Listen to them, give them a chance

They may have a point you’d never thought of

An angle you never would have looked from

A new way of phrasing the same material

Or most importantly

An opinion you don’t agree with

 

Listen to learn what they think, not to find the weak point

Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it is wrong

Think of a reply after you take in what they said

A conversation is not made up of opportunities to fire

Stop looking for them and wait

Wait until you understand

 

Listen like an open door not a filter

Take it all in

Selectively listening is just as bad as not listening at all

Middleground is the best ground

Respond with intent to teach, suggest or understand

Not to prove one wrong and one right

 

Listen to what you don’t know

No one knows it all, although some know more than others

Everyone can learn from the simple act of conversing

Division is the one common enemy of conversation

We see it everywhere

Pressured to pick one side or the other

 

Listen

Talk with each other not at each other

There are more than two sides to everything

Opinion is a spectrum not a division line

Respect and be respected

Compromise

Listen

 

by Will Ross

Love is the party, pain is the hangover… so do you never celebrate again to avoid the hangover…or do you decide the party is worth it and just learn to recover from/treat the hangover?

The hangover may or may not even happen, what if you choose to deal with the magnitude of it only if/when you need to? But don’t let it prevent you from going to the party…this is your one best life.

What if all of life is just figuring out what you need/want/like/etc…through trial and error, nursing yourself back to health, repeat and become stronger in the process.

Not stronger as in “more prepared for a fight” or “better able to handle more without getting hurt”, but stronger as in increased knowledge of yourself and realizing that you will survive, life will go on.  Stronger in the knowledge that you allowed yourself to experience something wonderful and it was worth it. Stronger knowing that you can choose to stay stuck dwelling on your past “mistakes”, or you can acknowledge the strength you received from overcoming them and use it to empower your future.

Life is all about the learning; experimenting, enjoying, failing, succeeding, etc.… But none of those things are possible without leaving our comfort zone and refusing to let fear hold us back.

What are we so afraid of anyway?? You are so much stronger than you know! Let go of your self-limiting beliefs, have faith in who you are and allow yourself to truly LOVE YOUR LIFE!

The voices in your head are merely recordings of your past.  Your deep inner knowing is the truth for your future.

Sit quietly and listen, feel what your body is trying to tell you in a language with no words.

Notice the voices in your head…they are nothing more than your past experiences, childhood memories, etc…your “Nurture”, not necessarily your “Nature”.

As a child, you don’t always have the choice of where you grow up, who you are surrounded by, the experiences you are exposed to, and so on. Yet these are the very things that have created those voices you hear in your head today. From this moment forward, however, you do have the choice! You are no longer that child with limited control over your life, with limited ability for reasoning and distinguishing…today you are a capable individual, capable of making your own decisions, forming your own opinions, behaving the way you feel best represents who you want to be, and choosing to live accordingly.

Your true self, the person you were born to be, has always been within you. Now is your opportunity to reconnect but it will require awareness, patience and trust. You will need to become aware of your “thoughts”about a situation vs. what is true. You will need to be patient and not let yourself react without a pause to consider what you are feeling. The hardest part may be to trust your “feelings” as much as you have trusted your “mind” up until now. You will need to listen carefully; if you have ignored your inner voice for a long time, it make take a while for you to recognize when “its” talking, it make take a while for “it” to recognize that it’s being listened to. Trust and consistency…

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.  To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again.  To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”  – Henry David Thoreau

Fill your mind with the voice of your own heart, make your thoughts intentional.

This is your one life, you are unique for a reason; BE YOU, not who your mind believes you SHOULD be.  Never forget to include yourself on your list of most influential people in your life…you are the only one guaranteed to live with the consequences of your choices.

Trust your feelings, create new recordings in your mind, your past is behind you but the rest of your life is just beginning…enjoy the process!

 

That’s true. Life isn’t fair, it just is… that’s why when a tiny fawn finally makes it to a drinking hole, after no water for days, only to meet up with a starving lion…it’s not a matter of fair, it’s just life.

Fair is something we make up depending on our perspective, the particular situation, and our history. For example, if you are the tiny fawn, this scenario seems extremely unfair and maybe even wrong. However, if you are the lion, this same scenario is an incredible stroke of luck, maybe even a blessing.

