

6.  It’s not a big deal that you can never remember how to spell their, or is it thier, or then or than, don’t get me started on effect and affect. You are dyslexic and that is what Google is for. You can use mellifluous and tintinnabulate in a sentence. Relax. Just because you think you “should” know something doesn’t mean that’s true. We all know different things, important things, and that is that.

7.  Slow down, pay attention, notice the changes and see where you fit in the future, not the past that is burning down. What do you want to help with, create, build… focus more on solutions not just problems.

8.  It’s not a big deal, not everyone can wear corduroy pants…

9 . Remember life is like driving at night. You can only see the next 150 ft, but you can get anywhere you need only seeing 150 ft at a time. Focus on the next three small steps that move you forward, and then do it again and again. This is not a race so try to remember to enjoy the ride.

10. Send more cards, it’s nice to get something besides a bill or flyers in the mail. People forget you are thinking about them and that they are loved. Small thoughtful gestures can change a life, a community, the world.

11. It’s okay to feel, I know you hate that shit, but you are human, and they feel things. Stuffing those feelings is like trying to hold a pool noodle underwater all day, sooner or later it pops up and hits you in the face and water goes up your nose and you cry anyway.

12. You are loved, nuff said

13. Looking at art, listening to music, and laughing changes your brain chemistry for the better. These things heal. Remember to find beauty every day, it’s good medicine.

14. Trouble is a lot like Pizza Hut, don’t go looking for it, it delivers.

15. You are going to make mistakes, all kinds of them. Avoiding them makes for a smaller life. Get comfortable with being lost, getting confused and go make a great big mess. Try things, be brave and look like an idiot sometimes, okay maybe lots of times. The payoff is huge. Flaws are where the beauty lives. Appreciate all your quirk, your struggle and your triumphs, then get up and do it again. Amen!

Note: I wrote this in a whirl after a particular hectic day. It helped to remind me of what I know but somehow, in the crazy days, I sometimes forget. I invite you to try to write your own “Note to Self”. To remind you of what you already know.  – Deep Breaths, Kyra

 

Posted in celebrate, Change, Creativity, curiosity, Faith, Fear, foundation of change, Gratitude, Health and Wellness, mind shifts, Play, Stress, Stressed Out, Uncategorized, Vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Professionalism vs Fun

In texting with a friend today she revealed that during the pandemic she was trying to add more fun during her days which made her think of me. She shared that being with her daughter between work assignments forced her to start playing more. She also shared that going back and forth from play mode to “being a professional” was tricky all day. This made me think, not that thinking is a stretch for me, but some days it’s a sketchy proposition at best. I never thought that my options were being a professional or having fun. For me it was always an And not an Or choice. Here’s the thing, I am fun. I am fun to work with, I bring it, I pack it along like I would my Chapstick, my keys and my phone. It is a tool that elevates everything, work, learning, creating, everything in life is better when fun or levity is introduced. Think of laughter as the language of God.

I can understand my friend’s conundrum. We are trained, most especially women, to be serious so we are taken seriously at work. We all are taught that work was serious business and we needed to focus, produce and excel. Those are all good things, but all done better with humor and fun. Here’s an example where I injected a small dose of fun into a small thing that netted a great result:

I taught Career Readiness workshops.  As students came into our center, they were checked in and went into the classroom for the start of the session. I asked the front desk staff if they wanted to bet on how many students would come to the session. There was no wager, the fun was purely in the guessing, estimating and teasing that went with this small tweak of competition. It was playful, created laughter and the level of delight we exuded as we greeted everyone who walked through our door for those 15 minutes, exuberant. Not that we didn’t always give folks a great reception, but now they got a group of delighted faces as if they were celebrities coming down the red carpet. That small game became part of our culture and a common experience that bonded us in a different way than we had before, we bonded in play and laughter.

This was small and silly, but it created a bond and common experience that elevated a simple task into play. It made everyone’s experience in that 15 minutes better than it would have been, and that energy moved them on through other work in the day. Play shifts us to look at what is possible, it opens us up to new ways of thinking, doing and being. I think that being good at what you do should not be tied to being serious. As an example, in operating rooms they play great music to set the mood and create an environment of positivity. That does not in any way undermine the tasks at hand but rather enhance teamwork and energy.

Fun and play have a reputation of being frivolous, however, this runs contrary to what science and nature show us. Animals teach their young how to hunt, to survive, through play. All great learning happens during play. Cancer patients are frequently told to watch comedies as laughter changes our chemistry for the better. Endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin are all released during play, laughter and closeness. Why wouldn’t these same things make us better teams, workers, thinkers, creators and people?

So how does one start to introduce play and fun in all aspects of their lives? Here’s a simple list of steps to try and see what happens.

