What do the holidays mean to you? When you think about past holidays, which ones do you have the warmest memories of? What do you remember most about them? How do you feel when you reminisce? Do you remember what you ate? How clean or messy the house you were in was? Whether or not all of the dishes matched or if the table cloth fit perfectly? Or do you remember the people you were with, the stories that were shared and how you didn’t want the day to end? This holiday season, try not to let too much time slip away worrying about the superficial things that really don’t matter, that no one remembers, and focus on the memories you are making. Who are you trying to make everything perfect for anyway? Is it really for your guests? Or could it be for yourself?

Recently I realized that, even though I truly believed I was going out of my way to make everything “perfect” for others, it was really for others’ approval of me. In reality, I was just adding to the “we are here to impress each other” tone of the holiday and, in doing so, taking away from the true spirit of our time together, not to mention making it much less enjoyable for myself (and possibly everyone else: most people actually appreciate REAL so much more than PERFECT, don’t you?). It occurred to me that the people in my home for the holidays came to spend time with me, not to watch me clean and serve them. In fact, they would prefer the gift of my presence over a beautifully served dessert. When you are with friends and loved ones for the holiday, are you really there for the food and/or aesthetics of the place? Or do you go to spend quality time with the people? Personally, if it were simply the food and ambiance, I’d find a restaurant on a random day.

Last year I made a conscious decision, and continuously reminded myself throughout the day, that Thanksgiving was going to be about the family enjoying each other’s company and eating too much food. I was going to enjoy the things that mattered and not “stress” about the things that didn’t. Our dishes didn’t necessarily all match, my kids were in between snow pants and long underwear most of the day, the house was…very lived in, and there was an abundance of happy noise. Each time I began to feel stress attempting to sneak into my body (out of sheer habit) I would stop and ask myself; what am I stressed about? Does it really matter? Will anyone besides me even notice and, if they do, will they love me less, or will they maybe just feel better about themselves? And if that’s the case, isn’t that ok? Is there anything I have to do right now that is more important than being with my loved ones? Do I have to do it now or can it wait until later? What will I gain? What will I miss out on? I would ask myself; what do I want my friends and family to remember about this holiday? And then I would recall Maya Angelou’s famous quote:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As the holidays are approaching, my kids have already told me that they hope this Thanksgiving is just like last year. I asked them what they remembered most about it; their responses ranged from “it was just so fun”,“it was relaxing”, to “I liked that I didn’t have to smell good”. And even though none of them could remember what we ate, they remember it was perfect! (Almost our entire meal was premade and reheated in crock pots…believe me, their memories of the food was tainted by the fullness of their hearts that day).

How do you want people to feel this holiday season? How can you help make that happen? What memories do you want to make?

If you burn the turkey, is it really a disaster? It could be, but does it have to be? It really has nothing to do with the turkey and everything to do with how you choose to respond to the circumstances.  If you can laugh at it, others will feel comfortable to laugh with you (not at you). Think about a time when you were with a group of loved ones and you were all laughing about the same thing; you just smiled thinking about it didn’t you? That’s one of those “gifts that keep on giving”, and you can give it simply by being YOU (as opposed to what you think the perfect version of you should be). Remember what’s important to you, especially now, when we seem to be bombarded with so much hate, violence and negativity from all around the world. What can you do to begin a change in your home? Start today, start with love and I guarantee you will have no regrets. Wishing you all heart filled memories this holiday and always.

10805847_798282240228997_2133733791860106556_n         10639352_787067644673374_2434155951490638737_n

Have you ever said to yourself or felt, I just need a “me”? A duplicate of yourself to be your teammate in life? To help you through each day? To talk to, to give you advice or support? When was the last time you stopped and realized that you have a “me”? It’s you.

How much time and energy have you spent today trying to figure out how to make others’ lives better? How much time and energy have you spent doing that for yourself? Who does it for you these days? How do you feel about them putting you before themselves? Do you enjoy giving? Who do you allow to give to you? What do you do on a regular basis to take care of the only “me” you have?

