Saturday Gratitude #7

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Here we are at Saturday Gratitude post number seven already. These posts really help me slow down and connect to myself, and I hope they trigger good stuff for you, too. (Please share in the comments if you’d like!)

So, here are three things I’m grateful for this week:

1) The robins have arrived, signaling that it really and truly IS spring.

And they are everywhere. There is something moving to me about the way they are completely absent from the landscape during the winter, but they always return when the weather warms up and claim their territory as if they never left. Seeing them again reminds me of the mama robin who built a nest on our front porch a few years ago. She protected this nest so fiercely that I had to tell the mailman to leave the mail in the back, because the robin would fly at the head of anyone who ventured up on the porch. We left the porch to her until her babies grew up enough to leave the nest. I was tempted to call her mean, but what looked like meanness was actually excellent parenting.

2) Anger. And recognizing I needed to act on it.

Anger and I have not always had a very, shall we say, friendly relationship. My tendency has been to press it down or pretend it’s not there. But actually, anger is a friend — and a good one, if I listen to its message and make a conscious choice about whether or not to act on that message. Karla McLaren calls our healthy anger “the honorable sentry.” She says it helps us protect what needs to be protected, and restore what needs to be restored. Yes. I’m grateful I was able to honor my honorable sentry this week.

3) Four fluffy little dogs moved in across the street.

They move as a chaotic little group, each wearing a different colored harness, pulling their owner all over the sidewalk. It’s a delight to watch and I look forward to seeing it frequently.

What are you grateful for this week? I’d love to hear, and I wish you plenty of moments to be grateful for in the week ahead.

Image is “First Flower” © Tomas Stasiulaitis | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Saturday Gratitude #6

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Time for another Saturday Gratitude post.

So much to choose from this week — and I feel blessed to be able to say that.

1) So it was my birthday this past week.

And I’m not a big celebrator of my birthday. I never have expectations for it or anything. But something about this birthday felt extra-special, extra-celebratory. The day unfolded in such a lovely way — I spent it with some of my favorite people (and cats!) — and I felt so loved and appreciated.

And the funny thing was, I had decided to give myself the gift of a day away from the internet. And that felt so peaceful, so replenishing, so grounding. I needed it. But then, when I did return to the internet, there were all these lovely birthday wishes on Facebook, and some emails from good friends.

And I was reminded that so much love flows through the internet, too. I just need to balance my internet time with my “in the physical world” time, or I start feeling like a strange, cramped, distorted version of myself.

2) While writing and revising a short story this week, I made some discoveries about why fiction writing has felt extra-hard for me lately.

Interestingly, I had to step away from my main project (a novel) in order to make these discoveries. The short story actually served as a metaphor for the struggle of the novel — but it was easier to see and grasp because a short story is a less vast and unwieldy thing than a novel (for me, anyway. I certainly don’t mean to say that writing a short story is not hard or confusing.). Metaphor! It can make things so much more clear. (More on this is a future post.)

3) Finally taking action on something I’d been on the fence about for a long time.

And then the noticing that what unfolded after I took action was not nearly as scary or overwhelming as I’d feared. And that I can create safety for myself along the way, with each step of the continued unfolding. In other words, I have more control than I think I do. Good to know!

I’d love it if you’d play along with me, if that feels good to you. What are you grateful for this week? What comes up for you? Feel free to do this silently, on your own, too, if you don’t want to share. But either way, do notice how focusing on the good stuff creates more of it. It’s true!

Image is “Rainbow Sprinkles” © Cyrus Cornell | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Saturday Gratitude #5

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This week’s Saturday Gratitude reminds me of the fact that, sometimes, we need other living beings to act as anchors for us. We can’t do it all alone.

Sometimes, I am spinning off into space, and I need someone to help me tether myself to the Earth.

If, like me, you tend to live “up in your head” a lot, you may need some support in grounding yourself, in coming back to your body, to the “real world” (which actually can be a lovely and nourishing place to be, even if the world in your head often seems more appealing).

Here are the grounding, tethering beings I was grateful for this week:

1) A dear friend who called unexpectedly at a perfect time to talk.

2) My amazing coach who reminded me of who I am.

3) My cat, who stretched out on my thighs while I was giving myself permission to just relax on the couch for a while yesterday afternoon. Oh, so grounding.

What are you grateful for this week? I’d love it if you’d share.