  1. Notice where does play or fun live currently in your life, at work, home, relationships. Start to notice those moments in small conversations with co-workers that are playful or fun, see how that can be deepened if only in your enthusiasm or appreciation. Know this person is now a coconspirator to fun in the future. It also makes you notice folks who may not be open just yet to this way of thinking.

 

  1. Opportunity comes after you have noticed where play currently lives and where it can be expanded. You now know who is open and you can create your own moment or instigate one. That can be meeting at the coffee truck first thing to share a moment of laughter. In these virtual days, a drop-in lunchroom where folks can chat and share their lives. Noticing leads us to finding opportunities for play and fun.

 

  1. Practice gives us mastery of a tool. A well placed and appropriate joke in a meeting can cause a small bout of laughter and that extra oxygen gives everyone a boost. It builds teams and goodwill. It can also break tension and help find a way to be better able to focus on solutions not just problems.

 

I will make a note of caution here- play and the introduction thereof can make you vulnerable and sometimes a target. Always start small, know you audience, never make anyone the butt of a joke and keep inclusivity and kindness in your sense of play. We know humor or play is also the weapon of a bully. It has been pervasive in many work cultures that are toxic. The play I proscribe is out of generosity, kindness and love…In this practice, I am, if anyone, the only one who is vulnerable in that moment. These are crucial points to make note of when going forward.

Start small if this is new or scary to you, start at home, with your family, your partners even your pets. Bust out that tiara, that ridiculous hat you were bullied into buying on vacation or even a fake accent and try them all on as a surprise at the dinner table. Could that turn into Friday night dress up dinner? Maybe. The worst thing that could happen is people don’t laugh. On the flip side, you may have a great story of your silliness and a cherished memory is born. The practice of gratitude is shown to improve our lives and well-being. I believe a practice of play will do the same thing. Give it a whirl and share the fun… cheers. – Kyra

For more information about my coaching go to Trueroadtraveler.com.

Posted in Change, choices, curiosity, fellowship, Fun, Happiness, Health and Wellness, humor, Learning, mind shifts, Play, Professional, Prosessionalism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Steps to Help you Navigate Change

We are being pushed to change in ways we never imagined. Changes to how we live, how we work, our schooling, socializing- everything has changed quickly. It was sudden, like a tidal wave. Our old lives were swept away, and we are now figuring out our new lives stumble by stumble.

These are the circumstances of living through a pandemic. The key here, is to live, not just survive, even perhaps to aim for thriving. We have an opportunity to consider other options and ways of living. Maybe get away from old ways of being, thinking and doing. Circumstances are pushing us to do that anyway.

Here’s the thing, change happens with or without us. I would rather be in the driver’s seat of that change, than in the backseat complaining about it. By being in the backseat, or in denial about change, is to be without any influence or agency on the direction your life is taking.

Here are some ways start a conversation with your new friend: Change

1. Name it. Address how you feel about whatever change is in front of you. If you are anxious, excited, angry… name your feelings. This allows you to work with what is and where you are. Denying our feelings make them stronger. It is like throwing gasoline on a fire instead of water. Pain and fear don’t dissipate until they are seen and are acknowledged.

2. Be Kind. Be kind to yourself and be patient in looking at where you are and how you are feeling about it. This is not a time to judge ourselves but simply notice with compassion. As an example: I am angry that my hours were cut and frightened I can’t pay my bills. Talk to yourself as you would a friend. You would not berate a friend in hard times so don’t do it to yourself.

3. Be Curious and Creative. These go hand in hand here. Being curious invites us to look at our limits in a creative way. We get curious about the nature of that limit, what about that limit do we control? Curiosity is the best way to approach change and adversity to see your way out. Being creative brings us to problem solving, looking for resources, thinking outside the box of possibilities. In brainstorming, there are no bad ideas. The more the better. Evaluation comes later but just filling a page of ideas and possible solutions is freeing and opens you up to new ways of thinking, being and doing.

4. Explore it. Here is the stage of talking to trusted friends, experts and colleagues, researching, evaluating, and finding resources that can help move you from brainstorming to action. Then making a list prioritizing the best 2 or 3 options to move you in a better direction. Don’t spend too much time here or it can turn into analysis paralysis.

5. Test it. Time to try some options. In the above example of lost hours, maybe one solution would be to do a remote side hustle online in customer service or consulting or with Instacart to tide you over in the bills department until you find something more sustainable. Maybe it is to invite in a roommate, cut out some media services, or get less take-out. Small changes add up just reducing the times a week you order out from 4 to 2 at say 10 a meal adds up. Instead of spending $2,008 a year on takeout you would be spending $1,004. Small changes over time net large results in our life.

We humans hate change, I get that. I am a Professional Life Coach who shepherds’ folks through the process of big and small life changes daily. It is hard, it is messy and fraught with uncertainty- but the rewards are immense. The reward is living a life with passion and purpose- Cheers Kyra

For more information about my coaching go to Trueroadtraveler.com.

