Monday, Monday--Are You on Fire?

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Monday, Monday--Are You on Fire?

Fired up for Monday?

A few weeks ago, I was at a spinning class on a Monday evening, and the instructor started by asking, "who's had a great day," wanting to amp up the energy in the room. 

No one raised a hand, except me. Everyone had lived a whole day, but no one else was willing to claim that it was great.

I believe great days don't just come to us. I believe great days are made.

Ready to make this day great? Here are three ways you can choose to impact this day:

1. Decide before you begin. 

Learn what makes a day great for you and align you actions by deciding to do those activities and practices to set the tempo for your day. Are you a morning person? Then, make your morning delicious by engaging in what makes you most happy. Is meditation your thing? Then meditate in the morning--at your optimum time for you. Do you love a tidy home when you arrive back at the end of the day? Then take time in the mornings to push the reset button from last evening. 

If you're not a morning person, what can you do the evening before to make your morning go more smoothly? Decide what's going to serve you best and then do that. 

My friend, Meg, tells a story about arriving at her office one morning, feeling self-conscious about the pants she was wearing. It was early spring, her pants were white, and she thought they weren't flattering. Yet, she'd worn them and was faced with being in the office all day, not feeling at her best. Meg shared her discomfort with a colleague who look at her and said, "go back outside, and walk in this office like you own it."

Meg did just that. And that action shifted her discomfort enough that, for the rest of that day, she moved through her business interactions with more ease, confidence, and self-assurance. 

So, today, decide to own it.

2. Trust what transpires.

We know the adage of best laid plans. When something goes awry from you plans, when an unexpected interruption occurs, or when you're knock off your game a little or a lot, what if you could be okay with what is? Could you let go in that moment of frustration and be curious about what you could learn? Is the disruption calling you to have clearer boundaries so that you can still own your day? Are you able to practice flexibility? Could you cultivate compassion for the situation or for the person who seems to be challenging you? 

I spent nearly fifteen years teaching teenagers English. Remember high school English? You had English class once a day, likely, and I held English class every day, 5 or 6 times, for 180 days every year. I taught thousands of teenagers, and despite how clear and tightly planned my lessons were, things happened, from fire drills to broken copy machines to dogs eating homework and other bad excuses. My students taught me that, when the final bell rings, it's actually all okay. I learned that subtle balance of order and chaos, and it helped me out in the world, outside of the school walls, to remember this balance.

Just for today, trust what transpires, and see how that impacts your balanced living.

3. Use today's feedback for tomorrow's potential.

Most days are not make or break. If we can truly accept what we learn today and apply it to tomorrow, then tomorrow holds incredible potential. Feedback comes to us through our emotions, primarily, so use how you're feeling to decide what you can learn.

Is today frantic and uncomfortable? Then, do something radical to shift tomorrow. When my son was in elementary school, he was responsible for being dressed, with teeth brushed, backpack checked, and after-school gear packed. He decided to sleep in his clothes, so that mornings were less hectic. I thought it was a rather ingenious plan; after all, most 3rd grade boys are a little smelly and their clothes are often crumpled. He felt empowered and clever by his plan, and I easily let myself focus on the outcome--he was ready to leave on time.

If we are less rigid at times, we can tap into possibilities that are the proverbial "out of the box" ideas. Look for what today can teach you about how tomorrow could be.

Next time someone asks you how your Monday has gone, I want you to be able to confidently and truthfully say, "it was great!" 

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A Grand Experiment

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A Grand Experiment

My husband, Craig, and I are living in a Grand Experiment (GE), one that we’ve designed intentionally.

The most recent phase of the GE has been a practice of living and working from somewhere in the world, somewhere other than our home, somewhere in Colorado. All experiments have an inception point, and for me, this GE started a long time ago, beginning with my questioning conventions and expectations. Let me take you back there before I tell you about the last, six weeks of living & working away from home.

When I was a child—about 2nd or 3rd grade—a cosmopolitan, exotic, woman moved into my small town in Kentucky, the wife of the new Baptist preacher. Of Asian descent, she worked as a flight attendant, and carried her tall frame with a grace and beauty the likes I’d never seen. I didn’t know much about Asia, or planes, or showing up with grace and beauty. And she drove a Volvo, an old 240 model, the first one I’d ever seen. My father noted it was “foreign,” not like the Oldsmobile brand he preferred. Everything about her sparked a yearning in me to leave my small town and to see the world.

After college in Kentucky, I moved with my first husband to Virginia, the northern part, where I taught students who had lived in countries around the globe before they even arrived in my high school classroom. My colleagues were scholars and artists and poets and thinkers, and while I hadn’t gone far away from my home, the world opened up in another new way. With each corporate move we made over the next 10 years, my world expanded. I saw the unique beauty of America, and I met people who inspired me, taught me, and amped up that urge to go more, explore, see the world.

