Monthly Archives: February 2012

Gratitude

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank you to the whole big wide world for having a place for me. I am seeing more and more the way I am taken care of in ways big and small. I have a beautiful family, cherished friends, a nice warm house, a sweet little dog, money to take a class or buy lunch at Chipotle (Love It!). If I go even smaller, down to finding the right book in my hands at the library, or hearing kind words around me, an offer of help or friendship from somewhere unexpected.  I feel more and more that I am held in the arms of something greater than I have imagined.

The first ever seminar in the Brighten Your Light series happened this past Sunday, 2/26.  It was an intimate group, and as we sat down to begin I looked at the women around the table and knew it was just as it should be. Susan Keeley led the discussion about healthy foods and healthy eating with clarity, grace, compassion and wisdom. She is a gifted teacher and connects with people in such a clever and intuitive way that makes you feel smarter for having asked the question.

As Susan spoke, I was overcome with gratitude for the women at the table. They came to support me first and foremost but also to learn. I had a journal for each of the women in the group. The journals have blank pages for notes as well as quotes to help guide the discussions. One of the quotes in the journals is from Maya Angelou, “Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.” Sitting there I felt this truth fall into my lap. I had asked to create a space where women came together to talk, learn, laugh and be supported to spread their wings. I am asking now, with a grateful heart, for even more women to come and share in the experience.

Try this on for size

After Susan’s talk, I led a short meditation I found on a website called http://www.bodylovewellness.com about letting go of the hate so many of us feel towards our bodies. I spoke of my desire to get more out of  life than just the ordinary or, “not that bad” mentality which had pushed me to start the Life and Friendship community. Susan and I both brought up the concept of an inventory of your life. I have found this kind of exercise  so helpful in getting clear about where you want to invest time making improvements. For example, how do you feel about your career? Is it inspiring? What would you change or keep the same? How about your romantic life? Is this area everything it could be or you would like it to be? Some other areas to consider are creativity, education, social life, spirituality, and joy.

At the end of the day, perfect is a moving target. This isn’t about a magic formula that will fix things for life. Rather, it’s about deciding what works for you now and being willing to make changes as needed. We all have different struggles in our lives but the more you break them down the more similar they start to look. At the base of everything is something stronger than a need, more like a primal drive to feel loved and accepted. Catching this feeling is like switching on the lights. That moment when you laugh with someone, give to someone, or allow someone to give to you are a few of the times when you might feel that spark.

We all left the seminar with a home work assignment to think about the spokes on our wheel, or areas of our life. We are supposed to think about what areas we might want to change, and to notice what areas might be better than we thought. I recommend we all put a self-love spoke on the wheel of our lives. Let’s all take some time to send the loving kindness that we so wish for others inward to ourselves. Indulge me for a moment before you go to sleep tonight. When you close your eyes imagine going inside of yourself. In the dark you might bump into and trip over things you cannot see. Imagine lighting a candle and having a look around. As you light the dark  with your candle, know you are in a safe place. Protected as you are, feel free to do some cleaning. All our memories, beliefs and life experiences are stored here. Notice if there are any negative beliefs about yourself wedged in with these memories. All of these can be gathered up and taken with you when you leave.  On your way out leave the candle burning to know you are always welcome to return. There is nothing here that is too terrible to be seen, or to shameful to felt. You are loved.

Our next seminar will be on Sunday, 3/11 from 3 to 6 pm at the Thompson Library in North Woburn, MA. The cost of the seminar is $30. You can sign up through Pay Pal on the website. It will be the Dress to Be Your Best class led by Maria Cella. Maria is a fun and engaging woman who will give you valuable information on how to dress for the body you have now. I would love to welcome you to our group. Please contact me at heather@lifeandfriendship.com  for more information.

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Vacation Week

This week was winter vacation for us in New England. It was great to have time to relax and hang out with the family.  The mess, noise, and constant interruptions didn’t ruffle my feathers the way they often do when everyone is home. I am hoping this means that my practice  being in the moment and staying grateful for  all my blessings is paying off. It could also mean my give a rip level has plummeted as I have been wrapped up thinking about starting the seminars tomorrow. Either way, it has been nice.