I believe we were each entrusted with one person to take care of first and foremost, and yet we continuously disregard that person to take care of others; why don’t we feel justified in putting that person, “me”, first? I’m talking about feeling good about your own self-worth, feeling that who you are and how you spend your time contributes in a meaningful way for you as an individual and your community, i.e. family, friends, town, etc…

If you had another “me”, how would you treat that person? How would you require others in your life to treat that person? Do you do that for yourself? If not, why? If you step outside yourself, don’t you think you deserve it? How are you telling others it’s ok to treat that person? Where do you put “me” on your list of priorities? Who is the one person in this world you literally couldn’t live without?

Maybe we simply do what we do out of habit. If we started putting ourselves first, not in a selfish or egotistical way, but the way we would a child, friend or loved one; if we made putting ourselves first a new habit, what sort of impact would we, our best selves, be capable of having on the world?

If individuals made striving to become their best self as natural as putting others needs before their own, what would that be like? If we could all be true to ourselves out loud, how would things be different? How can we teach our children to listen to their guts, be true to themselves, follow their passions, and always take care of themselves first…if we don’t show them how? Children watch what we do far more carefully than they listen to what we say.

I think that, over the years, society has made us feel badly about taking care of ourselves first. But who/what is “society”? Isn’t that just us? So if we created these negative connotations, can’t we change them? Instead of teaching people to wait for others to take care of them, why not teach them to take care of themselves? If each person were given one person to be responsible for, to take care of first and foremost…that could work! Imagine how we can change the world one person at a time… I truly believe, baby steps forward will always get you farther than big steps nowhere. After all, if you don’t start where you are (as opposed to where you think you “should be”) and take a step that you can achieve (instead of the one you think you “ought to” be able to take), how far will you get?

Do something for yourself today to begin or continue a habit of appreciating yourself the way you deserve to be appreciated. Try starting with the simple act of looking in the mirror, past all of the external features you may typically find fault with, now look into your eyes, deep inside, until you catch a glimpse of that unconditional friend staring back at you. That’s her, your best friend. Tell her how much you love and appreciate: how she has always been there with and for you, regardless of how badly you may have treated her; how she has never judged you, although you may have judged her; how she has always loved you no matter how much you said you hated her. She is your #1 fan and she is only here for you. Tell her you love her, thank her and let her know that from today on, she will be your priority. If that seems silly or hard to do, maybe just ask yourself why. Would it be difficult to say any of those things to a child? Friend? Loved one?

A good friend once told me this story: I have a pitcher of lemonade and I want to fill everyone’s glass. I want to be able to provide all who are thirsty with a drink. It gives me great pleasure to do this for others. However, sometimes I realize that my pitcher is empty, and then I can’t fill anyone’s glass. It makes me mad, sad and sometimes even resentful, when I can’t continue to serve. But, I have come to learn, I have to stop and take the time I need to fill my own pitcher if I want to be able to pour another glass for anyone else. So now I make it a regular habit to periodically stop to refill my pitcher, sometimes even before it is completely empty. The funny thing is, people wait patiently for my return; they have learned that when I first return after stopping to refill, the lemonade is even colder and fresher!

10678682_808151282575352_1147531507794298368_n 12109030_604027683068549_2624910957514099702_n

 

A while back, during a trip to Arizona, I was hiking up one of the beautiful canyons with a small guided group.  Within the first 30 minutes of the 3+ hour hike, a woman in the group said to one of the guides, “I can’t do this, there’s just no way I can make it to the top.”  When the guide suggested that he would walk back down with her and they could wait at the bus until the rest of us returned, I could see the look of utter disappointment on her face.

At that moment she just sat down. The guide told her he would give her a few minutes to make her decision but the rest of the group continued to climb. When the woman noticed me standing there looking at her, she made eye contact with me and smiled.  That was my in…so I sat next to her and suggested that, since she had to wait for everyone anyway, why not just see how far she could get.  Instead of trying to climb to the top, “why not just concentrate on taking one more step, and when you can’t take any more, I’ll stop and rest with you, and then you can either take a few more steps up or we can turn around and head back towards the bus”.

She admitted that the idea sounded better than the alternative and off we went.  We talked about all of the rocks, trees, blooming cactus, lizards, etc. that nature so graciously put on our path as we took one step at a time. Some steps were slow, some more quickly, sometimes we even stopped to smell a flower, laugh at a stumble, or take a picture.  Each step was filled with fascinating conversation, discovery, and breathtaking silence.  Before we knew it, we were admiring the view from the top with the rest of the group.