Note: My Saturday Gratitude posts will continue from here on every other Saturday.

Image is “View From a Plane,” © Alexander Briel Perez | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Saturday Gratitude #4

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Last week’s Saturday Gratitude didn’t happen due to the fact that I had finally surrendered to sickness (see #2, below). But today, we’re back! Here are three things I’m truly grateful for this week. Play along with me if you’re so inclined.

1) Clarity.

I’ve been struggling for a long time with some issues that just wouldn’t seem to budge, no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried to push through them. Once again, I had to come to the realization that pushing through does not always work. In fact, when I’m dealing with a complex tangle of stuff, it almost never does. I had to reach a place of acceptance — at a deep level — and now that I have, clarity is starting to peek through the clouds. Yay for clarity!

2) Health (and self-acceptance!).

Well, relative health — I’m almost feeling like me again. For eight days, I struggled with a bad cold and really could not function in a normal way. Of course — as tends to be my way — I fought the fact that I was sick for about four days and tried to function normally anyway. As above, I defaulted to trying to push through when, in the long run, it would have made things easier and simpler to accept that I was sick and give myself the rest I needed. But it took me four days to get to that place. Letting go does not come easily or automatically for me, even after twenty years of practicing. So, here’s where self-acceptance sweeps in to save the day.

3) Weather and walking!

Today, it feels like winter in Chicago again, but yesterday — oh! For the first time in ages, I was able to take a long walk in the sunshine and enough treacherous ice had melted off that I wasn’t slipping all over the place. I could even feel the onset of spring, and the birds and squirrels chattered wildly everywhere I went.

And I reconnected with how incredibly valuable — vital, even — it is to get out and be in nature. Walking outside solves my problems. Really, it does. Or maybe the more accurate way to put it is, it shows me that what I thought was a problem is actually not a problem. I just get so stuck in looking at it a certain way that I believe it’s a problem.

Walking, connection with the earth beneath my feet, shakes up the stuck. So, gratitude, too, for being healthy enough to walk, to move; for being able to hear the sounds of the birds and squirrels; for the ability to see the sun glinting on the melting snow, the dog trotting by, the smile on the face of the woman walking it.

What are you grateful for this week? I’d love it if you’d share.

Image is “Frozen Sun,” © Sebastian Corneanu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Saturday Gratitude #3

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It’s already time for another Saturday Gratitude post! How can that be?

Here is my list of what I’m grateful for as this week draws to a close. I’d love it if you’d join me if you’re so inclined!

1) Being reminded that support shows up in many ways, and that true support is not necessarily about having lots of it (quantity support), but the right kind of support — the kind that feels, well, deeply supportive! (Quality support!)

And when I began to focus on the fact that I already have quality support in my life, it actually began to feel like massive quantities of support. (If support is an issue for you right now, you might want to check out my previous posts on support, here and here.)

2) Old things that feel like new things. Like my Oscar the Grouch slippers, which I rediscovered while cleaning out my closet. As soon as I saw them there, I thought, how could I have forgotten about these? And they went on my feet immediately. Not only do they make me happy, but: permission to be grouchy! Which, sometimes, I truly need.

3) Coffee, tea, candles, and sweaters. So many small (and inexpensive) ways to add warmth to a winter that feels terribly long. Oh, and let’s not forget the best one: cats on laps!

What are you grateful for this week? Feel free to share if it feels good to you.

Saturday Gratitude #2

After I wrote my first Saturday Gratitude post last week, I noticed how my attention shifted ever so slightly over the following days from what I was lacking to what is here already. And it’s funny how much more clear my choices and focus become when I am not in that panicky, lack-filled place.

It’s also so interesting to notice that, often, I don’t need nearly as much as I think I do. My needs only seem enormous when I am in that place of lack, and assuming that it is reality.

Then yesterday I happened to run across a Martha Beck piece on Oprah’s website where Martha mentioned that research shows that it is impossible to experience appreciation and fear at the same time. Yes! I noticed that so often this week.

So here is my Saturday Gratitude list for today — three things I am grateful for as this week draws to a close. We’ll see how today’s focus on gratitude shapes the coming week! And I’d love it if you’d join me in my experiment, if that feels good to you!

