What’s In a Metaphor?

Twyla Tharp writes in her book, The Creative Habit, about metaphor. “Metaphor is our vocabulary for connecting what we’re experiencing now with what we have experienced before. It’s not only how we express what we remember, it’s how we interpret it – for ourselves and others.” Up to this point in my life, I would have been inclined to say that I don’t use metaphors often but, upon reflection, I’m finding they run rampant in my conversations. Just recently, I was confiding to a friend about my sense of being “out of control”…how I felt like I was “caught in a whirlpool in the Bermuda Triangle.”  Metaphor! It gave me pause. My chest was constricted, I was feeling scared and small. When I thought about the emotion tied up in that metaphor, I was taken back to a forgotten memory of being on an inflatable raft in the waters outside of Leme Beach and being pulled out by an undertow current when I was a child. What a powerful connection.

I’m paying attention these days to my words. To discover the hidden gems hidden in my metaphors. The memories that drive my reactions. The voices of authority that stop me in my tracks. The list goes on. The pIMG_1823oint is to bring the emotions behind the metaphor into the light and choose whether I want to keep carrying them forward. Instead of harboring the fear of drowning, I’m focusing on the relief and joy of getting my feet firmly planted in the sand. I did survive. Instead of stopping what I’m doing like a guilty child, I’m choosing to stand in my own power. What are your metaphors telling you? What will you keep and what will you let go? That’s the amazing thing, we have a choice. Choose what is best for you.

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Deconstructing a Piano

IMG_6416While living in England during the 1980s, I fell in love with an antique piano. The front was a beautiful inlayed wood design with candle sconces. Every time I looked at it, it stirred my imagination and carried me back to bygone eras. It didn’t matter that it was slightly out of tune and weighed over 500 pounds. It was beautiful.

Thirty five years later, it still sat in my living room. Still beautiful, still unable to carry a tune, and still too heavy to move far. What was I holding on to? It turns out that I was holding out for the moment when I would realize that I could take it apart and create new life with it. With a screwdriver and hammer in hand, I am in the midst of the puzzle of deconstructing…pausing every now and then to pay homage to the men who built it.

I don’t know yet what I will do with the pieces. I’m drawn to making the front panel with the sconces a mantel piece and the inner workings into wall art…or perhaps a sculpture. What I do know is that the piano will live on and I will shed myself of the weight and space that the old form took up. I also realize that it’s a metaphor for my life right now. There are times to appreciate, times to let go, times to create, times to allow space for new things to grow. What are you holding on to that no longer serves you and what might you create if you let it go? It’s something to think about this week.

In Anticipation

I’ve started spending my mornings once again settled in the chair in front of the hummingbird feeder. It is filled and ready for their return to me. blog - 1 (2)And, I don’t think that it is a coincidence that a friend just sent me a vignette of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Happiness Jar – a daily ritual to record your happiest moment of the day. I suspect that on the day they return it will be the “happiest moment of the day” that I place in the Happiness Jar. When you stop to think about it, it’s the littlest things that bring such joy.

What are your littlest things? Talking a walk in the park? Snuggling in your favorite chair with a good book? Coffee with an old friend? If those things which bring a happy feeling of anticipation are not a regular habit, consider reintroducing some of them back into your routine. As Winnie-the-Pooh, one of my favorite teachers, noted:

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” 

Anticipation is a wonderful thing…

I Am Human

IMG_3144Years ago, I read a quote by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.” This quote came to mind as I was reading Debbie Ford’s book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. In it, she talks about the importance of accepting our dark sides and finding the good in those aspects of ourselves that we hate. This has been one of the greatest lessons I have learned as a coach.

What are the “don’t be(s)” that you tell yourself? Don’t be mean? Don’t be selfish? Don’t be unkind? That’s just the beginning of my list, it can go on for pages. The fact is, there are times that I am mean, I am selfish, and I am unkind. And, there are times those behaviors serve me and/or serve those around me. When we begin to accept the fact that everyone, myself included, have both good and bad within us, we can begin to see that there is less that divides us than unites us. When you find yourself locking in on a judgment about someone else, take a moment to think about what circumstances could have caused you to take the same action or stance. Give yourself the same gift and see how it changes how you view the world and yourself. In the end, we are all too human.

 

Making Snow Angels

For those on the East Coast, you are either digging out or wondering where the mountains of snow are in your world. We made the requisite run to the grocery store for milk and toilet paper…although I really think the run is really for a chance to share stories in the IMG_5141 copygrocery line about our ability to overcome obstacles brought on by nature. Rarely, do I hear stories about playing in the snow and making snow angels anymore. Where did the anticipation of a snowfall go? Do you remember dragging your sled to the nearest hill and flying down it? Sinking into snowdrifts as you walked across the yard? Falling back on the fresh snow, spreading your arms and making snow angels? Where did the fun go?

Let’s take back the “wonder” in winter wonderland! Look at the snow with the eyes of a child. Bundle up in layers and go outside. Tromp through the drifts. Borrow a cafeteria tray and slide down a hill. Fall back and create a snow angel! Have some fun…shoveling the driveway can wait.

Exercise Sixty-One

Most folks know that I’m a fan of vision boards. I love to use the process to dream big and to set intentions. blog - 1If you came to my studio, you would see three boxes of torn out photos and words that I keep ready for my next creation. Today, we are going to take the essence of the vision board process and reduce it into smaller project that will be a companion to Looking For Fun in All the Right Places. First step is to stop and think about all the things that are or would be fun. Like to swim? Take a walk? Create jewelry? People watch? Learn to skydive? Make a list of at least 10. Now, find a small image of each item on your list and print it out (Google Search on images works well). When you are done, create a one page collage that you can place at the front of your calendar. Ready for the hard part? At the beginning of each week, look at that page and schedule some time during the week to do at least one of your fun activities and actually do it. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr said, “Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.”  Play on!

Looking for Fun in All the Right Places

I’ve rediscovered a guilty pleasure….posing in the cutouts that are appearing everywhere img_5764these  days. It doesn’t cost anything, there are no calories to count, and inevitably it brings a smile to my face. When was the last time you dropped your adult mask and played with what appeared randomly in front of you? We are so caught up in doing the responsible thing, addressing the “shoulds”, “woulds” and “coulds” in our heads, losing the joy in the moment. Take a break. Have some spontaneous fun. Let go of what others think. Let go about what you think. Stay in the moment and laugh. The world can use more laughter.

After a long hiatus where I immersed myself in moving, unpacking, classes and more, it’s great to be back writing. I can’t wait to share what I’ve found with you all.

Exercise Sixty

ME5Given the time span between Exercise Fifty Nine and Sixty, I thought I’d reorient us again to our creative sides. In that vein, I’m going to ask you to create your ideal imaginary friend. This is the friend with who you can do no wrong, who loves all your ideas, knows that you are one of the most creative people on the planet. They are always available for a play date with you. This is your creative companion going forward.

What is your imaginary friend’s name?

What does your imaginary friend look like?

What are your imaginary friend’s favorite adjectives?

What excites your imaginary friend?

What does your imaginary friend love most about you?

Have the answers? Perfect. Next week we begin the journey again and I can’t wait to be with both of you.

