It was a rare peaceful moment. All the day’s work was neatly stacked on my desk and in my mind. The driving was over. Although dinner was in front of me and my daughter and a friend were madly baking in the kitchen, I found myself sitting on my bed, chatting with a friend behind a closed door.
Our conversation veered from decisions and stresses to emotions and desires. Then Jenna said, “I just want to live a life with peace for my family and for me.”
Yes. The sentence sunk in and settled deep.
There is so much buzz about happiness right now: choosing it, raising it, hardwiring it; but I’m voting for peace. Peace has a different quality about it. It’s a bit more weighty. I imagine grounding in peace, like lying on the expanse of sand at Ocean Beach.
We continued to toss around the complexity of our lives and it became apparent to both of us that you cannot chase peace. The very act of pushing your way towards it removes the prize.
The times when we most intensely seek peace is often when there is an underlying change that needs to happen. The focus of my decade of corporate change management work was always to move people and organizations through a change as fast as possible with minimal disruption.
But the more I focus on personal change, I understand that sitting in the space of disruption is meaningful time spent, as unpeaceful as it feels.
This week I spoke with author Dr. Susan Plummer about her new book Deep Change
. She outlines a fascinating seven-stage process on the journey of deep personal change. Right smack in the middle of the journey is the shift of The Stilling:“Where we arrive at the threshold between our known selves and world and what can feel like nothingness, with no new horizon in sight, suspended between two ways of being. In this state we wait, with our imaginations stilled, open to the unknown yet unaware of what is to come in the future.”
I breathed a sigh of relief while reading these words that put shape to a nebulous unsettling space. Peace percolates from within our place of deep knowing. You can’t race to or push through or chase after it. Connecting to your powerful inner rudder requires stillness.
And then with your compass in hand, peace can mean action: big, bold, uncomfortable, risky action . . . that embraces the change that's been brewing and brings you that freedom known as peace.
This week I decided to try a new recipe. That’s as far as I got. As soon as I started thinking about the time required to find one, my chest tightened and I headed for my To Do list. Eventually I came back from Trader Joe’s with my usual arsenal of dinners for the week.
It’s a funny thing - how we define Time Well Spent. It’s very personal.
We all know someone (or we are a person) who:
- Delights in experimenting in the kitchen
- Exercises more times in a week than most do in a month
- Alphabetizes her spice rack with glee
- Creates purposeful, playful, and present time with their children
- Passionately burns the candle of their career climb
- Meticulously designs the details of their home, their wardrobe, or yard
- Has an insatiable appetite for books
- Always remembers the birthday, writes the letter, reaches out, makes time for a coffee
- Has a disciplined practice for centering in prayer, meditation, journaling, or solitude
You get the idea. We allow ourselves some activities more than others and the guilt free list tends to be short. It’s fueled by our values ~ what is a worthy endeavor, what brings us satisfaction, how we define accomplishment, what adds to our own sense of self.
l left Trader Joes determined to break my patterns. I headed straight for Bed Bath and Beyond, where I bought kitchen organizers. Rearranging an unexpected corner was a gift of calm. I allowed myself some time to find a few new recipes that felt good to make. Today I finally started to help my daughter with a garden she has been requesting for weeks. With each activity I gave myself permission to enjoy, take my time, and be present. It was true Time Well Spent.
At this point in our evolution, with all of the economic and technological advances in our society, researchers predicted we would be enjoying significantly more free time. Yet our culture spins unnaturally fast on a scarcity model, where free time is rarely free from priotizing, justifying, or micro-managing.
There’s no one right definition of Time Well Spent
. However, I believe there is a universal gift we receive in expanding our definition: new energy, new experiences, new learnings, new joy.
What would you like to add to your guilt-free list? If you need encouragement to spend this time, reach out to the seasoned artist, designer, athlete, gardener, or entrepreneur that you know. Listen to their authentic enthusiasm. It will help you be open to new possibilities for your own.
I’ve been slipping in the Wonder department lately . . . all in the name of Ease. Do you know what I mean? Let me put it this way.
Would you like your life to be easier?
