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.

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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?

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

“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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

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!

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.

Nurturing Ideas

 My second favorite thing to do while traveling is to stop in locally owned bookstores. Invariably, I find a gem. The latest is a children’s book called What Do You Do Wth An Idea? by Kobi Yamada. It’s a wonderful story about a small child who had an “idea” and not a clue what to do with it…and the journey begins. Up and down, through doubt and belief, from concept to fruition, the two travel together. As the backflap of the book says, “What do ideas become? Big things, brave things, smart things, silly thngs, good things. Things like stories, artwork, journeys, inventions, communities, products and cures. Everything you see around you was once an idea. So what will become of your idea? Now that’s up to you.”  This book is destined to become one of my favorites when I am experiencing inertia.

When was the last time you acted on an idea? Shut down the critic. We are constantly thinking of and acting on ideas. What I’d like you to think about this week is something a bit out of the ordinary. When you catch yourself doing something routinely, question whether there’s a better, perhaps a more fun or fulfilling way, to do it. If there is, consider doing it your new way. The more often you do this, you will find the easier it becomes. Anthony Robbins said, “Don’t be afraid of new ideas. Be afraid of old ideas. They keep you where you are and stop you from growing and moving forward. Concentrate on where you want to go, not on what you fear.” The world needs your ideas and your action. Take a small step each day and soon you will be walking on the moon. Why? Because you are filled with ideas that will rock our world! I can’t wait to hear about them.

 

 

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!

 

 

Asking for Help

When I’m not feeling well, I go radically out of balance. My positive outlook takes a nosedive and instead of being grateful I am damning everything that doesn’t go exactly how I want it to. This is where I was when I was struggling to get my luggage into the car trunk, damning the suitcases for not fitting easily. My partner looked at me and suggested that perhaps I should be saying “God help me” instead. Ouch. Later that afternoon, I stood up from the couch and slammed my knee in the corner of the coffee table. I paused…and said “God help me” and started laughing. It completely reframed the situation for me.

MaryEllenClagett210Most of us aren’t good at asking for and/or accepting help…especially when pursuing our dreams. We feel that we have to do it on our own or it doesn’t count somehow.  That isn’t true. As Mendability by Austism posts, “Having someone help you doesn’t mean you failed, it just means you are not alone.” There is power in finding like-minded people to join you in your journey. It’s the reason we created Ignite Your Creative Passion. To  foster a safe and nurturing environment, for women by women, to create the life that they desire. We have one life to live. Whatever path you choose, know that asking for and accepting help make the process richer. Find your muses and be one to someone else. Marvelous things will appear.

 

 

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

Travel With New Eyes

imageI grew up as an Army brat. We moved a lot and I learned to love to travel…with the exception of having to start over at new schools and make new friends. My mother had to pry my hand off hers when we got to the new school. I didn’t want to be left. In my fifties, I don’t have that problem anymore. In fact, what I especially like about going to new places is that no one knows who I am.  No history, no pre-conceived beliefs. I can be anyone I want to be.

Currently, I’ve traded the Island of Hawai’i for the San Juan Islands in Washington state. I love these islands also.  Before I left, my niece gave me a set of cards called the Anywhere Travel Guide: 75 Cards for Discovering the Unexpected Wherever Your Journey Leads. Every day you pick a card to act out. Today it was “Buy a stranger a cup of coffee”…one of the easier ones. What it reminded me is that you don’t have to travel far afield to have new experiences and see things with new eyes. You just have to do something you wouldn’t normally do or say. As you go through this week, do something out of the ordinary — ask a stranger a question, look at a statue from a different perspective, go down a different street. Leave your “would ofs”, “should ofs”, “could ofs” behind and be someone new to town. Have fun with this! You just may discover something new that you love.

 

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!

A Day of Rest

I have been going full-tilt for the past month, pointed in multiple directions, initiating new ventures,  packing boxes, checking off “to do” lists, ignoring my rituals. Yesterday, it caught up with me and I had my first “sick day” since retirement. Laying on the couch, surrounded by hot tea and chicken soup, I was forced to stop and rest. My mind and body said “Enough.” So there I was, a victim of not taking my own advice.

Cathy - whale tail 2The advantage of downtime is its a great time to pick up a book. In doing so, I came across this quote by Pablo Casals: “Each second we live in a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that never was before and will never be again. And what do we teach our children in school? We teach them that two and two makes four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are?  We should say to each of them: You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the world there is no other child exactly like you. In the millions of years that have passed there has never been a child like you. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything.” I have to admit I got a bit of a much needed charge when I read this as I sometimes forget that I am the only me.