In Between the Pages

It struck me the other day that it had been too long since I picked up a book for fun. As a child, I would most often be found sitting in my room immersed in an adventure with my imagination putting me smack dab in the middle of the action. I dreamed of riding horses, childrensbooks-1living in far off lands, having magical powers…almost everything that happened in between the pages. Looking back, I realize that I have done many of the things I dreamed about doing while reading. Is there a connection? You bet. The books expanded my dreams of what was possible, opened me to  new ideas, took me to places that I’d never been and now longed to see. What did they do for you?

When I watch a movie or tv show or listen to an audible book, I am separate from the action. I don’t imagine that I am part of the story. While I may have empathy for the characters, when the screen fades, its done. There is no space for dreaming. I’ve become Alice from Alice in Wonderland:

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

I want to be back in the space of believing six impossible things before breakfast. It’s time to pick up a book again and immerse myself in between the pages. Want to join me?

 

 

Start Where You Are

IMG_1823Do you remember Snoopy’s happy dance? That’s where I am right now. Yesterday I finally pushed through all the moving piles of stuff and created enough clear space in my studio that I can paint again. For those of you who are waiting for your artwork, hang in there, it’s coming. Often, to keep me in my work zone, I take the opportunity to listen to one of the many webinars that appear in my email queue. Samantha Bennett, from the Organized Artist Company, is one of my favorites. Last year, I took her course “Get It Done” and shared with you her encouragement to take fifteen minutes a day to work on whatever your dream happens to be.  Yesterday, she was promoting a new course and soon to be book, “Start Where You Are”. One of the pieces of advice she gave after asking participants to tell her what was stopping them from starting was to replace the word “but” with “and”. I don’t remember exactly how folks replied but the gist is — instead of “I wanted to start but my I couldn’t find my art supplies” reframe the statement to “I wanted to start and I couldn’t find my art supplies.” For me, taking it from an excuse to a statement of fact moved me forward.

I’ve said it before and I will keep on saying it. How we talk to ourselves and others matters. Have you paid attention to what you are saying to yourself lately? Perhaps this is the week to start. When you use “but”, replace it with “and” and see how it feels to you. When you say, “I am …. (pick a negative comment), follow it with a positive statement about yourself. Remember, you have total control here. Start where you are. Now.

Exercise Fifty-Nine

Grace (2)I started reading “Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being” by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. last night. They point out that “one of the unique things about the human brain is that it can only do what it thinks it can do…The first rule of super brain is that your brain is always eavesdropping on  your thoughts. As it listens, it learns. If you teach it about limitation, your brain will become limited. But what if you do the opposite? What if you teach your brain to be unlimited?” Unlimited? Wow. Doesn’t that rock your world? It does mine.

During the coaching instruction last week, I was working through what was preventing me from painting. I had plenty of reasons and I took home the task to address it with my family. Guess what? It wasn’t the family, it was me. I wasn’t choosing painting as a priority. The next day, as I reviewed my homework assignment in class, my coach asked me what was the feeling I was working to capture. After some thought, I answered, “The feeling of gliding through the air”. He had me stand up and we both took to the air, flying through the room, around and over other coaching groups. As we returned to our corner, he handed me a piece of paper and told me to see all my “shoulds” on a To Do list. Then, he said, “Tear it up.” Two simple exercises which lightened my spirit considerably and I opened me to unlimited possibilities.

This week, I plan to open myself up to new experiences and learn new skills — to let my brain know that I am not constrained by what I know in this moment. Want to join me? I’ve said it before and I imagine I will keep saying it over and over again. We, each, have tremendous potential within us just waiting for us to shine our light in its direction. The world is in desperate need of those gifts. What will you do this week to open yourself up to new experiences? What new skills will you learn? What new doors will you open? I can’t wait to hear the results. In the meantime, let me take you back some decades to the perfect song…

 

Loving Ourselves

I just finished some very intense coaching training on fulfillment. There is no way to  participate in this type of training without experiencing transformation yourself…and I did. Taking a deep dive into our inner souls amidst tears and laughter, darkness and light, fear and joy, we emerged having  met our power and those parts of ourselves that love us, appreciate us and support us…that want for us to be our authentic selves and spread our light into the world. Marianne Williamson wrote

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

How awesome it was to experience this powerful lesson and to know that I can access those parts of me that allow me “to shine”. The parts that entreat me to I love myself and “not play small”. I can’t wait to give this same gift to my clients. It was fitting that one of my favorite songs started playing in the hallway during break after the last session. It was Jason Mraz’s “Living in the Moment”. I plan to take the words to heart today. How about you?

Exercise Fifty-Eight

thI think the universe is telling me to be curious and open my mind to new ideas. My mother recently introduced me to Bookbub, a site that offers free and heavily discounted ebooks daily. I find that there is always at least one book that captures my attention and gets downloaded. This was followed last Saturday by a call from a good friend asking if I wanted to join her to visit the Book Thing in Baltimore. The Book Thing is an old converted building whose “mission is to put unwanted books into the hands of those who want them”…again for free. I donated five and came out with eighteen. Then, there are the libraries here. Coming from an place where the library is a small converted trailer and there are no longer any major bookstores on island, it’s a joy to be able to use the libraries again. Bottom line, there is no reason for me to be limited by what I think I know.

Confuscius said, “You cannot open a book without learning something.” It’s true. Even books I’ve read before seem to have new spins that I missed the first time. I have to admit that I have been known to walk into wine stores and pick out wines because I like the labels — some are really good, some not so — but it is a learning tool. I have done the same with books lately. Choosing books because I am intrigued by the titles without reading what they are about. I’ve had some really interesting and totally unexpected finds. This week I’m suggesting that you turn off the computer and the television and pick up a book. Find a quiet corner and read. Expand your mind, explore new ideas (at least to you), and let your imagination fill in the details. We spend too much time with shortcuts that tell us what to see, what to think, how to feel. Take your power back and think for yourself. It is liberating.

Setting Intentions

butterfly1I’m not very good at journaling. Despite best intentions, I start with great passion, writing daily and then eventually put the practice aside. Yesterday, I came across some writing from 2008. I had written on the first page the word metamorphosis and its definition: “A profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly.” It was followed by a quote from T. S. Eliot. “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”

I was intrigued. The journal started with “Today I begin my transformation — releasing old patterns and habits, opening my heart and mind, honoring my body, recognizing the connections and immersing myself in that which brings me joy. I am indeed blessed on so many levels. It is time to revel in that. This is the time to be aware, be open and have faith as a new path emerges and I move towards my calling.” A few days later I wrote, “I started this morning reading “A Weekend to Change Your Life” by Joan Anderson. The focus today is on intention – to stretch towards something. ‘Intention can be a new way to embrace life – a positive attitude, a series of wild characteristics previously thought to be forbidden or unattainable. They can be one word each, or a series of words strung together. They come from noticing characteristics or qualities that appeal to you, just as I did by observing the seals. They can be verbs, nouns or adjectives; attitudes, actions, or feelings. An intention can even be be a color.’ My words are joyful, kind, spiritual, open, aware of the good, non-judging, positive, imaginative, creative, laughter, living every moment exuberantly, healthy. There will be more as I plant the seed in my head and heart. It will be interesting to see what springs forth.”

As I look back, I realize that this is where I made the commitment to follow my heart and not my head. I began to paint in earnest and I laid the foundation for becoming a coach to help others find their passion and follow their hearts. I set the intention to step outside of my comfort zone and open myself to possibilities. The process had its ups and downs but I can say, seven years later, that the journey is worth it. Each of us has so much to give. Consider this week setting the intention to undergo a metamorphosis. Find the words which describe who you want to be inside. Write them down and let them be.  You will be amazed at journey you will undertake.

