Saving Your Life

“Letting go helps us to to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.”
― Melody Beattie

Melody Beattie has been such an important role model for me and countless others that deal with addiction and co-dependence.

She has a great page on Facebook with daily meditations. Today’s meditation struck me because I’m an avid journaller, I talk about that a lot here and in my book, This Way Up. In Beattie’s post, she talks about ‘Saving Your Life’ through journalling, such a great double entendre.  I know that journalling has saved my life, or at least my sanity, on more than one occasion.  Not to mention, I am saving my life, though words, a snapshop of my experience daily.

Beattie discusses why journalling is important to her:

Are you saving your life by writing about it in a journal?

Sometimes I use a file in my computer for my journal. If I’m rambling, ranting, or raving—writing something that could embarrass me if seen—I lock the file with a code. My words in my journal, whether it’s in a computer or a green Italian notebook, are meant only for me.

There are many ways to write in a journal. We can go on and on about whatever comes to us. That’s helpful, especially if we’re stuck. We can use our journal as a record, writing down what we did that day. It’s a good place to write our goals and to explore our fantasies and dreams.

We can write poems or short stories. We can write letters to God or our Guardian Angel, asking for advice. Or we can just say what happened each day, and then write how it feels.

People may think there’s a right and wrong way to write in a journal, but I don’t agree. There aren’t any rules about journals. It’s just a way to record and save our lives.

Do you think your life is worth saving? I do. If you’ve been neglecting to do that, ask yourself “why?”

God, help me be aware of and respect the details of my life.

Activity: Transfer your goal list to a journal, and begin writing your responses to the meditations and the activities as part of your journal entry for each day. Use your journal as a logbook, to record what you’re doing and whom you’re doing it with as you pursue your dreams. Or use it as a way of exploring how you feel, who you are, and what you want to do. Save your life in whatever way makes sense to you.

Such a great reminder to me, and I hope to you too, to journal today and everyday if possible.

I want to close with a video of Beattie discussing Addiction and Codependency.  I love her messages, they really hit home.  This vid is part 1 of 3; if you find it useful or interesting, I hope you take the time to watch all 3. Such valuable information on the subject.

 

 

I’d love to hear about why you journal and how it helps you; and would love your thoughts of the video. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

Creativity – Externalizing the Internal Stuff

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn

Get the Crap Out! That is what we oh so graciously call it in our workshops.  Shrek had it right: Better Out than In!

Sometimes shedding light on the negative stuff and the obstacles is difficult, but it’s always better to look at it and deal with it rather than pretend it’s not there.

The exercise is from Week Three, Day Two of my book, This Way Up.

Deb and I talk about the process in this video.  I’d love to hear your feedback, not only of the video, but also of the process if you have tried it yourself.

 

I would really love to hear you thoughts on this process.  And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Live Life Fearlessly!

“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them.

– Rabindranath Tagore

The importance of love – and remember to love yourself first;  Live life fearlessly; and remember love keeps you safer than fear does. What wonderful messages.

I have been preparing for my book launch, so sending out short writing pieces about finding purpose after feeling purposeless; about empty nest and other major life transitions; and a lot about the Seven Tools from my book, This Way Up as I get closer to my book launch date (pssst it’s on April 26th if you didn’t know!  You can order it now on Amazon)

I talk about the concept of finding purpose, about love being stronger than fear and about living fearlessly to just about anyone who will listen.  So I was quite thrilled when my friend Jayne sent me the link to a TED Talk called Dying to be me by Anita Moorjani.  Anita went into a coma and almost died – and now thanks the cancer which riddled her body for saving her life.  Moorjani states it was that near death experience which taught her the meaning of life.  Moojani explains that what we focus on, what we pay attention to is what our life reflects.

She states that the five main lessons she learned from that experience are:

  1. The main thing we should be focusing on is Love.  And it is vital to love ourselves first.
  2. Live Life Fearlessly (and remember love keeps you much safer than fear does!)
  3. Focus on humor, laughter and joy
  4. Life is a gift.  Live each day as a gift.
  5. Always be yourself. Be the best You that You can be.