It has slowed down my writing considerably and I have struggled to come up with anything to blog about. I decided to honor my commitment to treat myself to least one yoga class per week and went this afternoon. As we were getting to the end of class I sent out a mental request to the universe for inspiration. As I lay there stretching, all sweaty and tired this old song called  Pictures of You by The Cure started playing:

I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you

That I almost believed they’re real.

I’ve been living so long with these pictures of you

That I almost believed that the pictures are all I can feel.

I’ll take it!

We hold on to images and ideas about ourselves and others believing they are real. We have believed in them for so long we no longer see that they are pictures we have created ourselves. My husband works in education so an education example comes to mind. Let’s say we follow a class of Eighth Grade students around for the day. That same group of kids will behave differently from class to class depending on the teacher. One teacher will have a poorly behaved classroom completely believing that this is an out of control group and there is nothing to be done about it. They show up to work every day knowing that this class is going to be trouble. As this same group enters the next classroom everything about them changes. They move quickly to their seats, get out their materials. They are attentive and engaged with their teacher. What’s different, of course, is that the teacher in the second example has a picture of the class as well-behaved. The second teacher  believes they are in charge and does not expect out of line behavior.  And so it is.

Lets get a little more personal. Your boss treats you like crap but other coworkers are respected. Your kids are mouthy with you but not with your spouse. Your spouse doesn’t respect your wishes, your finances are out of control, you can’t keep friends, you can’t find anyone decent to date, etc., etc. What are your beliefs about yourself and others that is making all of this show up in your life?

Start with something small and decide to change it, OR, start with something big and decide to change it. Either way you are getting momentum. Get the ball rolling and make yourself happier. Grab a friend and tell them you commit to jogging with them twice a week because you want to get in shape and hang out at the same time. Tell your kids if they wash their toothpaste out of the sink for the week you will take them out for ice cream because you are tired of cleaning their spit. Whatever it is that makes you happy, make it happen more often in your life. You deserve it! I know change can be scary and all of that, but isn’t it worth trying for more. Imagine the best picture possible and figure out how you are going to make it happen.

Bob Ross photo

Remember Bob Ross from PBS. He pictured a life teaching others how to paint and boy did it make him happy!

The next seminar in the Brighten Your Light Series is the Dress to be Your Best class on 3/11/12 from 3 to 6 pm.  If you feel you would like more information please contact me at heather@lifeandfriendship.com or call me at (781)367-5751. Also, the seminars will be at the Thompson Memorial Library at 33 Elm Street in North Woburn. Please do not confuse this with the main library in the center.


The Nebulous Others

I recently heard an interview with Gina Otto who is the author of  a book called Cassandra’s Angel. She described the moment she decided to change her life. She was working at a glamorous photo shoot for a diet soda commercial on the beach in Malibu. Suddenly she realized she was a part of the money-making machine fueling the insecurities of girls and women. She immediately quit her job. She started going around to middle schools and talking to girls. I wish I had her exact quote here.  Basically she would tell the kids that they were being tricked by photo shopped images of anorexic models. Gina explains that these images are designed to make the girls  feel inadequate and want to buy diet soda, make up, diet pills, etc. She immediately started a campaign to help girls embrace themselves as they are.

She wrote the phenomenally successful book, Cassandra’s Angel and has recently gone on a national tour  and has written a musical of the book. The story is about a little girl who hears the stories everyone tells her about herself. She hears how she is too this and too that. She also hears the voice inside of herself about who she is, and it doesn’t match what she is being told. One day she is feeling very badly about the whole situation. She goes outside to sit on a rock and think. Along comes her angel who tells her not to believe the stories but to believe in herself. Wherever Gina Otto goes adults, kids, girls, and boys all come to her with tears in their eyes saying, “This is me. I am that person.” The take away message to ask yourself is, “What would you do if you didn’t believe the story?”

