Fire Starters

Fire Starters

Act in ways that make you feel what you want to feel. ~Danielle LaPorte

I started listening to The Fire Starter Sessions a few days ago.  I was already familiar with Ms. LaPorte’s take on aligning your actions with what she calls “core desired feelings,” but listening to these audio sessions has been a good reminder to actually take that advice.  I spend a lot of time as a wellness coach asking about what underlays a desire to lose weight or stop smoking or get in better shape.  In a corporate coaching world, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get people to pick up the telephone for appointments, much less talk about what they truly desire for themselves.  But sometimes we go there.  Sometimes people are willing to look deeply into what is driving them to want something different. And it’s always a feeling. Continue reading “Fire Starters”

Own Your Story: Managing Stress in Three “Easy” Steps

Own Your Story: Managing Stress in Three “Easy” Steps

Stress.  It’s something that every living being experiences.  From animals to plants to humans, stress is a part of life on this planet.  A zebra experiences stress when a lion springs from the bushes: that rush of adrenaline and cortisol that fuel the instinct to flee keeps the zebra alive for another day.  A plant in the garden experiences stress when the weather is hot and windy or cold and too damp: the resiliency that is built due to these conditions helps the plant to thrive when conditions evolve.  Much like in the zebra’s story, a human can experience stress when life is physically threatened whether that threat comes via a gunman, a grizzly bear or an icy road.  The heart races, palms get sweaty and all we can think about is the crisis at hand.  We react. And that reaction to a life or death threat is necessary for survival in such cases.

However, in our modern societies today, we generally experience significantly less life or death stress than our hunter/gatherer ancestors did.  For most of us, stress arises when we perceive a situation to be stressful and when we let our perception hijack our response.  There are challenges galore in a human life – that goes without saying.  Schedules are tight, communications with loved ones or colleagues or neighbors are strained or non-existent, traffic is bad and there are too many bills to pay.  But are they life or death situations?  Usually not.  Yet they often trigger the same fear or stress response:  Our hearts race, palms get sweaty and all we can think about is the crisis at hand.  We react.  But in this case, our reaction is not helping us to survive: in fact, it might even be causing damage to our health in the form of elevated blood pressure, chronic tension headaches or inability to get quality sleep. In today’s modern culture, particularly in the corporate workforce, values of more, better, faster have invited everything from chronic stress to burnout to a general disliking of Mondays. When we view the world as an emergency room, our stress levels soar.  But when we can really see what’s going on, we regain a sense of control and peace. Continue reading “Own Your Story: Managing Stress in Three “Easy” Steps”

Tangerine Skies

Tangerine Skies

In the late fall of 2012, my daughter was 8 months old and didn’t care for the practice of sleeping. She wouldn’t take a bottle, and I was her only source of food and often times, comfort. The daylight hours were getting shorter, and the news headlines were getting more unsettling. Work days were tiring even without the extra challenge of never sleeping more than three hours at a time. There was plenty of anxiety, despair and disappointment to be found in all sorts of places if I wanted to find those things. I needed something to remind me of the good that underlays the challenges of life. So I started forcing myself to acknowledge the little slices of joy, even in the midst of struggle.   I dusted off an old journal and began writing down those little slices.

Looking back at the entries now, some days sounded pretty routine: “Witnessing the baby notice the world around her.”   Some days included events that will probably never be duplicated: “Watching a black bear cub ramble by my home office door and scramble up a dead tree and across the ravine in the back.” Some days were more challenging: “The contrast provided by people who see the world differently.” Most days celebrated the way a body can move: “Yoga. The way the combination of movement and breath brings focus.” And all days were punctuated by the vibrancy of the natural world: “Tangerine skies and evening shadows hinting at possibilities yet to come.” Continue reading “Tangerine Skies”

Shopping With Integrity

Shopping With Integrity

How do you feel about visiting your local large, big box grocer? I don’t know about you, but I tend to dread most things about such an act: from driving to its location perched just off the highway to piloting the car (and a car’s a must…these establishments are typically not pedestrian friendly) through the football field sized parking lot to dodging traffic on foot to get to the front doors to navigating a cart through isle after isle of brightly colored packages, searching in vain for something that fits with my family’s organic, non- processed food preferences and then scanning what I do find through the automated check- out line while the people behind me wait impatiently because my apples are rolling around because I don’t like to put them in the plastic bags the store provides. In short, it’s stressful, over stimulating and isolating all rolled into one “convenient” experience. I typically leave big chain stores feeling depleted even though the goal upon entering was to procure some nourishing, life sustaining food. I leave feeling like a consumer; like just another one of the numbers on an economic check list.