So…the good news is…if fair is just an illusion we make up in our minds, by decorating a set of circumstances with a collection of colorful thoughts, then if what we are imagining doesn’t make us happy… if it makes us upset, angry, resentful, etc.…then we have the power to change it!

Sounds simple right? It actually is.  We only make it difficult because it’s unusual or new.  It requires leaving what we know, doing something very different, breaking a habit

This very act physiologically activates the reptile portion of our brain (“flight, fight, and freeze”).   It’s not your fault that leaving the comfort zone doesn’t come naturally, it actually doesn’t. Staying with what has kept us alive to this point, good/bad or otherwise, is what our survival instinct will automatically strive to maintain.

But are we really talking about “survival” most of the time? No…WE know that, but the physiological parts of our incredible brain do not. It’s our own built in computer, but we have to program it, or at least update the existing program. Our brain can only do or know what is input into it, through awareness, experience, intentional education, etc.… If we don’t consciously enter new information and/or challenge and change what is there, our brains are wired to simply run on the old programming, automatically. To change how you feel about “things”, you have to change your “programming”, and it has to be intentional.

Your attitude about your life really IS your choice.  You don’t have to be pissed off every time things don’t go as you had hoped, upset when you’re expectations aren’t met, hold grudges, etc.… You can choose to accept what is, without judgment; deal with it, maybe even look for the lesson and learn from it. Either way, it’s always your choice, no matter how many excuses you give yourself. 

No- it’s not easy, no -it’s not quick, and no -it’s not all sunshine and rainbows all the time, but it IS your one life and WHATS THE ALTERNATIVE? Why wouldn’t you continue to try? THERE IS NO FINISH LINE…it’s NEVER too late…Life is a process. And every second of every minute of every day…you have a choice: You can live on auto-pilot or take back control of your own mind.

“You can control your thoughts or your thoughts will control you” -unknown

Life really is what you make it: if you find yourself in a situation that makes you…not happy, try taking all of the emotions, thoughts and/or judgement away for a moment before you react or decide how you feel. Look at the facts, just what IS, not what you or others thought it should have been, what you expected or wanted it to be etc… and then, see if you can figure out how to take the next small step to move forward instead of getting sidetracked by discouraging thoughts…

At the end of the day, we all just want to be happy. Everything “thing” we desire to have or do is really just a means to the same end; we think it will make us happy. Fortunately, Life is more about your attitude than anything else and you are in charge of that. Blaming others only gives your power away. Take responsibility and take back control.

Change your attitude and watch your whole life change too. There is no such thing as FAIR or UNFAIR, it just IS, and it IS your LIFE!

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When you share, you feel you matter enough for someone to want to know your story; everyone needs to share.

Sharing: How much? When? What? Why? With who? Etc.…etc.…

It seems like the answers to these questions should be so simple, so why do so many of us struggle with them?

Studies show:

I’ve read a lot of studies touting the therapeutic benefits of sharing your stories. However, the same studies warn of the detrimental effects of sharing those same stories with the “wrong” people, at the wrong time, etc.…

I’ve read about the physiological changes that necessarily take place in our brains when we “remember” a certain event. Apparently, each time we remember an event, our brains automatically fill in any missing/forgotten/fuzzy pieces with “something that works”, i.e. something that confirms our preexisting belief. We move on continuously noticing things that reinforce these beliefs. To make things worse, each time we remember that event, we are really only remembering our last memory of it…still with me? Our memories of these events effect our feelings about them, and that effects who we are today. Based on that alone…I can definitely see that one obvious benefit of telling your story would be that someone else could help you verify the facts later on.

Some studies have shown how sharing stories helps satisfy our intrinsic need for connection. It makes sense, when you are with someone who knows a lot about you, you generally feel a greater sense of connection with them. They know the real you and they’re still hanging out with you; that’s reassuring and probably relaxing. It’s as if just by sharing your stories with another person, the two of you now share some common history. Even though you didn’t live through the actual event together, you relived it and allowed them to share in that experience; they are now somehow connected to that part of your life as well as the present. When someone shows an interest in listening to your stories, they’re telling you they are curious about you, they want to know more. This can be incredibly validating for you as a human being.