This interview hit home for me. How many times have I felt that if I was thinner, funnier, somehow different,  I could be that person I felt I truly was inside. For those of you reading this who don’t know me I am a very tall woman. At 5’10 1/2″ I have spent my life in flats. If I have ever bought shoes that add any height, they have been quickly buried under the bed. Well, I decided that was pretty silly. I thought about Marianne Williams saying I shouldn’t be small to make others feel large. I bought myself a pair of clogs which easily put me over 6′ tall and I wear those suckers all over the place!

Somehow I thought I was invisible. Seriously I felt I could fade into the background and people wouldn’t notice me. Why? Why did I want to be invisible? I don’t have all the answers to that question. I was waiting to be noticed. I was waiting for someone else to tell me I was okay and special and that I should be heard. I felt this so strongly when I had my son. He was not always the easiest child. Basically anywhere we went that involved other children was a disaster. It was only a matter of time until he hit another kid at the playground or  refused to follow directions at gymnastics class. He would become so overstimulated in a group setting that he would become loud, irrational and basically just lose it. We were not fading into the background!

I knew in my gut there was something wrong but I didn’t know what. What I wanted more than anything was to be there for my son. To find an answer for him so he could thrive. I wanted my son to feel  my love for him and know he was safe with me. I know I failed on many occasions.

Inside of my own head I heard the judgement of the “Nebulous Others”. I was not present with my son but was consumed by what I thought others were thinking. I reacted in the way I hoped would make me look best to others. This is not what my son needed from me. As I began to realize this I knew I needed to change. I spoke with my little boy about how much I loved him. We strategized ways for him to get more in control of himself. I was able to own my reactions and started to catch myself when  I became  more worried about others opinions than supporting my child. It wasn’t helpful to beat myself up. It’s just how I am. I needed to accept that about myself before I could find a different way to react. I am so proud of my relationship with my son. I know he feels the love I have for him and it is a strong base for him to spring from out into the world.

I recently read a post called stop sabotaging your own success http://whenihavetime.com/2012/02/16/stop-sabotaging-your-own-success-a-manifesto/  . This is basically a collection of quotes speaking about just that. One of my favorites was:

I am so done with letting my own insecurities, self-doubts, and regrets hold me back. –Sarah J Bray

Me too. My thighs are not perfect, my boobs- forget about it, my furniture is stained, my dishes don’t match… and I don’t care! All of that is not enough of a reason for me to hold myself back, anymore.


Pearls from Oprah

The start date of the Brighten Your Light Seminars is rapidly approaching. Sunday, February 26  will be the day when all of my ideas become an actual event. I can see all around me the gifts I have been given to support me in this adventure. My patient, generous and hilarious husband who listens to me endlessly and when he can’t take any more, he makes me laugh. My  beautiful children who are living expressions of the phrase unconditional love. My family who have listened to my crazy ideas my whole life. God Bless them. My brave and patient friends who encourage, listen, trust and go along for the ride. I don’t know how you are all not sick of hearing me talk!

Even with all of this my knees are wobbling a little. I turned to Oprah for a little inspiration on a website of  her favorite quotes. Here are a few that jumped out at me:

Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.                          – Henry Ford

If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.                                                                     –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Change your thoughts and you change your world.                                    –Norman Vincent Pearl

In all of this I hope to be someone who pushes you to trust your own vision and truth. I learn so much from all of you. When I see people being brave and true I am touched beyond words. This leads to one more quote from Oprah’s list:

Anything that has real and lasting value is always a gift from within.       –Franz Kafka

Thank you all for the gifts.

If you are a woman living in the Boston area and would like to join us please sign up at http://lifeandfriendship.com/brighten-your-light-series-sign-up . If you would like to schedule a house party please contact me at heather@lifeandfriendship.com


Why Wait?