I think this TED talk is amazingly inspiring.  Thank you Jayne for sending me the link – and thank you all for watching it.  I hope it inspires you as much as it inspired me.

 

 

I’d love to hear about ways that you life fearlessly.  And as always, thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

Insights from 2014

Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it.
Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin.

– Hermann Hesse


One of the things I love about starting a new year is making intentions. One of the intentions I usually make is to pay better attention. Which means that for the first few weeks of the year anyway, I’m paying closer attention to life, being more mindful in what I do. Wish it lasted longer than just a few weeks, but baby steps, right?

And along with intentions for the year to come, I love to look back on the past year and see what insights I’ve gained. One of my insights from 2014 is that I always feel better, more connected when I’m paying closer attention to the present moment. Another insight from this year is how much better I feel – body, mind and spirit – when I’m alcohol free.  So once again, I’ve decided to abstain from any alcohol for awhile.  This is not a new behaviour for me. Alcohol and I have quite a history. This isn’t a typical ‘New Year’s Resolution’ – this has been coming for quite awhile, I’ve been alcohol free for several months now. It just feels like alcohol doesn’t fit within the context of who I’m becoming.

I like reading the articles that come out in the new year about the ‘bests’ of the year that has passed.  And I love learning about other people’s insights from the previous year. So it’s no surpise that my favorite article is from The Greater Good Website.  Not only do I love that site! But the article combines those two things, the best of and insights gleaned. The article is based on the annual list of the top scientific insights produced by the study of happiness, altruism, mindfulness, gratitude – the science of a meaningful life. The article –  The Top 10 Insights from Science of a Meaningful Life in 2014  – is wonderful. It’s well worth reading the whole article, but for those of you who like things put in a nutshell, here you go:

  1. Mindfulness can reduce racial prejudice—and possibly its effects on victims.
  2. Gratitude makes us smarter in how we spend money. (Makes us better in all we do!)
  3. It’s possible to teach gratitude to young children, with lasting effects. (see the video within the article on the GG website)
  4. Having more variety in our emotions—positive or negative—can make us happier and healthier.
  5. Natural selection favors happy people, which is why there are so many of them. (So Be Happy!)
  6. Activities from positive psychology don’t just make happy people happier—they can also help alleviate suffering.
  7. People with a “growth mindset” are more likely to overcome barriers to empathy.
  8. To get people to take action against climate change, talk to them about birds.
  9. Feelings of well-being might spur extraordinary acts of altruism
  10. Extreme altruism is motivated by intuition—our compassionate instincts.

Each of these points is explained in depth in the article and is based on studies done in 2014.  As I said, well worth a read, helping us all work toward leading a more Meaningful Life.

I’ll close with a lovely short video about gratitude –

The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude

 

 

I’d love to hear about your insights from 2014. Or some of your intentions for 2015.

And as always thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

What is ‘Wrong’

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”

– Leo Tolstoy


When I watch the news or read the paper, I think I can be forgiven for becoming somewhat distraught. The world is in such a fragile, sad place at the moment.  And after discussing this with my sister Karin, we both agreed that being “sensitive” women, open to the energy of the world around us, can be heart-breaking.  What are we doing to this planet? What are we doing to one another? Why is this happening?

And going a step further, what can we do about it?  On a large scale, it feels as though one small, insignificant person can do very little.  It all feels too big.  But that feels ‘wrong’ – I have to do something, even on a small scale.  One thing that may not seem significant on the bigger scale, but I feel is very significant, is too keep “cleaning up my side of the street.”  To stay clear and communicate through my own trials and tribulations to come out the other side.  I had a confrontation with a good friend.  It felt awkward and hard and it brought up a lot of old stuff for me, old childhood shame and feelings of being ‘wrong’ and bad.  My immediate instinct was to lash out at her, but I knew after years of therapy and my own work, that that was ‘wrong’. So luckily, this friend has also done a lot of her own work, so we talked, we communicated through it.  It was not easy or comfortable or fun, but it worked.  We worked through it, dug below the incident to what it brought up, in both of us, and got through it.  I still have some work to do around my own behaviour, but the communication through the difficulty, shattered the small prison of shame that I was sitting in.