As we stood there, without a word, she looked at me, gave me a huge hug, and we continued to talk about “nothing” all the way down the canyon. It wasn’t until later that day that I realized, I never even got her name, I’d probably never see her again, and yet she had had a significant impact on my life.  By “helping her”, she actually helped me finally realize that all any of us can ever really do is one step at a time; whether it’s up a mountain, to reach a life goal, or even just getting through the day.

Since then, when I find myself overwhelmed at the thought of a big project, trip, or even a possible future event, I stop and think of her and how we made it to the top. I take a deep breath, try to figure out what I can actually do now, and that’s where I begin, one step at a time. I find my anxiety starts to disappear once I get started. I tell myself that if I get stuck, I’ll assess that actual situation, as opposed to the one I’m imagining, and do what I can at that point. That’s really all we can ever do, isn’t it? I have always said that taking baby steps forward gets you further than standing still, paralyzed at the thought of a giant leap, but now I actually practice what I preach, or at least I try ;-).  I recommend trying it (it really doesn’t required any major changes, just less thinking and more doing…less is more)

10309526_10152090278447371_7620297870277557014_n

p.s. Most of the time, when I am successful at focusing solely on the step in front of me, somewhere between where I start and finish,  I end up learning what I need to know, or gain the strength required, to figure out and reach the next step more easily; it’s pretty amazing how life works that way!

Most people have heard the phrase, “Life is all about the journey”, at least once in their lives, but what does it mean?  Does it mean that the journey is more important than the destination? Or is it your journey that somehow defines how you feel when you reach your destination? If you’re happy with your current destination yet not feeling fulfilled, is it possible it has nothing to do with where you are and everything to do with how you got there? Could you be in the right spot with the wrong feelings?

I think so…. I believe that feeling a lack of gratification in your current life can have little to do with the situation/destination itself.  I think it is highly possible that your current set of circumstances is what you want and you may feel unfulfilled because of something you missed on your way there.

Do we mourn passed over or missed possibilities/opportunities as much as we celebrate achievements?

I think so… I think that we regret the things we didn’t try, do or say, much more and for much longer than the things we undertake, regardless of the outcome, i.e. success or failure.

For example, I imagine that very few mountain climbers would have the same satisfaction when reaching the top if they were dropped off by a helicopter. It’s the climb, each and every grueling and glorious step and misstep they take getting there, that they appreciate when they reach the peak. I would guess that shortly after those who were dropped off got a chance to enjoy the view, they would begin to regret missing out on the climb and the adventures along the way. I think they would continue wishing they had at least tried to climb long after the climbers had finished celebrating and moved on to conquer a new mountain. I would even bet that, in time-if not right away, the climbers who only made it half way would have a greater sense of fulfillment than those who took the helicopter ride and left filled with empty “what if’s?”.

If two marathon runners were in the same event, but one of them accepted a motorcycle ride for the middle 15 miles, what are the chances that they will feel the same as they cross the finish line, or even the years after? It’s not the destination, it’s how you get there. A true sense of fulfillment comes from the accomplishment of getting somewhere, knowing you are capable of achieving something, being intimately aware of what that means, and living through the lessons along the way.  It has much less to do with simply being at a particular place or having certain titles/roles or things.

I think many of us end up skipping or racing past certain struggles/lessons on our journeys in order to reach a new destination more quickly, or simply to stop the pain or discomfort of a current one. We sometimes want to keep moving “ahead”, rushing past any “yucky” or boring times, when maybe that’s exactly where we need to be.  Getting through, as opposed to past, those times is where I believe we develop the skills, strength and insight that we eventually need to be best prepared for what the future has in store for us, and to be able to fully appreciate and receive fulfillment from our next  goal or destination.

So, what if you have already raced ahead to achieve your “goals”, feel relatively certain that your current circumstances are what you want, but still feel unfulfilled? Is it realistic to “redo the journey” and yet keep your current situation? Probably not, but…as long as we are alive, we’re still on our journey and, I believe, all of the lessons that we may have missed along the way will be presented to us again. The question then is, will you be ready or willing to recognize and accept them when they do?