I was working with my son on his homework the other night. The poor kid was so stressed out. We had gotten a late start, and he had a project looming that he needed to work on. He had been up too late for a few nights in a row and desperately needed dinner. Recipe for disaster, right?

He had put in about 20 minutes on his math sheet and was getting nowhere fast. I told him to just staple a homework coupon to it and move on. He started crying and saying he had already started it. He felt he would have wasted all that time if he didn’t finish the sheet. I explained all of the things he had to do that night and that at the pace he was going the math sheet would take at least an hour to finish. I told him to cut his losses and move on. Thankfully, he agreed with me.

As I am finding with a lot of things lately this same concept has popped up all over the place. For example, my friend lost her job. A job she hated. A job that had completely taken over her life with time demands and stress. Absolutely terrifying, yes! Could it also be the universe handing her an opportunity to cut her losses? She is tough and unbelievably strong. I believe that whatever lies ahead for her will be better than giving more of her life to a thankless, stressful and panic inducing job.

It seems we either don’t commit to anything in case something better comes along. This indecision fritters our lives away as we wait around for just the right thing to appear. The other option is we commit to a horrible job, unhealthy relationship, or hurtful friendship because we have already put so much into it. We think of how much we would have wasted if we were to walk away. We think that all the time, money, education we have invested to get us there would have been a waste. Maybe we should think about how changing now would save us from spending even more time being unhappy. How about committing to what we want right now? Isn’t it possible that what works for you today will not work for you in a year or five years? Don’t let that stop you from committing fully to your life and goals now. Don’t hang on to what doesn’t work just because you have been doing it for so long. I am not saying you need to get divorced or ditch all your friends. How about committing to make your marriage the best it’s ever been? How about sitting down with your friend and being honest about making the friendship better. Take time to  stop and notice what does work for you and move towards that.

You do have unlimited potential. You have decided where your limits are and you can decide to change them. Imagine holding a baby. You look into their little angel face and sniff their downy head. You know from the bottom of your soul that this little being has the potential for greatness. Whatever their wondrous minds dream of you would support and encourage, because you know they are capable of reaching those dreams. Well, we were all that baby once. Which means a seed of unlimited greatness lies within each of us. You can make it look however you want, but I would advocate that you don’t ignore it! I say water the heck out of that seed and see what grows.

I am putting a link here to an article on Oprah’s website http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Are-You-On-the-Right-Career-Path/1

I know this says “Are You On the Right Career Path”, but it is really about listening to yourself. A great story of  three women learning to trust themselves and finding their true life path.

I am also putting a link to a blog with a great post about rekindling the fire within. Check out this story about someone who is finding empowerment one step at a time, literally http://delishworld.com/2012/02/07/one-step/

Starting this blog and committing to starting the seminars has been a conscious choice for me to let go of what wasn’t working for me.  I am on one of the “On The Fence” types just waiting around for the right thing. I never want to commit if something better might be coming. I never want to get pinned down because I might change my mind. The consequence in  my life is no clear career path. It would be safe to say that I am a dabbler. As I started to get clear about what really lights me up I knew that I love being with friends, I love seeing people go for something big, and I know I have a talent for seeing potential in people that they may not see themselves. How do you turn any of that into something useful?  Well, here I go.

Join us. Our first seminar will be with Susan on 2/26 at the Thompson Library in Woburn, MA. You can sign up at the website through Pay Pal. http://lifeandfriendship.com/brighten-your-light-series-sign-up

If payment is an issue please contact me at heather@lifeandfriendship.com and we can figure something out. If you feel pulled by what you read here, I would be honored to have you join us.

Susan’s class will focus on healthy cooking and shopping. She will help you see what you are already doing right and some real life options of things you can try to do even better. Susan is wonderful, knowledgeable, and practical. She is a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and someone who is constantly educating herself about all things food related.  You can read more about Susan on the Refresh Your Plate page under Meet the Experts. Our group discussion to follow will focus on how the way you feed yourself reflects how you care for yourself in general. We will think about how we can free ourselves from being stuck with an “If Only” mindset.

