The Gift of Acceptance

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We stood together in her tiny office, which needed another light bulb or two.  I watched her closely as she babbled about my work.  Her voice held a cheery, upbeat sort of tone at the same time her message was abrasive. She tried to ease the blow of her words by pulling back her round cheeks and forming a forced half-smile in between each of her sentences.

“That was rough, I almost fell asleep I was so bored!  You let her talk about her dogs too long.  The use of distraction as a coping mechanism needs to be addressed.”  And on it went…

What was she saying really?  I listened to the syllables slipping out of her mouth and into the room, blah, blah, blah.  Every molecule of my body wanted to stay open to her.  I wanted to take in whatever it was she was trying to communicate but my muscles started to contract.  My chest filled up with air and tightened.  My thoughts moved quickly.   My weight went from one leg to the other. I felt criticized.

As I stepped toward the door, I repeated “Okay, well thank you. I’ll give it some thought.”

I barely knew her and now I found myself not wanting to know her at all!  However, the Universe had other plans for me…I had just met my new supervisor.

Fast forward through a years worth of images with her and I having awkward encounters and bristled feathers.  Each new experience brought me an opportunity to process what the heck just happened.  I committed and re-committed to moving through the mud often starting in a place of irritation, shifting to reflection, then on to problem solving.  I had to make it work.  We were two different ingredients stuck in the same soup pot together, forced to bump around in the heat, and eventually make a tasty meal.

Weeks passed into months and my upset continued returning like a tulip does each Spring. These were itty-bitty adult temper tantrums I was having; moments when I fought for change.  I worked myself up into quite a bluster, huffing and puffing.  These mini-outbursts were neatly justified in my mind. I held onto thoughts about what she was doing wrong or poorly and how it needed to S-T-O-P.  I screamed out to those who would listen, “It’s not working!”  Ugh.

My resistance made the situation worse.  It created a tug of war between what I wanted and what was really happening.  The main side effect to this whole kerfuffle was more and more self-righteous discontent.  The clash between the two sides brought me to cross roads.  I needed to decide how I wanted this to go: continue the struggle or accept and adjust to the circumstances.

I realized as unpleasant as I found this situation, as much as it disturbed me, as much as I DIDN’T WANT her to be my supervisor, I had to accept it.  It was the truth and it was not changing.

I chose acceptance and the peace of mind that follows.

Almost as soon as I shifted my attention toward cooperating with the facts of my position, I noticed a change.  Similar to when you have been working inside all day and finally open the door to step outside.  Your world goes from a small task oriented state to a “Holy-cow-look-at-all -this-out-here” state.  In an instant, the sun fills you with awe and the warm air welcomes you back to life.

Did you ever have one of those times?

Acceptance brought me a release, some space from the problem.  At the same time, there was a heavy ball of sadness in my gut and a rock stuck in my throat.  The pain I had been protecting myself from showed up right on cue with vigor.  Tears pooled in my eyes.  I did my best to feel into the sensation rather than think about it.  After all, this is what truly needed to be seen.  The emotion needed exposure to the light of day so it could evaporate.  I noticed for a few minutes how the emotion pushed and swirled around my torso from my Adam’s apple to my uterus and back again. Pretty quickly, my body settled into stillness.

I had found the ignitor, the fuel for the fire that kept cropping up and…I kept trying to unsuccessfully put out.  I wasn’t addressing my loss and pain so, of course, these two remained faithfully by my side.

I had to actively slowww down and open up to this difficulty for my battle to end.  I replayed this process each time I found myself complaining about my supervisor’s latest infraction. Little by little the medicine sunk into my core and worked it’s magic until the process was simply a choice to shift my attention, acknowledge my fears or loss, and decide how I wanted to proceed.

You may be thinking, “Wait, how can you let go?  What about the criticism?  This is passive.  It’s wrong and we need to stand up to wrong!!”

Ironically, the gift of acceptance is empowerment.  Being with the truth of any situation, from finding all the milk is gone when you already put Wheaties in your bowl…all the way up to something as important as, hold on, who gets elected President of the United States, allows us to take action from a place of power; a place of choices and awareness rather than old conditioning and reaction.


Unless you consciously choose a different future, your past will decide it for you.

— Rod Stryker


It’s not that we “give up” or “don’t care”, it’s that we care enough to face what’s difficult.  We care enough to take actionable change rather than simply fight and resist.  There is a difference.

We naturally recoil from the unpleasant. It’s the norm.  It’s how we are built. We automatically create a distraction by focusing on the external.  In my case, I was myopically focused on my supervisor’s short comings rather than connecting to my own bruised ego and huge loss.

