Friday, August 5, 2011

Onward and Upward




 "After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb." ~~~Nelson Mandela
 

So it's been quite a summer so far...full of changes, periods of transition, and uncertainty. 
I often find that during times like these, just when I start to feel like I have reached a point where I can rest and catch my breath, that's when I'm faced with another challenging situation.I've had enough experience to know that change is not a bad thing, but it is usually stressful. Change is one of those things that, by it's very nature, is designed to keep me on my toes.
It's frustrating to be presented with something that I thought had been dealt with, particularly when the situation is painful; I would much rather deal with it once, rather than having to revisit it at a later date.
One of those areas is what some may call "character defects"...those quirky, pesky little ways of reacting to a situation in a less than optimal way. 
For example, one of mine is taking things personally...things that, in reality, don't have anything to do with me. While I have gotten MUCH better in this area, every once in awhile, this little monster comes back unexpectedly to bite me...today was one of those days.
Several years ago, I would have used a situation like the one I found myself in today to berate myself; today I know that it was a crappy day and tomorrow will be better. I don't have to feel like a victim and instead, I can instead focus on all the things I have to be grateful for. Tomorrow is another day and I have another chance to do things differently. For now, I can remind myself that, fundamentally, all is well.

I think that this might be one of those lessons that will be revisited from time to time for many years to come...

just.keep.going!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Reborn...



"Every second chance begins with a first step." ~~~ Unknown

5.20.01...

...the day that I started my journey... although I didn't know it at the time. It's funny how one decision can change your life in unimaginable ways. I was sick and tired of the burden that my life had become and was desperate enough to try something new...to take  a step in a new direction...to shed the baggage that had been suffocating me.

As I have shared before, up until this point, I would have rather done just about anything other than make a change, but sometimes it's more painful to stay than to go and you become willing to try something different...to venture off the familiar path into the unknown...to step away from what you've always done.

5.19.01 was the day that I reached that point...and so, I took a chance and took the first step into the unknown. 
I have never regretted that decision.

Tomorrow, it will be ten years since I took that first tentative step. The last ten years have been...a ride unlike any I could have ever imagined. I am so very grateful to all the people who have guided and supported me along the way...I could never have made it to this day without you.

To all of my fellow travelers....THANK YOU!

5.20.11


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Changes





"If you want your life to be a magnificent story 
Then begin by realizing that you are the author 
And everyday you have the opportunity to write a new page" 


It's been awhile....how are things in your world?
There are lots of (good) changes happening in my neck of the woods... sometimes when it rains, it pours. This is one of those times.
Not too long ago, I was incredibly resistant to change of any kind...even when I was in an uncomfortable or painful situation, my preference was to stay with what was familiar. In some odd way, it felt safer to me at the time.
That is no longer true.
While I can't say that I am a big fan of change now, I am willing to take the necessary steps to make improvements when I need to. What I have learned is that the sooner I become willing to release my grip on whatever I'm clinging to (job, relationship, behavior, belief) and make space for something new to enter my life, change becomes a much easier concept to embrace. That slight shift, however small it may be, is often enough to allow me to view my situation from a different perspective. It allows me to be flexible and flexibility usually leads to movement, which can often lead to change. 

At least that's how it has worked in my life.

The journey thus far has not always been smooth...in fact, it has been pretty rocky at times. But, it's remarkable what lies in store when you are willing to take risks and say "Yes!" to life...I had no idea how good it could be.

 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dream a little dream...





"You'll see it when you believe it."
— 
Wayne W. Dyer


Remember when you were a child and someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up? What did you say?

An astronaut?
A ballerina?
A football star?
The President?
Doctor, lawyer, scientist?

There were no limits to what you could imagine for yourself.

But childhood ends and with it, the gift of limitless possibility. We grow older, become more jaded, experience the pains of heartbreak and disappointment, and close off that lushly creative part of ourselves. We become "practical", "realistic" adults. What a shame...

Now, I'm not saying that blind innocence and naivete is a better option. What I am saying, however, is that we can miss an amazing opportunity to give ourselves permission to dream again, as we did when we were kids. How can you know if something is impossible if you don't try? How can you know what dream is "too big" if you don't go to your edge? How many times have you heard of someone who, against all odds, has done something that no one else believed was possible?

Here are just a few examples:
the Wright Brothers
Thomas Edison
Rosa Parks
Michelangelo Buonarroti
Leonardo da Vinci
Coco Chanel
Mahatma Gandhi
Madonna
Nelson Mandela
Louise Hay

Close your eyes...imagine your deepest desire...your wildest dream....got it?
Now, what's stopping you from making it come true?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Be.Here.Now.