As always, I would love to hear from you. You can leave a comment or send me an email. Let me know what inspires you. Do you have a quote, book, person or experience that has nudged you?


“Savor It!”

I have been thinking a lot about the Designing Your Life class I took the last week. I love so many of the concepts that were presented and also the practical nature of the steps to get you where you want to be. Some of the main topics discussed were about identifying your traits both positive and negative, identifying your beliefs about yourself and the world, taking ownership for past mistakes and wrongs, and “getting your traits on a leash”. It is so useful to have an actual action plan sometimes. I remember thinking after my father died how much easier it would be if I had a checklist to go through. I had no idea how to deal with his wake, funeral and even day-to-day life after he passed.

So, I love having the actual steps to hang onto as a way to mentally kick-start myself. One of the homework assignments was to write a list of confessions. I started this list feeling more and more like a loser. I have done some pretty lame crap which I am not proud of! However, after I was done I started feeling really empowered. I am kind of bad ass! I realized that my view of myself as the victim reacting to all this mean things people have done to me was a skewed perspective. This is a belief I have put in place to make myself feel better.  I may have even  set certain events into motion myself. I got to own that. It was a Dark Side of the Light Chasers moment for me. Accepting that part of myself that can be a jerk. That was very empowering. I don’t need to try to hide from that part of myself. It can be great to have that ability to stand up for yourself or to be a jerk if you need to. The next step in the homework was to make a short list of confessions you were willing to make and dates that you would have them done by.

All of these experiences. All of these confessions or repairs you need to make in relationships are like hangnails. You bump them every time you are in that space in that relationship, or in that place in your mind. Getting rid of that hang nail, clearing that up makes for a smoother , happier, cleaner existence. It doesn’t matter if you feel you were right. That is just a perspective. It’s not a real thing. You can just own your part in it and move on.

Leaving these things unfinished, undone or unsaid is like leaving  little pieces of you all over the place.  A little part of you is stuck there in your head, in the past. You can’t keep moving on because you have left it behind. Having the conversation, dealing with whatever it was allows you to bring your whole self forward. Your whole being can go into the future that you are creating. Otherwise, it is just parts of you that are headed in a  direction and you can’t get the momentum, the energy aligned that you need to get where you want to go.

Another piece of homework we did was to list a trait that we wanted to “get on a leash”. The idea is that you recognize a behavior or trait that you do that doesn’t work for you. You come up with an action plan and a consequence if you break your commitment and don’t follow through. I chose to work on my anxiety. I honestly feel that I have come so far with this, but I know I still ride that crazy train from time to time. I decided that when I catch myself starting  to spin out scenarios in my mind about what I should have, could have, or would have done, I get two minutes to stew about it. After that I have to do an action to remedy the situation or I have to let it go. If I don’t stop obsessing I have to throw away $5. Yeah, if you know me- you know that is not something I would be okay with. I literally have to have $5 bills on hand and just drop one. If you see me out and about looking stressed it might pay off to follow me!

Getting your traits on a leash and having consequences supports your success. When you don’t live in alignment with what you want, with what you’ve stated. Having that consequence be something that is so over the top, horrible that you just cannot deal. In that way training yourself. Changing your behavior. Changing your thinking.  Getting your traits on a leash  can also be a lot more simple than that. It can also just be about getting really clear that this is how you want to be. This is how you are going to be. That’s it. No more. Done. That can be with anything. You can find way to support yourself with that if you need it. Telling your friends, AA, whatever it is. There comes a point where you just decide that you are done with whatever behavior it is that’s not serving you. That’s not making your life be the way you want it to be. You just don’t do it anymore. The consequences are a good way to help you focus in on that behavior and see when you are doing it. A  biofeedback sort of thing, so that you catch it.  You don’t ignore it, miss it, not realize you are doing it. That can be powerful. Just tuning in to yourself.