Here’s an important secret. This doesn’t just apply to children. We all have the capacity for anything. It’s never too late to begin again, to find your passions, to realize your dreams. Don’t wait for a “sick day” as a wake up call. Take time to nurture yourself. Listen to your heart. Look to the future. When you stop learning, you stop living. Choose to live your life to the fullest as your most glorious you.

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.

The Launch

photoI’ve been writing a lot about fear which illustrates how closely my writing follows my life. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been putting our dreams into action -signing contracts, polishing the final details of the schedule, and lining up some amazingly talented women to join our team.  We are on course for next February and the inauguration of Ignite Your Creative Passion – A Women’s Retreat. I was tempted to break a bottle of champagne against the side of the Marriott Waikoloa Resort after we signed the contract but decided that was a waste of good champagne.

For those who regularly read this blog, you know that I am always looking for signs that I’m on course. Yesterday, it came to me when I saw Marianne Lewis’ amazing performance of “We Are the Power.” I bought the CD afterwards and listened to it, full volume, on the way home. “Turn your lights on…Ignite…we are the power…ride the wave of possibilities.” She had captured everything in her song that had motivated us to initiate the retreat. I am jazzed to move forward.

Isabel Lopez wrote in Isabel’s Hand-Me-Down Dreams, “If you can’t believe in miracles, then believe in yourself. When you want something bad enough, let that drive push you to make it happen. Sometimes you’ll run into brick walls that are put there to test you. Find a way around them and stay focused on your dream. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  I’m taking it to heart. There’s still a lot of work to do but we’re rolling forward with joy and passion. By women, for women. Woo-hoo! It’s going to be some ride.

 

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.

Writer’s Block

I’ve been struggling today with writer’s block. I have pages of topics to write about, quotes I love, but the words aren’t flowing. Instead I want to sit outside on the lanai and just enjoy a cup of coffee and let all the tasks that are piling up be blown away by the wind. A moment in sun. I think we all need that at times. To stop the “busy-ness” of our lives and turn inwards, to ground ourselves in the midst of nature. I’m hoping your indulge me today and be content to reflect this week on one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson from her book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles:

sunset 2“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.” 

Let your light shine bright this week. You are a magnificent and I am so blessed to have you in my life!

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.

A Finite Number

A good friend, currently living in New Zealand, pointed me to the website of a couple she recently met. It is called 19000 days.  The couple writes:

“About a year and a half ago we (Jenna and Chris) began sharing ideas about the lives we were living compared to the lives we wanted to live.  We found it incredibly unsettling how much time we spent doing activities that did not work towards our life goals – and that there was no urgency to do anything about it…This is where the concept of 19,000 Days comes from; it’s the amount of time until our bodies would no longer allow us to pursue our goals.”

They quit their jobs and decided to spend the next year traveling the world. Luckily, they started in New Zealand which now allows me to follow their journey real-time.

happyFew of us know when we are going to die. We look towards the future making plans for what we are going to do when we have time…when the kids are out of the house…when we retire…We forget there are no guarantees that we will even get to tomorrow. For those who are thinking that this is a morbid subject, it’s really not. A finite number of days is a fact. I’m not advocating that we all must quit our jobs and responsibilities. I am advocating that now might be the time to think about why you are doing some of the things on your “to do” lists. Look at why you are putting off the things that will make a difference in how you feel about yourself and life. Start thinking about what you might want to put on your “to do” list that will celebrate who you are — volunteer at a soup kitchen, make time to read to a child, prepare to hike the Appalachian Trail. Take a page from Jenna and Chris, “19000days.com is a record of our efforts to make each of these days count.  Our hope is that it will inspire at least one person to change their life for the better.  Anything beyond that is just a bonus.” A small step may change your view of the whole world.

 

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.

Expand Your World

blog - flowerLord Tennyson wrote in Ulysses, “I am part of all that I have met.” This quote came back to me on Saturday. Every year, the Daughters of Hawai‘i honor Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole at their annual Day at Hulihe‘e Palace. As I watched the hula dancers tell their stories with graceful movements of hands and body, I was transported back to my days on Oahu. Stepping off the plane, I had a sense of arriving home and I was determined to immerse myself in all things Hawaiian – the language, the hula, the people, and the history. Much of it was foreign to my East Coast, Type A, workaholic personality and I often found myself far out of my comfort zone. I grew in ways I couldn’t have imagined and I wouldn’t trade a minute of the journey.

When was the last time you learned about another culture? Tried an ethnic restaurant? Danced a salsa? Without realizing it, we find ourselves in comfortable routines and patterns. We go to the same events and restaurants, mingle with the same people — in fact, we are quite happy in our little worlds. It is good…but it can be better. This week I challenge you to expand your world. Go to an Afghan restaurant, watch a foreign movie, listen to the BBC news, visit an ethnic street fair — anything that rocks your world. Push your borders out and experience something new. Every connection spawns more connections. By the end, you may find yourself someplace you never imagined with new friends that both surprise and delight you. Take a page from Alice in Alice in Wonderland — I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” Celebrate the differences.