"Nothing is worth more than this day." 
— 
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



I occasionally get stuck in my head, analyzing and obsessing on what could have been, what could be around the corner, and all the ways I could've done _______ differently (better).

I know I'm not alone in this behavior.

While I don't engage in this nearly as much as I used to (all the time), for the last few weeks, I've been indulging myself a little too much in these old habits. There are a few items on my obsession list right now; of course, I have absolutely NO control over any of them---I am well aware of that. However, that knowledge has not prevented me from obsessing about them; in fact, my pesky little brain has gotten quite creative in the way it returns to each one, after I have sworn off thinking about them. 

I know that I am letting my fears get the better of me. I am trying to maintain some control over future events that are beyond my control. Sounds crazy, huh? Yes, I know.

I was in a yoga class last week and the teacher suggested an amazingly appropriate intention for the class: staying in the moment. For a full hour, we were encouraged and reminded to stay present. Through each pose, through each breath, through each transition, our focus was to move from one individual moment to the next. 
At the end of the class, I felt incredible! I was  renewed, focused, peaceful, and best of all, had not obsessed for a full hour!

There are so many things that can make us feel overwhelmed, out of balance, or out of control; so many different manifestations of our fears can consume our thoughts and make life seem unmanageable. 
The only remedy that I have found to work consistently is to bring myself back to the present moment. Often easier said than done, but I know it works. From there, I can find gratitude, acceptance, and the ability to see the issue more realistically (not SUPER SIZE, like it seems to be when I'm obsessing).


So, here's my thought for the day: stay present. Appreciate THIS moment... then the next....and the next.
After all, THIS moment is really all there is...until the next one, right?
And in THIS moment, things are pretty darn good!








Friday, April 8, 2011

Choose again...




A belief is only a thought I keep thinking.


~~~Abraham-Hicks





Thoughts contain an amazing amount of power. There was a time when I felt that I was at the mercy of the negative, obsessive thoughts that plagued me, day in and day out. It was like being on a hamster wheel, with no escape route in sight. Held captive on this wheel, my thoughts would spin faster and faster in progressively tighter circles, until I was so wound up I thought I would burst! The irony of this situation was that the behavior had become so ingrained, that I couldn't see the insanity of it.

Thankfully, things have changed.

Now I know that the power to choose the thoughts I focus upon is mine. I learned that my perception affects everything: if I choose to focus on what's wrong or what's "lacking", then I will only be able to see the problems, not the solutions. If, on the other hand, I choose to look through the lens of gratitude and acceptance, I can appreciate the beauty, in all its forms, that surrounds me on a daily basis.

Bottom line...negative thoughts feel bad, positive ones feel good.

If I choose to dwell in negativity or pessimism, then my life looks pretty bleak and I'm no fun to be around (heck, I don't even want to be around myself!)
If I choose to look for the positive, good feeling things, life looks (and feels) pretty good.

Like attracts like.
Misery loves company.

Which do YOU choose?

Reach for a thought that feels better.


~~~Abraham-Hicks

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Just.Say.NO (thank you)!





"We need to find the courage to say NO to the things and people that are not serving us if we want to rediscover ourselves and live our lives with authenticity." - By Barbara de Angelis


Clearing out space does not always involve a physical housecleaning. Sometimes the clutter that is weighing us down or holding us back manifests as negative thoughts or beliefs that no longer ring true with the person we have become. In many cases, we may have surrounded ourselves with like-minded people when we were in that negative state of mind...misery loves company after all, right? When we make changes in our attitudes and outlook, there is a shift, and those beliefs ( and people) no longer complement our new mindset.
Letting go is not always an easy process. Change is difficult for most people. But in order to move forward, we must release the baggage that is hindering our progress. Not everyone is ready or willing to make the journey. Letting go can be sad, but it can be done with love and kindness. Whether it's an outdated belief that no longer serves you or a relationship that has come to an end, you can say thank you and wish them well....then let go and move on.




Monday, March 28, 2011

Surrender to what is...




"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be." 
— Laozi


I learned long ago that there are no coincidences. I believe that everything that happens in life is part of a greater plan and I am privy to only a portion of the larger picture at any given moment. Some of the most meaningful periods of my life have started as the most painful.

I am in a phase of transition. 
Transition, by its very nature, is messy and confusing; struggle just pushes you deeper in the muck. I envision a pool of quicksand...the more I thrash around, trying to get out of the messy predicament I find myself in, the more stuck and deeply enmeshed in the mess I become.

I once read that baby chicks break out of their shell because to remain within their incubated environment would kill them...the atmosphere that once sustained them in their embryonic state has now become toxic. And so it is with us...

