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I am confident we can all agree that if we want our lives to be different in some way, we will have to endure some measure of uncertainty and change. That is no revelation to anyone. It is simply common sense. That doesn’t make it easy to live through! In fact, it is so scary to face uncertainty and change that most of us stay stuck where we are rather than endure it. We sit safely in the comfort zone of what we know, no matter how uncomfortable it may get inside of that bubble. Self Help powerhouse, Tony Robbins, says the more magic and adventure we want in our lives the more we have to get comfortable with, or at least learn to tolerate, uncertainty. I remember reading a short story by author Richard Bach many years ago which discussed just this dilemma.
The story was basically about these little creatures whose entire existence, they believed, depended upon their clinging tightly to the rocks at the bottom of a rushing river. If they were ever to lose their grip they would be swept off to a certain death. The rub being that clinging for a lifetime to a rock in the hopes that one can endure, is not much of a life. As in all the Richard Bach stories I have ever read, a rebel appears who can no longer accept the status quo. This little creature just cannot bring himself to endure a life of enduring any longer. He would rather risk “certain” death than continue to cling to existence. So it is for all of us. We may have many who tell us that our dreams are impossible. We may have an inner choir constantly singing to us of the dangers of our dreams. Sometimes the smallest steps feel like impossible leaps. Sometimes impossible leaps happen, when we are willing to tolerate the unbearable anxiety of uncertainty.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence
by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
I find myself having the same frustrating discussions at work day after day. One of the students I work with tends to get stuck at different points throughout the day. What this child will do is designate something as not fair and then proceed to try and engage in a discussion about this unfair situation… for a long, long time. The rational approach for me to handle this situation is to engage in a discussion, explaining the reasons behind the decision or the rule, i.e. “No peanuts at the peanut free table because it is unsafe for the children with allergies”, and be done with the discussion. The difficulty is that this student is not actually interested in reason or rational discussion. This kid wants what this kid wants and is willing to talk to you until your ears bleed to get it. The other day I tried a new approach and got surprising results.
Rather than trying to convince my student that I was right, I threw it in Reverse and started offering up loads of reasons in favor of this kid’s opinion. “You are so right! It is an outrage that other kids can sit at your desk when you are not there. It is your private space! They could touch your stuff and that would be a violation. I would feel like knocking somebody out too.” I piled it on real thick and encouraged him to do the same. We determined that the rule was stupid, grown ups do stupid things, kids do stupid things, people should just listen to and respect what this child decides to is right, and on and on. It was all very dramatic with throwing our arms around and bouncing our fists off of the desks. Laughter too, in the midst of these deep and overwhelming feelings, we had a few belly laughs too. Every time my student tried to redirect the conversation back into an argument by getting me to defend the rules- I kept it firmly in Reverse. I whole heartedly told this student to trust their feelings and not go along with anything other than what they felt was right and important. After about 5 minutes my student basically gave up on arguing with me, (most likely writing me off as some kind of nutball), and deciding it was way easier to just do the classwork than to expend any more energy on being right.
We are all like this student when we make broad proclamations about right and wrong or the way things are vs how they should be. We make these statements based upon our beliefs which are based on our own skewed interpretation of reality. I am trying this approach on myself now. When I start to get steamed up by a belief that something is unfair or wrong, I just throw it in Reverse and I immediately start to feel better. For example, “I never have time for myself” becomes, “I always have time for myself.” It feels unnatural at first, like I am trying to swallow a lie. I just continue to repeat it to myself, “I always have time for myself.” as I am faced with books I have been wanting to read, projects not yet begun or never completed, and piles of unfolded laundry. Magically my brain starts to find validation for my new thought. Suddenly I see possibilities where before there were none. Voila!
Our thoughts become our beliefs. Our beliefs become our reality. Our reality is expressed in our words. We don’t have to believe these words, these in Reverse statements for them to work. We just need to begin to say them and our mind will do the rest of the work for us.
We all have the parts of our lives that we wish were different. For many of us it is our weight, but it could be career, relationships, finances, or maybe all of the above. The fly in the ointment is that the more we fight to change these parts of our lives, the more we engage in a tug of war with ourselves. I know, for myself, the moment I decide I am going on a diet, I become ravenously hungry. The longer I punish myself with memories of talk show hosts holding up lumpy, yellow, gelatinous replicas of what “five pounds of fat” looks like, and shameful images of bathing suit shopping… the more I EAT!! What if there was a way to drop the rope and walk away from this endless tug of war that is draining our energy, focus and self-esteem?