 

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Stressed Out

We live in a crazy, busy, and chaotic world. We also live in an abundant, nurturing and rich world. What we expect to see, is what we see. If we expect to see something different, we then see that. All of these world conditions exist, and many we can create. What do I mean? That our lives are a combination of what happens around us, which we have no control over, and what our reactions are, which we do have control over. Think of a traffic jam: there is the traffic jam, then how we react to that traffic jam. Being able to manage parts of our lives to invite calm, joy and lightness can be done.

We know that high levels of stress can contribute to most major illnesses and risk factors for them, like heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, weight gain, sleeplessness, and the list goes on. We also know stress is a naturally occurring phenomenon for protection in our DNA. When a caveman met up with any unknown it was generally life or death. Very little of our unknowns are life or death: the darkness has no saber tooth tigers waiting for us. We are still surrounded by unknowns and they still can trigger anxiety and stress, but we have to evolve to manage the triggers differently if we don’t want to live with chronic stress, burnout and depression.

Being able to stop and identify what is going on in our bodies when we do not feel well is our first step of finding what triggered our stress. I notice where stress articulates itself in my body: is my stomach flippy, am I wearing my shoulders like earrings? Turns out walking around looking like Nixon with my shoulders around my ears is a sign I am stressed. We all carry stress in different places: some folks clench their fists, while others have lower back pain. I always find it interesting how our bodies are reflective in poetic ways of what we feel. Those whose shoulders jack up to their ears might feel like the weight of the world or their world is on them. Those with stomach problems feel gutted or carved out, lower back pain can be someone who feels unsupported, balling our fists means we are readying for a fight. Our mental state is connected to our physical state: always the somatic ties of body to mind and soul.

Once we have identified the first signs of stress in our bodies we can trace it back to the triggers. What caused my reaction? What just happened in the last minute, hour, or day that I can trace back to the person, the feeling, the situation that started me feeling stressed? This is about pulling that thread of conversation, of action that brought us from feeling okey-dokey to uh-oh. As an example, I am in a hurry and I hit a traffic jam, my blood pressure goes up, I am feeling my stomach go wonky and my shoulders are at ear level. I take notice of what I am feeling; I identify those feelings as feeling overwhelmed and powerless in that moment. I make note of what I’m feeling and then later I can reflect back to other times I was stressed: were these themes there? Or were there other themes? Do I see patterns to what triggers my stress? Do I see patterns to how I react to the stress? I start to think like a researcher, like an anthropologist studying me. I try to be neutral and curious and look at what is happening without judgment.

Knowledge is power. The act of identifying our patterns and triggers, then maybe the whys of those feelings, help us to look for ways to minimize our stress. Minimizing our stress comes in many forms but the root of each lives within our locus of control. Going back to the traffic jam example, I start with the knowledge that traffic tends to make me feel overwhelmed and powerless. Then I begin with solving the lowest and simplest form of the physical problem here. Can I remove myself from this stimulus, the traffic? Can I be flexible with my schedule to minimize the times I am in traffic jams? That can lead me to tweak my schedule, the route I take, public transportation, etc. If I cannot remove myself from this traffic, can I come at this problem another way? If I am stuck with the traffic, how can I make it better? If I am struck in the car for commutes, what can I do to make that trip more enjoyable? I then can look at how I am seeing this “stuck” time in the car and take my feelings of powerlessness and create some choices for myself. Can I make my trip better with audio books, music, pod casts, ride sharing with others, learn a language, daydreaming etc.? I can choose to see this traffic jam as a time for me time, quiet time, learning time. I cannot control what happens outside of my car but my choices in my behavior and how I use my time I can control. Long-term I can find a different and more permanent solution perhaps if this is a huge part of the anxiety and stress in my life.

I step-by-step problem-solve by thinking critically about the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of my stress triggers, and I can also bring in friends who do this well and chat over wine, coffee or tequila. I can also pull apart the mental aspects of what stresses me. For example what expectations I had for this event, person, job, that were not met. Stress from expectations we had for something or someone is a huge stressor. Having expectations can be the building blocks for stress if we are not careful. Being flexible with what we expect helps as does communicating our expectations. Knowing our expectations are just our thoughts about what we would like to happen or what we see happening doesn’t make it so. It just makes us frustrated nobody is following what we scripted in our head. Crazy is as crazy does, especially if we have not shared that script. When those expectations are communicated and create real-life feedback and data, they are built on reality. Sometimes we need to invite in friends, counselors or life coaches to problem-solve some of these triggers and their roots. Asking for help is one sign of wisdom, so feel free to get your wisdom on.