Matthew Matheson, Flickr/CC
Matthew Matheson, Flickr/CC

Yesterday I had a few unexpected hours to myself in the afternoon, so I figured I’d use the time to get some things done that are easier to do without a toddler in tow. I needed some flour, some broccoli (our toddler’s veggie of choice these days) and some cream. I needed to clean the bathroom, do the laundry and bring in some firewood. I thought about heading to the local chain store on my way home from dropping Eva off at her grandparents’– it is right on the way and the act of going in and purchasing a couple items would have been a quick detour. It would have been over and done in 15 minutes, and I would have been on my way to the next thing on my list.

Continue reading “Shopping With Integrity”

Success Comes Quietly

Success Comes Quietly

When was the last time you felt successful?  Perhaps it was graduation from college.  High school? When you landed your first “real” job?  Or got a promotion?  Or a raise?  Or perhaps that time you won the 100 meter hurdles at the state meet.  Maybe when you published your book? When you finished the series and every book was a best seller? Maybe when you got the lead role in a play.  Or in a movie.   Or when you got a great advance or contract.  Or perhaps when you heard your parent say, “I’m proud of you.”  Or when you received public acknowledgement that you are a person of value to the company.  Maybe it was when someone noticed you’d lost 30 pounds.  Or cleared up your skin, or got some new clothes. Maybe the last time you felt successful was when when you got a gold star on an assignment in fifth grade, or scored a basket in a junior high pick-up game.

Or maybe you are still waiting for that successful feeling because success has seemingly eluded you so far.  Maybe you think that success just isn’t in the cards.   That feeling of success can be awfully slippery.  It can show up at your door like the popular guy that everyone wants to date, make you feel like a princess for a week and then disappear in a cloud of exhaust when you don’t follow the script or when you stop paying attention to what matters to you. The quest toward “feeling successful” can leave you wondering where your life went when you were looking around the corner for something else. Continue reading “Success Comes Quietly”

Little Bits of Good

Little Bits of Good

January.  A time to take stock of what’s working and what’s not.   Resolving to do better this year.   Worrying that nothing will change. Again. Losing those 30 pounds… for real this time.   Giving up all foods that contain white sugar and flour.  Going gluten free.  Joining the gym.  Taking up yoga. Quitting smoking.  Quitting drinking.  Quitting gambling.  Quitting failing.  January in the western world is full of anticipation and anxiety as we look for a fresh start – as we look for something that will keep us moving into the life that we want.

54760

How might we take the start of another calendar year to surrender into a version of life that is simply… enough?  What it would be like to be satisfied – really satisfied – with exactly where we are, regardless of what our external life situation might look like? How can we use our everyday actions to illustrate a way of being in the world that promotes joy instead of suffering?  How can we make January about what is, instead of what isn’t?

I wonder how to accept the present – to really, truly accept it and be in it.  I wonder how to discern the direction my life needs to take to best serve my family and the larger collective.   I wonder how to be in the world as one of the privileged, and how to accept that for what it is.  I wonder how best to use the abundance that I have to help others see their own.  I wonder how to use ideas that don’t work as stepping stones toward those that do. Continue reading “Little Bits of Good”

Good Enough

Good Enough

I woke up this morning feeling….off.  Not terrible.  But not good either.  Definitely not good enough to feel positive about the trajectory of the day.  After a weekend of great conversation, meeting new babies, cozy fires and time away from a work computer, a day when work was back on the agenda seemed like a practical joke – the mean kind.

How could it be time to spend another day sitting in front of the computer, making phone calls and asking questions?  And how could the forecast call for above average temperatures – in December?  For someone who enjoys activities that require snow and ice, above average temperatures are not cause for celebration.