Social Media:

Sharing leads to feelings of connection, from which comes the feeling “I matter”. When you feel you are part of something bigger than just you, you have a purpose, you fit somewhere. Science has proven multiple times in multiple ways that communities that connect thrive; we are meant to share, we feel the NEED to share.

That explains why Facebook, Twitter, snap chat, etc.… are so successful. It’s natural, they feed off of our physiological wiring. However…social media is not real sharing, and that’s why, I believe, it tends to cause more social problems than it helps. True beneficial sharing is necessarily a two way street; it requires mutual trust and doesn’t expose you to judgment.  With social media there is a lack of trust and an overabundance of judgment. Add repetition over time and you have the perfect recipe for anxiety, depression, imposture syndrome, comparisons etc.… It may not seem harmful at first but, each time you look at social media put a grain of sand in a bag and carry it on your back. You’ll be surprised how quickly that bag fills to the point where it crushes you.

Sharing involves talking with each other, not about each other.

To Share or Not to Share:

I’ve known people who choose not to share their lives. The feeling is that if you don’t share something about yourself with, say, your coworkers, then when you go to work each day, the people around you know nothing about it; it’s almost as if it never happened/doesn’t exist, at least in that part of your world. No one is going to ask you about it or do/say something to remind you of it.  You don’t have to wonder if anyone is thinking or talking about it or what their opinions may/may not be. This is probably extremely appropriate and perhaps even beneficial in many situations. It’s as if that part of you is completely disconnected. In this way, perhaps disconnection can be positive.

Some people say they don’t want to bother people with their stories, waste their time etc.…, some are simply too embarrassed or ashamed and want to pretend it never happened. Others say they started not sharing in order to protect people; ie… to not disappoint, hurt feelings, etc…  But who are you hurting in the process?  Is the cost worth the benefit?  What would happen if you stopped?  Are you sure you’re not underestimating these people?

Many people simply feel that they just don’t have anyone to share with. Some have spent their whole lives listening to others, being the rock, and they don’t want to jeopardize their image by needing to share; their role was always to be there for others and now they don’t know how to ask others to be there for them.

In any case, if you continue to go on not sharing, so that you can pretend certain parts of your life/self didn’t/don’t exist, because it’s a habit or you don’t know how/with who, what does that do to your sense of self-worth? How do you go on living in an environment that you feel so unattached to? How does a plant survive without roots…? A cut flower in a vase can only last for so long without some help from an external source. A fully established rooted plant however…that plant thrives because of its connection to the earth; it is able to get everything it needs. The cut flower survives for a limited time, the rooted plant can thrive indefinitely.

Sharing the Past vs. Living in the NOW:

Recently, I have started to wonder what the physiological effects are of not sharing, for whatever reasons, and our innate need for connection. The “non-sharers” I’ve spoken to definitely tend to feel less of a sense of belonging in general. Many of them begin to feel as if their past (their stories) don’t really matter…after all, aren’t we all about living in the NOW?

I believe that living in the NOW is extremely important, however, I also believe that it’s everything that we’ve been through or experienced in our past that has made us who we are, put us where we are, and created our current set of life circumstances. I believe truly living in the NOW requires doing it as a whole person, not just the parts of you that you decided were worthy of bringing along.

I’m a big believer in “everything happens for a reason”, I also think that sometimes we have to either try harder or wait longer to figure out what that reason is. However, if we simply ignore or pretend certain aspects of our lives didn’t happen or don’t matter, than how will we learn the lesson it was meant to teach us? How will we discover the “reason”? Perhaps that’s why so many of us find ourselves in certain situations over and over again; the universe is trying to teach us something but we just want to push that “set of circumstances” under a rug and pretend it never happened or isn’t continuing to happen…and we keep doing that…every time it repeats itself.

Every year that goes by without sharing your secrets seems to somehow make them worse, it’s not like the past changes, but its power over you somehow continues to grow. It’s almost suffocating, as if you’re drowning, maybe that explains certain phobias, anxieties and/or depression? I believe that when you don’t share significant events in your life, your mind begins to mess with you. Memories become distorted and the truth harder and harder to remember; was it really your fault or did you just convince yourself of that? Do you find a way to twist things so that they don’t seem as bad? By convincing yourself that one experience was a certain way, do you go through the rest of your life behaving or thinking differently to continuously justify that idea? Can your perception of a single event actually begin to distort your decision making from that point on? Yes, I think it can. So, physiologically, the way we internalize and/or process an event(s) as a child actually continues to affect the way we behave and the choices we make as we become an adult.