1) Writing in warmth. After last week’s computer crash, I finally have a new computer up and running, and because it’s a laptop, I can write anywhere in the house instead of sitting in my rather-cold office, which, truth be told, I had been feeling less and less inclined to do. This is kind of perfect, I realize, because I have been needing to approach my writing with warmer energy — more safety, more permission, more “it’s okay to be exactly where you are with this writing. It’s okay to let it be what it is, nothing more, nothing less.”

2) Recognizing when it was time for me to get offline, particularly off Facebook, and following up on that awareness by — getting offline! And how incredibly grounding and replenishing that turned out to be. As wonderful as the online world can be, as I stayed unplugged for a good while yesterday, I felt the remembrance that there is so much here, in the physical world, and in my own inner world. And it is good, and rich, and nourishing. With nothing else added.

3) Noticing old patterns coming up for me, and then noticing the thought that I shouldn’t be still doing this! Not after all these years. And then (here’s the part I’m truly grateful for), recognizing that, yes, the patterns are still here, but the way I interact with them, the way I deal with them, is much, much different than it was ten years ago. Or even five. And that, to me, is some kind of miracle.

Want to share yours? What are you grateful for this week?

Saturday Gratitude

In keeping with my intention to create new, supportive rituals this year — both in my life and here on this blog — this is my first Saturday Gratitude post.

I’ve been noticing the connection in my life between gratitude and creativity, and here’s what I’m discovering: creativity does not flow from a place of lack. And when I have a “not-enough” mentality, I end up putting a ton of pressure on my creativity to make me feel better, make me money!, make me feel successful.

But (as I’ll talk about in my next post), we are in relationship to our creativity. Imagine putting pressure on a person to make you feel better, make you money, make you feel successful. My hunch is that person (if they had a decent amount of self-respect) would run from you pretty quickly.

The same goes for creativity. It loves us when we express gratitude for it, but tends to hide from us when we pressure it.

So every Saturday, I’ll be winding down my week with a focus on three things I’m grateful for. And I’d love it if you’d join in, if that feels good to you!

Here’s this week’s list:

* My computer died this week, and I managed not to completely freak out. (And I’d backed up my work — something I haven’t always done in the past.) AND, money flowed in from an unexpected source to partly cover the cost of a new computer.

* My 13-year-old cat is in wonderful health. In fact, my boyfriend and I refer to him as “the kitten” due to his youthful acrobatic abilities.

* Here in Chicago, we have beautiful, gentle, snow-globe-quality snow in the air this morning. I didn’t think I could stomach more snow, let alone be grateful for it, but I have to say, it’s just so pretty. So I’m grateful not just for beauty in the world, but for my capacity to see it and appreciate it. That capacity is a renewable resource, for all of us.

What’s on your Saturday Gratitude list this week? I’d love it if you’d share. And most importantly, notice how you feel after you make your list.

When you feel like you’re not doing enough

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Last week I had an awful moment one day where I felt like I was sitting squarely in that valley-wide gap between where I am and where I want to be.

I felt despair.

In that moment, I could not see clearly how I was going to get from here to there. It just did not feel possible.

When I feel this way, my initial impulse is usually to push myself really hard to do more.

Which doesn’t work very well. Not when my “doing” is coming from a place of despair. I can do more from that place, and only see mounting evidence for how very much there is to be done.

The other thing that happens when I approach doing from a place of fear is that everything seems to have equal priority. There might be twenty things on my list and they all rise up at once, calling out to be done yesterday.

And this isn’t true. They do not all need to be done now, and some of them probably don’t need to be done at all.

The good thing about despair is that there is not a lot of energy in it. So, in that space, instead of making to-do lists or scheming about all the steps I needed to take to get “there”, I sat down. (Notice if a feeling of despair sometimes follows an unmet need to ease up on yourself. It often does for me.)

From the blue chair in my living room, I began to focus on the blowing snow outside, the newly de-cluttered room, my cat’s snore. I picked up my journal and began to write not about what was bothering me, but about what I was noticing in my surroundings. (This is what Natalie Goldberg calls “writing practice”.)

And within a few minutes, I came solidly back to the present moment — in which, truth be told, I had everything I needed. Nothing was lacking.

I still had that feeling of wanting to grow, expand, move into newness and openness to change.

But it was coming, now, from a space of desire, of welcome, and not from that space of “I need to be there in order to be happy.”

It was coming from a space of “I am already enough — and wouldn’t that, too, be wonderful?”

Subtle shift; huge difference.