Alas, my journey took me right back to Kentucky, as all journeys do take us home. There, I divorced while in my second career, a career where travel was a job requirement. I saw the parts of Kentucky I’d never seen, gaining an appreciation for its varied topography—from Appalachia to the Mississippi River—and its varied folks. I worked in states all over the Southeast and, at one time, had responsibility for 23 state departments of education and the school districts in each. I attended meetings in what have become some of my favorite places—Chicago, New York, San Diego, the Oregon coast, Puerto Rico, to name a few. This career quenched some wanderlust and fueled my promise to my kids: I’ll give you four years of tuition, room, and board, and then you’re on your own. I realize the privilege in being able to provide this start in life for them, and both they and I fulfilled that promise. One of my greatest travel adventures ever was with Emily and Alex, to Italy, where my supreme hope was to inspire them to dream even bigger. 

My second marriage, another GE crafted by Craig and me, two people who’d married and divorced once, who’d lived a lot of life, who’d learned a lot about who we are, and invited a new experimental design. We both had grown weary of the conventional, career track in corporate America, so Craig stopped working as an engineering, and I resigned a few years later from a global learning company.

It’s unconventional, this new phase of the GE. We moved on with gratitude from building retirement funds, taking paid vacations, sitting in some mind-numbing meetings, and dancing the sometimes-silly, corporate dance—and making big salaries. Our CPA and financial planner must think we’re crazy. They use words like penalties, and we reflect back that it’s our happiness fund. It’s our big, hairy, audacious dream fund. I think our moms worry a little—perfectly their role—and my children watch with curiosity and wonder, as I've never chosen to be so free before.

The GE has been a process of building something new, something that didn’t exist before the experiment started. Craig’s part of the GE has been marked by a fundamental commitment: to follow what feels most joyful. I’ve both admired and resented this commitment at times, which has presented the chance for me to explore my own limited beliefs about what’s possible. You mean you can really live and work joyously? It doesn’t have to be hard?  The concept has shaken my sensibilities, and it’s given me permission to be a writer, my biggest, most hairy, most audacious dream.

And that’s where we are now, expanding the experiment to answer the question: "Can we live and work from anywhere in the world? What would happen if we shook up our 'near field,'" we've asked, a term we’ve learned from Jennifer Roth, Craig’s business partner and our coach. How would it feel to leave home, to leave the daily routines we’d fallen into, and to blur the lines between work and play?

Thus, we left home the day before the great, solar eclipse of 2017, a fitting event, a new moon in Leo, the sun sign of my July birth. For Leos, the sun is the center of the universe. I’m not an astrology expert, but I follow it and read what’s happening cosmically enough to know that eclipses of the moon result in supercharged energy and call us to look at our emotions and deepest desires. They force us to look at our shadows, too, and since the shadows of each of us more naturally emerge when we press out of our comfort zones, these 6 weeks on the road—ushered in by the eclipse—have offered highest highs and lowest lows.

I guess it’s obvious that Craig and I aren’t ones who do things normally, so we also left behind some ways of consuming, namely eating refined sugars and drinking alcohol, which eventually turns to sugars in our bodies, anyway. Why not add that big shift to the GE?

As we are nearing the end of this GE, the formal conclusions will be written later, but I’ve learned 3 fundamental things about myself, about behaving unconventionally and unexpectedly, and about what’s possible in this life:

1) There are billions of people in this world, and few of them think like me, believe what I believe about who we are, why we’re here, and what’s next after the ultimate experiment called life, but you will find those who align with you, if you’re willing to be yourself and follow your nudges and intuition. Here are a few examples of magic we experienced in this GE—

Mandy and Rachel, expert rock climbers with whom we watched the eclipse totality, two women who are stepping into big dreams and desires, which include letting corporate jobs go and living a life aligned with their hearts’ desires. They're going to teach us how to climb.

Kate and Michael, owners of an airbnb Craig picked randomly while we were making our way West, who are using the asset of their home to create a future they desire, one away from conventions and corporate paths.

Talai, owner of Herbin Alchemy, maker of magic through her innate connection to and knowledge of plants, and whose hands helped wipe away old energies in my body. This woman has so much to offer to the world, and all I can say is: watch out! 

Lori and Scott, whom we met because of Scott’s t-shirt, and Craig’s bravery to walk up to him in a coffee shop and ask, “may I take a picture of your shirt?” They will be our life-long friends and help us expand our impact on the world, I’m sure, all because Scott made a t-shirt, and movement, that said, “say it with gratitude.” And, we connected Scott with our dear friend, Elena Anguita, and the lovely Sam Livermore in the UK, because they are all like-minded and fierce about changing the world.