We can give ourselves permission to have things in our life that we wish were different. End of story. We can do that. We can decide that, yes, I can’t stand my relationship with my mother-in-law. We don’t have to like the ways things are, we don’t have to be happy with the way things are, but we can come to a place of acceptance. “Yes, I deeply, truly, desperately wish I was 20 pounds lighter.” Then we can begin to back away from the constant berating, excuses, and dialogue that circulates through our mind around this subject. I have heard health coaches who say, “Don’t worry about removing unhealthy foods from your diet. Just keep adding more healthy foods and the unhealthy ones will get edged out over time.” This idea of releasing what isn’t working by focusing on what you can comfortably do that will work is a beautifully painless way to change any area of your life.
Another approach is to change seemingly random habits or behaviors and trust that the ripples of positive energy will flow into all areas of your life. Here is an example of how this could work. Hilda really wants to begin a workout routine but it has just never come together. She has a gym membership, workout videos and even a treadmill, but she still can’t seem to stick to any kind of regular routine. For a very long time Hilda feels very badly about her inability to stick to a regular exercise routine and believes it shows her lack of motivation and discipline. Gradually Hilda begins to get excited about having a clean bathroom on a regular basis. She doesn’t have a schedule or anything, she just begins to notice when she has let things go a little too long, and she begins to notice how nice it feels to have a clean bathroom. Now Hilda has the nice clean bathroom and is enjoying it so much she begins to see other parts of her home that could use sprucing up. After she gives the fridge a much-needed scrubbing, the grout on the back splash gets bleached, and then she even cleans out the dryer vent. She’s on a tear! It feels so good to take care of herself and her home. She feels proud of… HERSELF. Now, without struggle and sacrifice she realizes that she has begun to walk more and has been meeting a friend at the gym. She has begun to incorporate exercise into her life because it makes her feel good! You can equate this practice with the person who says, “I don’t know how I quit smoking. I tried a thousand times before and couldn’t do it. This time it just stuck and it wasn’t really hard at all.” The reason it” just stuck” is they had laid the groundwork by effortlessly making changes that empowered and motivated them.
Beginning to incorporate more of what makes us feel good into our lives changes everything about us. It turns our attention from what we “can’t stand” about ourselves or our lives to what makes us feel strong and successful. We will always have parts of our life that, we feel, need work. That is not shameful or embarrassing. That’s life! Accepting who we are is the rock that sends the ripples of change throughout our entire existence. It is the magic that allows us to release our strangle hold on what we believe we need and to begin to relax into the flow of what is possible. Never underestimate the power of the path of least resistance!!
I started working in a resource room in one of the elementary schools in town a few weeks ago. Each school day seems to have it’s own life cycle. In the morning there is a relative peace as we all begin to mesh together. Each individual begins releasing a bit of what they brought with them to school as the energy of those around them is woven together to become the energy of the whole. All the individuals strings that we are become interwoven into a living, breathing fabric. At some point during each day there is, to one extent or another, at least one crisis which stresses the fabric and connection that we have formed. For so many of the students I work with the paralysis of perfectionism is at the root the problem. At many times throughout the day the kids are asked to complete tasks that feel impossible to them. The kids handle this stress in a few different ways. Many will shut down completely, only working on the task if they have someone nearby to ask for constant guidance. They seek reassurance and direction to insure they are getting it right. Often they seek more guidance than they need, hoping to avoid the problem all together. Some will jump in headfirst and attack the task in a random fashion that makes it quite clear they have given no thought to understanding the current assignment. They rely completely on what has worked in the past and plow ahead with relative confidence that what has worked in the past will be good enough to carry them through. This system can be somewhat effective, as most of what the kids are asked to do builds upon what they have already done. This strategy blocks them, though, from reaching for new knowledge. It keeps the kids from true learning as they are not invested in understanding the new material. In other words these kids are playing it safe.