The last place I go to in this process is what tools and practices can I use to invite in clarity, balance and wellness to my life? There is nothing I will tell you here you don’t already know. Things like taking me time, meditation, gratitude practices, journaling, exercise, healthy eating, and strong social network, doing things that we are passionate about. All of these and many other things work. The trick is you have to do them. You have to make it your wellness a priority in your life. A hammer is a tool made of a chunk of metal and wood or plastic, it does nothing. When we choose to pick it up and use it to hang a picture we have a result. If we choose to use it to build a tiny house in our backyard or make beautiful furniture we then start to master a tool through repeated use. We then derive pleasure from that tool and in our lives because of our mastery of it and what it brings to us. Picking one small tool, a practice, to help manage our daily stress though the above list moves us toward being an active agent of change in our life. We own how we spend our days, in what frame of mind we do that, and that in return ripples out and splashes back. What we think and do have resonance with not only our world but for everyone. The abundant, crazy, nurturing, busy, rich and chaotic world waits. What are you going to do about it?

Below is my list of questions that I use to help lead me to finding ways to reduce stress. They are by no means complete or foolproof but they are a start. I hope they help!

Steps to Identify and Manage Stress

Step 1- Questions I ask myself for identifying stress in my body

  • Think back to the last time I was stressed: How did my body feel?
  • Where in my body do I first feel unwell?
  • Where do I carry my stress in my body at the end of a busy day?
  • What do I notice is different in my body after a massage, walk on beach, relaxing day?

Step 2- Questions I ask myself to identify what triggers stress for me.

  • What events, situations, feelings do I see that triggers my stress?
  • Do I see patterns to my stress triggers?
  • I am most stressed when I feel _______________
  • ____________________ always stresses me out
  • The last time someone asked me if I was stressed where was I and what was I doing?

Step 3 – Questions I ask myself to eliminate or minimize my identified stress triggers

  • What resources can I identify to help me, e.g. therapist, friends, coaches, books?
  • How can I minimize my stress triggers I have identified with critical thinking skills, problem solving techniques and resources?
  • Can I remove the stress triggers?
  • If I cannot remove the stress triggers can I improve the situation to make it more bearable?
  • What three things can I do under my control to make this situation more bearable?
  • What part do I play in setting these triggers up?
  • Can I adjust my thinking and expectations around the triggers?
  • What two small things in my thinking or behavior can I adjust to make things better?
  • Is there something I need to let go of that does not serve me around this trigger?

Step 4 Questions I ask myself to invite in clarity, balance and wellness and the action items attached

  • What tools or practices can I bring in to invite in clarity, balance and wellness?
  • What resource do I have to help me create wellness?
  • Make a list of five to ten things that make me feel good and the date the last time I did it
  • What is one thing I can add monthly/weekly /daily to my schedule that makes me feel strong?
  • What is one thing I can remove from my life that drains me?
  • What is one thing I can do daily to make me feel calm?
  • What three practices in wellness do I most want to cultivate? e.g., exercise, mediation, me time,
  • What is one tiny step for one or all of these things I could do this week?
  • What class, app, coach, friend will help me with my journey to less stress?
  • In what ways do I show that my priority is my mental, physical and emotional wellness?
Posted in Change, choices, curiosity, foundation of change, Gratitude, Happiness, humor, intent, Joy, Learning, Manifestation, mind shifts, Stress, Stressed Out, truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Connect the Dots

The phrase “connect the dots” can mean anything: from a game of tic-tac-toe, to running our tongues over hard pastel-colored sugar lumps on what looks like receipt paper strips, to drawing meaning from a sequences of events. All are good things, and in this instance I will not be talking about the game or the candy, but oh we know how I can go on about candy!

Looking back at our lives it is easier to connect the dots, to look at our actions, patterns and trajectory of choice and fate after some time has passed. I believe we have a few fixed dots on our path, like destiny points if you will. They are set in stone; we can get there the easy way or the hard way, that part us up to us. If you have never seen the movie Sliding Doors, they do a good job of laying out this premise of destiny points though, they don’t call them that: just points we land on in our lives no matter what choices we make, at least that was my take-away.

I believe we have some fixed points or destiny dots in our path.  I was curious if I could look back and identify some of those destiny dots thus far. I was also curious about what I see as defining moments. Defining moments are events or people that change the trajectory of our lives and leave us forever changed. Generally they lead us toward those fixed points or destiny dots to get us on our path.  These defining moments can be large or small but like a pinball game when I hit them I shot off in another direction. It was something I learned or did that made me fundamentally different, so different in fact that I would always see the world and myself differently again. Kind of a “genie out of the bottle thing”.

I took my journal and a giant cup of tea and started from childhood and slowly stepped forward. I have to say it might have been easier to start from today and go backward but lordy I have never done anything the easy way so why start now. I don’t think it matters which way you go but I think it is important to take a look regardless. Hindsight is 20/20, but looking at decades of what appeared to be meandering on the surface brought out patterns I had not seen before. What once appeared to be capricious was indeed a larger pattern and I saw themes emerge out of what felt like chaos. Why chaos? I have had at least six different careers over five states in 35 plus years and counting. I have three degrees in very different disciplines: communications / radio and TV production, electronics and circuit design, and counseling.