What if I gave you the choice: Would you rather your life be easier or more wondrous?
What does more wondrous mean to you? I'd love to know.
I have a hunch that the idea of adding wonder to your world upped the ante. After all, “What’s so great about Easy?”, my favorite yoga teacher Charu often asks. Yet often we wait for life to ease up before allowing ourselves to think bigger about a more deliciously fulfilling way of living.
When we are faced with ease versus wonder, ease often wins. A simple example in my own life triggered this topic for me. I faced a ten hour road trip on Labor Day weekend that should have been five. It almost didn’t happen. My reward was a midnight shooting star extravaganza while soaking in a natural hot spring pool. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world, yet I almost did. The battle against traffic almost sent me in a U-turn back to life as usual.
And then there are the more meaty parts of life that you may face. Do you make the investment to get a degree or certification in order to grow in a discipline you love? Do you quit a job to seek a more fulfilling way to earn and contribute? Do you move to a different city towards a dream?
I heard an interesting lecture by psychologist Kelly McGonigal, How to Make Stress Your Friend
. She ends by saying, “Chasing meaning is better for your life than avoiding discomfort.”
Somewhere in between weekend plans and life plans there is a space that calls us to move forward. And when we feel we are moving on autopilot, I believe we have an opportunity to grab the steering wheel towards a more meaningful path.
So, let’s go back to the questions of ease and wonder. Let me rephrase them:
What does ease feel like to you?
Could it be sureness, fulfillment, commitment, energy?
What does wonder feel like to you?
Could it be a sense of promise, mystery, stretching, delight, possibility?
Can you invite in more wonder AND ease, at the same time, just by increasing your ability to connect with these feelings? Can you find the calm and sureness within you to handle life’s grind? It will give you more capacity for wonder: to take in the uniqueness of each day; to go after what quietly delights you; to take action in the direction of unknown possibility and reward; to seek your shooting star and feel the awe that awaits you.
We all have it. That part of our lives or ourselves that we look at . . . over and over again. It’s a place of question or discontent. It’s a place of focus, but not clarity. And often, it’s a place of limitation.
Have you noticed the more intense you are about finding clarity, the more elusive it can become? So you take a step back.
Summer is a natural time of year to give ourselves a little more space to see things differently. Did you hope for a new angle on an old part of you while you were poolside, or beachside, or lakeside this summer? Did being in nature help you to feel more expansive?
I always take my daughters to Pennsylvania to be with my family. I purposefully didn’t bring my laptop, took a break from my blog, and went with the intention to break some cycles and get a fresh perspective.
Creating distance from our swirling cycles can be the break we need. But I learned from this summer, that stepping back isn’t enough.
You know those moments when you are trying to take a picture of what’s in front of you and you can’t fit it in the frame of your camera? You zoom out, step back, and then surrender to the fact that what you are experiencing can’t be captured.
A few weeks ago my sister and I took my parents to New York City to celebrate their wedding anniversary. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t capture the immensity of the cityscape, the energy of the lights at Time Square, or the impact of the 9-11 Memorial. Life in front of me was always more expansive than my lens.
I was thinking on the train ride back about the desire I’ve felt to expand my perspective of my own life. I was reminded that no matter how much distance we give ourselves. No matter how many angles we try to create by flipping the situation, there is still a frame we are working within and it gives us limits that become our world.
On the last day in the Big Apple my daughter showed me the nifty panoramic button on my iPhone just in time to get a shot of the freshly scrubbed Grand Central Station on its 100 year anniversary. It’s a very cool technique that requires you to be very still and slow as you sweep your camera across the full horizon in front of you.
I am ready to put down my camera now. Summer is wrapping up. It’s a natural time to dig back into life, but I don’t want to become myopic. Let’s remember to:
- Shift your eyes from the object you are focusing on to see the edges of habit you are operating within.
- Keep stepping back in order to notice when your back hits a wall of limitation.
- Then hit that panoramic button to find a more expansive horizon of possibilities.
- Remember that what life presents to you is more than you can ever capture.
How playful are you? How easily can you shift into a place of lightness?