The good news is that the kids who employ one of these two methods will eventually learn new material. However, they block themselves from experiencing the freedom and exhilaration that comes when you give yourself permission to learn imperfectly. They are locked into a place of fearful learning that paralysis of perfectionism that is kryptonite to the “a-ha” moments of life. The coping strategy that I find the hardest to work with is the one employed by the kids who do not have feelings of past success to draw upon. The kids who reach end stage panic before even attempting to begin something new. This kind of learner has not yet begun to reach back into the stack of past success to gain enough confidence to even begin something new. In other words, this is a student who has no chance of success because they refuse to ever begin.
Each school day dribbles by and somehow we all continue to show up and hold our place in the fabric of our community. As I look to find the gifts that this new opportunity holds for me, I have realized the kids are an amazing mirror for my own struggles with needing to be perfect. As I observe these beautiful children struggle under the burden of perfectionism, I see these are all the same strategies I use to keep myself safe from blundering my way into the unknown. I can think of many times when I have floundered about waiting, praying even, for someone to come along and rescue me. Someone who already knows how to do whatever “it” is. My very deepest desire is that they will simply do “it’ for me. I have undoubtedly built “it” into a Mount Everest sized problem in my mind and and I would much rather that someone else just take care of it. I certainly have no desire to learn this new skill myself, much safer to hide from it!!
I can also think of many occasions when I have blustered my way through, scraping together old coping strategies and a hod podge of skills. This is my go to approach for most everything computer related. Rather than taking the time to learn new skills, I plug away like the proverbial monkey at the typewriter. (That is assuming that the monkeys bang on their typewriters in a sweaty frenzy swearing their little monkey hearts out.) The fear of not being able to make it perfect holding me back from taking a calm and sensible approach to learning new material. Just like the students I work with, I do pick up new skills through this process, but it is a hard fought battle when the fear of all you don’t know pokes at you relentlessly. I end up limply draped across my desk like an exhausted, wrung out dishrag.
I see, too, times when I have given in to my fear and given up on my desires before ever attempting to make them happen. This self fulfilling prophecy of failure is something I can see myself emerging from now. I can recognize my death spiral of self pity and intense dramatization which usually involves lots of stomping, banging, mumbling, swearing, and sometimes even tears. It is not pretty, and is basically an adult sized version of the behavior I struggle to help the students overcome.Lately as I begin the ascent into crazy town I can catch myself and slow it down a bit. I might not be able to get it right, but I can always give it a try. It is an exciting process to know that things that have left me stranded in indecision and inaction in the past are actually things that I am now beginning to accomplish. I have learned how to recognize the action that is required and even more simply the energy that promotes and creates space for that action. By beginning in such a safe place, it is easy to draw from the bank of past success to propel myself towards my goals.
My goal for my work at school is to become an example of this kind of imperfect learning. I aim to be able to acknowledge mistakes without shame and to take decisive action even if I don’t know the “right” answer. To become this example I am embracing the energy of courage and the confidence to be imperfect. I notice examples of this energy in action all around me in the fabric of our days together. This simple act of noticing effortlessly welcomes the desired feeling into my being, so I am well on my way.
My last class, although a phenomenal and moving experience, was not well attended. The people who did come received amazing gifts of loving messages and healing energies, and after letting some time go by I realize it was a perfect afternoon. The experience I thought I would have was not the one I needed, apparently, and that is okay. It happens. I was feeling like I had stretched SO much by talking to so many people about the event that I would surely have a much bigger turnout. For several days afterwards it really kind of felt like I had been slapped in the face. Rather than being proud of how much I had grown and pushed myself, I was only seeing that one piece of the puzzle.
Does this ever happen to you? You work hard and stretch and push and face your fear with all your might, only to feel like someone snuck up behind you and kicked you right in the can. Well, I can’t tell you why this happens. Maybe there is a different lesson for all of us in this experience depending on where we are in our lives. I can tell you what I took away from the experience.
If I am doing something because of the desired outcome, I am missing out on 99% of the experience.
What I got was a reminder to seek out the happy, feel good places and let the details work themselves out. I got a reminder to lean in to the Universe and trust that the outcome is only part of the journey and, in fact, is yet to be determined. Life keeps pushing back the finish line and giving us more chances to dig deeper, play harder and truly experience being alive. What I got was the gift of learning that I am stronger than disappointment or embarrassment. They can’t hold me back if I don’t let them, and that is the outcome I believe I needed to continue creating the life and career I love.
“If you want something in your life you’ve never had,
You’ll have to do something you’ve never done.”