Pulling my lens back and seeing the longer story arch was fascinating, comforting and educational.  I highly recommend this exercise in self-reflection. I got a deeper appreciation for my journey, my learning, my fabulous mistakes and resilience. I also got a deep appreciation for those who played their part in my life, both good and bad. It gave me comfort in seeing this pattern emerge that was unknown to me. It revealed a path that had focus when there felt like none, and meaning when I sometimes felt that I was lost and flailing.  I could see I was held up with nothing but faith, intuition, and an itch to move in a certain direction regardless of what appeared on the surface to be best for me.

I had a student come up to me after class not too long ago. I had been talking about making choices on how to live and not to letting those life choices be made by inaction or other people. I had shared that, a month after receiving tenure as a school counselor I gave notice to move from NY to CA, a place that had terrible statistics for school counselors, and this was at the start of a recession. I did it none–the–less. The student found it inspiring that I followed my gut, my passion. And with patience, grace and a lot of faith, I landed in a job and a place I loved like no other. I also landed a life I would not have seen coming, ever, ever, ever… I advocate that sometimes we just have to be brave and jump. I told her I could be a cautionary tale for some in how I lived my life, but she told me it gave her license to think bigger, be braver, and trust herself more. That is always good.

So I invite you to step back and take a look at your destiny dots, things that make you think, “ah so this is what all those random acts lead me to.” Go back and look at those defining moments, the events, people and things that left you forever changed and see if they move you to or away from the fixed dots of destiny. Look at the long game. The longer learnings, where you had to be beaten over the head over and over with the same life lesson until you learned it. Those can be hard to look at, but what shines through are the grace, humility, tenaciousness and resolve we possess in the face of change, challenge and cheap candy. Go ahead and connect the dots and see where it takes you.

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Joy

I have spent some time thinking about what happy feels like versus joyful. They feel different. I believe they come from different places, and our ability to increase them in our lives might be done differently as well. Noticing where and how they occur in my life was the first step to understanding the components, factors and juju involved.

Happy is good. I think happy is something that happens based on my response to external factors and how I choose to see them. My choice in how I see them is based on my biases, expectations and internal rules of the road. What I mean is those factors help grow or inhibit my happiness. An ability to see the silver linings, see set-backs as opportunities for growth or learning instead of a perceived failure, are some of those factors. The sense of play that can be teased out of almost any situation and grow a culture in it with friends and family is another component. Like attracts like, so if I only see rude people, or misery, it is a reflection of where I am in life, and if I see humor and kindness more than anything then I am reflecting that. This does not mean that I dismiss the ugly things that happen but I look to the learning, the action towards helping, the meaning and move toward the solution and underlying causes rather than focus solely on the problem.

Happiness feels more external in my response and reaction to the world, with how I focus my lenses in life. I can grow it by my actions, by my gratitude and practices. Things like exercise, meditation, naps, time with friends and being alone to play and reflect help cultivate the happy gene. One major factor science shows us is time in nature, even 20-30 minutes a week in nature, helps alleviate stress and enforce well-being. All of these factors and components we choose to build in our lives help us to cultivate happiness.

Let’s break this down more in the practical sense:  Make a list of five things you love to do. They can be small like taking a nap, or larger like travel, it doesn’t matter just make note. Then next to each thing write when was the last time you did it, and if you have to estimate it do that. Then notice how often you invite things in your life that make you happy. Notice if you make time for things you have passion for. Look at the reasons you have not made time, created space. Even risked looking foolish to try something you haven’t done in years. Don’t judge just notice, and then decide what one small thing you can do this week. Then plan when, put it in your calendar, tell someone so you are accountable or better yet invite them along. Then go do it. Then do another, and another… as a practice it take motion, emotion and reflection and repeating the cycle.

So what about joy? Joy feels very different to me. Joy wells up from inside like a huge warm wave of love, being one with the world, of appreciation and feeling whole. It is a soul connection and an inside job for sure. We in a moment of observation, reflection or happenstance are swept away in emotion that brings tears to our eyes. It is connection to source, to light, to love that wells up from our roots and fills us in awe and peace.

Increasing joy has been a tougher nut to crack. I think because a small part of it is driven by the external factors but mostly it feels organic and out of control, a little like a 7th grade science project with a volcano bubbling out on the linoleum floor. It comes from our relationship to ourselves, to self-love and connection. Happy sets the stage for joy; it creates practices that raise our mood, our vibration and wellness. It creates an atmosphere where we notice miracles, great wonders and love all around us. Then we feel joyful, we feel connected.