But if the goal is to shake this monkey off our backs, then we can’t do it by ignoring the monkey.  Once we truly see and feel the weight of the burden, we can discover what is within our control to break free from it.

Can you smell the difference between sheer resistance and empowered choice?

Acceptance delivers us the option of deciding from solid ground.  We no longer drift in a round yellow life raft at the mercy of the currents.  We find our oars and row.

Row, baby, row.

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Find Stillness

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Of all the vitamins I have swallowed or exercises I have done, nothing has brought me real change like the act of doing nothing.

Perhaps like you, the default setting in my brain sits at “chatter” mode; thinking, narrating my every move, remembering what happened ten minutes ago and ten years ago, predicting how conversations will go and events will play out…and on it goes.

I never even imagined another mental mode existed until I reached my thirties and I started to sample little bites of mindfulness meditation.  My work as a therapist lead me to books about  being “mindful”. I circled the baited hook, looking, taking it all in, just nibbling at the edges without committing to a big bite. The research buzzed and hummed with promises of reduced anxiety and stress, improved mood and affect regulation, better concentration, among other positives such as dealing with the struggles of chronic pain and addictions.

“Okay,” I thought to myself, “if it’s good for you then you should be doing it.”  My motivation was somewhat external at that point…I was busy trying to do the right thing. I started with guided meditations such as those by Tara Brach, Pema Chodron, Ronald Seigel, and many others.

Looking back now, I realize l had no idea how this one choice would transform my life.

Meditation brought me tiny pockets of quiet, little moments of release.  These minutes were pleasant enough, but not enough to pull me back to the cushion everyday.  It felt like one more thing to do on an already long list.  Day after day I created the same story:  I’ll sit after breakfast…There’s not time now… Maybe on my break at work (I rarely took one back then)…Before I fall asleep…and, night after night, my head would hit the pillow…goodnight, lights out, done. Another full day would pass by me without stopping to meditate.

I did manage to squeak out time for mindfulness here and there but fell far short of what I “thought” it “should” be.

Thankfully, the phone kept ringing.  I was being called to shift my awareness with meditation and the murmur wasn’t going away.  I answered the noise by filling my head with information.  I read books, attended workshops, listened to podcasts and audio programs.

During all of this head filling, I bumped into a statement by Eckhart Tolle that reversed my process.  He was talking to someone about attending a workshop on meditation, when the other person asked Eckhart which session he recommended.  Eckhart, in his frank Eckhart way, simply said, “It would do you more good to practice for one hour that it would be to attend every session at the workshop.”

Oh. You mean I can’t learn how to ride a bike by reading about it?  Thank you Ekhart.

I shifted instantly to a new frame of mind. I immediately gave myself permission to practice in a way that fit my life. I made time everyday for short periods, several times throughout the day.  I tied these to things I was already doing such as drinking coffee, eating, showering.  I also set up other routines to support the habit.  For example, I placed a special rock on my pillow every morning after getting out of bed.  At night, I would not move the rock until I had meditated for at least 10 minutes.

The focus became doing and I quickly felt a difference in how I was being.  

The formal practice of sitting meditation allowed me greater calm and clarity during the daily trek from am to pm.  Practice felt good and I made sure to savor the warmth in my chest and heaviness in my arms. These were mini-escapes full of peace and contentment.  I actually craved the pureness of silence.

During the day, my primary question became how am I paying attention RIGHT NOW? And this question carried my awareness back to a place of centered stillness.  It was like the TV channel switched.  The scene from the moment still played out in front of me but now I could watch it, rather than be immersed in it.

fullsizerenderEventually, stillness became a portal to something deeper and more satisfying. I was spending time paying attention to me. The thoughts I was thinking, the feelings I was having, the way my chest pulsed as my heart beat.  I was quiet and listening to me.  I noticed what I needed and I happily responded.

It is ironic, the idea of “doing nothing” producing the biggest growth of all. The notion is counter to our cultural push to GO,GO,GO and DO, DO, DO for sure.  But rest is required for growth in nature.  For example, babies sleep more than any other age group and aren’t their brains growing extraordinarily fast?  Also, don’t most perennial flowers require a period of cold before they will germinate?

Stillness has delivered unexpected rewards in my life and I hope it does for you too.

Many blessings to you, xo.

 

 

Three Ideas for Getting Unstuck

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How crazy frustrating it is to be stuck.  You know what you want to be different.  You see it clearly; go to the gym, less stress, eat veggies, get focused, meet people, or maybe even spend more time with family.  You want ____to change, but it doesn’t.

Over time, it becomes personal.  I heard a beautiful older woman with popping blue eyes and creamy skin describe her experience with being stuck.  She sat among a group of women sharing her long story of weight loss struggles.  The sun was shining and a Mandevilla dripping with fuchsia blooms swayed gently behind her.  She spoke for a while and ended with, “Every morning I wake up on a diet, and every night I go to bed a failure.”