Exercise Fifty-Seven

Have you been noticing the cycles of nature and life? We’ve been doing a lot of driving on the back roads and the concept of “laying fallow” has really been resonating for me. For those not surrounded by farms, the concept of “laying fallow” is plowing and harrowing the land but leaving it  unseeded for a period of time to allow its fertility to be restored. When I hit those periods where I sit in front of the computer and no creative ideas come forth, I like to think that I am laying fallow and as I wait my creative energy is being restored.

blog dreamsWhere is this rambling leading? A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, a former president of India, said, “You have to dream before your dreams come true.” This week, this is what I am going to ask you to do. Dream. Suspend judgement. Suspend disbelief. Forget about the how. Take out a notebook and a pen. Put on some uplifting music. Quiet your mind and write down your dreams. Is the dream too big, too far out of reach to write down? Write it down anyways. Remember? You have suspended judgement and disbelief for this brief period. Your dreams are the seeds that are waiting to be planted in fertile ground. For now, you are just gathering your dreams, like seeds, before sowing them. There is great power to giving voice to your dreams. Let them emerge and begin the cycle to grow and flourish.

 

Changing Seasons

I loved Hawaii but I missed seeing the leaves change color in autumn. If you think about it, the changing seasons mirror our creative cycles. Think of a leaf as our creative spark. A leaf falls to the ground to lay fallow and seed during the winter; it begins to sprout in the spring, lifting its face to the sun for nurture; matures and blossoms in summer; and in autumn bursts into its full, glorious color, and with the fall begins the cycle again. It gives me the hope and the knowledge that in the winter, when no creative ideas are in sight, that they are just under the surface, germinating, waiting to come forth and begin the cycle again. The falling of the leaf does not symbolize death to me, rather new beginnings. It lands with a gentle dance, returns to the earth to nurture the next generation of flowers and trees.

cleafCycles are important. How differently would you view current circumstances if you remembered that everything is a cycle? We are growing and dying every day; there is activity and rest, happiness and sadness; nurture and loss…nothing that happens is a permanent state. Each cycle leads to another. This week make a point of noticing the cycles around you. Imagine you are the leaf that falls to the ground. What will you give back to the earth? What will you nurture? Envision your roots growing deep in the earth. Who will you connect with? Feel yourself sprouting and opening up. What will you see with new eyes? Grow and blossom. Who will you share your gifts with? Burst into glorious color. Who will you share your knowledge with? Rest and wait to grow again. You are an amazing creation, full of life and wonder. Live it.

Exercise Fifty-Six

IMG_2974As I was sitting here wondering what I would write about today, I opened my notebook to a favorite quote by Maya Angelou. “The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my brain.” Having not picked up a paint brush in over two months, only sitting down to write when the blog is due, throwing play and relaxation out the window as we settled the house, and making no connections to our new community, I realize that I need to make some major changes to recreate an environment where we will thrive. Are you in the same space? A good friend recently wrote that she was in the midst of “spinning her wheels and pushing the accelerator at the same time” — and her words resonated wildly with me. We get so caught up in the “to do and must do” lists that we lose the present moment and ignore the things that do matter to us. We exist but we do not thrive.

This week, take a pen and paper, find a quiet spot and answer the question — What makes me feel whole? Just start listing all the things that matter. Don’t worry about making complete sentences or prioritizing. Let your heart and soul blurt onto the paper — random and messy. Done? Put the paper aside. Close your eyes and surround yourself with everything you just wrote down. Don’t worry about the actual words, the essence will be there. Breathe deep three times, relax your muscles and breathe deep again. Feel good? Let’s start the process of having that be the predominant feeling that surrounds you. Choose one thing from your list that you will intentionally work to restore into your world. Come up with small doable steps that open the door. You’ll find that the door will open even wider as you step forward.  The world needs your love, creativity and talents. Don’t make it wait too long.

Why Pay Twice?

I turned on the radio yesterday and landed on the tail end of an interview on On Being with Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University.  She was talking about losing 80% of her things in a house fire and calling the insurance company to report it. “…this was the first call he ever had where the damage was worse than the call and …I thought ‘Gee, it’s already taken my stuff…why give it my soul? Why pay twice? Which is so often what people do. Something happens, you have that loss, and now you are going to throw all your emotional energy at it…doubling up on the negativity.'” Her words caught my attention. Certainly, I have been known to do that — live through the “tragedy” and continue to go back to the event and relive all the angst that went with it. She continued the story with her memory of the fire and it was the kindness of the hotel employees she met while waiting for her house to be rebuilt –they filled her room with gifts while she was walking her dogs on Christmas Eve — that remains in her memory, not what she lost in the fire. What a wonderful reminder to move forward and open the space for something else to unfold. I definitely am going to pick up some of Ellen Langer’s books to learn more.

IMG_3641Are you able to look back on a “tragedy” now and see what transpired from it? My first heartbreak came to mind. The aftermath taught me so much about who I was, what I was capable of, and opened my world to possibilities I hadn’t considered. It was a gift…and it took me two years to figure out that it was a good thing that it happened. I’m glad to say that the time cycle for recognizing the positive outcomes has shortened considerably.  This week, why don’t you give it some thought? Looking back, are you able to find the positive outcome or growth in something “bad” that happened to you? I’m planning to take up the mantra “Why pay twice?” and see what happens. We have such a short time on this earth, let’s make the most of it.

Exercise Fifty-Five

In the midst of the move, things have been dropping off my radar. I’ve lost track of days of the week and to do lists. That wouldn’t necessarily be bad except that when things have dropped off my radar, my mind is apparently checking them off as “done”. A good example would be last week’s exercise. I can’t imagine that I didn’t write it but there is no trace of it on the computer or web. How can that be? I haven’t missed a week in over a year. The answer turns out to be a simple one. I’ve lost my routines in the chaos and in doing so I’ve lost a bit of myself.  A lesson re-learned and soon to be implemented – mindfully start each day, schedule time for the things that will nurture my inner source, and do something each day that I enjoy.

coloring bookI was reminded of this yesterday when reading a note from my Mastermind group. A good friend is  experiencing her own chaos in preparing to sell her house. She wrote “I also have a new passion that gave me a lot of comfort as an only child and that is coloring. ME wrote about coloring in a blog and I had such great memories of doing so as a child…It’s a total stress reducer, creative and fun. I recommend everyone try it and try not to be concerned with the time you spend doing it.”  Bingo. One of my own favorite things to do and I just unpacked a box of crayons! Thank you.

Here’s the exercise for this week. Re-read all the exercises I’ve written so far and pick one to actually do. No, not really. That was just for another friend who commented how much she enjoyed reading my blog and had yet to actually do an exercise. What I would like to suggest is to stop for 15 minutes, take three deep breaths, and then think about what recharges you. Coloring? Meditating? Walking? Reading? Writing? Take out your calendar and schedule doing whatever it is for at least 15 minutes a day. Treat this time the same way you would a doctor or hair appointment. Show up for it and do it. Create a ritual that nurtures you, your creativity, and your inner source. You’ll be glad you did.