The penguin from Madagascar, Skipper, has a famous line in our family. He is feeding Alex the lion sushi and says to  him in his bossy penguin voice,  “Savor It!” Well, this is your life. You are not going to be living once you get somewhere. You are living now. So, savor it. Savor this process of discovery. Greet it with Joy. Greet it with an open heart. Don’t fight it. Don’t hide from it. Don’t shut off parts of your life. Be open to all of it.

This is a huge part of what the Brighten Your Light seminars are about. It is unbelievably freeing to stop hiding from all these deep, dark parts of yourself. Trust me, you are not alone in being selfish, jealous, inhibited, insecure, anxious, unintelligent, and the list goes on. You just get to decide if that is where you want to stay. Do you want to dwell in a house built on self-doubt and recrimination? Wouldn’t you rather live a life bathed in light with the doors wide open to greet all that is to come?! Join us. Make some new friends or get to know old friends in a new way.


Serendipity aka Everything Happens for a Reason

We have all heard this expression. “Well, you know, everything happens for a reason.” This might be as dramatic as you caught a red light and just missed being in a car accident. It could be less dramatic, but just as powerful. I happened to need to use the phone in a bar one night and some guy was hogging it. I started harassing him to get off the phone. Turns out he went for a post-graduate year after high school in the same small town I am from in Maine. That is  how I met my husband. How about the smaller, more subtle nudges?

I have started going again to a Friday morning yoga class. It is quite a mix of ladies in the group and the teacher is wonderful. One woman in the group is quite vocal. Usually this really bugs me in a yoga class. But I have  just been breathing away- no problem. In the beginning of class last week, this chatty woman, (let’s call her Red), was saying about how she has lost 7 or 8 pounds since the start of the year. Red made a derogatory comment about some of her body parts. Another woman, (we’ll call her Blue), said in an off-handed way that we should all be grateful said body parts are working well enough to get us to a yoga class and through our lives. At the end of class the Blue began to explain how she has had three near death experiences. One time she went down cold in front of her kids at a store.  I walked out of class thinking about all of the comments we hear all day long. How many of them have a message for us? Did Red hear it? Did she feel the universe nudging her to be grateful for her lumpy, bumpy, healthy body? I don’t know. Too often we are swirling around inside our own heads and miss these subtle nudges from the universe.

Another expression you have heard is pennies from heaven. I never thought much about this.  I do remember saying/ thinking to my Dad after he died that if he was going to contact me from the great beyond, I would prefer silver coins. A few summers ago I made the trip to Santa’s Village with my kids. All weekend long it was dimes. Dimes everywhere I looked. I must have found 30 or 40 dimes that weekend. Dropped in front of the concession booths, waiting in lines for rides, in the parking lot, everywhere! Then my little brother died. I started finding pairs of dimes. Seriously, always two dimes. I mentioned to my father that I like quarters too. So, now I find dimes and quarters. Not always together anymore, but sometimes.  They always pick up my spirits.

I can’t say if this is a message of love from the great beyond or just the Universe giving me a little pick me up. Either way, I appreciate the support. I was headed to my second Design Your Life class yesterday. I was in a good space having survived my phone call to my friend. I just mentally asked my Dad to be with me as I know how much he would love this class. To say he loved stuff like this is a massive understatement. He would have been literally buzzing with excitement! I was thinking how nice it would be to find a quarter to know he heard me. I glanced into a parked car and saw a whole roll of quarters sitting in the console.  Did my dead father put them there. I really doubt it. Is it possible that I got nudged? I like to think so.

If you are feeling a nudge, come and join us for the Brighten Your Light seminars. I have added a sign up for one class option. If you are interested in checking it out but not sure about the whole series then sign up for the first class. It is $45 to sign up for just one class. If you decide to continue the extra $15 will be taken off of the total cost for the rest of the seminars.

http://lifeandfriendship.com/brighten-your-light-series-sign-up

I can’t wait to get started. Come  laugh and learn with a great group of ladies. Don’t worry, I promise I won’t make you call anybody up and tell them you lied!


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