I have learned that we can go back and gain awareness of lessons we may have missed without having to relive the stories. This helps us recognize them when they show up again. For example, if you were to take time to think back on your life and ask yourself; Where did I opt for the helicopter route? What was my motivation? What was I avoiding? How did that work out? When did I choose the climb? How did that feel? Was there an alternate perspective I could have moved forward with? Etc… Many times just asking yourself these sorts of questions will trigger many others.  It’s the answers that come from within that can restore you and help you begin to live a more fulfilling life today while preparing you for tomorrow.

We can’t change the past, only our thoughts about it and what we get from them. So think about your journey so far, look for the lessons, find some positive that came out of each one, and then think about the ones you may have avoided and what you got out of that. What doors opened when others closed? How can you apply those lessons and/or that awareness to your life today? Perhaps just noticing the steps on your way to your goal, instead of rushing to the end, would be a great start.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe our current situation is necessarily right or wrong regardless of how we got there; the top of the mountain is still the top of the mountain and the finish line is still the finish line, but…what about how we feel while we’re there? You’re still on your journey with nothing stopping you from finding out. You don’t have to go backwards and climb any past mountains, or rerun any missed marathons. There are an abundance of mountains and marathons awaiting as you move forward in life, and you can start right where you are with your new awareness and ability to appreciate each individual step.

P.S. Why does modern society continue to spend so much time and energy making things faster and easier? Has it made people happier? Do people seem more fulfilled today than before all of these “advancements”? It seems as though we, as a generation, are in danger of missing the journey. Personally, I’d rather be happy struggling half way up a mountain than comfortably miserable at the top, but maybe that’s just me, what do you think?

10530864_657635681000614_4629800271688287815_n

Drown out the noise so you can hear what’s real….

 Have you ever heard anyone say…”the noise was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think”…?  Maybe that’s not always a bad thing…

 Have you ever been driving somewhere and a song comes on the radio and, for whatever reason, you turn it up…then you turn it up some more, suddenly you have the volume so loud that you can feel every beat… Maybe you really like the song, maybe you like what/who it makes you think of, or maybe you just needed to drown out the noise…

The noise I’m talking about is the chatter in your head, the self-talk.  Good, bad or otherwise, sometimes you just need it to stop.  I’ve tried meditation, as many forms as I could find; sitting, laying down, silent, quiet music of some sort, walking, exercise, etc. and I still try to do some sort almost every day.  However, it was not until recently that I realized why I get so much “something” out of being alone in my car, a small isolated space, and turning the radio up as loud as I can handle. Don’t get me wrong, I also love to do this with my kids or certain friends, but I noticed that when I’m all alone, it can be different.  As I was blaring my music today, suddenly it all made sense.

When the radio is that loud it actually drowns out all the “noise” in my head, it all fades to a low indecipherable mumble in the background.  I could no longer focus on my “To Do List”, the morning argument with the kids, the past, the future, all the “could have, would have and should haves” that take up space in my head. Suddenly I realized I was no longer thinking at all and I became fully aware of how I was feeling at that particular moment.  All that I could “hear” was what was in my heart, and it was louder and clearer than ever.  Wow!  What an awareness.  When my ears and head were flooded with music, my heart was free to soar above it all.  The more I embraced this the more I was able to almost harness the real power within me; I felt clarity in what I was feeling, as opposed to the jumbled emotions of my thoughts.

I continue to try to practice various forms of meditation because I believe in the importance and benefits of mindfulness.  But what is mindfulness really? A dictionary will tell you that it is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment while acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations without focusing on them. As I understand it, it is most simply being aware of “Now”.  When I’m driving with the music so loud that I can’t think, I am definitely living in the moment. Strong feelings flood my entire body and I am in total appreciation of the awareness, so much so that when a song ends and I’m not a big fan of the next, I eagerly search for another so that the feeling continues.  Ultimately, when I do have to turn the radio down, the thoughts come right back like sand in a hole without missing a beat.  But I still feel better, sometimes even energized, and I do believe there is a positive lingering effect on my day.