Celebrate

IMG_3152I’ve been thinking a lot about Labor Day as a theme for today’s blog. Per the Department of Labor, Labor Day ” is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” I’ve decided that this is a day to celebrate you! Open your arms wide, swing them around yourself, and give yourself a giant hug. Look back and see how much you have accomplished, see the lives you have changed (including  your own), see how much better the world is because you are here. It is. A smile given, a kind word, a small act — they all ripple out and affect the world in ways that we can’t even fathom. Know that you are making a difference and I, for one, appreciate you.

Now, turn off the computer and get outside. Do something you love. Laugh. Be in the moment. Celebrate that you are here and we are glad of it! See you on Wednesday.

A Matter of Perspective

photopictWhat do you value? I came across this picture today at the bottom of one of the bins I was sorting through and it summed up what I was feeling.  I have a lot of stuff and I have a few treasures. Interestingly enough, those treasures aren’t necessarily valuable but they connect me to memories which are priceless. Over the past couple of days, we’ve given away “free to good homes” a lot of items I valued but there was no angst involved because the people dropping by to pick them up clearly appreciated having them. That is a treasure in itself.

We hang onto things out of habit — projects which we are never going to finish, items given to us by people whose names we can’t remember, things that we paid a lot of money to have — keeping them long after they’ve served their purpose.  Perhaps, it is time to evaluate our “stuff.” Does it lighten our load or does it weigh us down? Is there so much of it that we can’t imagine starting anything new? Is there space to do the things we want to do? Is its time with us done and will it serve someone else better?  If you are having trouble deciding, have a friend come in and help you. Be prepared. They may ask you hard questions like when was the last time you used it? How long has it been in the box? What does it do? It’s okay to let go. As you create more space, you will feel better. Let the things that surround you be things you actually value, which bring you joy. Life’s short. Enjoy it.

 

Exercise Fifty-Four

Dispatch called Monday to let us know that our household goods would be arriving from Hawaii this weekend. Combining two households is chaotic at best  as difficult decisions must be made about what to keep and what to let go of. As I’ve been going through boxes in the basement that had not been touched since my last move, I’ve come across childhood treasures that I had long since forgotten. Isn’t it amazing how certain objects can immediately bring back memories…and how difficult it is to part with them? I’m thinking the solution may be to make a photo collage as a touchstone which I can place in my studio. We’ll see.

journeyLetting go of “stuff” we’ve accumulated over the years can be hard — whether it be childhood treasures, past grievances, or inbred beliefs. But, there is a lightness of spirit that comes with the clearing. An open space that can be filled with something new and wonderful — an opening to possibilities. Give it a try. This week, find something every day to let go of. Is it that vase that you received as a gift but never really liked? A teacher’s voice that told you that you can’t sing? A belief that you are not enough? You are so let that one go immediately. You get the idea. Make room in your life for the something new. It will be transforming.

Signs

A good friend introduced me to “Letters from the Farm: A Simple Path for a Deeper Spiritual Life” by Becca Stevens. I was immediately drawn in when I read: “We can cut deep furrows and create rich beds for growing when we are not blinded by the bright lights of ego, sidetracked by the illusion of power, and stuck in in the mud of inaction, feeling defeated or overwhelmed. We all have stepped in unseen holes, and found ourselves digging on hard, rocky ground.” It pulled to me because I have been digging on hard, rocky ground for the past couple weeks. What do you do when you find yourself at bottom? Today, I prayed and asked for a sign.

butterfly1This is how I found myself sitting on the deck this morning with a cup of coffee. I began with thank you, followed with a conversation about what was going on, and asked for a sign that things were going to be okay.  The butterfly landed beside us and I was reminded of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s statement: “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”  A sign, indeed.

This week, open yourself to the possibility of asking and receiving. Look for signs that inspire you. Recognize that even fertile fields must be left alone for some period of time in order to restore their fertility. Give yourself a break – a time to renew and re-energize. Everything will happen in its time.

 

Exercise Fifty-Three

Insta31-3A good friend’s friend died suddenly over the weekend and I was taken back to my sister, Carol’s, death. At the time, I picked up a book by Steven Levine called “A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last” and I had copied the following quote down:

“You have to remember one life, one death–this one! To enter fully the day, the hour, the moment whether it appears as life or death, whether we catch it on the inbreath or outbreath, requires only a moment, this moment. And along with it all the mindfulness we can muster…”

The quote inspires me to be present, to recognize that our time is short and the only moment that is guaranteed is this one. Does remembering that change your perspective today? Are you living full out or are you kicking your dreams down the road — when the kids are out of the house, when the job isn’t all-consuming, when you have more time? This week’s exercise doesn’t involve paper or pen, just your heart and soul. Think about what you would do differently if you only had a year…a month…a day to live. What is truly important to you? Spending more time with the kids, feeding the homeless, writing a novel? Spend some time wherever “there” is this week and see how you might find more room in you life for it in the future. This isn’t a call for a drastic action, rather, carving out 30 minutes or so a day for your moments. Breathe, relax and enjoy.

 

 

A Sense of Awe

I was reading Prevention magazine the other day and came across an small blurb on “an all-natural immunity upgrade.” University of California, Berkeley researchers found that a sense of awe may boost our defenses. “Researchers say the necessary boost could come from the simple wonder inspired by a good tune, a poignant picture, or, of course, a vista that leaves you breathless.” My sense irongirlof awe today came when I watched my sister complete the Columbia Iron Girl Sprint Triathlon. She decided at 60 to challenge herself and has been running strong ever since. She is my inspiration and even I am toying with the idea of starting my 60th year with a sprint marathon. Of course, I have to get over my fear of drowning first.

Who inspires you? When was the last time you experienced awe? These are important questions. We are so busy hurrying through our days that we forget the wonder and awe that surrounds us. I am a computer scientist and even though I can tell you how a computer works per the book…I still believe in my heart its magic. When a deer passes through the backyard, I go absolutely still and am amazed by her gentle grace. I love watching bumblebees fly knowing that aerodynamically they shouldn’t. What calls to you? This week, cultivate your sense of awe. Pay attention to small things. Pause in that headlong rush to get things done. Wonder how the objects that surround you came into existence and be glad that they did. We take so much for granted. How about a week where we don’t.

Exercise Fifty-Two

insta31-1This a red-letter day as this post marks a full year of writing this blog. I have to admit that when I started writing I couldn’t envision doing it for a full year. Having done it, I can’t imagine not continuing to write and, in fact,  have two books under way along with the blog.  I have a ritual that I’ve shared before that is tied to a “year” anniversary. It is writing a letter looking back at the year ahead. The letter I write tonight after finishing this post will be dated 12 August 2016. It will talk about the sense of fulfillment finishing year two of the blog, the completion of both books, and so much more. It is my creative story and journey. That’s why, the passage I read this morning in Jean Houston’s book, “The Wizard of Us” resonated so strongly.

We are all on a Hero’s Journey. We have all experienced a Call to Adventure. We have all lived through a Belly of the Whale experience. You don’t have to be Hercules or Achilles, Odysseus or Perseus to be a hero. Consider the power you exercise right here, right now. You have the capacity to do some good in the world, to do brilliant, beautiful things. However, you may not know this, or you may forget what you are capable of during the stress of the everyday world. Any one of us born in this scientific age of quantum realities recognizes that we are all every part of the story. You may realize that you are both the storyteller and the story itself. So, what story you are telling? What story are you being?