My yoga teacher made a statement in class today that resonated with me. She was referring to connecting with our breath in our practice. She said that surrender makes room for release--you can go deeper into a pose when you let go and focus your breath on the location of the tension within your body. When you are gripping (imagine a clenched fist), there is no room for movement. When you relax (imagine the same fist opening up), you find space that was not available moments before.

I can apply that to my current state: if I allow myself to become consumed with fear, I will remain consumed with fear and nothing will change. If I release my grip even the tiniest amount, the faintest whisper of faith can come in...there is space for movement and with movement comes change. 
Change is good.
Change invites unlimited possibility.
Change means that you don't have to stay stuck.

You are limited only by your imagination...get connected to that little voice within you...that's your heart speaking to you.

Listen...




Saturday, March 19, 2011

Break through....








"The flowers in the mountains have broken through the rocks" 


Wow! It's been awhile....and yet, surprisingly, I was at a loss when trying to decide the topic for today's post.
Then...
inspiration struck...
in the form of a Tennesee Williams quote (brilliant playwright, by the way...).

So, persistence is the topic du jour.
It's funny how some challenges respond better to forceful effort, while others respond better to the gentle, consistent kind. Strength is not always characterized by being the biggest, loudest, pushiest person in the room. Sometimes, true strength is measured by diligence and the ability to suit up and show up, day after day, despite the challenges with which one is faced.
The image that comes to mind is the majestic sight of the Grand Canyon. Although I have not yet had the opportunity to see it in person, I have been deeply moved by photographs taken by friends who have visited this marvelous place. 
Just think...a single drop of water from the Colorado River, millions of years ago, was the humble beginning of the monument that is visible today. I am in awe that, by the process of erosion, over time, water can wear away something as solid as a boulder. I use this as a motivational reminder when I find myself facing a challenge that seems insurmountable...like that drop of water, if I show up consistently and do what is within my power to do, eventually that obstacle will be worn down.
I am often faced with similar situations with my clients: for example, the piles of clothing in their closets or paperwork on their desks has become overwhelming...they feel paralyzed and don't know where to begin. Often, when we begin to tackle the piles, it may not appear as though we are making progress...at first. Tackling clutter is a process and it requires patience and diligence, as most challenges do.  You have to weed through the items in order to determine what stays and what is no longer needed. There are no magic shortcuts to getting the job done.
But, once the process has begun, you are on your way and soon, you will find that we have eliminated the clutter that has been weighing you down and all the things you need are neatly stored and easily accessible. 
You have cleared the space and now have room to breathe!

So, just remember...
when you are faced with a challenge, just keep showing up and do what you can do, however small it may seem...
eventually you will break through!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feel the fear, but keep going!



Believe deep down in your heart that you're destined to do great things. ~ Joe Paterno


Fear is an emotion that I am all too familiar with. The funny thing is that I've only been able to admit that for the last 10 years or so. I was bound and determined never to admit that I was afraid...that would mean allowing myself to be vulnerable and I worked too hard on my "tough" exterior to do that!
While I now understand that acting "tough" was a self-protective defense tactic that worked for a short time ( or did it?), I also know now that it kept me cut me off from other people. I didn't allow any cracks in that armor...someone might see my flaws and weaknesses and (horrors!)realize that I was not so tough after all. That strategy left me sick, exhausted, and alone.
I have learned alot about myself in the last decade and,as a result of some significant life events, made some major changes in the way I live and view my life. 
So imagine my surprise (annoyance) when old behaviors started popping back up recently!

As I write these words, I now realize that I am reverting back to old behaviors: I'm trying to force my way through some uncomfortable feelings.

I am in a place of uncertainty and I am letting fear get the better of me. Fear is insidious; it convinces me that, not only will I fail, but that I am a failure. Over the years, I have acquired a set of tools that usually help me combat this monster, but my tools are a little rusty and not working too well at the moment. The voice of fear is drowning out the loving voice of faith. It's wearing me down.

One of the best things I can do is share my feelings so, dear readers, I hope you will indulge me tonight. I am exposing my vulnerable side in the most revealing way I can think of.I am shining a light on my fear publicly, in the hopes that it might help someone else who may feel alone with theirs. We are never alone, no matter how isolated our fears may make us feel. 

I need to remember that, fundamentally, everything is ok. I am in a place of transition which, by its very nature, is a place of uncertainty. It's a process, and this is just one of the messy parts. So I will clean out the fear-based thoughts by talking about them, and by exposing them, their tight grip will loosen and I will be able to breathe again.

