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

Three ways you can feel more creative — right now

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When people tell me they’re “not creative,” I know they are lying. The truth is, we are profoundly creative — it’s our natural state. We don’t need to “work” at being creative. And I think most of us know that when we’re in a truly creative space, it feels like play, not work.

What we do need to work at is sustaining solid habits that support our creativity (which often isn’t easy). We need to commit to making regular time and space for our creativity to take center stage.

Believing we need to work at being creative is a good way to get stuck. We can’t “lose” our creativity. We can only lose touch with its flow.

But sure, we don’t always feel creative. And that’s okay. While I don’t believe we should force the flow, I do believe there are things we can do to welcome its return, to summon it back to us.

1) Get rid of things that feel unsupportive to you.

These can be small things — I’m not necessarily talking about ending a relationship or quitting a job here (though you may make those choices at some point!). I’m talking about things that consistently drag you down, in small, nagging ways.

For me, recently, that meant unsubscribing to a couple of popular blogs, one for writers and one for entrepreneurs. I’d been telling myself that the authors “knew what they were talking about,” and I needed their information — but I felt slightly depressed every time I read one of their posts. I finally realized that their messages of “This is what you must do to be successful” didn’t apply to me, because I don’t define success the way they do.

We’re all hit with so much information in a given day, it’s vital to get rid of any that doesn’t feel supportive to us.

2) Make your workspace appealing to you.

Whether you write, paint, or bake amazing things, having an uncluttered workspace that you love can make a huge difference.

I am hardly a minimalist when it comes to decorating — I actually feel good having a certain amount of “friendly clutter” in my home; it’s part of how I relate to my environment. But yesterday I took some time to clear piles off the table I work on, to dust its surface, to put away some coats and scarves that were thrown over a chair. And it’s like I’ve been given a fresh slate when I sit down to write. My mind feels clearer — I can even see the characters I’m writing about more clearly.

Decluttering also shifts energy and signals that we are willing to let go. This willingness is crucial to creating, which is a process of birth and death, building up and eventually letting go of — or even destroying — what we’ve built.

3) Briefly revisit what you love.

You can do this immediately. I have a framed Jaws poster in my office, and I only have to glance over at it to be reminded of why it’s one of my favorite movies of all time (characters! editing! Quint’s Indianapolis speech!).

Or, a couple of nights ago I made a Pinterest board dedicated to Beatrix Potter. That woman was an amazing artist and writer, and when I look at one of her pictures — and her accompanying words — I am instantly reconnected with some of my deepest loves: animals, stories, and dark humor. (Yes, Beatrix Potter’s books are full of dark humor. Only in “The Tale of Samuel Whiskers” can you find two mice trying to make a kitten into a pudding).

None of this has to take very long. And for days when you’re feeling overworked and profoundly uncreative, a few minutes of presence can be priceless.

What helps you reconnect with your creativity on a moment’s notice? I’d love to hear, in the comments.

Writers: Tomorrow, Feb. 27, is the last day to register for the next session of The Writer’s Circle. This group offers terrific support for writers who are struggling to finish a project or build a daily writing habit. Find out more, here!

Image is “Colorful Bubbles” © Judy Ben Joud | 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

A journaling experiment for the New Year

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I’m staring out my window taking in the snow-globe-soft snow that’s falling in the street light, thinking about what I’d like to share as this New Year begins.

And what I most want is to help you trigger some discoveries for yourself this year.

I’ve never been much on resolutions, but I do love open-ended intentions, or simply focusing on things that hold mysterious and positive questioning for me.

So here’s a little experiment I tried in my journal yesterday, and I thought I’d share it with you — if it feels good, see if it sparks anything for you as you move into 2014.

Step one:

Look around the room you’re in right now, or out your window if you’re near one. Choose three objects that light you up, that resonate for you in some way. Not necessarily the objects that you “like” the most, or are the most beautiful, but the ones that speak to you or call to you or trigger something in you that feels good.

Step two:

For each object, write down three adjectives that describe the object. (Hint: it helps if the adjectives work on two different levels — i.e., “solid” as opposed to “brown”.) Quick, off the top of your head — don’t think too hard about this! Do this for each object, one right after the other.

Step three:

Look through your list of adjectives — you should have nine words total. Pick the three from this list that resonate for you the most. Again, don’t think too long about this — pick the ones that jump out at you, quick!

Step four:

Take your list of three adjectives and look at it for a few moments. Now you can slow down a bit and get reflective. These words represent qualities that mean something to you, qualities you may want to bring into your life in 2014. 

Take out a fresh piece of paper and write each of these words across the top of the page. Now, draw an arrow from each word down the page and come up with at least one way you’d like to bring each of these qualities into your life this year.

Let your intuitive self take over here — allow yourself to make unexpected connections.

For example, one of my objects was the ceramic deer pictured above. It sits on my desk beneath my computer screen. The words I got from it were wide-eyed, healed (it has a broken ear that I’ve glued back on) and plump.

I like all of those words, but “plump” jumped out at me as the important one, so it went on my final list.

My logical mind thought, plump? Really? But intuitively, I know that plump, for me, represents robustness, stability, exuberance. How can I bring more of this “plumpness” into my life this year?

The first thing that popped into my head was “play around with more physical exercise.” So I wrote that down. (Ah, a clue! Any new form of exercise I try out needs to feel like play. And isn’t it funny how the idea of bringing MORE “plumpness” into my life — not less — led to me to exercise?)

Actually, I love “wide-eyed”, too. I want to face this year with even more curiosity, beginner’s mind, and freshness. How can I bring this wide-eyed quality into my life this year? The first thing that comes to mind is “Slow down and listen even more closely when people share with you.” Yes. That feels right.

If you give this a try, I’d love to hear how it went for you, in the comments.

Wishing you a beautiful start to your 2014! Whether we connected here on my blog or we worked together or we’re only “meeting” now for the first time, I’m truly grateful you’re a part of my experience as the New Year begins.