Do you know? For your exercise this week, I’d like you to look out three to five years. As you look, do you hear whispers urging you to go in a different direction? Where are they leading you? How does it feel to think about stepping off the known path? I can just about guarantee that once you take a step forward, your world will change and you will discover talents and strengths that you were unaware of. Play with this. Let your imagination soar and your story begin again.

Take Time to Marvel

longdonWe celebrated my mother’s 95th birthday on Friday. A lot happened in those ninety-five years: women got the vote; Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic; the Great Depression and World War II occurred; the A bomb was dropped; segregation was declared illegal; Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union; the first American went into space; JFK and Martin Luther King were killed; the Civil Rights Act was passed; the Cold War ended; and, the Berlin Wall came down.  This barely scratches the surface. Then, when you look at what science created: penicillin, movies and television, scotch tape, frozen foods, radios, telephones, computers, airplanes, antibiotics, aspirin … everything we now take for granted. While writing this, I was taken back to when I first learned to program computers and how I had to punch hundreds of cards to create a small program and how it only took dropping the box of cards once to learn to number them. Now I can create apps with the stroke of a few buttons. Amazing.

What has happened in your lifetime? This week take some time to think about it . We live so much in the present and future that we don’t appreciate what got us here. We are so busy seeking out the latest technology that we ignore the basics. Take a break and take time to marvel (per Merriam-Webster to become filled with surprise, wonder, or amazed curiosity.) Everything that has happened to date began with a thought. Appreciate yours.

Exercise Fifty-One

When you stopped and listened to yourself when you encountered a problem, did you discover anything new about about yourself? This week has been a week of dealing with a lot of unexpected issues beyond my control and it has resulted in moments of absolute despair and feeling completely overwhelmed. I found I generally respond with a flash of anger and then regroup and barrel through the problem. Sometimes the resolution is understanding that its not something I can fix…which is probably one of my hardest things to accept. It reminded me of a self portrait I painted once which had a “work in progress” sign smack dab in the middle. We are all works in progress doing the best we can in the moment we are in.

gratitudeWhat I find helps me when I am in “the depths” is to work on my grateful list. Sometimes it is a verbal litany of “I am grateful for …” or getting outside and looking for signs of nature like singing birds, blooming flowers, and thunderstorms. I recently saw I an image* on Instagram that I really liked. To me, it looked like a gratitude sunflower. I love sunflowers — they make me happy — so it was a double bonus for me — combining sunflowers with gratitude. That’s going to be the exercise this week. Grab a blank sheet of paper, colored pens or pencils and create your own gratitude flower. I’ve pulled out my Crayola Big Box and some Sharpies and I am going to do some gratitude flower creating of my own which I’ll share at a later date. I’d love to see your creations too.

*I apologize to the creator of the image. I searched, unsuccessfully, to find you. I did find the image again on the website Trans4Mind.com which I am going to go back and visit. It looks like an interesting website but there was no attribution for the image in the article.

It Can Be Done

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner wrote in “Think Like a Freak” that “all of us face barriers – physical, financial, temporal – every day. Some are unquestionably real. But others are plainly artificial – expectations about how well a given system can function, or how much change is too much, or what kinds of behaviors are acceptable. The next time you encounter such a barrier, imposed by people who lack your imagination and drive and creativity, think hard about ignoring it. Solving a problem is hard enough, it gets that much harder if you’ve decided it can’t be done.”

out of the hole (2)I know this to be true from personal experience. A few years back, I got to attend Space Camp as part of my leadership training. It was a blast and I highly recommend it to everyone – even though I had to roll up the bottom of my astronaut uniform and may have looked more like a kid playing astronaut. At one point, we were taken out to “Area 51” where, as a team, we had to solve puzzles left by aliens. Midway through the course, we were told by our instructor that no team had ever solved the puzzle in less than two minutes. We looked at each other and agreed that we would…and we did. What was really neat is that every team that followed us, when they heard what we accomplished, did the same. As one of my favorite Hawaiian sayings go – if you can, can…if you can’t, can’t.

This week, listen to yourself when you encounter a problem. How do you react? Do you believe you can solve it? Are you willing to view it differently? Try something new? If you find yourself floundering, repeat the following words – “I have more imagination and drive and creativity than anyone else and I’m going to use all of these to solve the problem.” Say it again. “I am imaginative. I have drive. I am creative. I am capable of solving anything I put my mind to.” Now, go out and do it. You are going to accomplish amazing things this week.

 

 

Exercise Fifty

IMG_4021 (2)Fifty is a special number to me. It is the age when I finally realized that there was more to life than working 9-12 hours a day; that while I had accomplished “great” things, I was not personally satisfied; and that I had the power to change and grow in unexpected ways. Sophia Loren’s words resonated with me. “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” Fifty truly is the new thirty.

This week, set twenty minutes aside. Put on music that uplifts you. Find a comfortable spot to write and sit down with pen and paper. Write Sophia Loren’s quote at the top, then write “I want.” Now continue. Don’t worry if there are pauses — you may not be used to thinking about what you want at core level. Don’t edit what you’ve written. Just let the thoughts flow. You aren’t being graded. This is all about you. When you are done, put what you’ve written in a special place. I want you to make a point of taking it out and reading it each morning. Feel free to add to it– you might even realize that some of the things you’ve written aren’t what “you” want. That’s part of the discovery process. When you are clearer about what you really want at your soul level, you will find opportunities will open up which will move you towards fulfilling your dreams. Trust in the process and have fun with this.

“Let’s Start at the Very Beginning”

insta40I’m working on a theory. What’s your all-time favorite movie(s)? Mine are “Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins.” If I had to pick a line that stands out for me, it would be Julie Andrews saying, “Reverend Mother always says when the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” It’s a toss up whether my favorite image is Julie Andrews running through the mountains with her arms wide or Dick Van Dyke dancing with the penguins. I’m still collecting images of penguins and my one of my very favorite children’s books was “Tacky,” the story of a penguin who was an odd bird but a very nice bird to be around. I asked my partner what her favorite movie was and she said, “Fiddler on the Roof.” That answer fit her — a film where the main character questioned everything and thought through the answers…and loved to sing and dance. So back to my theory — if we pay attention to the ordinary things that have stood the test of time with us, we can uncover clues to what feeds our souls. We don’t always have to dig deep for answers, they are often placed right in our path.

The connection with my movies is that I am fully invested in the idea that “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down” and things are “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” I’m ready to “climb every mountain and ford every stream” and in my heart I still “am sixteen going on seventeen.”  What about you? It’s a fun experiment once you get into it. This week, I’m going to suggest you give it a try. Think about your favorite movies and books. Are there common themes? Anything special that calls out to you? There are clues in the things that we take for granted. Look for them and see what aspects of your younger self you may have forgotten…then ask them to come out and play.

Exercise Forty-Nine

Ocean InstaWhen common themes start appearing in your life, you need to listen. This past week, mine (and I suspect many of you will have the same one) has been “balance.” I know that when I am out of balance — when I’ve over-committed, slept too few hours, run full-tilt for too long — my body lets me know. But, the other thing that happens is the messages around me start getting really loud. The sermons at Unity become about balance, our Mastermind Group talks about the spiral of people-pleasing, posts on Facebook point to letting go, and I’m compelled to re-read my own blog posts.