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi

Living from our soul, our light and our love means being willing to look foolish, leaving fear behind, and opening to the world. It is wholehearted living, being vulnerable and willing to suspend judgement and listen. It is lightening our load by dropping expectations, being in the moment and appreciating deeply the gift of life, those around us and opportunities we have. It is about helping others to achieve their dreams and us living ours if only by simple acts of kindness, compassion and play.

So we start with happy and graduate into joyful in our practices. Find ways to let things go, to not judge yourself and others too harshly, find things that make you feel good, loved, successful, peaceful and full of purpose. Make connection to those you love and build moments of laughter and memories. As the holidays are bounding in, be mindful of how you want to spend them. How do you want to be during them, what actions, words and behaviors are going to define you? What are you going to give to this one beautiful life as you go tripping through it? Pay attention, notice, look for the love, laughter and build your joy bank for short days and long nights. Choose love, choose light, choose something decadent or funny or uplifting and bring along everyone around you for the journey. Cheers and make mine a nog!

Posted in Being Open, celebrate, Change, choices, Gratitude, Happiness, Health and Wellness, holidays, intent, Joy, Learning, mind shifts, Play, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Take it Easy

I probably have ten to fifteen conversations about over-thinking with clients, students, co-workers, friends and myself at least weekly. That number might be on the low end really… What does this mean? It means over analyzing everything; living in our heads; editing our action based on what we think others will want, will judge us harshly for; trying to find the “right” answer, path, choice; any and all of the above. We crunch on things over and over: what did that remark, look, tone, gesture mean? We get stuck in loops in our heads playing out scenarios, playing detective, projecting, constructing myths. All that is just fiction, myth and ego— plays all written with fear. Based on these fears we sometimes choose our actions, our beliefs and our lives.

We have control over what we think. Sometimes it does not feel like that, but it is true. We default to revisiting or playing tapes in our heads and we feel compelled to stay there. Instead of listening to what someone is telling us we choose to focus on what they think of us: do they like us? Should we talk? Should we express our needs and wants? We edit our actions based on whether we believe they will be received well. We edit ourselves to fit accepted molds and stereo-types we have seen. We edit ourselves to be liked and loved, to be valued or just not to be shunned. This editing only makes us smaller. It does not make us better, more worthy, more loveable. It creates a persona we put on like a bad ill-fitting coat we don as we walk through life.

Stopping the loop, the crunching on data can be difficult. It takes practice to reach for a better thought, creating a practice of redirecting our thoughts to the present and now, instead of the past or future.  Recognizing we are spiraling and caught in that crazy loop is the first step. Pulling back, knowing we are over-thinking and in our head helps us choose something better.

“Don’t let the sounds of your own wheels make you crazy” – Jackson Browne and Glen Frey

The sounds of our own wheels, our own fears, our own thoughts, spin around and around in our heads getting distorted and mythicized. This is the crazy-making process we indulge. Having a bag of tricks to pull tools from to halt over-thinking and stop the chatter is key. Paying attention to the things that self soothe, things that make us feel better, more sane, grounded and lighter. Coming out of obsessive thought is a practice consisting of reaching for a better thought and stopping the flow downward. Of doing instead of thinking. Of letting go and letting God, The Giant Space Monkey, The Void, Chance, or whoever we believe in, take over.

Years ago my sister Chris said to me, “Your head is like a bad neighborhood, you can’t spend too much time there alone. It’s dangerous.” Though she has reported I said that to her we have co-writing credit, like Browne and Frey I guess.  Learning to extract myself from my bad neighborhood of over-thinking and practicing doing it regularly has given me an arsenal of tips, tricks and tools. Most of them work most of the time, sometimes none in the moment but always over time.

Here are a few things I do to try getting my brain unstuck.

  • Take a short walk and only focus on my senses. If I can’t see it, smell it, feel it, taste it, hear it, I can’t think about it. I try to immerse myself in my surroundings.
  • Recognize I am doing over-thinking and take a breath and move onto a better thought.
  • Do something that I have to concentrate on that requires my full attention like cooking, painting, writing, Pilates.
  • Call someone who makes me laugh.
  • Watch or read a comfort movie or book that helps me shift my perspective for the better.

Things I don’t do because they exacerbate the voices or my crazy are equally important

  • Journal, it seems in the moment to give more voice to the voices in my head and gives them a bigger stage to obsess on.
  • Drink alcohol, it is a depressant and just grows monsters
  • Sit still
  • Eat
  • Call someone and go over and over and over whatever I am obsessing about for the billionth time
  • Look at “evidence” in old journals, emails, photos, social media, etc…
  • Looking backward or forward is bad, bad, bad in this instance

I do my best to remember this is a practice, a process and a way of choosing to be in the world. By stepping away from my mental monsters and behaviors of over-thinking, editing, and justifying I can break the negative flow. It is taking steps toward doing, being and playing more. It is not letting the sound of my own wheels make me crazy and learning to just take it easy.