This one small incident may not seem significant, and maybe it’s not, in the big picture.  But it was huge for me for a couple of days. And no I’m not saying that if we could all communicate better then everything would be peachy keen, but on a smaller scale, if people communicated better with each other, and were willing to be real with one another, I think the world would be in a lot healthier state.  But then again, I always have been accused of being a Pollyanna.

The short clip I want to close with may not seem to fit with this post, but I feel like it does, and I really liked it.  A short TED talk about Philosophy in Prison. I enjoyed the construct of ‘wrong’ – and more importantly it reminded me of my son Lukas who is studying PPE (Philosopy, Politics and Economics) and who has been away in Edinburgh studying for the past 10 months, and I miss him terribly.  So when I saw this clip, and I thought of Lukas, I smiled. So I wanted to include it here. After all in this very small universe that is my blog, I get to make the rules!

“The great thing about being the only species that makes a distinction between right and wrong is that we can make up the rules for ourselves as we go along.”
― Douglas Adams

 

 

I’d love to hear from you about how you handle ‘wrong’ in your life.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

Retraining the Brain – Shifting Focus

The world is full of a lot of fear and a lot of negativity, and a lot of judgment. I just think people need to start shifting their focus onto joy and happiness. As corny as it sounds, we need to make a shift.

It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins133182.html#cRzVZOHjpM8tGpjB.99

Ellen DeGeneres


Continuing the posts on Neuroplasticity and getting rid of bad habits.   Now on to steps two and three:

2. Observe what the old habit or pathway is doing in your life.

3. Shift your focus.

Habits are hard to break, we all know that, but one thing that helps immensely is observing, really paying attention to how destructive the habit is. Whether it’s spending more money than I can really afford; biting the cuticles around my nails; or drinking more alcohol than I want to. By observing and really paying attention to the consequences, I can start to realign my focus.

The way I do this is by firstly focusing really hard on the bad habit, I shine a spot light on it, brutally.  I know this sounds counter-intuitive but hear me out.  By writing down and clearing out all the negative stuff that is part of the bad habit, it helps make room for positive change. Recent research published in the journal Psychology Today shows that writing down negative thoughts and negative past experiences and then ripping them up and throwing them away actually helps to change those thoughts and habits.

In Figjam Workshops Creative Empowerment Workshop, participants consistently say that doing this exercise has a remarkably healing effect.  Try it!  Take a big sheet of paper and write down all the negative effects associated with the bad habit, everything you can think of. And when you feel like you have gotten everything out, rip it up.  Stamp on it!  Scream NO at it! Burn it!  You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.

Then, Shift the Focus.  To create a new neural pathway, you need to focus on what it is you want. Start focusing on all the positives associated with not having that habit.  For example, healthy cuticles or healthy nails.  When I wanted to stop biting my cuticle, I rubbed lotion into my cuticles several times a day.  I kept my nails shaped, and focused on how much better my hands looked.  Yes, I know it sounds really simplistic, but in a way it is.  This is how neuroplasticity works.  It’s just about getting new neural pathways started. Remember what Dr. Rick Hanson says about self-directed neuroplasticity – it is ongoing. Our brains are changing all the time. We can choose what we focus on and what new neural pathways are being created!

I want to close with a fascinating TED talk by neuroscientist and inventor Christopher deCharms. A wonderful look inside the brain.

 

 

I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior.  And if you do use the ‘Write and Rip’ technique – how it worked for you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

In Search of Sacred Self

“Whatever else you do, listen to your Deepest Self.  Love Her and be true to Her. Speak Her truth, always.”