In light of all this, I’m going to share Cheryl Richardson’s Absolute Yes List as the exercise this week. “Put your self-care above anything else—say no unless it’s an absolute yes. Choose to spend your time and energy on things that bring you joy and make decisions based on what you want instead of what others want. If you don’t set boundaries and take care of yourself, your health and well-being are at stake. And, if you are neglecting yourself, you aren’t helping your family and others around you.”

This may be one of the harder exercises to implement. Saying “yes” is often automatic. Pausing and checking in with yourself and asking if you are 100% in favor of saying yes is difficult. The fear of disappointing others makes it even more so. I’ll let you in on a secret, it gets easier with practice and you’ll discover that absolute yeses mean that you will find the time to do the things that matter most to you. If this seems a bridge too far, choose one day this week to do focus on absolute yeses. Next week, make it two days. Keep it up until it feels comfortable. I’m going to end this by reaching back to a favorite poem I introduced in one of my earlier posts – God Says Yes to Me by Kaylin Haught. Enjoy!

Need Some Support?

insta39I recently came across a handwritten note that I wrote ten years ago. It was a passage from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Coming to Our Senses” and I had read it shortly before deciding to hire a life coach.

“This is a journey that we are all on, everybody on the planet, whether we like it or not; whether we know it our not; whether it is unfolding according to plan or not. Life is what it is about, and the challenge of living it as if it really mattered. Being human, we always have a choice in this regard. We can either be passively carried along by forces and habits that remain stubbornly unexamined and which imprison us in distorting dreams and potential nightmares, or we can engage in our lives by waking up to them and participating in their unfolding, whether we “like” what is happening in any moment or not.”

All too often we get caught up in the day-to-day living, meeting our responsibilities, moving away from our core values and passions, becoming quite successful but not necessarily fulfilled, discovering that our original path was lost and wondering how to get back on tract. This is where I was when a life coach was suggested to me.

Looking back, I’m not sure I would have signed on to coaching if I had realized how much it takes to re-vector one’s professional and personal life. For me, where the external took precedence over the internal, it required a lot of work to reconnect with my core values and passions. Laying bare one’s own vulnerabilities requires a trusted relationship and this is what you must find with a coach — someone who is able to listen, question, reflect, encourage, guide and occasionally “nudge.” It was worth it for me, I initiated long-needed changes to my life’s path. If you are looking to make some positive changes in your life this route might be the one you are looking for too.

Exercise Forty-Eight

Have you noticed that there is a time of day when ideas come popping into your head? When words flow smoothly onto the page? Recently, I was struggling with writing a story. The main body was done but the first paragraph just didn’t work and no matter how many times I rewrote it, I just couldn’t get it to be any better. So, I finally gave up. At 3:30 in the morning, I woke up and the first line came into my head. I loved it and thought, “I’ll remember that.” Closed my eyes and the next line came into my head. “Yeah, that was good, I’ll remember that too.” Ideas kept flowing in and I finally gave in and got up. Within five minutes, I had written the paragraph that I had been struggling with for three hours the previous day.

Words I heard, years ago, came back to mind and I found them again when I googled Dr. Wayne Dyer and Rumi. In an interview with Mark Victor Hanson, Dr. Dyer stated, “Rumi, the Persian poet said, ‘The morning breeze has secrets to tell you. Do not go back to sleep.’ Between 3 and 4 in the morning, you are closest to god. This is when you can get the greatest inspiration.” I noted it then, I’m living it now.

IMG_3604This week, take note of when “inspiration” comes to you. If it is in the early dawn hours, put a notebook beside your bed and take the time to write down your thoughts. If it is the golden hour before sunset, use the voice recorder on your phone. The point is, whatever the time, be aware, have tools in place and capture what inspires you. You may not use it right away but it will be a seed you can grow at a later time. The world is waiting to be inspired by you. Don’t keep it waiting too long.

Changing Your Perspective

This past week has been a real struggle. For every step I thought I made forward, I found myself thrown ten steps back. By Saturday morning, I had hit rock bottom. My body was out of balance – my hearing was gone, theoretically as a by-product of the vog, but I suspect it had more to do with a week of hearing answers which didn’t help me and having no reasonable solutions in sight. My problem-solving and creative skills were gone and my sense of humor and positive outlook followed along right behind them. It was a mess and I realized I had to do something to stop the downward spiral. So I stopped – turned off the computer, closed the books, took a walk and then decided to take a drive to clear my head and perhaps, on the way, stop and buy one of my favorite gingerbread cookies. Hopping into the shower, I resolved that it would get better.

It didn’t take long. Walking out of the bedroom, I discovered a ginger cookie sitting on the kitchen counter left by a dear friend who just happened to be driving by the cafe early in the morning and all they had were ginger cookies which she knew I loved. Hope started to reemerge. Stopping at the used bookstore, I looked down and saw a dime. Finding coins has always held a special significance to me since my sister shared a story. It went something like this. A husband and wife were going out for an obligatory dinner with his boss, who was quite well off. As they were headingdime into the restaurant, the wife saw the boss pause for a minute and then bend down to pick up a penny. She was perplexed as he didn’t need the penny and finally asked him why he picked it up. He answered, “The penny has ‘In God We Trust’ written on it. Whenever I find a penny, I know that it is God sending me a message. When I saw the dime, I figured God was “amping” up the ante for me. I still have no clue what my next step forward is going to be but I’m going to trust that it’s the one I need to take. The day continued with small wins, I found a copy of Maya Angelou’s “Letters to my Daughter” to read, Target had a portable CD player so I could listen to my meditation CD outside; Safeway is now carrying Andy’s Bueno Salsa – a favorite of mine from Kailua Farmer’s Market on Oahu; dark chocolate Magnum ice cream bars were half price; and, best yet, I had a topic for my blog.

This week, should you find yourself in a downward spiral, stop. Take a break. Walk away. Breathe. Decide to change your perspective and see what happens. You’ll be amazed.

Exercise Forty-Seven

Not all the house contents went to the East Coast. I sit here surrounded by four large bins of paper. Clearly, I am a paper hoarder and it takes a major move to get me to deal with the piles. I’m discovering all the magazine articles I tore out to read later…now is later. So I picked up the April 2013 Women’s Health magazine and found an article by Gretchen Voss on prejudice…”You may think of yourself as a fair person. A nice person. A nonjudgmental person. But research says you’re wrong. Bias is part of biology — our brains might be hardwired for prejudices we may not even know we have. We’re all born to judge.” The article continues on ways to adjust your attitude. It also pointed me to a sample online test at implicit.harvard.edu with over 90 subjects areas to assess attitudes and beliefs that may be so buried that we don’t even realize we have them. Trying some of the sample tests out has moved to my “to do” list. I’m curious and I expect that I’m in for some surprises.

photo 2“What’s the point?” you may be asking. I often ask that myself. The point is that in order to move forward, it helps to know what fears are holding us back. Neuroscience is making great strides in unraveling the complexity of the brain and the importance of creating new neural networks. While some things are flash instinctive, others are not and we have the ability to choose how we are going to react in given situations. This week, I’m going to suggest that you monitor how you are feeling. When you feel uncomfortable or uneasy, stop and examine the feeling. Can you pinpoint the fear? I know whenever I walk into a gallery to pitch my work, my stomach falls to the ground and the “I can’t…I don’t want to…I won’t” gets really loud. I have to force myself to take the steps through the door and to start talking. It’s getting easier as time goes on. Once you’ve pinpointed the fear, assuming it is not life-threatening, you can choose to acknowledge and deal with it. See someone as an individual, recognize your own awesomeness, write that story you’ve always wanted to write…the list of possibilities is endless. Don’t let fear be the reason you don’t try. The world is waiting for you to shine…(p.s. you already do, you just don’t see you like we do).