Posted in Change, choices, Fear, foundation of change, Health and Wellness, intent, mind shifts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rebels

A client was looking at her dating life and asked, “Why do women date bad boys, or rebels?” I took a breath and said, “It is easier to date a rebel than be one.” I didn’t miss a beat to her question and her reaction to my answer was to bolt upright on the sofa, her mouth formed a little O and she rapidly blinked and nodded as though she was sending Morse code. It seemed I hit home. I think dating the “bad boy or bad girl” goes across the board for the sexes. We know opposites attract but I am not sure they sustain, unless there are common core values between partners.

I think that we sometimes seek out people that appear to be exotic, bold, and dangerous; they do things we would want to do but are afraid of doing. They are outspoken, brave, reckless, careless, passionate and full of life. All the things we have on our To Be List’s. Many folks instead live vicariously through others in a pale substitute for living. Finding our sense of self, our confidence leads to our own voice, and subsequently our own rebel within. I believe it is our calling to be authentically who we are, in all we are both shadow and light. That wholeness and humility comes forward to celebrate for this small time and space we are here. Not editing who we are but embracing all of it, the good, the bad and the crazy.

I have lived an unconventional life in many ways, some being that I have had many careers, lived in lots of places, never married nor had children. I dance to the beat of a different drummer, badly at times but it is my dance and I own it. I own it in all its herky, jerky movements, the fits and starts with staccato transitions and prat falls all leading to self-satisfied stillness in my weirdness and freedom. I like who I am. It was hard won over hellish years of wandering in search of what lie within. When younger I was looking for that sense of self outside, in the faces of the men I loved, the friends I connected with and the challenges that I chose.

As most folks of a certain age can attest to, we find love, happiness, fulfillment, kindness within. In fact most things in life are an inside job. We cannot give others what we don’t give to ourselves.  We also cannot get to our rebel voice, our sense of true self, without stopping, reflecting, feeling and fully living in the moment. We cannot get to our rebel, ourselves, without making a massive amount of mistakes, and having one embarrassing moment after another. We find the things we feared most not only don’t kill us but were so much smaller then they appeared. Not unlike side mirrors on a car, a distortion we have been warned about yet never really fully process in real time. As one of my editors told me “fear is such a bullshitter.”

Leaning into your rebel self, finding passion, purpose and play on a daily basis creates a wonderful life. So how do you start? You start by getting to know who you are, not who you have cultivated to fit into the life you think you should lead, or the partner you think your significant other wants, or the person who you believe society has asked you to be. You take time and really get to know what you like and don’t like, what feels good and what feels shitty. You unplug from social media and social circles that dictate what we should do and instead create space for you to flex your true self muscles. Though it may feel weird and shaky, like a foal taking its first steps that is just fine. That is what new feels like. Just try it on your own, mess up, try again and learn from what it feels like. Don’t think too much: your brain can hinder this process in a big way. This is something we have to feel our way to, not think our way to. We become an anthropologist or detective in our own lives. We use those internal tuning forks in our gut and chest that pull us towards the things that resonate. Then leave the things that don’t resonate and don’t judge. Just make note. Just notice.

The first step is just about noticing, being present, letting go of fear or letting it lapse just a little. Letting go of the fiction of perfect and normal is key.  Come on, would you sit next to someone who was either perfect or normal at a wedding? Hell no!  There is no there, there…. Just steep in what feels good, moves you forward and creates space. Laugh at yourself and give yourself lots of kindness and a massive amount of curiosity about the world and how you move through it. This is called nurturing, creating an environment for you to grow, to thrive and become the force of nature you were born to be and letting your inner rebel out.

Posted in Change, choices, curiosity, Faith, Fear, foundation of change, Health and Wellness, humor, intent, Learning, mind shifts, rebel, truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Practical Magic

When I was small I believed in magic. All kinds of magic, like fairies, spells, witches, dragons (which we know from the Game of Thrones are real), spirits and ghosts, pixies (but not the band). I believed there was more to life than met the eye, and with that adventures in faraway lands that were not yet mapped. I still hold true to those beliefs and have been readying myself for a journey to one of those lands that is not yet mapped. In order to tell this tale I think I need to go back and start with the purple frog first to make sense of nonsense.

When I was around six or seven years old I was very much focused on magic, not just the Disney stuff we saw on the World of Disney on Sunday nights but real magic. Real magic was what I wanted to acquire, some practical magic skill sets to help me be successful in life. Success at that age was making sure I could find my mother’s hiding spot for the “good” cookies, control of the TV for when The Mike Douglas Show or The Monkeys were on, and getting a horse of my own on our suburban quarter acre lot on Long Island. My logical progression for learning magic was creating something out of nothing, which lead to hundreds of hours of me trying to manifest a purple frog in my hand every time I sat on the toilet.