And from that space, my true priorities rose up before me. And there were only a couple, and they felt light. Not twenty equally heavy things.

So often, when I think I should be doing more, it’s because I believe doing more is going to get me something I don’t already have. In an external sense, this can certainly be true. And it’s important to honor that — I do need to take certain actions in order to get things done.

But what I sometimes forget is that nothing I accomplish “out there” can give me something that can only be generated internally. When I pursue something “out there” from a space of grasping, I only see evidence for how graspy I am and how much more I need.

The idea here is not to try “not” to be graspy; it’s not to stop pursuing what I want. The idea is to notice the back and forth between wanting and having, doing and being, between what it means to feel empty and what it means to feel satisfied. And to notice what “doing more” can help me achieve, and what it absolutely can’t.

Something to try:

For the next week, notice what happens when you have the thought “I’m not doing enough.”

How does it feel? Does it feel deeply true? Does it motivate clear action? If so, terrific! If it feels icky or stressful or — like me — you find yourself in despair when you have this thought, notice what happens if you slow down rather than speed up. See how you can return to the present moment. And when you’re there, notice the true priorities that make themselves known to you.

Hatched into the World …

This year, I want to start a ritual of pointing you to gifted writers, artists, and other creators — people who are putting healing, nourishing, and amazing things out into the world.

My friend Terri Fedonczak writes beautifully on parenting from a place of joy and abundance (rather than lack) in her new book  “Field Guide to Plugged-In Parenting … Even if You Were Raised by Wolves.” (I love that title.) I had the pleasure of looking in a bit on Terri’s daily process of writing this book as she participated with me in Jenna Avery’s Writer’s Circle. And although I’m not a parent myself, this is a topic close to my heart, as I believe we’re all in the process of parenting ourselves, throughout our lives. Terri’s also the CEO of Girl Power for Good, LLC. You can check out Terri’s amazing work in the world at her website (which is beautiful, by the way), here.

Image is “Sleepy Dog”, © Mihai Dragomirescu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

What gift can you give yourself?

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Sometimes I start my day with this question: “What gift can I give myself today?”

On some days, a particular word immediately comes to me. Yesterday it was “stretch.” And I knew I wanted to move my body, so I went for a morning walk, even though we had a sweltering day here.

On another level, I knew stretch meant something else. And I made a phone call I’ve been putting off for a while — the conversation was going to be a stretch for me, but since “stretch” was the gift, I knew it would be okay. And it was.

Sometimes a word doesn’t immediately come to me. So then I let an image bubble up in my mind’s eye.

Once, I saw a heart, with wings. I wasn’t sure what it meant at first, but then some words came to me: courage, Cowardly Lion courage. And flight. On that particular day, flight meant literal flight — I gave myself permission to take a trip I’d been on the fence about, and booked my plane ticket.

And permission is another one. It’s one of the most powerful gifts I can give myself, but I have to be reminded of this often. And, I need to get specific about it. Permission to what? Once, I asked this question and an image of me sleeping bubbled up. I needed permission to rest that day.

Another day I asked, permission to what? And an image of me reading from my novel-in-progress to a large group of people bubbled up. Ahhh. Permission to be seen.

What other gifts have I given myself? The gift of endings, of allowing things to end — even things that have been a success and are still successful. The gift of beginnings, of stepping into what is new, even when I’m unsure of the first step and the second is hazier still.

Some of my favorite gifts are curiosity, wonder, and play. Sometimes the gift is tenacity. Sometimes it’s sovereignty. Sometimes the gift sounds something like “no ground to give.” And I know I want to focus on holding boundaries that day.

The gift can be something concrete and material as well. One time the image that came to me was of an exceptionally gorgeous journal I’d seen in a shop down the street. It had a filigreed gold cover with a turtle on it. The journal was expensive and I knew I didn’t want to spend the money on it right then, but the image of the turtle reminded me of my belief in taking slow, steady steps; that so many of our worthwhile journeys are marathons, not sprints.

One day last week the gift was “soft.” I was feeling extra-hard on myself that morning and my energy felt tight, rigid. I knew I needed to shift into soft energy. And I moved through my day with so much more kindness toward myself, and therefore, toward the world.

That is why I make my focus what I can give to myself. I like to think I’m pretty good at giving to others, but in truth I can’t give what I don’t have.

Want to try it? What gift can you give yourself as you move forward in your day?