Turn Around

backyardThe contents of the house have been packed up and shipped and I’ve moved in with friends to finish my stay on the Big Island. Moving twenty miles to the south, I find that I’m seeing things here on the island with new eyes. It’s amazing how a small shift can have such a large effect. It reminded me of a quote by John Lubbock from “The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live In.” “What we do see depends mainly on what we look for…In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artist the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.” I think this is something that I’ve always been aware of. When I go into a gallery, I walk in one direction and, when finished, turn around and retrace my steps in the other direction. Invariably, I see things that I did not notice on my first pass. The change in perspective helps open my senses to the present moment.

We can all experience this in simple ways. Drive a different way to work. Take someone else’s point of view. Re-read a classic. Get up from the desk and take a walk at lunch. Watch a sunrise or sunset (and don’t forget to clap in appreciation). Look down the road you just traveled. Be present. Be mindful. Be appreciative. Open your mind and your heart. See with new eyes and your world will expand. And, it all can start by just turning around.

 

Exercise Forty-Six

rocksAs a child, I loved to read. While others were outside playing sports and stuff, you would find me with in a quiet space with a book in hand. I don’t seem to have as much time for it these days and perhaps that is why I love audio books. On a whim, I downloaded “How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem” by Rod Dreher. I was curious about the impact Dante had on helping Rod Dreher deal with the problems he was facing in life. Regardless of the outcome, I know that I will find some nuggets of interest that will get my brain churning and bring me new insights.

That’s the point today. We need to continually bring in new ideas and expand our thinking. To open ourselves up to other views and thoughts — not because we have to buy into them but because we all have a tendency to get into routines and thought patterns that prevent us from experiencing life at its fullest. Plan to stretch your mind this week. Pick up a book you wouldn’t normally read, listen to a thought-provoking broadcast on PBS, watch a documentary on Netflix. Suspend your judgment. Turn off the need to debate. See if you can experience it from another perspective. Stretch those brain muscles and you will stretch your heart as well.

Simplify

Single rowboatVictoria Moran wrote in “Lit From Within: Tending Your Soul for Lifelong Beauty” that “A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty—but how efficiently we can put first things first,… When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar.” Having spent the last two months living out of a suitcase and paring down the household goods with garage sales on the weekends, I have come to realize how little I really need…and how much freer I am without all the “stuff” around me weighing me down. I’ve also noticed how it has opened up other areas of my life as well. I’m paying attention to what’s around me — treasured books, sunsets, pets and friends. I’m feeling grateful for the small things — a simple meal, a comfortable bed, a hot shower. I’m producing more – art, writing and coaching. It’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that having too much around us distracts us from fully enjoying the things that really tend our souls.

May I make a suggestion this week?  Start your own clearing of clutter, whether it be in your home or in your mind. Take notice of the things that start changing around you. Check in on how you are feeling about it. Less really can be more. Stick with it and you will be amazed at what will change for you and in you.

Exercise Forty-Five

cat artThe Instagram course I am taking is stretching me in ways I did not anticipate. Taking a minimum of two photos a day, writing thoughts, learning new creative apps and publishing has been a challenge. But, I’ve noticed something over the past couple of days. I’m paying attention to what’s around me. My imagination is engaged as I first notice an opportunity then think about what an image might say. Some come really easily, others are placed aside for a later time. I’m a great believer in words appearing when they need to.

The more I thought about what I am doing, I realized that this would be a great exercise. You don’t have to get an Instagram account, just scroll through the pictures you have been taking and start creating captions for them. Have you gotten some practice? Now, plan to take two pictures a day for the next week. Each day when you look at the picture, what would you want to write? A question? A thought? A quote? Is there a story line you would like to write? Play with this and see what happens. It just might become addictive.

Uncovering the Artist

A friend posted an article about  Vivian Maier on Facebook. She came to light to the world when John Maloof bought a box of undeveloped film at a local thrift auction house. A nanny for most of her adult life, she was also an avid street photographer. Her photographs are stunning – black and white canvases that show life as it was and she hid them away from the world. We are fortunate that John Maloof bid on the box of film, learned about her, and shared her art with us. I can’t wait to see the movie “Finding Vivian Maier”, it looks fascinating.

I don’t know if the film will tell us why she didn’t share her photographs but it did get me to thinking about why so many of us hide the artist within us. Are we afraid that we will be judged, found wanting in some area? That we are not being the responsible adult that we need to be? So many of us are so quick to deny having any artistic capability and yet, I would argue, we live it out every day. Every day we create the canvas of our life, weaving in some comedy and some drama, splashing in colors of joy and despair. using our imaginations to create solutions for our daily dilemmas. This week, uncover the artist within. Acknowledge that you are an artist of life and that the world is going to be brighter with your participation and creativity. Don’t hide the things you love to do, share them with a world which is desperately in need of your talents. Shine the light on you. We will all be enriched by it.

 

Exercise Forty-Four

I admit it. I am woefully behind on understanding and using social media. As an artist and entrepreneur, I know I need to get smart and so I just started an Instagram course with Melissa Camilleri. I bring this up because she introduced me to Simon Sinek and the “Art of Why”. It’s a fascinating read and he did a TED Talk on the subject which I’ve included even though it doesn’t really pertain to what I’m writing about today. But I liked it and I think you will too. Back to the matter at hand. In his book, he reminded me of something I once believed and have since forgotten. The gist is that instead of focusing on our weaknesses, we should be focusing  on our strengths. We should amplify the things that do work.

When was the last time you thought about your strengths? I know I am more prone to think about my weaknesses and how I need to do better. I don’t think about celebrating what I do well. What if this week we turn this around? Let’s start with taking some time to list our strengths. Done? Excellent. Take the list and put it on your night table. Tomorrow when you wake up, read it. As you go through the day, recognize when you did something on the list. A little applause would be appropriate I think. Let’s make this a week of celebration of us and what we do well!

 

Commencement

rocksI just finished watching a college commencement via the Internet. As filler, they had students hold up signs where they finished the statement “I promise to”. The endings ran the gamut – “pay back my parents”, “give back to the community”, “smile”, “be a leader”, “to buy my parents a house”…all messages of hope and anticipation. It took me back. I remember being terrified of the future…leaving my friends…being a grown up…making a living…but I looked forward to changing the world. I started with the Peace Corps but they didn’t consider a BA in Political Science and Spanish much of a skill. Then, the State Department where they offered me a secretarial position at the American Embassy in Venezuela — it wasn’t until four years later I received a letter inviting me to continue my processing for the Foreign Service. Finally, I ended up as a Computer Science Intern with the Department of Defense. Having only taken one college course in computers, it was quite a surprise to have aced the test which started my unexpected career. It wasn’t the path I had expected to take when I graduated and that is perhaps why Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken became one of my favorites.

Merriam Webster defines commencement as “the time when something begins.” I had forgotten this and decided today to make “commencement” one of my morning words because every day is a great day to have something begin. What will happen if we view each day as a Commencement Day? I’m thinking that it is going to put me back into that state of anticipation and hope. A time of new beginnings and endless opportunities. What might it do for you? Join me this week in starting your day as the time something begins. I can’t wait to hear what roads open up for you.