I know I take life too seriously. I may appear light and playful, but often on the inside I am anything but. Can you relate?
Sometimes our bodies have to tell us to lighten up. My back went out last month. Last week I went to Las Vegas and got hives. Literally, all over my body. Not necessarily surprising. Vegas can do that. But to me, the hives symbolized a place of stress that my body, mind and emotions go, even when there isn’t obvious reason to. Even the corners of my natural smile turn down. I actually have to work at my grin!
My husband looks at me and scratches his head. He is a great example of someone who uses play as a strategy for lightening his load. One night at dinner he jumped up from the dinner table and announced he was going to be late.
“For what?” I asked.
“For my D.J. lessons!”
He forgot to tell me.
The next night, no joke, he pulls me aside, “Don’t tell the girls but I signed up for trampoline lessons tonight. I want to surprise them and do a backflip!”
Disappointed he came back after an hour, only learning safety procedures and seat drops; but that didn’t stop him.
The next day he came home late and bruised, “Babe, you’ve got to try Krav Maga! It’s amazing!”
It’s summer time, a natural time of year to relax a little and play a bit more. It is important. You know the research. It releases all of the good hormones, keeps us young, and awakens the creative, crusty corners of our brain.
Martha Beck, in her book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World
, talks about play being sacred; a path to wordlessness and expansion. She also shares that most humans resist learning “something substantially new” once they reach the age of 23.
How can you be more playful this summer?
I started small by practicing my smile constantly. It has lightened everything: shopping, driving, typing. Try it! I’m going to seek out small moments to be lighter in my decisions and reactions.
I committed to play more with my daughters this summer. I'm talking about sustained, engaged, active play. I'm not sure why this is so difficult, but I know I’m not alone. I also know it's important for all of us to model playful behavior for our children to counter the compulsive over-working way of life that grips us all.
Work has playful possibilities too. Preparing for the launch of my book has been weighing me down. This week I decided to approach it as a playful project. I already feel more creativity seeping into me! Is there an area of your work life that feels heavy right now? Can you reframe your relationship with it?
And when it comes to trying something new, I’m going to follow Alex to his next class . . . actually I just learned it’s going to be kite boarding, so maybe not. If you have an experience you want to try, let me know
. I’ll be your buddy!
What is your definition of balance? For example, do you see balance as a horizon or a daily activity? Is it a feeling or a technique? Is it more about saying no to others or building a greater capacity to say yes to yourself?
I have learned from exploring themes around balance with many women in my Delight programs, that balance is very personal.
I was recently interviewed by Balanced Mom Magazine
. It was a moment of reflection in my own journey. Claiming to be a balanced mom is not easy, no matter how much you formally study it or informally work at it. Feeling balanced can be as elusive as feeling your full beauty, competence, or courage. The term balancing “act” makes complete sense, doesn’t it?
For me, balance is a practice of creating space for mindfulness and renewal, managing the quality and quantity of your energy and growing in self compassion. Together they create a center within us that becomes our axis.
My favorite yoga teacher, Charu Rachlis, once shared the metaphor, "Finding your center is like throwing clay on a potter’s wheel. It is the most difficult part of the process, but once you find your center, it’s what allows you to keep your symmetry, no matter how fast the wheel of life spins."
Here are a few more of my favorite Balance Seeds of Wisdom
from some of my favorite teachers
- "It’s important to hold a strong enough sense of self that life never feels bigger than you are." -- Michele McAdams, Jefferson Elementary School Social Worker
- "Balance is not an endpoint in itself but rather a tool of flexibility that you apply as you work towards what’s most important to you." -- Jenn Beverage, Life Coach
- "You must push down in order to stand up. Grounding is a critical part of healing." -- Brad Yantzer, Human Form, Function and Energy Healer
- “Poets have never used the word balance for good reason . . . It’s too obvious and therefore untrustworthy; it is also a deadly boring concept and seems to speak as much to being stuck and immovable, as much as harmony.” -- David Whyte, The Three Marriages. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009.