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.”

The Gift of Fear

I love books. While both my Kindle and IBooks apps are filled with titles, for me, nothing beats a real book — a book where I can underline, write my thoughts in the margins, draw lines to connect thoughts and record my reaction with stars on those passages that I will someday return to. I’m not one of those readers that sits with one book and completes it from cover to cover. Instead, I have a piles of books stacked around the house, which I pick up on  a whim to read. Which is why I find it fascinating that the four books I picked up to read yesterday, all had passages about viewing fears as gifts to be opened.

Cathy - Pink water lilyWhen the same message appears multiple times to me, I believe that it’s time for me to sit up, take notice and reflect. Fear as a gift to be opened? I needed time to wrap my mind around that – I have always thought of fear as something I had to work through. Viewing it as a gift put it into a whole other perspective. In a commencement speech to Harvard University graduates, J.K. Rowling shared “I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” Wow. Is there a better example of the gift of fear?

What are your fears? What keeps you from living life joyfully and fully? Is it the voices you grew up with? Society’s definition of success? Of responsibility? This week I challenge you to seek out and acknowledge your fears. Bring them into the light. Flip your perspective. Treat fear as a gift and see how it changes your response and, quite possibly, your world.

 

 

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.

Paying It Forward

 

How many of you saw the movie “Pay It Forward?” I was reminded of it when I saw Hannah Brencherblog - love being interviewed on the Meredith Vieira show. To deal with depression and loneliness after moving to New York City,  she began to write and leave letters randomly with the words “If you find this letter, it’s for you” on the front. It has morphed into a wonderful movement with a cadre of volunteers writing caring letters to those in need. Meredith Vieira showed the impact by having one of the recipients come to the show. To learn more go to: The World Needs More Love Letters. I was moved enough to join the cause.

This is an excellent example of how a small act by an individual can have a dramatic impact on the world. She isn’t the only one. There are countless examples of individuals who have done the same – building schools, feeding children, providing hope – in a myriad of ways. Have you ever found yourself starting to do something and stopped because a tiny voice in your head said “It won’t make a difference?” Guess what? That voice is wrong. This week honor the impulse of wanting to do something to make your part of the world a little better. Follow through on the acts that “the voice” says won’t make a difference. You may not see the final result but know that what you put out there will be a seed which will sprout and grow. True or false, I’ve always believed that a butterfly’s wings can indeed effect the winds on the other side of the world. I believe you can too.

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

“Queen of Code”

Yesterday I was listening to “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio and they did a segment on Grace Hopper. How many of you have heard of her? Forget Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The chances are good that I wouldn’t be typing on this computer and you wouldn’t be reading this on your smartphone if she and other women hadn’t been engaged working on the first computers. If you have sixteen minutes, it’s a great history lesson and I’m betting by the end of it you will have a new role model.

One of the many things I love about the Hawaiians is their respect for those who have walked before them (kupuna). Kahikahealani Wight, Professor of Hawaiian Language and Literature, Kapi’olani Community College, explains that the “kupuna is an honored elder who has acquired enough life experience to become a family and community leader…[they] include the many generations before us who by their spiritual wisdom and presence guide us through personal, familial or community difficulties…[and they are] the source, the starting point or the process of growth.”

Let’s take the time this week to recognize our kupuna. Make a phone call or a lunch date. Share life experiences. Ask questions. Suspend judgements.  There are lessons still to be learned if we would but listen. Spend the week in gratitude for those who have cleared the path that we now walk.

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

Birth of a Drum

drum

I came across the following statement by Elizabeth Gilbert: “Nearly 800 years ago, the Persian mystic poet Rumi wrote, ‘You must ask for what you really want.’ He saw asking as a sacred duty, and I think he was right — not because your wishes will be granted automatically (they won’t), but because the mere act of saying out loud, ‘This is who I am and what I’ve come for’ seems to awaken a powerful force within. By articulating your wish, you’re making an announcement that you’re serious about bringing forth the next great thing in your life.” I recently set the intention to attend a women’s drum circle and found myself this weekend at a Drum Making Gathering for Healing, Love, Life, and Peace held on the sacred lands of Kalaemano.

Up until this point, I don’t think I ever recognized how close the drum beat is to our heart, how the rhythm of the beat resonates through the body as blood through a vessel. As we traveled our respective drum journeys, I found myself flying, surrounded by blue skies and clouds. It was the first time that I’ve traveled while in a meditative state and it was awe inspiring.

I encourage you this week to start saying your wishes out loud. Not to be heard by others but rather to be heard by your heart. The word is powerful as are you. Stand this week in your place of power and believe in the power of your dreams.