Trying new things is most often an uncomfortable experience. Some brave, adventurous, and possibly kooky individuals have come to enjoy living in that uncomfortable place. It seems life would be adventurous and exciting if I was happy to live in that often uncomfortable place of the wild unknown. Alas, I am not. I am pretty big on comfortable, known, and expected outcomes. It suits me fine! Thank you very much.
Except, I now am building a career as a healer and teacher. Something I have not done before, and I can feel the uncertainty of it, A LOT! How do you know how to do what you have not done before? I do a lot of the expected, rational things like ask questions of people who have gone before me, read lots of books, try lots of ideas, and do my best to trust my gut. I rely on that last one a lot! I put a lot of stock in how things sit with me, like how I feel when meeting a new person.
In the recent Spring Manifestations class we spent a lot of time getting in touch with what we feel like internally and using that internal state as a guide to what we want to manifest in our lives. We spoke about what happens when what we think we want brings up a fearful reaction in our bodies. How spending some time feeling that fear can help us begin to tease apart anticipatory or unfamiliar feelings of fear vs. a flashing red beacon from the Universe to turn around and look for another path. We also realized how many of us were facing those grown up decisions where there is no “right” answer. The decisions you kind of wish someone else would make for you. How do you know what to choose when everything feels scary or not quite right?
I saw a film called “The Thought Exchange” which so thoroughly examines this dilemma. First of all, a distinction between feelings and sensations is made. Feelings such as happy, sad, or mad are labels we attach to sensations we experience in our bodies. Uncomfortable or painful sensations are so unpleasant that we most often exchange the thoughts that brought them up for ones that make us feel more familiar or comfortable. These uncomfortable sensations almost always show up when we envision for ourselves attaining or creating something new in our lives. For example, “I am creating a financially successful business doing work that I love,” becomes “I will never create a financially successful business doing work that I love.” Why would we make a switch like that? How could it ever feel better to believe this negative thought? Well, if the idea of creating a financially successful business feels new and challenging and scary, maybe even impossible. Then the thought, “I will never create a financially successful business” feels much safer and less overwhelming. In this way we unconsciously sell ourselves down the river. Foregoing what we truly desire so we can feel comfortable, even when what feels comfortable doesn’t feel good.
If we can, moment by moment, feel the sensations and do it anyway, that is how we cross the bridge from where we are to where we want to be. Sit with the uncomfortable sensations without needing to attach labels or thoughts to them. If you absolutely have to you can make up new labels that serve you better. Instead of sick with anxiety, how about giddy with anticipation?
There is a cute example of an exercise people try at the Thought Exchange workshops. Someone pretends to be working behind the counter at the Thought Exchange Department Store. Another participant is encouraged to approach the counter and exchange a thought. In this example, the customer comes up to the counter and says, “Hello, I would like to exchange the thought, ‘I’m a piece of crap’.” The woman behind the counter says, “Yes, okay and what would you like to exchange it for?” The customer says, “I would like to try ‘I am an amazing person with limitless potential’.” The woman behind the counter says, “Yes, no problem. Here you are” and pretends to take one box away and replace it with another. The customer walks out with the thought, “I am an amazing person with limitless potential.” I encourage you to play with this exercise next time you are thinking that something is impossible or never going to happen. Sit with a different thought for a moment and see if the sensations you experience in your body change. This has been a fun way for me to begin noticing the difference between something that truly “Doesn’t feel right” and something that just feels uncomfortable or intimidating because I haven’t done it before.
In our recent class, “Harnessing The Power of Energy Healing”, we talked a bit about Dr. Emoto and his water experiments. Many of you are probably familiar with his work. He has studied the effects of words, music and prayer on the formation of crystals in water. His work is truly fascinating and you can’t help but pause and think that if just taping the word “Hate” to a glass of water can cause all kinds of weird, irregular and ugly changes to its molecular structure what will thinking hateful and bitter thoughts do to my own body which is somewhere around 80% water. Conversely, water with words such as “Love” and “Joy” support the formation of beautiful and symmetrical crystals. How must those types of thoughts and actions affect our health?