– Sue Monk Kidd


I am reading a book at the moment called The Dance of the Dissident Daughter.  It is a beautiful book by Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees. It describes Kidd’s own journey toward the Sacred Feminine.

“There is no place so awake and alive as the edge of becoming. But more than that, birthing the kind of woman who can authentically say, ‘My soul is my own,’ and then embody it in her life, her spirituality, and her community is worth the risk and hardship.  And that is what I have come to tell you – I have come over the wise distances to tell you: She is within us.”

The journey toward Sacred Self is a journey of passion and longing.  It calls to us. And once we hear the call, it is my experience that we cannot “un-hear” it.  That calling and longing is within us forever.

“To discover who she is, a woman must descend into her own depths.  She must leave the safe role of remaining a faithful daughter of the collectives around her and descent to her individual feeling values.  It will be her task to experience her pain . . . the pain of her own unique feeling values calling to her, pressing to emerge.”  Judith Duerk (Circle of Stones)

I believe that accessing that deepest self, that Sacred Self, is where we truly tap into our power. I believe that is where intuition lives and where we can be most powerful.  Powerful Beyond Measure!

Sometimes we fear descending into our own depths, into that darkness of the unknown. But that is where our intuition is.  But as Caroline Myss points out, we often fear pursuing our intuition at all:

“We often hesitate to follow our intuition out of fear. Most usually, we are afraid of the changes in our own life that our actions will bring. Intuitive guidance, however, is all about change. It is energetic data ripe with the potential to influence the rest of the world.”

That is my search!  The search for that energetic data ripe with potential! That search for Sacred Self!

To close, I would like to share a TED Talk by Isabel Allende about passion. In this powerful talk, Allende calls to women to follow their passion: We must begin  to make fundamental changes real change calls for feminine energy. Allende calls for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work, passionately, to create a better world. And I believe the first step in that direction is that search for Sacred Self.

 

 

Please let me know what you think of this TED talk.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

What would you regret?

“Remorse is the poison of life.”

– CHARLOTTE BRONTE


I was having a rich conversation the other night with a friend about regret.  She asked me, if you died right now, what would you regret most? And honestly, I don’t think I would have many regrets.  I did some stupid things in my life, but nothing horrific, and most of the stupid stuff actually made me who I am.  And now at 55 years old, I like my life and I feel like I’m pretty much living according to my values.  And that feels really good. The most important thing to me is my connection to people – to my sons, to my husband, to my sister and my niece, to my friends. And I feel like I work hard to keep those connections.  I feel like I’ve worked hard to connect with my authentic self, and to not give myself away anymore.

And in terms of regrets for what I haven’t done yet – well I have done most of the things that I have really wanted to do in this lifetime – I have a wonderful family and two amazing children, I have a home that I love, I have travelled a lot – I feel very blessed . . . although sigh, to be honest if I was dying before my book got published, that would be a regret.

We were having the conversation after she had sent me this article in The Guardian:

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

The top regrets seem to reflect remorse over a life where people did not honor their authentic selves, where they let the pressure of others and of expectations rule how they lived. I think it is a good question to ask a friend, or oneself – If this were your last day of life, what would you regret? Am I living my life in line with my authentic self?  Do I have the courage to truly be myself and live my life according to my highest values?

The same day that I had that conversation with my friend, another friend sent me an email with this link for THE OVERVIEW EFFECT.  And although at first it seemed unrelated to the conversation about regrets, after watching it, I realized it is deeply connected.  It is about unity and compassion and caring.  And what greater regret could any of us have than to regret destroying our home, this beautiful planet.

What would you regret?  Are you living a life true to yourself?  Thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

Right or Happy . . . or Facing Conflict . . . isn’t that a Contradiction?

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions . . .”