Have you ever had an intense seeking inside of you that you can’t put into words? A restlessness that makes your mind grasp for answers? Even your body holds anticipation? Sometimes we know exactly what we are seeking in life . . . a new this or a change in that. However, I’m talking about a deeper query, one without a clear and focused path. It feels like more of a wave that you just have to ride.
Last month I found myself "surfing the Mavericks". It’s been an intense journey of seeking that came unexpectedly and was hard to navigate. It’s over now. I am catching my breath and seeing my ride with clarity that wasn’t there for me when just my nose was above the water.
I wonder if you might be riding the same wave. Are you seeking answers that aren’t ready to take shape?
I asked for help to calm the swell within my mind, body and spirit, calling on my beautiful circle of wisdom. You know the combination: doctors, healers, coaches, friends, family, teachers, mentors. Ultimately the greatest clarity came from the Universe delivering two blessings.
The first blessing came to me while driving to the airport. I love the belief of animal totems. They bring us messages of what we need and help us connect with our innate beings. I have always felt a connection to hawks and have many stories of hawks visiting me. While I was driving, a hawk flew up out of the field carrying a large two-foot snake in its talons. I knew this was a powerful message I needed to receive but I didn’t understand its meaning until I returned from my trip.
I had received an invitation to take the last seat on a plane and fly down to San Diego to hear and meet Ekhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer. It felt like a high end pilgrimage to hear three modern day Western disciples.
Ekhart’s words pierced through my seeking, “The need to understand your life is a mental construct. If you are looking for enlightenment like something that will arrive, you will never receive it, because it cannot be grasped. Let go and find a sense of not knowing. This is your awakening . . .”
I realized my deep seeking has actually been a shedding. Instead of grasping for something in front of me I was actually letting go of a part of myself that no longer served a purpose. And what has emerged is still taking shape. It feels wonderful.
Shedding may feel like a combination of yearning, heaviness, agitation, overwhelm, inspiration, or confusion. It may be an unexplained push towards change. It may have an undertow of a lack of trust or intuition. Shedding can penetrate your thoughts, emotions, spirit and physical condition.
Shedding is the work of change. It’s hard work work but holds a different energy. It’s an energy of letting go of a part of yourself versus trying to effort through “self develop”. If I would have recognized my seeking as shedding from the start, it would have lightened my journey.
My daughter just came home from school this week with a gift for me she made in ceramics. “I don’t really like it Mom but you can have it if you want it.” How did she know?
Are you seeking clarity using your old lens? Maybe it’s time to shed some of your beliefs or thought patterns. Maybe it’s time to shed the need for clarity. The skin I shed may not be yours. The next time you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, try letting it go.
When we feel lack of momentum, it can be unsettling. It’s easy to start judging ourselves in times of uphill. But there is also an invitation to understand our need for a constant sense of pushing forward.
Momentum is defined as “The force or speed of movement.” Our achievement oriented, fast paced society is hooked on it. Yet we can see that speed of movement doesn’t always bring momentum towards the changes we are seeking individually or collectively.
My family recently went skiing in Tahoe. My youngest daughter was stretching herself to move past the bunny slope and stay with the group, when we came upon a man made ski jumping course with one launching ramp after another. She watched her sister and others fly down it. Determined yet scared, she decided to approach the first ramp.
Slowly she started down the shoot and up the ramp only to stall out half way up and slide back down to a stop. She then had to traverse around the jump to the other side and try again. I watched her try over and over again, never making it, always sliding backwards to a stop. Her combined effort to stay in control and make it over the top brought tears of frustration and anger at the height of the ramp and her own fear that was getting in the way.
I’m a huge fan of baby steps. They are a comfortable and often strategic way to move forward in challenging times. After watching Aria I was reminded that baby steps can’t always get you up and over.
I also saw that Aria was building momentum, even though to her it felt like dismal failure. I was taken by her determination, as she approached a ramp for the eighth time. Her trial and error, mixed with the growing energy of her emotions gave her the momentum to successfully tackle the last ramp with all her might.
Momentum requires letting go and pushing forward all at the same time. The emotions that we typically feel when we are stuck: frustration, anger, agitation, regret; can be used to fuel momentum if we are aware of their energies and focused on channeling them.