I found the opening quote on the page of a new Facebook friend. I thought it was inspiring and shared it on my own page. I now realize that I need to say those words to myself, as a daily affirmation, until this fear subsides. And it will pass...everything does.



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Just.Let.Go!


 "Letting go is the lesson. Letting go is always the lesson. Have you ever noticed how much of our agony is all tied up with craving and loss?" 





One of the ironies of life is that the tighter you hold on to a problem, the tighter it holds on to you.

Consider this:

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by life? Like the direction from your inner GPS is garbled? Have you ever gotten to a point where it feels like you've tried everything and nothing is working? 

Frustrating, huh?

In the past, this feeling would have been the perfect excuse for me to "check out"...take a mini vacation from my life.
That didn't work too well either...

Here's a tip that I have learned from experience:
The more you ignore a problem, the worse it gets. Avoidance does not eliminate the problem. Instead, avoidance is like throwing a match on a puddle of gasoline...

It's hard to admit that you are faced with something that you are unable to handle on your own. There are all sorts of issues that prevent us from asking for help: fear, pride, and denial are just a few.

In my business, I work with people who struggle with clutter and organizational challenges. Many have told me that they were ashamed to ask for help. They have also shared the sense of relief they felt once they were willing to admit that they were unable to do the work on their own.

Why is asking for help so difficult? 

Admitting that you need help strips you of your sense of control, but "control" is often an illusion. Holding onto something that, in reality does not exist isn't practical. It just keeps you stuck.

So, what can you do?

Clear out a little space to breathe...

The irony about holding on to something that no longer serves you is that you can't make room for something new to take its place...there's just not enough room! Sometimes making room for something new is quite literal and sometimes it's a metaphorical exercise that requires patience. In both cases, you are not only letting go of something, but you are also making changes and it will take time for them to become your new habits.

So, be gentle on yourself...and ask for help when you need it!





Sunday, January 30, 2011

There are no coincidences...





"Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives - choice, not chance, determines your destiny." 


My meditation teacher was in town last week. Poor guy, in from L.A. on one of the coldest days of the year. One of the things that impressed me most was his attitude...he didn't complain, he just rolled with it. 
Sure, January in Chicago is cold; in fact, all things considered (and compared to the people on the East Coast who have gotten clobbered by snow this year), this has been a relatively mild winter. 
Yet...
last week was bitterly cold and I wanted to avoid being outside at all costs.
However...
I have been unable to attend his meditation sessions the last several months due to conflicts in my schedule...I certainly wasn't going to miss this one. I have fallen off the Vedic wagon, so to speak. I've been neglecting my practice and I've definitely felt the difference. I needed a refresher, a reminder, some words of wisdom to get me going again.
And so...
I bundled up and headed out to Wicker Park.
...am I glad I did!

He closed the session by sharing a story about an experience he had several years ago. It was a lesson in listening to inner guidance. He had a plan, he said...but life doesn't always go according to plans. 
Sometimes we just need to stay flexible and open to unexpected opportunities that present themselves.
Sometimes those detours which can be so frustrating are actually guiding you to where you're REALLY meant to be.
For example, have you ever gotten delayed or had a last minute cancellation which led to you being somewhere you hadn't planned to be? Have you ever struck up a conversation with someone who later became a significant contact? Has a line in that book you're reading struck a chord with you that led you to reflect on your past life choices and decide to do things differently? Have you been toying with the idea of making a change (job? return to school? move to a new city? country?) and then you find references to that change all around you? (a college brochure on the table at your local coffeehouse? an article on that new city in the Sunday paper? a friend who just happens to know of an opening at that company you've been thinking about applying to?)
Some might call it luck or coincidence or fate...I don't know that the name is really important.
I do think it's important to recognize how quickly the direction of our lives can change based on the decisions we make. We are responsible for making informed decisions, but we also must be respectful of our inner guidance system. The less obstructed we are with the thoughts and concerns that distract us from the present moment, the more in tune we become to our inner wisdom. 
For me, it is an ongoing process, keeping that channel unobstructed. It's an act of faith as well. Oftentimes, it can feel like jumping off into the abyss...it can be unsettling and scary. The unknown is like that. It's particularly frightening for someone like me, who doesn't like surprises (much).
But here's the good news...
I have had enough experiences that have turned out better than I could have ever imagined, just because I took a chance; somewhere deep inside, I had faith that everything would be ok and I would be taken care of...even if I didn't have a clear picture of how that would turn out. That's not to say that every chance I took turned out well...but each mis-step has been a learning opportunity and has led me to exactly where I am at this moment.

And that place is pretty darn good...
so...trust yourself...listen to that hunch...stay open...and see what happens!