For that moment, it’s as if time stops, but it doesn’t, it is actually such precious time that some of us don’t think about again that day, instead we go back to focusing on our to do lists, etc…

Now I have a greater understanding of why people who meditate say they are almost addicted to it.  For any of you who have not found the right fit in meditation practices, I recommend giving this a try.  Chances are, many of you do it already…next time, when the volume is maxed out and you can no longer hear the noise in your head, listen to what your heart is telling you.  Namaste

What are some unique or different mindfulness and/or meditation practices you have found?

1012589_529908287113474_755361067118585783_n

Disclaimer: Sometimes I’m so caught up in the moment that I end up at Target…regardless of where I was heading…but I always enjoy the drive 😉

As I was washing up the breakfast dishes I overheard my two younger sons (my twins) talking about a classmate.  I noticed that what they were saying about him wasn’t very nice so I interrupted them and asked why they were being so mean and what this boy had ever done to them to make them not like him.  Simultaneously they both looked at me, almost laughing, and explained to me that this boy was a friend of theirs, they did like him, and that it was OK to talk about him that way because he talks about himself that way all the time.  Needless to say, my boys and I had a long conversation about insecurities, desires to make friends and/or fit in, the difference between being laughed with and laughed at, etc… and then it was time to start our day.

Later that morning as I was driving, it dawned on me, we really do teach other how to treat us.  Even as a young child, this 5th grade boy was teaching his classmates that making fun of his weight, clumsiness, etc.. was acceptable.  So then what?  If this boys “claim to fame” was these jokes, what incentive was there for him to improve in these areas? But that’s a whole separate post, for purposes of today, think about how you treat yourself. Be aware of how you are telling your friends, family, co-workers, etc that it is OK to treat you, how you expect to be treated.  Don’t be surprised if, for example, your child doesn’t always show you the most respect or appreciation if s/he doesn’t see you showing it to yourself.  Be kind to yourself, treat yourself the way you want others to treat you, because, chances are, they will. The best time to start a change is now 🙂

10170736_10152768304191030_4479939587480347734_n

What’s your WHY?  Your burning desire? Your MISSION?  What is your underlying motivation for getting out of bed each day?  Is it to go through the motions one more time?

Purpose:  I believe we all have the same purpose, to live up to our highest/best self and carry out our personal mission, which is to share our unique gifts with others, and I don’t think it matters if you share them with one or many.

My mission: Help people reignite/turn up their pilot light without fear of explosion or extinguishing it. To help you understand your WHY and not be afraid to turn it on so that how you spend your time and who you spend it with is in alignment with that Why, regardless of if others “get it” or not.  To understand it so well that it infuses everything you do.

This is your life, it’s not a dress rehearsal, HAVE FUN!

  1. Stop hiding who you really are; Get focused, get clear on your dreams – no more imposture syndrome, i.e. faking it
  2. Start being selfish – it’s your life
  3. Be creative – stop following others rules/shoulds
  4. Start scaring yourself, leave the comfort zone and explore the edges
  5. Use your wisdom – stop taking life so seriously – it’s not always life or death
  6. Start getting rid of stuff that’s weighing you down, holding you back… ie. Memories…
  7. Take action- stop being “so busy” and DO Something you love
  8. START NOW! – Don’t wait for permission – your life matters too much!!
  9. Instead of asking “Why?” ask yourself, “Why Not?”

Some may feel it’s selfish to take the time to discover your “why” and strive to achieve it, however, what I know is that; it makes you a happier person, you are more fun and pleasant to be around, you’re not filled with resentments or regret, you have more energy, you become more capable and productive and it comes more easily to you.

Take control of your life, your priorities, what is meaningful and important to you.  Give yourself permission to choose YOU, you deserve it. Stop living on auto pilot and start living, bumps, wrong turns and all.

Sometimes, when I think about life, I envision flowing water…If you always take the path of least resistance, the auto-pilot route, that looks like water coming out of a factory built faucet. But…if you leave your comfort zone and overcome obstacles, take paths less traveled or carve new ones, make wrong turns and figure out how to get back on track, even take a leap of faith… now that looks like an incredibly beautiful, flowing stream, winding through the woods, filled with water falls, calm deep pools, bends and turns, shallow pockets, rushing currents and so much more… How do you want to see your life flowing? What is Your Why?