If we have no one we trust to share with, then our mind is free to direct the show with no outside influence or the interference of different perspectives.

Where to start:

I have met people who have shared so little of themselves, and feel correspondingly little connection with others, that, over time, they have begun to wonder if anyone would even notice if they were to just disappear. If we don’t feel like we are part of the puzzle, so to speak, than are we just an extra piece?  What’s the point of an extra puzzle piece?  Others, who have spent the majority of their lives trying to take care of others (Hero Support), tend to believe that their services would be missed; that they would let down or disappoint people. These people describe themselves more like the board the puzzle pieces are being laid out on, this belief gives them some purpose. All of these people often feel alone, regardless of  how many people are around.

If you’ve gotten to that point…why aren’t you sharing? Do you not want to or do you just not know how/where to start? Do you have someone to share with? This may not be what you want to hear but…, sometimes it helps to hire someone to share with for a while.  It’s possible that you may just be out of practice; it can actually help just to talk to someone who makes a living listening and offering different perspectives.  You don’t have to feel guilty for “wasting” their time, or wonder if they really care; it doesn’t matter, do it for you (generally speaking, people go into those professions because they care).

If that sounds too crazy, what about a journal? Even if you don’t think of yourself as a “writer”, it can be incredibly therapeutic to just release your thoughts on to paper and then, when you’re done, to read what has come out; most people are surprised by what they find.

Do you have one friend who shares with you? How does that make you feel? What do you think would happen if you shared with that person? Why not try it with something neutral to start with, maybe a childhood memory or a work/home related story, perhaps whichever the person is not part of…

Do you know that every single one of us was put here for a reason? Created to be exactly as we are. Have you noticed that you are at least a little different than everyone else? That there is no one else exactly like you out there…there’s a reason for that. The world needs YOU, but how can that happen if you keep You all to yourself, or keep pretending to be someone else?

Not everyone deserves to hear your stories, but you deserve to be able to share them, you deserve to not have to carry all the weight of some of them and/or to relive and celebrate the joy of others. 

Oftentimes, when we share childhood memories as an adult, we process them very differently, from a new perspective, and thereby go forward living with them much more peacefully; maybe you learn something or at least feel differently about it. Sometimes doing so can help you let go and move on, even find serenity where there was once pain or unrest.

I think it’s important to share, I think it’s important that you feel worthy of sharing, that you know that your stories are important and that you matter. I know that it’s not always easy but…what’s the alternative?  Reaching the top of a mountain is only as awesome as the difficulty of the climb…

I also believe that sometimes it’s not entirely your conscious choice not to share. Maybe you’ve become surrounded by the wrong group, maybe you’re comfortable there but, are you happy? Are you thriving or just surviving? I was once assured that my pet lizard was happy in its tank because it had never known anything different…

Maybe it has nothing to do with your current “tribe”, maybe you’ve just developed a habit over time, for whatever reason(s), and you have no idea how much those around you would love to know you better, to feel more connected. Have you tried? If not, what are you afraid of? Is that really any worse than living with that fear?

None of us were meant to go through life feeling alone.

You matter, you’re stories matter, your life matters, and it’s all here for a reason. This world needs you, you’re the only one we’ve got!

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What is Hero Support?

Hero Support is a term I use to describe a certain personality or role that some people have/assume in life, or some period of time. Some people are Heroes, some are Hero Support. I think it’s OK, even great, to be “Hero Support”. They are the “wind beneath my wings” that Bette Midler sings about in her song of the same title; a different type of Hero. It’s an important position and one that is an intricate and necessary part of life.

Not everyone wants the spotlight, hero support provides an opportunity for introverts to contribute, feel important/necessary, make a significant impact etc… without taking center stage, or even any of the stage. When I think of “Hero Support” I think of; the 1st lady, vice president, right hand man, the “woman behind the man”, wife, mother, nurse, administrative assistant, etc.… the people who make it possible for someone else to be the more stereotypical “hero”.  They provide the essential foundation upon which others can build a beautiful home.

Everyone is different, and that’s how it’s supposed to be; it’s what makes us all necessary. Its proof that we were meant to work together, it’s why we crave/need connection.  My mom used to say, “If we were all the same there wouldn’t be horse races”, and she loved the races.

Recently, I began thinking about why sometimes being Hero Support can be so fulfilling and yet, other times, so draining. Sometimes it brings joy and yet, other times, there is resentment. It occurred to me that the difference is the motivation driving the support at the particular moment. When you are motivated by your heart, supporting others makes you feel energized and alive, it adds richness to your life. It is a way of honoring an inner need to help others, to contribute. When support is motivated by a sense of obligation, or putting others needs before your own, it often makes you feel lacking, depleted, even insignificant. I believe many Hero Support are motivated by both of these things at different times of their lives, maybe even different times in the same day.

What Motivates You?

Supporting others can be a strength or a comfort, depending on its motivation. By strength I mean, it’s what feeds your sense of purpose. By comfort I’m referring to a habit created by a desire to remain either invisible/out of the spotlight, or sometimes loved and accepted; this habit can ultimately deprive the world of You, while depriving You of Your Best Life. 

I also believe that when the strength is not accompanied by solid/clear boundaries, the lines become blurred and Hero Support can begin to become an “Identity”, ie. an obligation as opposed to simply ‘actions that fulfill a greater purpose’. Over the years, I have noticed a pattern…

Hero Support, when motivated from the place of comfort/habit, or strength without boundaries, begin to define themselves, or become defined by others, as the ones who have it all together, they’ve got it “under control”. From the outside, Hero Support seem to have the perfect life and things come easy. You appear to have been “blessed” with many gifts that many struggle for.  After a while, you tend to pride yourself on these attributes and strive to make sure that the image is true, or at least perceived to be true. Sometimes, if you fake something long enough, you forget what’s real and what isn’t. This role provides a sense of purpose, pride, and even value/worthiness. Its makes you feel needed or important, it’s where you “fit” and/or why you matter. It somehow satisfies the innate need for connection.

I’ve also noticed that Hero Support’s “problems” are often perceived (by themselves and others) as not as big, real, important, etc.…as someone else’s. Hero Support tend to go out of your way to not “burden” others, you tend to downplay problems because “you got this”.  As a result, your “problems” are less obvious or more hidden/controlled. This can give the impression that you don’t still hurt the way others do. As if you can handle anything and don’t need or maybe even want support.  Perhaps it’s because others need Hero Support to be “strong”, and Hero Support wants to comply.

We All Need Support:

Regardless, we all need to be allowed to need support, we need to allow ourselves to be supported. A small cut on your own finger will always hurt you more than a leg being amputated from someone else; that’s just reality and it’s OK to feel your own pain. You really don’t have control over that, it’s simply how you are physiologically wired.

I believe hero support people go through life learning all sorts of protection from vulnerability, so you “don’t get hurt”.  You understand that others don’t plan to hurt you, your pain is only collateral damage and shouldn’t be taken personally…most of the time you are hurt by inconsiderate acts, not malicious intent.  No one intentionally hurt you, they just didn’t even take your feelings into consideration.  It doesn’t make it hurt less…

So you learn to build protective armor, you use: busyness, independence, productivity, perfectionism, being incredibly organized, clean, helpful, accommodating, or using drugs, alcohol, sex…the list goes on. But every once in a while there’s a crack in your armor and when the light gets in, it stings. At that point, you either reinforce your armor, while yelling at yourself for being pathetic, weak, needy, etc.…, or you realize that, it’s not the stinging that hurts anymore, it’s the fact that you don’t have the time or space to allow for it. In a strange way, you don’t mind the sting because you welcome the fact that you “feel” it.

Suddenly, you’re no longer afraid of “being hurt” by others; you’ve helped enough others through difficult times to truly understand that it’s simply part of life, for everyone. You’ve had enough life experience to cushion the often careless blows and put them into perspective. You understand that there is a flip side to all emotions. But now you’re faced with the fact that when Hero Support shows up sad, hurt or weak, it causes a problem; Hero Support can’t do their job if they are not “emotionally stable”.

Hero Support’s entire identity and/or purpose is put into jeopardy if they lose their cool or ability to handle their own mess. After all, from all appearances, you really have nothing to complain about. You are “the rock” and rocks that are used to hold things up are not very useful if they become soft. Hero Support doesn’t like to make others feel uncomfortable or waste their time, that’s not what support looks like. If you’re not “on” it makes those you support uncomfortable and wastes their time; or so it seems. Hero Support has become The Pleaser, your job is to make sure everyone is happy. Hero support is not comfortable in the “needing support” role, but who is comfortable in a role they don’t practice?

Who Supports You?

Does anyone support you the way you support others? Who empathizes and makes you feel emotionally secure and/or significant?

Sometimes it’s not until you are ready to accept help that you suddenly realize that you’ve spent so much time, and taken so much pride in, being there for others that you never let anyone be there for you. So now, instead of being scared of being hurt, now you just don’t want to face the hurt of having no one to support you. How can you have spent your whole life caring so much for so many and yet feel so alone? How does that happen? What does that mean? How did you get into this situation and, more importantly, how can you get out?

How comfortable are you with giving support? And receiving it? Can you take a compliment? Do you share your stories?

How do you feel about those you support? Wouldn’t it be OK to let others feel that way about supporting you? What if you were to think of allowing others to support you as a gift to them? Do you know that you ARE worthy of it? Do you know that you need it? We all do.

What would you do for a friend like you? When will you start? Sometimes it helps to think of it this way…if you don’t take care of you, who’s going to take care of your heroes? Remember…you can’t pour lemonade from an empty pitcher. Your feelings matter .

Hero Support people need support too. It’s OK to be strong for others and also, periodically, need/accept others being strong for you Nothing in nature thrives alone, nothing. The only time you ever see a tree in a field by itself is when some other/external force has taken the others away. In time, if that space is left untouched, either that single tree will die or others will grow around it. The strongest, healthiest forests are the fullest because of symbiotic relationships.

The healthiest bodies of water run two ways, spring/streams/rivers fill them and they in turn feed other springs/streams/rivers; the unhealthiest only run one (i.e. the Dead Sea in Israel). I believe that relationships are the same, everyone needs a place to give and a place to receive, either one without the other isn’t healthy long term and, ultimately, can’t thrive. Connection is a two-way street.

Are You Hero Support?

How many people know your favorite color, place to visit or even your dreams? Do you know theirs? Are you perceived as pretty much having it all together…not really “needing” anything?

Is it natural to want to do whatever you can for others; do they seem to come to you, open up and “know” that you will be there for them? Do you genuinely love to listen to and help others? Does it give you a sense of purpose?

How many “heroes” do you support? When did you take on this role? Is it still serving you? As a strength or a comfort? If it’s a strength, how are your boundaries? Do you know about personal boundaries?

What do you do to replenish yourself so that you can continue to be Hero Support from a place of strength?

When is the last time you let anyone see you cry? Do you still cry?  How about the last time you allowed someone to comfort you, to let you know they were there or just listen to what was going on in your head? How would it feel to be the Hero in your own life and ask for support?

I think Hero Support is an amazing and commendable character trait that is fundamental to any thriving community. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t occasionally need support too, you’re still human. One important key for Hero Support is having someone to share with, something I’ll be writing about next…

If any of this sounds familiar, or a topic you’d be interested in delving into deeper, contact me and let’s keep the conversation going.

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We are only ever as great or small as we allow ourselves to be.

I think, deep inside, we all know that this is true but, for some reason, we allow others so much input into who we become, even though we are the only ones who are actually there for the whole show. So, if we are like actors in this play called “life”, who is your director? Who is writing your story line… the next scene… the ending?

Who is in the audience? Are they friends- family- colleagues or strangers?  Are you trying to impress them or are they there to support and encourage you no matter what? Will they stay for the next scene or will it depend on your performance? Which of them do you expect to be there when the curtains are closing and who is there helping you “backstage”?

What role are you playing?  Was it your first choice or the one you thought you were most capable of? Was it handed to you, or did you have to work hard for it? And now….? What do you think about this role? Will/Does it allow you to live up to your full potential?  Do you feel like you are BEING ALL YOU CAN BE or is there something more?

How do you feel about it?  Are you happy or satisfied?  Enough to spend the rest of your life playing it?  What have you learned? Is this role what you thought it would be? Does the “costume” still fit or have you outgrown it? Has it become even more comfortable, tight and restricting, or way too big?  Is there a new and/or different role you’d like to try before it’s too late?

If you’re stuck in a role or a story line that doesn’t provide you with happiness or life satisfaction, why are you still there? What value are you getting from, or trading for, continuing? Is that value worth your sense of fulfillment from life? Does it make you grateful to be alive? Are you, generally speaking, excited to get up each morning? If so, great, you’re probably right where you belong, but if not… don’t let a few bad scenes determine the entire play. Be bold enough to stand up for yourself and make a change… We will never make everyone happy, but imagine if we all took responsibility for making ourselves happy? I believe the people in our lives that truly love us would rather have us happy in a new role than simply getting through each day in the wrong role. After all, if they spend any significant time around us, my guess is that they too will reap the benefits.

One day your role in this “play” will end; is there anything you can do now to help ensure that you can answer all those questions the way you want to when that time comes?

Remember when you were young and you imagined what/who you would be when you “grew up”? How you would feel?  Are you there? On your way? If not, what’s stopping you?  What’s the worst that could happen if you tried?  Are you sure?  Is that fact or something your mind is making up to keep you in the “comfort zone”? How much time have you spent exploring the edges?  Either way, is it worth it?  Can you deal with, even overcome, whatever that “worst” may be? Is it any harder than getting to the end of  the show and realizing you did nothing?  What are you hoping for and how do you foresee that happening? 

What if it’s as simple as changing the way you look at your life rather than actually changing anything in your life? Maybe all you need to do is shift your focus and realize that you are not just an actor in this play, you get to write it… What if you are living the life of your dreams and just haven’t taken the time to realize/appreciate it? Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily grind we lose sight of what’s right in front of us. We get so easily impressed by someone else’s “role” or “costume” that we forget how great our own is too.  What if you were to intentionally look for all that’s good/right in your life, avoiding comparisons, at least a couple of times a day….every day?

How do you want the next scene to go? Can you visualize your perfect “ending”? What do you need to do to get yourself one tiny step closer to “really happy”, to “I love my life” and/or “I’m so glad I didn’t wait another minute to try that”?

Go for it… the show will go on either way….what have you got to lose?  Be the Director of your own life, make your childhood dreams come true, you CAN do it…

It may not be quick or easy but…so what?  You’re worth it! (and you have to stick around for the whole show anyway…)

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This is YOUR TIME to shine, but you have to TAKE IT… 

 

Mindfulness seems to be somewhat of a Buzz Word lately, even in circles it’s rarely been mentioned in before. Why is this? Is it because of “the grass is always greener…” phenomena? Have we, as a society, gotten so far away from being mindful that it has become the coveted “thing we don’t have”? I don’t know, but I think there’s a connection. I think things” have gotten so fast, even somewhat automatic, that taking a moment to be mindful of our life feels like coming up for a breath of air after swimming across the entire length of the pool under water. No one will deny that huge sense of accomplishment when you finally make it across the whole pool without surfacing; but how good does that breathe of air feel the moment you finish? That’s what mindfulness feels like to me, filling your life with more of those quality “moments”.

Mindfulness is practiced by many different people in many different ways and for just as many reasons, very much like meditation. Some people confuse mindfulness with meditation, and although they are often combined in mindfulness meditation (ex. being mindful of your breath while meditating), mindfulness is merely one of many types of meditation.  Generally speaking, the goal of meditation is to reach a heightened level of overall consciousness as a human being, whereas mindfulness is about living in the now; being aware of what is happening as it is happening without judgment, without even necessarily thinking about it, just experiencing it as it actually is. In short, the goal of mindfulness is to focus on being in the present, one moment at a time. Both are great practices alone and/or together. Knowing what you want to achieve and finding the method that works for you is what’s important. Personally, I have a daily practice of mindfulness, and I try to incorporate mediation into my life as often as I can. So, even though I don’t always make time for meditation, I’m always working on mindfulness.

Lately, I’ve been asked “Why do people practice mindfulness and “What’s so great about it”? I imagine answers vary greatly depending on who you ask. For me, having a mindfulness practice helps me stay grounded in my most authentic self, thereby helping me to get the most out of my life (becoming my Best Self to live my Best Life). By regularly touching base with what is real and how I feel about it, as opposed to what I think about it (or even what others think about it), I become more consciously aware of what is truly important to me, what matters to me; as opposed to allowing myself to get too caught up in or carried away with the everyday fast paced auto pilot of social comparisons and competitions; all of the external “shoulds”, which is so easy to do. This may sound strange but, by purposefully staying in touch my core values, I end up taking a more active role in living my life intentionally (instead of waking up and realizing that years have passed and wondering where the time has gone).