Staying on life’s bunny slopes might make us feel greater “speed of movement”, but preparing for leaps, including the pauses in between, is a force in itself. You can fall down and get up over and over again. You can even slide backwards in life and still be moving forward.
How can you redefine momentum in your life right now? I'd love to know.
ps. Having no photo of my daughter in action, I went to YouTube and found tons of footage of ski jumps gone bad. The one I included above is visceral inspiration for times when baby steps are not an option.
It started with trying to drive my daughter to school with my contacts in the wrong eyes, capped with needing to open the refrigerator three times to get out the salmon for dinner (never seemed to grab the right thing), and ended with my daughter finally finding my cell phone on the trampoline. Go figure.
It was truly a Give a Pig a Pancake
, attention deficit, perimenopausal day. I don’t imagine I’m alone.
Haven’t we all perfected the state of Scattered with increasing life responsibility, logistics overload, lack of sleep, the downpour of social media, and imploding inboxes.
Then there are our hormones. How do we distinguish the cause of Scattered among the possible symptoms of:
- “Decreased alertness” from our monthly cycle
- “Difficulty concentrating and memory lapses” during our path to menopause
- “The inability to cope with stress and fuzzy thinking” from adrenal fatigue
- “Impaired working and spacial memory” of chronic stress
- “Mental fog”, an official symptom of thyroid disfunction, (my personal favorite)
There’s no escaping it!
I know you know this already but as the week continues let’s try to commit it to memory (not an easy task):
- It’s not a personal problem. It’s societal.
- It’s okay to stop. Literally stop.
- You don’t have to hide when you stop. You can actually tell your boss, your team, your family what you need. They usually see your short circuit coming way before you do.
- Feeling guilty when you stop is personal. It’s between you and your superwoman self. No one can squash that feeling but you.
- It doesn’t take much. Five minutes ~ set the timer, often.
- Know what works. Cleaning out your inbox on your “break” doesn’t. Grounding requires going inward, shutting out stimuli, finding stillness, shifting your breath. Try literally getting grounded horizontally. Conference room floors work too!
- Be the change: a cliche, but true. Model the self care that the world needs. Be courageous at work. Teach your children the life skill of self monitoring and self care by example.
Today I’m ready for more focus, more tasks, more clarity. I know another wave of Scattered will arrive in the future. I also know the more often we identify Scattered, care for Scattered, and give it the space and pace to dissipate, the faster we get back on track.
By track, I don’t mean the treadmill. I mean a conscious path of self compassion and resilience.
Where does your gaze land? . . . When it’s not on a screen . . . Do you tend to search for a horizon?
I am constantly eying up the path in front of me, feeling the need to navigate.
How funny that my eyesight is starting to wane to a blur right beyond my nose. The drugstore reading glasses are a lovely invitation to more clearly see the richness of my life within the daily transactions while paving my path.
And looking inward, well that can get a bit confusing, like a maze with no marked exit. Looking inward can quickly shift to looking back. Peering into life’s rear view mirror can feel like reversing out of your driveway, double checking left to spot the should haves and right to see the could haves.
I have recently been looking up. Straight up. This new vantage point is beautifully wide open, even on cloudy days. It’s a welcome break, a clean start. There is an intense loving energy of sunlight, the promise of space and the free movement of flight against the backdrop of stillness.
And there are sneakers ~ hundreds of them. I just started to see them, everywhere. It’s definitely a city phenomenon. Hanging from the wires that connect us all, they appear to be left behind and on pedestals for their fine tour of duty. The more sneakers my eyes spot the more I hear their messages:
“Leap!,” they say.
“Forget the horizon. Or the sidewalk down memory lane with all of its cracks. Or even your next step.”
“Try the sky.”
“Feel the freedom of movement without laces”
“Try the path you feel you can’t.”
“Know you aren’t truly held down.”
“Imagine the weight you bare is yours to let go.”
Next time you remove your shoes, let it be a reminder to lighten your step . . . lift your gaze . . . and find ease in the now.