Ugh, it’s like concrete.

I say “LIKE” concrete because the situation is so hard and frozen you are tricked into thinking you cannot break free.  But people do break free all the time.  People overcome the challenges holding them back.  They move forward.  They find their wings and soar freely, untethered.

Heads up, if they can do it you can do it.  Below are three totally doable ideas to jump start the process.

Tear back the covers

Usually people are unaware of how they keep themselves stuck.  This goes deeper than I’m doing this or I’m not doing that.  Rather, tear back the covers and look into your heart.  Jump out of your head and into your emotions.  What emotion is running the show? What feelings do you have about yourself that need to be seen for the lights to come on?  Perhaps something you don’t want to see? Make these gremlins conscious and they lose their power.

Fear and shame are often co-stars in this play.  It is human nature for you to cross the street when you see these two bad guys coming your way.  Fight the urge.  They have critical information for you.  Look these agitators in the eye and take in what they have to tell you.  Ask yourself questions and learn.

  • What am I believing about myself?
  • What am I afraid of?

Better yet, find a friend who you trust to show your true heart.  Get their permission to be a echo chamber for your exploration.  You don’t want their opinion.  You want them to reflect what they hear you say.

Re-write the story

“You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.”  Marianne Williamson

Ultimately getting unstuck will emerge with a change in your perspective.  You can actively search out new view points by talking with others and reading.  Remember you are not looking to validate the old but rather find something new.

Expand your thoughts with the fierce use of curiosity.  When you ask new questions it produces new answers.  There are many question for you to consider in this article.  Here are two more:

  • What is it you would have to face about yourself if you accepted the circumstances you are in?
  • What is the story you are telling yourself about your situation?

Change your mindset because it is not working for you.  It is keeping you STUCK.  It is keeping your brilliance hidden.  You are playing small, staying in your comfort zone.

I used to get super frustrated at myself for overeating and inability to eat rich whole foods.  I would tell myself, “I can’t because the kids won’t eat it” or “It is too much work. I don’t have enough time to do all that chopping and food prep.”  This was my story, my thinking.  The hard truth was I was putting other people first.  I wanted to please others.  I feared how putting myself first would ruin my relationships.  I also didn’t think I was worth the time and energy it took to buy and make special food.  Bologna.  Can you see how I glued myself to this reality?

Put one foot in front of the other

“We find our path by walking on it.” Maya Angelo

Finally, take action.  If you can only do one thing, make it action. Thinking about the problem does nothing on its own.  Talking about a headache deceives you into thinking you are “doing” something when you are not. These are energy drainers.  They fool you into the illusion that the issue is being addressed.   Take physical action.  Do something new and it will lead to new learning, new skills, growth and discovery.  Feel your uneasiness and let it be part of the excitement of change.  Stay the course, my friend.  Discomfort is to be expected.

Thanks for reading! Many blessings to you…

Growth Through Challenges

“The only way out, is in” -Junot Diaz


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Feeling furious, I climbed into my car determined to get as far away from the house as I could. I began driving down the road full of venom and scorn. My thoughts swirled along with a few nasty names directed toward the person I married. I was livid my husband didn’t take care of the errands he said he would to get ready for a party we were having. We argued hard.

The intensity began to settle as I drove and I decided to pull off the road by a lake and think things through. Luckily, I found a small secluded spot with full-grown oaks, cottonwoods and a rich undergrowth. My anger had turned to tears by this time. I found my journal in my purse and I started to purge every gory detail onto its pages.

There I sat writing in all of my heat and fury when something made me pause. I stopped and looked out my window. My eyes moved upward to the leaves bopping around in the wind. They captured my full attention. I opened the window to take it all in and, as I did, fresh air rushed in the car and coolness hit my cheeks. The leaves shimmered and twirled in circles creating a swishing noise.

It was so serene, so incredibly peaceful. I realized, “This turmoil is only in me. I am the one holding this emotion.  I am creating this upset.

It was a bitter-sweet moment. I understood if I created it, I can fix it.

Forget my husband. Forget what happened. This is my life and my perception. How do I want to respond?

We are not victims of our lives. We are creators of our lives. If we don’t like what is happening, we have the ability to do things differently on our end. It all starts with tuning into what we experience and turning toward the challenges we face. Possibilities open up from there.

Notice what challenges you. Let it show you how you respond. This receptivity will lead you to a path of endless beautiful possibilities. You have choices, my dear. We all have choices.

Many blessings to you…

Gratefulness Makes Us Happy

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See the sunshine in all things

What if ice cream sundaes and potato chips were good for us?
What if we could eat as many french fries and truffles as we wanted and it actually made us feel amazing AND improved our health?
Would you dump out the organic spinach and head over to Cold Stone?