Exercise Forty-Three

garage

I’ve spent the last weeks touching everything that I own here, deciding whether to keep, sell, give away or trash each item. The decision to sell has been especially difficult as I have a great aversion to garage sales. Nonetheless, we have had three so far and I’ve found myself especially fascinated by what people are willing to buy if you put a 25 cent price tag on it.  I guess it’s the thought of getting a deal. While they have been carting away the bits and pieces of my life, I find that I am growing lighter. It is liberating, on many levels, to let go of your “stuff.” I’ve kept a lot of my books, however, and opened Victoria Moran’s book “Lit from Within” tonight. “A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty—but how efficiently we can put first things first. . . . When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar.” Words to live by, especially now.

What can you let go of this week? An item, a grudge, a limiting idea? The list could get pretty long as you think about the question. This week, I am going to have you pick something each day this week to let go of. Done. Don’t look back. Don’t second guess. Just let go. How does it feel on the first day? The second? The third?…There will be a shift in how you feel if you keep at this. As clutter clears, there’s room for new things to come into your life. How cool is that? You are in the driver’s seat. Do what feels comfortable…and then do more.

Turn It Off

twilightIf you are ever on the Island of Hawai’i on the Saturday closest to the full moon, you should make it a point to go to Twilight at Kalahuipua’a. Twilight at Kalahuipua’a is an evening of story telling, music and hula at Mauna Lani’s Eva Parker Woods Cottage. Bring a picnic, some wine, a chair and some friends. You won’t regret it.  It is a great example of “talk story.” For those unfamiliar with Hawaiian history, the Hawaiians had no written language. They relied on passing on their traditions, culture and history orally. There were no pens, recorders, or any other device to aid the memory. Learning required  paying attention and listening.

During the talk story last night, Walter Kawai‘ae‘a was speaking about how he learned ukulele from his mentor, Kahauanu Lake. A sophomore in high school, he spent summer vacation, every day, seven days a week, from early morning into the evening with his teacher. Here’s the kicker. Nothing was ever written down. It got me to thinking, as I once prided myself as a great multi-tasker,  how good was I really? What might I have done differently if I had given my undivided attention to each task? What might I have retained if I hadn’t relied on writing notes or making recordings? In this day of instant access to information, via Google and such, how much are we losing by not engaging in the actual act of learning? For example, how many phone numbers can you recall without your smartphone? I used to know everybody’s number.

Here’s a challenge. Take 30 minutes and give something your undivided attention. Turn off the computer, silence the phone, put down the pen. Find something you are interested in and pay attention. I’m guessing you are going to find this difficult at first. Stick with it. We need to keep our neural networks charging!

Exercise Forty-Two

I love country music. For those who are shaking their heads in disbelief, let me tell you why.  Aside from the fact that I can actually understand what’s being said, they tell stories that I often find inspiring. For the longest time, I had Clay Walker’s “I’m gonna live, laugh, love, just for today” as my ringtone. I always smiled when the phone rang and so did the folks around me. Driving today, I  heard Kacey Musgraves singing “Biscuits, and found another favorite.

What would you write about if you were writing a song? Would it be happy or sad? Look back or forward? The exercise this week is to name the song and see if the lyrics follow.  I have created two titles, from overheard conversations, which are just waiting to be written . I think it’s time for me to start writing them. How about you?

Drive…

travelI love to travel and get a vicarious thrill looking through National Geographic, Smithsonian and travel magazines so it was a great this morning to log in and find  Travel and Leisure’s Best Life Changing Trips. I’ve added all of them to my bucket list and I got to thinking about all the reasons we travel.  I particularly like Terry Pratchett’s reasoning. “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”  You don’t have to go far to have your perspective change. On the Island of Hawai’i, just going down a different street, you are constantly coming across unexpected delights. How about your town?

This week, let’s shoot for seeing the place you come from with new eyes and extra colors by taking a trip. No need to book a flight or to go far. Think about your routines. Generally, we “live” in a set amount of miles around home and work. Make it a point to go beyond that area and enjoy the ride. Look for landmarks, parks, new stores and restaurants. Get out of the car and strike up a conversation with a local. Pretend that you are a foreign visitor and see it through his/her eyes. Come to think about it, do the same when you get back home. We get used to the routines and stop looking so take some time to look, listen, and have fun!

 

Exercise Forty-One

ME5Let me tell you a secret. I spent most of my life playing the role of a responsible adult – a very professional, successful, type A, black-suited woman. I put my “inner child” in the corner and relegated play to the back burner and in the process I lost who I was at heart. I believe it happens to most of us. We follow the whispering “shoulds” until they are the dominant voices we hear and respond to. I’m not advocating that one shouldn’t be responsible but I am advocating the importance of play to balance things out.

We spent the last three weeks driving down the coast of Oregon and Washington, stopping in small towns and tourist attractions. I, who go at great lengths not to have my photo taken, put my face in every punch-out we could find. Why not? I didn’t know anyone there. I played to my heart’s content. It wasn’t easy at times, the voices continued to whisper about what I should be doing. But here’s the key — when I did return to the work I needed to do, I was relaxed and more creative. This week, I want you to go out and play. Do something you haven’t done in ages that you used to love to do. Go somewhere where no one knows you – you don’t have to go far – and play. Take notice of how you feel when you go back to being the responsible adult that you are. I’m betting that you will feel a whole lot lighter. Go out and let your light shine!

 

 

You Are Never Too Old

The first thing I saw this morning when I turned on the TV was CNN Hero – Marilyn Price. Lessons show up when we need them and this is a great one for all of us. Take two minutes and see why.

Marilyn Price, at 74, is living her passion and making a difference. She’s a great role model.

How many times have you caught yourself saying “I’m too old…” or “I can’t…” or “It wouldn’t make a difference…”? There are so many ways we limit ourselves. “It wouldn’t be responsible…”, “I don’t have time…”, “It’s a crazy idea…” I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s never too late to start something new or to brush off a long buried passion. We have been given amazing minds and talents which are begging to be shared and there is no better time than right now. So this week, listen to your heart and take that first step towards living to your full potential. Don’t let fear or other people’s opinions hold you back. You, yourself, are an awesome creation with great power. If you doubt it, face your palms together, leaving a quarter of an inch between them. Wait a minute. Feel the energy? You are that energy. Put it to work.

 

 

Exercise Forty

ME_6_Wks-1We were sitting in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant when I looked up and saw what appeared to be an old family photograph. It was a picture of a family, circa 1920, in front of an old Victorian house. Having just finished touring the Captain George Flavel House Museum, we started to spin a story about the photograph. Each addition to the storyline was bigger and better — saving people from shipwrecks on the Columbia River, throwing gala parties in the ballroom, running liquor during prohibition, and on it went. No limits to the imagination when the story hasn’t been written.

Do you have a shoebox of old photographs hidden in the back of some closet? Yes? Choose one that catches your attention. No? Open a magazine and pick a picture that you like. Now, grab a pen and paper and start writing a story about what you see and what you feel. If you happen to have picked a photograph that you know about, rewrite the history. Make it the story that you want. One of my favorite quotes about life is from Gilda Radnor. “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” You have the power with this exercise to create the beginning, middle and end you desire. Write then write some more.