Our Denver roommate, Anthony. Craig nor I have had a roommate since college, and it totally makes sense that we’ve been sharing Sara Ann’s 1,200 square foot, downtown condo with someone who’s interested in Dr. Joe Dispenza, quantum physics, guitar lessons, and more big, hairy, audacious dreams. Sail on, Anthony.

2) I love all my stuff back home, but I don’t need most of it. We’ve lived with what we packed in our car on this journey, and while it will be blissful to be back in our beautiful, 1920’s bungalow in Kentucky, it’s full of stuff that we don’t use very much. It’ll be a good opportunity to reflect, to declutter even more, and to consider the role of home in our experimental conclusions.

3) I’m at my best, no matter where I live on this planet, when I rest well, practice yoga, put my feet in the grass every day, eat mainly plants, love my body, meditate daily, write what’s in my heart, and show up always in the inquiry of, “what is it that I can learn from this experience?”

May you be purposeful in the experimental design of the next phase of your own Grand Experiment, and may each step be guided by your heart.

 

 

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Riding—and Rising From—Life’s Waves

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Riding—and Rising From—Life’s Waves

I had been riding a long, slow, turbulent wave, and once I let go of pushing against it, I gave it space to be my teacher.

The pushing had lasted too many days or weeks or months or years—I don’t know when the pushing started, just as it’s unclear where a wave begins in the ocean. The more I fought against the wave, I found myself empty on the hard sand, exhausted. You know, that barely-able-to-sleep exhaustion.

When the wave crested and fell to the trough, it felt that the world I thought I understood came crashing down. Uh, yes, it seems overly dramatic now, but isn’t that how it feels when you’ve had to confront how you used to be? In the midst of the wave, it’s nearly impossible to know what’s sky and what’s land.

In the crashing, I pummeled and bruised myself—I should know this old pattern. I should know. I should. I know. I should. I know.

During the crash, I did only what I knew to do: try to sleep; weep a lot; breathe fresh air; put my feet in the grass; and be on my yoga mat.

Every single thing that drains you will eventually empty you, just like the wave empties onto the sand. You will go dark. Draining people, activities, and thoughts—all knock your body out of homeostasis.

When you arrive on the hard-packed sand, completely depleted and out of balance, you must find the only thing you know to do that replenishes you. You must refill. Do not numb. Do not run. Stay with you through the wave. Withdraw, not from life, but into your source of life—into yourself.

And just continue to ask the question: what am I to see that I can’t see now? No matter how long it takes to get an answer, just keep asking, because when you are unsuspecting, the answer will arise.

At my 4th yoga class in two days (yes, I kept going back to my mat, again and again), I was invited into the pose, Humble Warrior, a posture of surrender. The pose requires the upper body, supported by legs in a lunge, to bow forward, deeply and completely, with fingers inner laced, arms stretching along the back body and toward the floor overhead. The invitation for closed eyes completes the surrender inward. As a humble warrior in this life, I asked, “what am I to see that I can’t see now?”

In this moment, I know nothing, because I’ve never known this moment before. This moment is the accumulation of past moments, but it’s a moment like none other. In this moment, I both know all of me and nothing of me.

That’s when the inner shift happened. In a moment of surrender, I saw everything and nothing. I saw my own magnificence and insignificance.  I saw what I hadn’t seen while riding this wave: that I can’t know the next version of myself until I see her.

Somehow, that was enough. In this new space, the difficulties didn’t dissolve, but I was at peace. Sleep returned. Tears dried. Perspective was gained, in time, as I stepped forward.

 

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Awaken

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Awaken

Last night’s dream shook me up, at first. In it, I was back in an earlier time in life, My Time of Great Confusion. I was back in the context of past relationships and, in my dream, the relationships were both overlapping and overwhelming. Both wanted something from me right then, and I wanted to give neither what was being asked.

So I found myself unsettled—literally, figuring out where to unpack my things—and fearful of not doing the thing I was being asked to do. The Me in my dream feared I’d never be able to make everyone happy and that feeling of confusion came through clearly, when a friend appeared and asked me what the hell I was doing. And she appeared in a closet, a closed-door room where I was feeling frantic.

Yesterday, I’d written a blog about how I’ve invested so much energy in an old story: if I’m more like you and less like me then you’ll love me more. It’s a story that has left my body now, though I can see some threads of it that want to stay, which is one thing my dream was showing me.

Then, I was awakened, literally, by my loving husband, asking if I wanted to join him for breakfast at a cool vegan place he’d found here in Denver, where we’re living this month. It was a perfect ending to this dream, as I heard the asleep me want to say, “yes, babe, I’ll hop out of bed right now and join you.”