– Joni Mitchell


As I said in my last post, being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is a difficult thing to do for most of us.  But as Maddie pointed out in a comment from my last post:  You have blogged in the past – “Would you rather be right or happy?” This post seems to contradict that. Does it?

I don’t see the two as being contradictory or exclusive.  I have learned to stand up for myself, learned to be willing to disagree, to not just “paper-over the conflicts as I used to in my old ‘peace-maker’ days” as Rosalie so aptly put it. But I have also learned that it is sometimes ok to let things go and not push doggedly to be RIGHT above all else, at the expense of harmony in a relationship. I think of that kind of right as the “Ego Right.”

The idea of being right or happy comes from A Course in Miracles.

The main benefit I see in correctly interpreting “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” is that it allows the line to be a challenge to our egoic insistence on being right at the expense of real rightness and of our happiness. Stubbornly clinging to a wrong position no matter how much pain it causes us is a virtually universal human phenomenon. This line is both a challenge to us to seriously question our way of seeing things and an invitation to accept a new way of seeing things that is both right and happy.

This also reminds me a bit of The Serenity Prayer –

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;  courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t see that as a Christian prayer so much as asking that part of me that is beyond my Ego, to have courage to face conflict, be willing to disagree, but to also accept some things and some people and not try to change them so I can be right.  It is subtle sometimes, but not a contradiction in my opinion,  just perhaps seeing things from Both Sides Now!

 

 

Thank you Maddie and Rosalie for taking the time to comment on my last post, it prompted me to think through this and clarify it for myself. Please tell me about how you have learned to balance this subtle difference.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Willing to Disagree and Facing Conflict

“The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.”

– Napoleon Bonaparte


Being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is difficult to do for most of us. I can say for myself, it used to terrify me.  I was the peace-maker in my family, the one who tried to make everything OK when anyone in my family was arguing (and trust me, there was a lot of arguing in my family!)  And when my husband, Jeff and I used to argue, it terrified me.  My fear of abandonment surfaced and I shrank.  The fact that Jeff is about 6′ 2″ and I’m just over 5′ added to the whole paradigm of shrinking back.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t give into every whim, but I didn’t like to face the conflict and sort through the disagreement.  My usual MO was to punish with silence, to walk away and not talk and make him suffer (yes I know, not the most mature approach!)  But as I said, conflict terrified me and I did not like being around people who disagreed with me.

It was only after years of therapy and reading lots of books that I came to value myself enough to not fear standing my ground.  And by realizing that I would survive fine without Jeff,  my fear of abandonment started to dissapate, and I became stronger in my willingness to face conflict head on, and as a result, our relationship grew stronger.

I’m not that afraid of conflict anymore, and this brings a delicious freedom.  I don’t necessarily go looking for an argument, but as a 50+ year old woman, I am pretty good at standing my own ground now!

So it was with great interest that I listened to Margaret Heffernan in this fascinating TED Talk, Dare to Disagree.  She describes constructive conflict as a fantastic model of collaboration: thinking partners who aren’t echo chambers.

“So what does that kind of constructive conflict require? Well, first of all . . . it means we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves, and it means we have to  find ways to engage with them. That requires a lot of patience and a lot of energy. And the more I’ve thought about this, the more I think, really, that that’s a kind of love. Because you simply won’t commit that kind of energy and time if you don’t really care.”

I love that statement that we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves.  It’s true, we usually surround ourselves with people who agree with us and show disdain for those who do not.  But in reality, as Heffernan points out, conflict often leads to creativity:

“Yes, there was a lot of conflict and debate and argument, but that allowed everyone around the table to be creative, to solve the problem.”

I agree with Heffernan, we must be willing to disagree with each other, to face conflict and work through it.  In this TED talk she explains the importance of disagreement in organizations and globally. But for me, I can only confirm how liberating it is personally.  As Napoleon points out – the people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know. Daring to disagree takes courage, but in my opinion, it is essential.

 

 

Please tell me about the times you have dared to disagree.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.