Heck yeah, of course, right?!

Back to reality…so maybe this isn’t real but it is how I experience the act of being grateful, like a delicious treat that is good for me! My chest fills with warmth, my eyes shine, and my heart settles: Basically, the equivalent of psychological junk food with all the perks and no draw backs.

When we turn our attention toward life’s bounty and really take in all that we appreciate, we fill with positive emotion. It bubbles up from our bellies and fills our hearts. We find smiles on our faces and happiness all around.

The best part…we create this moment, this state of satisfaction and emotional goodness.


“In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.” —Albert Clarke


 

We shift our thoughts toward this life-giving water and we drink. The wide open sky with all of its clouds, and colors, and light is always there, although it doesn’t do a thing for us until we look up and realize, wow, “It’s so big, so dynamic, so beautiful! Amazing.”

I adore the work of Rick Hanson. He is a psychologist who writes about the practices that create psychological wellbeing. He suggests we allow plain facts to become pleasing events. The close parking space becomes a “lucky day” celebration. We recognize our good fortune. We slow down and touch into our thankfulness for the vacant spot. We simply let the sweetness soak in for a few brief seconds.

Everyday, all day, find the goodness. Let it fill your heart and mind.

When we practice being grateful, we are literally making brain changes toward this state of being. The neural networks involved with gratitude grow and strengthen when we appreciate the positive. The more we do it, the more it is available to us.

Get out your magic wand and super hero cape because this is the real deal! Once you have a base to work from, gratitude and positivity begin showing up when you need them most. When you face adversity.   Like when you are mad at your husband and without any warning at all you remember how he sets out a coffee cup for you in the morning. Or perhaps, it is one of “those” days when you wake up late, get caught in traffic on your way to work, and drop your purse in a mud puddle. You might growl and shake your head but you never truly loose sight of how crazy good you really have it.

Thanks for reading.  I’m so happy you’re here.

Big love to you, XO!

 

Build Better Boundaries

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Actions make intentions come to life.

Life will serve us up plenty of opportunities to establish healthy boundaries for ourselves, like pretty much all day, every day. Are you going to take your break at work? Will you wash the toilet or is it time for someone else to wash it? Do you watch what you want to watch on TV or just go along with what someone else wants to watch?

Our conditioning and habits will rule the day if we are not paying attention.

So, as with any change you want to make, get really clear on the details: What is going to be okay and what is not? Choose a starting point for change. You don’t need to implement major upheavals to all of the “puzzle pieces” of your life at once, unless of course you want to. It is usually easiest to pick one area, maybe a certain difficult relationship, a toxic work habit, or a change in how you take care of yourself.

Decide. Then, take new ACTION.
One potent action step to get clear and decide is to create an Absolute No list. I love this process and I hope you do to! I found it in a book by Cheryl Richardson many years ago and it has helped me definitely stick to limits I wanted to set for myself. An Absolute No list is simply a place where you designate what you no longer wish to do or tolerate. You “absolutely” don’t do these things. For example, when I stopped drinking soda, I put it on my Absolute No list. I made it a hard line. So when I was faced with a choice of what to drink, the answer to soda was ALWAYS no. I had to decide on some other drink. Period. No wiggle room. Ever.

I quickly realized I was developing an Absolute Yes list for myself. In other words, a list of all the things I did want to be drinking. A list of the beverages I felt good about.

I made up some fun printable sheets to use and will share them here.

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My encouragement is to start small, maybe identify up to three significant limits and once these are settled then add more or switch them out for new ones.

Before you go, there is one more BIG TIME consideration to ponder when it comes to boundaries for ourselves and that is self-acceptance.

I saw a good friend from childhood a while ago. I hadn’t seen her in a while. She had moved to a cute little apartment with big windows and white walls. Sunshine spilled into every room. She had gotten divorced. She also quit smoking. We talked about the fulfilling changes she had made in her life and she shared, “They came easy after I started feeling good about myself.”

Yes! These are the feet you stand on, your own two feet. I say, make yourself number one. You are key. The foundation is self-love, that is really what you are elevating here, the love and care of you. Make yourself the biggest priority. Consciously put yourself first as a strategy. If you are uncomfortable with this, it is evidence you are pushing against your edge. We are ALL uncomfortable at our edge. It’s to be expected, right? Tune into this discomfort, really listen to what you need. Send yourself kind messages and give yourself a great big smooch! You are showing up for you!

The boundary setting will be smoother when we connect the dots between the choices we make to take care of ourselves and feeling we are worth the effort.

So nice to have you here reading this article.

Love and blessings…