But then I truly woke up and with a flood of energy, I thanked him for his kind invitation but expressed that I wanted to stay in, meditate, and go to a yoga class.

I claimed exactly what I wanted. My husband smiled and said, “enjoy, sweetheart.”

Later in the day, I told Craig about the dream I was having when he woke me up, and he saw something that I didn’t yet see. Craig’s arrival in my life, after My Time of Great Confusion, was in the midst of my spiritual awakening, and he literally awakened me from this old dream this morning.

I sit in gratitude at this moment. I’m grateful for all the inner work I’ve done to move me from My Time of Great Confusion to My Time of Amazing Clarity. I’m grateful to be in partnership with another Awakened soul, who is willing to help me see what I’ve missed when I’ve fallen asleep.

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Life as a Recovering Approval Junkie

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Life as a Recovering Approval Junkie

Life has a freshness for me these days, which is what happens when we move from having an intellectual understanding of ourselves to embodying the new way of being.

I've recovered from a severe addiction that showed up in my life again and again and again. The story that perpetuated my addiction sounded like this: if I'm more like you and less like me, then you'll love me more."

Breaking my addiction to being more like someone else to win their approval--therefore their love--has required me to drop old stories about other people's expectations of me. And when we drop all the stories of what we should be, all that is left is ourselves. All that is left to do is to write a story that is completely ours.

We all have a version of this story line, as we're taught it from the time we show up here on Earth. Even the most loving parents, grandparents, teachers, and other adults in our lives socialize us into believing that the way we desire to BE is not the way to BE. We are taught to DO THIS, NOT THAT; BE THIS, NOT THAT. SAY THIS, NOT THAT. THINK THIS, NOT THAT.

At the heart of my addiction is the notion that I'm not good enough--that being me is less than being like someone else. The self-judgment can be debilitating as we continue to wear the mask of someone else.

What this addiction has looked like for me is comparison, competition, and confusion. And this addiction can be the gateway to other addictions that don't serve our highest and greatest good.

Comparison happens when we embody the belief that we are not good enough. Instead of being able to recognize our individual perfection, we live in the space of continually feeling that we don't have as much, don't offer as much, or aren't complete just as we are. In not recognizing our own perfection, we look to others as the elusive example of what's better.

Competition has shown up in my life looking like overachieving and overdoing. The feeling of needing to prove myself beyond the essence of who I am has been debilitating at times. What if we trusted that we are enough, that we can shine fully by choosing to live in our fullness, with grace and ease? How would that feel?

Confusion is the opposite of clarity, and when we live in confusion of who we truly are, we can be less courageous to claim what's important to us, less curious about our own potential, and less grateful for the whole of who we are.

As we individuate more and more, we can find our personal growth bumping up against all of these old stories and, ultimately, the question we each must answer for ourselves is WHO AM I?  

When we ask this key question and allow the answer to arise, what we will always learn is this: we will never, ever go off course when we trust what our heart tells us. We will only be in alignment with the essence of ourselves when we choose to listen to our inner voice, and ask questions like, "what would feed my spirit the most in this life?" and, "how am I honoring me with this choice?" 

Ultimately, I've overcome my addiction to others' approval by getting clear on who I am, what I believe is true about this life, and by having the courage to stand fulling in my own authenticity. When I learned to trust that I am whole, I am perfect, and I am enough, my old stories that kept me living only part of my life as me fell away, and I am able to embody my own, unique essence. 

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Altitude

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Altitude

I've been in the Colorado mountains for a week, as my husband and I practice working from anywhere in the world. We've begun our days here with a bike ride at an altitude over five thousand feet. 

As I rode today, my breathing was still labored; I thought by today that my body might feel more adjusted. Yet, more than yesterday even, I struggled for breath despite coaching myself to breathe more slowly, more regularly, more evenly. 

My mind wanted to go to that place, screaming to turn back, yelling that I can't make it, taunting that I was being left behind in my husband's tracks. I ascended the first significant climb along our path and stopped for water as I gasped. I allowed my eyes to focus on the mountain vista and remember that I'm new at this. 

I gathered myself and my breathing eased, and it occurred to me in that moment that being at a higher altitude than normal and feeling out of sorts serves as an apt metaphor for anything we attempt to do in this life that requires us to show up differently. To achieve our dreams, to become the next, best version of ourselves, we can feel breathless.

We can feel like turning back.

We can feel like we can't keep up. 

We can feel unsteady and uncomfortable.

And we can rise. We can, day by day, adapt a little more to the space we are stepping into in this life. If we remember to breathe, to trust that we will get to where we want to be, and to continue along the path, we will become what we desire. 

Along the journey, friends, don't forget to look to the horizon for inspiration, and just keep peddling.

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