Work With Me: I have openings for new coaching clients beginning in September. Need some support in connecting with your gifts? Check out my offerings, here.

Image is “Swirl Gift with Echo Blur” [cropped] © Patricia Ulan | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Don’t forget to check inside

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As part of my practice of observing my thoughts and feelings and the patterns they create, I’ve noticed an interesting thing lately: I feel more upbeat, hopeful, and just plain happier, in the early part of the day.

Part of this is just my own personal rhythm — my most energetic time of day tends to be between about 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. But it’s something else, too.

I start off almost every day with a walk (only in the most extreme weather do I forgo my daily walk). Depending on what I have to do that day, the walk (which I combine with getting my morning coffee) is anywhere from fifteen to forty-five minutes long.

My walk is all about noticing — the morning sounds of traffic and squirrels and birds, the feel of the sidewalk beneath my sandals, the super-slow beetle who somehow avoids being crushed by pedestrians as he makes his journey from one side of a cement square to the other. I also notice what’s going on within me — am I sad, joyful, serene? Are my thoughts fixated on that interaction I had yesterday that felt kind of icky? Am I grinding my teeth again? Did I get great sleep, or not quite enough?

When I return from my walk, I do a few minutes of journaling (or morning pages, as Julia Cameron calls them) and record anything I noticed on the walk, anything really taking my interest and “up” for me.

Then, I’m ready to start my day, and most of the time, not always, but frequently, I feel really good.

At 7 p.m., not so much. That 6 p.m.  to bedtime window tends to be the toughest time of day for me. Why?

It’s taken me a while to get this, but I understand now.

Evening time is iPad time for me. I “reward” myself for doing my priority stuff during the day by sporadically checking my iPad throughout the evening. Some of this is fun and feels good; much of it involves checking Facebook, Twitter, and various blog articles; getting caught up in trails of links from one blog to the next; absorbing lots of “expert advice” that may or may not apply to me; listening to recordings from classes and coaches and writers and others I’ve been meaning to get to.

All of this is good, to a point. Information can be profoundly helpful at the right times. And I think we all understand the dangers of information overload and the overwhelm it can wreak.

But the problem is not the information itself.

The problem is forgetting to check inside ourselves to gauge whether or not this information a) is worth our time, b) actually supports our own values, and c) actually applies to us at all.

The crappy mood I tend to get into in the evenings — so much to the extreme of my “morning self” — has much to do with the fact that, in the mornings, I make a conscious choice to connect with myself, to check inside. My morning walk, the steady repetitive rhythm of my steps, creates a great space in which to observe myself, while also connecting me to my surroundings, and particularly, the natural world.

In the evenings, I’m letting go of that conscious choice to check inside myself, and as a result, I turn into a kind of ping-pong ball bounced around by the information I absorb online. I find myself getting agitated, confused — this “expert” says to do this, and this one over here says the opposite; this friend on Facebook is annoyed that people are posting X, while this other friend wishes people would post more of X; this writer seems to know a lot about X and has tons of followers but in fact I feel depressed every time I read one of her posts.

It’s a lot to take in — and a lot of it doesn’t matter.

In the morning, I reconnect with me. I remember to check inside. I realize what I really value and what I don’t. I’m able to make a distinction between what information is helpful and what isn’t, and how much information is too much. I remember what’s true for me.

Can I carry that morning connection I establish with myself into the evening? Can I unsubscribe from lists that don’t add to my life, even if some panicky part of me believes this information is “practical” and I “just might need it someday”? (No matter how “practical” information is, if it doesn’t feel good and right to me, it’s not practical for me.)

Tonight, I’m going to begin an evening ritual of reconnecting to myself. This doesn’t mean I won’t pick up my iPad — I have a lot of fun there. It just means my evening intention will be to notice how I’m feeling when I absorb information, and to recognize I can choose to reconnect with myself at any moment. Information can be helpful, even crucial, but only when I’ve established a solid connection with my own inner compass first.

(And by the way, some of what I connect with online definitely helps me reconnect to myself — and certainly helps me connect to others. I love many of the ways I connect online. The important thing is to notice, to check in.)

What about you? How do you remember to check in with yourself in a world where it’s increasingly easy to look outside ourselves for advice, for “the truth”? I’d love to hear, in the comments.

Image is “A Walk in the Park” © Janet Best | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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