I was unsettled, and it seemed like interacting with anything even slightly undesirable would cause me to slip into an all day melancholy.  As I was resigning myself to a day spent tapping a keyboard, I saw the sun through the window and noticed the sparkle of the snow against the skeleton trees of the lake’s shoreline. But the potentially rising temperature and the schedule of my afternoon overshadowed the beauty that I usually see in those things.  I felt myself sinking into a haze of wanting something different.  I felt like someone who is unsatisfied with daily life and someone who dreads the work week.

So I went outside.  Instead of letting myself simmer in that haze of wanting, I put on my ski boots and mentally prepared myself for a slow sloppy loop around the perimeter of the lake through mushy snow.  I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I know enough about health and wellness to understand that getting some fresh air and exercise can boost one’s mood – and enough about motivation to know that you don’t have to feel motivated to do something.  Sometimes you just have to do it.  I went out the backdoor, down the still frosty steps to the snow crusted lake, stepped into my skis and pushed off.

And then I noticed something.

The snow on the lake wasn’t actually mushy.  The glide from the crusty snow that was left on the ice was actually pretty good.  95% better than anticipated.  Worth more than one lap around, even.  Good enough.  I stopped at the midpoint, looked up and realized that all of the trees were blindingly white in their frosty jackets that were made possible by the cold nights and warmer days of the past week.  Stunning enough to make me pause and just look.  Good enough.

It was good enough to snap me out of my melancholy stupor and remind me of all the things that are worth celebrating during the days that I spend here on this earth, despite work computers, endless phone calls and forecasts that aren’t ideal.  There will surely be days in the future when I feel off balance or in want of something different.  But there will also surely be little things – like unexpectedly good enough skiing conditions and the beauty of hoarfrost – that punctuate even the dreariest of days with one more little detail that makes life worth celebrating.

It’s nice to remember why I’ve chosen to live where I do and why I like this time of year as the daylight wanes, even when it’s warmer than I might prefer.  It’s nice to remember that I don’t have to let waking up on the wrong side of the bed and a task list that I’m not looking forward to color my whole day black.  And it’s nice to notice the beauty that pierces the ordinary days just because of making one little choice over another.

Listen

Look out the back door into the sunrise.

Listen.

lakesunrise (3)

There is a faint, yet unwavering beat spreading horizontally over the landscape. It has a rhythm like the powwows of the Lakota people, of a drumming circle, of a collective chanting and funneling of energy into a medium that can be felt and heard by all. This pulse is coming from Gaia, from the core of the earth, from the Being that is represented in all life on the planet. It cannot be ignored. It can be pushed aside and is by many, but it is persistent. The authentic earth is speaking.

What do we hear? What are we going to do with this pulse that is reminding us of who we are? What are we going to be as the ancient rhythm settles into our veins and spreads outward through our choices?

Through our choices, by the actions we take and because of the way we walk on the earth, we are  part of the life that continues to unfold all around us. Nothing that is life – that has the capacity to love, that is the essence of something bigger than we can fully understand – can be contained by systems that are not peace centered and life giving. Though we have plenty of broken systems, we as a collective are an integral part of the unwavering beat – the pulse- and the energy that is propelling our world into something that we know is truth.  To something that is more beautiful than we can imagine on the good days.

This forward motion, this horizontal push into the newness of what has always been at the core, is not without challenge. Change is hard for humans, even when the change is full of light and promise. It can be easy to hold on to what we know, even when it doesn’t serve who we truly are. Even while we welcome change, we don’t know what our reality will look like in the days to come, and we have a hard time with the unknowing. We want something concrete; we want dates to look forward to. We want to plan, and we want to see changes and energy shifts manifest in ways that we can understand and see in our daily lives.

We will get these things, even when it feels like we are still waiting for a sign that Now we can truly live how we are meant to live.   Because while we question, while we still feel like we are waiting, while we strive to exist in a way that is authentic, the pulse is still there. It has always been there.   Many ears are still deaf to the realness of the beating, but it is getting louder with every intention to live as a part of the whole and to be as one with the heart of creation.

Look out the back door into the sunrise. You will see the pulse of the earth. You will feel the collective call to be a people of wholeness and of healing. You will remember that you are the true value, the energy and the answer.

Listen.

Remember.

Be part of the sunrise.

lakesunrise

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

–Alan Watts