Yea I can hear you, “Really, the toilet? Do need to know about this?” No you don’t, but you don’t need to know about waist trainers and Kim Kardashian, which filters work best for what on Instagram, or the jingle for Nationwide Insurance commercial, but you do ….

The bathroom practice of prestidigitation was a necessity: I was not only practicing as I sat but the toilet was the touchstone (for lack of a better phrase) to try to make my purple frog appear. It was the small private space of the bathroom that mattered most for my work. Our house felt close: a jumble of arms and legs, mouths going, hair flipping and doors kicking people.  There were my three growing sisters, my parents, who held a certain amount of gravitas, and my generously proportioned grandmother; we can call her the anchor.  It was crowded. The bathroom was the only room that I did not share for any period of time, so it was a natural laboratory. As to the frog, green would have been good but for some reason my frog had to be purple. The rationale was to prove that the appearance and its purpleness were nothing short of spectacular magic of the highest order. Not that I was doing much magic at the lowest order or any for that matter. I thought that if you are going to pull a frog from thin air, it can’t be harder to make it purple. I still stand by that logic, really it is flawless.

I never did get my purple frog. The practice morphed and faded into other desires, other practices of the improbable and impractical over time. In junior high there was a stoner bully, yes an oxymoron but what can I tell you? Things played out in a junior high lunchroom where anything unappetizing and unlikely can thrive. This girl picked on me every time I was in there. She was tougher than me, which was not difficult: though I was tall, I was quiet and shy, not smart enough for a nerd just beige enough to stay out of the fray. I was safe until something about me made it through this chick’s lunchtime buzz and she started busting my chops, as we said in the day. At one point I got up my nerve and warned her off. She wanted to know why she shouldn’t mess with me, and before I knew it I told her I was a witch. Not only was she high, but she was not the sharpest knife in the cafeteria. I am also an excellent liar, or was in the day.  She was in awe and I gave her examples of all things witchy, which I garnered from every TV show and movie I ever saw (and there were many), not just beloved Bewitched but Bell Book and Candle and beyond. My white lie was enough to give me space to eat lunch, avoid attack and build an odd bond and alliance with a different crowd. It turns out telling people you have magic powers creates the end result of having magic powers. I didn’t get beat up or harassed which was what I wanted magic for.

Years later I lay in bed after an argument with my boyfriend, thinking he is a pain in my ass and I need to get out of NYC.  At the time I was fixing the first Mac’s from Apple, this little renegade computer company. I was sick of the city and I strongly wanted to be audacious and independent. My dream in that moment was to leave the city, work at the support center Apple had in North Carolina, and to buy myself a big-ass red truck. I smiled at that dream; it calmed me so I could fall asleep and promptly forgot all about it. I didn’t have a license or drive at the time; I had only been fixing computers for about six months. Women, especially Long Island girls, didn’t drive trucks in those days and I never lived anywhere but New York State. It was just the boldest thing I could conjure and it felt good, hence the sleep. The next day the boyfriend said nice things, I said nice things, and we dysfunctioned-junctioned down the road.

Flash forward five or six years later, when I remembered that dream, that audacious “I’ll show you” dream.  I was stunned, as I remembered it out of the blue. I was stunned because I was driving a big red truck on my way to work at Apple as a tech support engineer. I had not thought twice after the moment of inception that the perfect future of audacity would come to its fruition. I was not focused on making it happen; I merely was more approachable to my future as it sidled up to me.

The long road was that the boyfriend and I moved to California outside of Tahoe National Forest and built a cabin. Lions, tigers and bears, oh my, but those adventures are another story. I was still fighting with him after moving when I remembered a friend from the now-closed NC Apple Call Center, now moved to a new one in CA, said to call him if I ever wanted a job. I did, I got it, I needed to drive something, got a deal on a year-old/new red truck on the Nissan lot, and the rest is history. The bad boyfriend was there for the beginning of the move but long gone by the end. It seems I didn’t have to focus on or practice daily much less on the toilet for the magic of prestidigitation to work. To master manifestation, I just had to dance in the direction of the music. Dance on the edge, dance into the fear and the unknown.

As the years go by I have seen this over and over. I have done this over and over and almost always didn’t know what was at the end of the journey, the lands we cannot see with the eye and the parts of us that are unmapped. It is magic when we trust, we move forward and inward with a prayer on our lips, and smile in our hearts and fear nipping at our heels. So my view these days is at the last mapped land of these past nine years in San Diego, of Spirit Work, of Teaching, Coaching, Fitness and Health…. I feel a pull to parts unknown again, stronger and stronger over the past year or so… that doesn’t always mean moving but it does mean crazy change and transformation. Where I go next I do not know, I do know I am scared as usual, I am excited of course but the journey and lands unknown are calling and it’s time to dance.

Posted in Being Open, Change, Faith, foundation of change, Health and Wellness, humor, intent, Learning, Magic, Manifestation, mind shifts, Practical Magic, truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment