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…

 

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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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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).

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.

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.

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!

 

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.

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?

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!

 

 

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.

Exercise Thirty Nine

 What’s your favorite thing to do when traveling? Mine is to stop at local craft shows. I always find something that fascinates me. Running the Washington Coast, we came across a show in Ocean Shores. There was an artist using rubbing alcohol and ink to create beautiful abstracts on tile, another who created realistic cupcakes of bubble bath and soap (fortunately, I realized it in time) and my favorite – a craftsman who created musical instruments from recycled materials. The ukulele will be returning with us to Hawaii.

The reason I love these outings is because I invariably come across someone who takes something ordinary and makes it extraordinary. That’s going to be your challenge for this week. Imagine a new use for something you routinely use or see.  What might you have done with an old animal crackers box? Plant a terrarium? Create a shadow box? Make a drum? Stop now. Look around you. Pick an item and…go! Forget about its current use. What else could it be? You don’t have to follow through with the idea. Just let your imagination run rampant. Keep doing this through the week. I’m betting you’ll find that other great ideas appear in other areas of your life. Have fun!

 

 

Exercise Thirty Eight

Have you ever paid attention to street signs?  I drove past Chicken Coop Road, Deception Pass, and Jimmycomelately Creek today. All had to have a backstory. It got me to thinking. If I were building a town and naming the streets to reflect my life, what would I create? Artist’s Way? Living Large Boulevard? Inner Guidance Pathway? Otter Be Fun Street,You Rock Canyon?

No doubt you’ve guessed what the exercise is this week. Create your own town. Name at least ten streets that reflect your life, your passions  and/or your ideals. Keep adding to the list as time goes by and take some time to reflect on what you’ve chosen. Any themes jump out? Anything surprise you? I’m going to build you a house on You Rock Canyon because clearly you belong there. All you have to do is pick a street name that leads you there.

rainbow2

Exercise Thirty Seven

PeleIt’s still Wednesday in Hawaii, so I haven’t missed my deadline. I delayed writing today so I could include one of my photos from the volcano which we visited last night. Standing at the top of the caldera and looking at the molten lava jumping into the air and flowing across the crater floor was awe-inspiring. If you ever doubted that the earth is a living, breathing entity, this would change your mind. The Island of Hawai’i is the only place I’ve been where I have felt the power of the earth — it is an ever-changing landscape. Where many only see the stark lava fields, I see the lava turning to dirt, shoots of plants pushing their way up to the sky, flowers blooming, birds and butterflies gracefully winging from leaf to branch. Every day is about creation and, sometimes, erasing what exists to make way for new life. How’s that for a metaphor for our lives?

This week, pick up that pencil and paper that have been dormant since the last time I gave you a writing exercise. At the top of the paper, write the following: “I choose to create a life that…” Continue writing for 15 minutes – steady flow, no editing, no judging. Anything special jump out at you? Nurture it. Be like the sprouts that are pushing their way through the lava and go towards the light. The world needs you to let go of that which doesn’t serve you and create that which does. You are as awe-inspiring and powerful as the show I saw last night!

Exercise Thirty Six

It’s amazing to me how often, in the midst of a new adventure, a little voice whispers in my ear “You aren’t …” Fill in the word. Capable. Good enough. Talented. Smart. Or “You are…” Clumsy. Fat. Hopeless. The list goes long and that little voice has a powerful effect on me. I expect we all have encountered our inner critics at one time or another. Today, I’d like to share an exercise I have used, on many occasions, to diffuse that naysayer.

otterTake out a piece of paper and a pen and find a quiet spot to sit. Write at the top of the paper “I Am”. Now, start writing down everything that comes to mind — good, bad and indifferent. Take as long as you need.  Finished? Go back to the list. After every comment that is not uplifting write “sometimes” or “yet”. It takes the edge off. None of us are perfect all the time nor do we expect others to be. Let’s give ourselves the same consideration. As the author  C. JoyBell C wrote, “I am my own biggest critic. Before anyone else has criticized me, I have already criticized myself. But for the rest of my life, I am going to be with me and I don’t want to spend my life with someone who is always critical so I am going to stop being my own critic. It’s high time that I accept all the great things about me.” 

There is nothing wrong with acknowledging and celebrating the great things about you. There is also nothing wrong with being kind to yourself when you don’t shine at your brightest. You are a unique presence and light in the world. Shine on.

Exercise Thirty Five

When I  took that short break on Monday, I literally stumbled on Julia Cameron’s Vein of Gold. Its been years since I read it and I had forgotten that I even owned it. Yet, there it was, sticking out of the bottom shelf of the bookcase waiting for me to notice. Julia Cameron is a fan of “Morning Pages.” Each morning you write, in longhand, three pages of streaming thoughts. I remembered how I religiously, for a time, sat down to write and how often my sentences were “I don’t have anything to write.” As I reread the chapter about the Morning Pages, I was struck by this passage:

cathy - lily“I lived for years in Greenwich Village. Only when I found myself writing my delight in window boxes, city cats and city dogs did I realize that my daily flora and fauna reports might indicate that a more rural life was called for. It was the Morning Pages that helped me break my denial. Officially, I was a terminally hip downtown artist, urban and urbane. At heart, I longed for country roads, sunflowers and chicory.”

This struck a chord with me and had me pull out a notebook this morning and start the Morning Pages ritual again. I’m looking forward to finding golden nuggets in the dross of random thoughts. Julia Cameron recommends that “As a rule of thumb, allow some weeks to accumulate before you do reread your pages [if you choose to reread them] and never allow anyone else to read them. When you read, read as if you were your own closest friend looking for sources of pain and happiness. Be alert for recurring themes, concerns, and causes for celebration.” What do you think? Are you game to give it a try? I’m always more accountable to do something when I know I am doing it with someone else. Feel free to join me in writing the Morning Pages. I expect there are facets of ourselves that we have buried that will show themselves to us. Memories will be awakened – some laughter, some tears. Are you ready? Make a plan — get up ten minutes earlier, put pen to paper, and write until the three pages are done. Close the notebook and move on with your day. Let’s see what happens together.

Exercise Thirty Four

Victoria Moran wrote in Lit from Within: “If you celebrate your differentness, the world will, too. It believes exactly what you tell it — through the words you use to describe yourself, the actions you take to care for yourself, and the choices you make to express yourself. Tell the world that you are a one-of-a-kind creation who came here to experience wonder and spread joy. Expect to be accommodated.” I love the thought of being a one-of-a-kind creation who came here to experience wonder and spread joy. How about you? Join me this week in believing wholeheartedly that we are.

IMAG1208This week, write down “I am a one-of-a-kind creation who is here to experience wonder and spread joy” on a number of post-its and post it where you will see it through the day. Make it a point to give at least one compliment a day to someone you meet. When you make a mistake, celebrate it by throwing your hands up in the air and yelling “Ta Dah.” Stop taking yourself and others so seriously. As I pointed out on Monday, we aren’t going to get out of here alive so let’s enjoy the ride. I’m betting that as you loosen up, you are going to find the space filled with ideas that surprise and delight you. You deserve to be surprised and delighted. Be fluid and spread the joy around you.

Exercise Thirty Three

I finally saw “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” today. When I heard one of the characters say, “Everything will be alright in the end…if it is not alright then it is not the end,” I knew that I had to use it in the blog. Let me repeat it. “Everything will be alright in the end…if it is not alright then it is not the end.” What a photo-65great thought to keep one moving forward. We all hit lows in our lives – circumstances seem to conspire against us, dreams get put on hold, we feel alone. Or, on a lighter note, we are stalled on a project, don’t know where to start, get sidetracked. In either case, we feel that we are facing an insurmountable wall. How would we change, if instead of seeing just the wall, we see the window streaming light to the left? Would we then remember that there is always a way through wherever we are?

For this week’s exercise, I’d like to do something a little different. Every time this week you are faced with a tough situation, I’d like you to say to yourself, “Everything will be alright in the end…if it is not alright then it is not the end.” Take a deep breath. Notice how your attitude changes. In the space that opens up, you might take some time to work on something you love to do. The point is that you get to choose how you look at things that happen around you and to you. You get to choose to close down or to open fully to life. I suggest that you choose the path that will bring you the most joy.

Exercise Thirty Two

A friend recently posted on my Facebook page a picture “If you can’t handle me randomly blurting out song lyrics that relate to what you just said, we can’t be friends” with a comment following that she was thinking of me. It’s true. I am one of those people.  My brain appears to be hardwired to link words with songs – and my mouth naturally follows along. That said, I, who would have no problem bursting into song publicly anywhere, am fearful of standing in front of an audience and singing. Given my question to you on Monday, “Will you view fear as a gift to be opened?” — what will I do with that knowledge? Stay tuned for a future blog where I answer that.

For me, part of the problem with facing my fears, is that I’m too busy to take the time to see them. There’s so much to do and so much left undone that it is easy not to be present with myself and to reflect on what “gifts are waiting to be opened.” So, let’s start smaller this week. Let’s take the time, three times a day, to be fully present. If you are driving, concentrate on feeling the steering wheel against your palms. If you are walking, focus on what’s around you. If you are talking, stop and really listen. Breathe. You get the idea. It’s not hard to do. It just takes the will to do it, to be fully present three times a day. I expect that you are going to get  hooked on the feeling of living in the moment.

I suddenly feel a song coming on…join me with Jason Moraz’s song, “Living in the Moment.”

Exercise Thirty One

I have been writing this blog to remind us that creativity is more than being an artist, it is about us. I was reading The Purpose Principles: How to Draw More Meaning intoheartsong Your Life and Jake Ducey captured my thoughts perfectly. “Drawing is a creative act that requires vision, imagination, originality, dedication, and patience. It is a perfect metaphor for the way we need to approach life. We must apply our artistic skills to get the most out of each day. An artist doesn’t stop at seeing a vision or having an idea in their mind — they take it further and work to turn what they’ve seen in their imagination into reality. This is the same skill set that needs to be developed in those who want to live an authentic life of their own creation.” This quote is now posted on my wall.

Monday, I wrote about honoring the impulse of wanting to do something to make your part of the world a little better. What did you do? Smile at a stranger? Thank a waitress? Speak to a homeless person and acknowledge his presence? It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference in someone’s life. And, guess what? That applies to you, too.

I receive daily messages from Sam Bennett, the creator of the Organized Artist Company. Each email encourages me to take 15 minutes to do something that is important to me. It’s a small step, but those 15 minutes a day add up. Better yet, taking those fifteen minutes each day restores my energy, refreshes my outlook, and lightens my load. My challenge to you, this week is to think about what you want to be doing with your life a year from now and then take fifteen minutes each day to move you towards your vision. There is no rule that requires instant dramatic change – take small, achievable steps towards your goal…just fifteen minutes a day…and don’t be surprised when more time opens up for you to do more.

Exercise Thirty

I was looking back at some of my former posts and discovered that I reused Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote about saying your wishes out loud.  It reminded me how much her words resonate for me that I return to them time and again. It also got me to thinking about phrases that I now repeat which I learned growing up. “You are buying someone else’s problems” (when looking at a used car). “You can’t ration passion” (WWII vintage). “Public service is important.” As I started typing, I realized just how long this piece would get if I wrote them all down. What phrases popped into your head?

I wrote Monday about honoring our elders. The fact is that we too have practices, lessons, and words to share with those who follow us. This week’s exercise is to stop and think about what you would like to pass on and write it down. Mine include: find what you are passionate about and do it; be kind; be grateful; be generous, there is enough for everyone if we share. It occurs to me that I sound a bit like Robert Fulghum’s list in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. (For those not familiar with the list, I found a YouTube video by Cynthia Mendoza to share.)

The point is that we all have “aha” moments that point us to how we are connected with one another. Share them and see if we can’t evolve just a bit faster.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”  Robert Fulghum

Exercise Twenty Nine

While traveling in Italy with my mother, we came across a huge billboard that said (in English): “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust. A photo of her in front of the billboard graced her Christmas card that year. I was reminded of the quote while viewing the lava fields last weekend.  I don’t know about you but I have always loved the little surprises that nature gives us if we just look. I started with cloud watching and graduated, as time went by, up to trees, plants, rocks…you name it. My photos are filled with images of rabbits in bark, faces in flowers, of a myriad of images that were found in unexpected places.

This week I challenge you to look around with new eyes — look up to the clouds, down at the earth, across the water — in whatever direction you are eyes are pointed. Release your expectation of what you should see and allow the other images to come forth. When I see the unexpected, like a turtle in a lava field, it reminds me that all things are connected. What does it do for you?

lava turtle