After the class I was speaking with a woman who was working to find a way to synthesize all of the information we had presented. How could she apply this to her daily life? I suggested that she take a page out of Dr. Emoto’s book and begin with a word. I have done this myself and found it to be an effortless way to create change in a stuck situation. What you do is when you find yourself in a seemingly intractable situation and you cannot think of a way to get through it, just pick a word that matches what you would rather be feeling. For example, you are arguing with your kids again and feeling like they will never listen and respect your rules. Why not choose “Respect” or “Peace”. Maybe you are one of the millions, maybe even billions, of people who spend a lot of time feeling like there is not enough time and money for you to do or have what you want. Next time you catch yourself in that space, try repeating “Abundance” or “Plenty”. You don’t have to do anything more than that to begin to shift how you are feeling about the situation.
I am not sure how or why this works. I just know that it does. I have used it in my own life on countless occasions and it can change my mood almost instantly. Over time I often find that I have begun repeating the thoughts that drop me back to the original level of frustration, fear or sadness and that is okay. I just start repeating my word again until I feel the shift. I saw a cute quote recently that puts a fun spin on this idea,
Words Have Power.
That Is Why It Is Called
I invite you to try this next time you are feeling stuck in the quagmire of life. Then shoot me a comment and let me know how it went.
I find myself so often putting off making change in any area of my life because I am intent on getting things “under control”. I can remember a span of about a year and a half that started with the unexpected and sudden death of my father, which led to my subsequent decision to step away from the graduate program I was meant to start a week later and open a handcraft gallery instead. A few months later I was married and several months after that I lost my my uncle, who on my wedding day just a few months earlier had said to me, “Now that your father is gone I want you to think of me like your father. I want to be here for you.” During this time I can clearly remember feeling disbelief and even rage at the world around me. Why couldn’t everyone just hold still for a few freakin minutes so I could catch my breath?
As many of you who have read my blog for the last year and a half are aware there have changes underfoot with my job. In typical fashion I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for confirmation in regards to what that job is going to become before making plans with the work I truly want to be doing. Tomorrow morning I go in again for yet another meeting. It seems this just has to be the meeting when I find out for sure if I have a job, will I be working part time or full time, and will it be something I even want to do. No matter the answers I get tomorrow, I know this job is not where I truly want to be. It is not the work I feel calling out to me. It is not the work I wake up excited to learn about and practice. It is not the work that makes me feel that I am using all the gifts I have been given. That work has been sitting on the shelf, waiting in limbo to find out, “When will it be the right time to begin?”
As I have prepared myself mentally for all of the presumed possibilities of what may come tomorrow, a small voice has begun to creep closer and closer. I realize it is asking me a question, “Why do you keep waiting?”
I was reading a book by Rich German recently in which he suggests imagining all of the things you are juggling in your life as rubber balls. Out of all those pick 3 to 5 that are the most important to you. He suggests you imagine these as being your crystal balls. The rubber ones you can take your eye off of from time to time if you have to. You may not want to drop them, but they will bounce back if you do. You must always keep your crystal balls in focus because they will be damaged or destroyed if you allow them to drop. These are the things in your life that are too precious to allow them to be damaged. This last year and a half of waiting has got me wondering if I have chosen wisely my crystal balls.
I am very proud and happy to say that I have taken some steps to move forward in creating my career. I am moving the Life and Friendship classes to the Self Center in Winchester, MA. This location gives me many advantages and feels like a big step forward. I will also be partnering with Wendy Carlson in teaching some upcoming classes. She is starting a similar healing and teaching business and it feels great to have some company. I have added a bunch of Upcoming Events and I am so looking forward to meeting a lot of new people. If you do not live in the Boston area but are interested in learning more please sign up for my monthly newsletter or call/email me to schedule a Free 20 Minute Session. You will get a feel for the work we can do together and if it feels like a good fit for you. 781~367~5751 or firstname.lastname@example.org
I am in the process of creating and defining a career for myself that feels like the perfect fit for who I am. “Sounds great, how do you do that exactly?” You might be wondering.
I wish I knew! This is me, out here winging it!
Let me start with what I know I want:
What I know I don’t want:
This week I am beginning a women’s group called Journey Within. It is a four week class on Thursday nights from 7 to 8:30. We will be doing all kinds of talking, writing, drawing, dreaming and connecting with each other. I am so looking forward to it. If you live in the Boston area you can join us in Reading (pg. 4). Love to see you!!
If you don’t live in the Boston area but think all of this sounds like something you might be interested in just shoot me an email. I am currently taking new clients.