Some still wonder why that’s important to me. After having a mindfulness practice for a while, I have definitely noticed that I am far more grounded, stable and comfortable in my beliefs surrounding who I really am (my most authentic/best self), who I want to be (the role I want to have in my life story), and how I want to live and/or show up so that I feel good when I go to bed each night. I believe this is because now, as a result of this practice, when I am faced with certain situations, I am better able to instinctively stop for a second…and  consciously choose how to respond; versus before I would have merely reacted and, much of the time, fought with myself later about that reaction; How could I have said or done such a stupid thing, what was I thinking, etc.… thereby continuing to waste more of my life feeling badly about myself and, thus, creating a negative chain reaction; setting a mood/tone for whatever came next based on something that was already done. Now, because I work on making a habit out of stopping (if only for a split second) and getting in touch with what actually is, as opposed to my thoughts around it (i.e. how it should/shouldn’t be or even how others might perceive it), I am more aware of the difference between consciously choosing a response that is true to me versus reacting from a place of fear, anger, excitement, etc.… a place triggered by my thoughts and/or emotions about the situation instead of the actual situation. The more subtle, yet constantly increasing, benefit I feel is an overall sense of more depth in more moments of my life; I actually notice more incredible things than I use to on an ordinary day. I have become increasingly aware of how amazing our universe is and it helps fill me with a sense of gratitude even when I may be having a bad day.  In the long run, the ability to appreciate the richness of these moments more fully, adds up to more days, weeks, months, etc. and eventually more of my life.

Ultimately, by making a practice of mindfulness I am basically just training my brain to periodically stop and be more aware of things that are happening, as they are happening, and process them without judgement or even too much thought. Very much the same way I have trained my brain to drive a large suburban down crowded streets and end up at Target without much recollection of how I got there; it’s all about creating a habit through repetition, and it’s amazing how quickly your brain can adapt. Your brain is an incredible piece of a physiological miracle. When I’m driving to Target, for example, I am generally not triggered by emotions or thoughts about the trip, so my mind is free to wander. It wanders over to thoughts about the past, the future, songs on the radio…and before I know it, I’m parking the car. Now, because of my practice, when I, and/or my body, am triggered by emotions or thoughts, I am better able to notice the sensation of my mind running away (or sometimes just spinning) and stop it. Sort of like training a loyal pet who, because of past experiences, trusts you unconditionally so that when you ask it not to run off, it instinctively listens. Eventually, some pets will actually wait and look to you for a command before even considering running off; you have earned that trust. In much the same way, mindfulness has allowed me to become better at controlling my thoughts as opposed to allowing my thoughts to be in control of me.

As far as what my mindfulness practice is, I try to be mindful most of the time; whether I’m doing menial tasks around the house or having serious conversations with loved ones. I make an effort to stay mindful when I’m with my kids and even when I’m at the gym. However, almost every day I make a point to consciously dedicate some time to my practice, much the same way I dedicate time to the other muscles in my body that I want to maintain or strengthen.  To do this, I generally walk outside, in nature, with my dog. I watch the trees, sometimes a butterfly or a bird, or just my dog as he appreciates everything around him, with no obvious thoughts or judgments about anything beyond the moment. I do, and have done, many other types of mindfulness meditations and practices, but as for a consistent practice, which I feel is the most important ingredient for success at anything, for me, it’s always involved walking, nature, and the conscious decision to release all thoughts and judgments about whatever is happening from my mind and just be aware of WHAT IS. I notice thoughts and judgments when they occur (because they definitely still occur) I just don’t give them any time or attention. I notice it’s happening and I practice moving on, letting them go by like a cloud in the sky and I refocus on what is happening around me.

Do you have a mindfulness practice? What is it? Don’t have one yet? What will it be? You can google “mindfulness” and get more ideas and/or possibilities than you have time to try; check it out and see if any of them speak to you. What have you got to lose?

The way I look at it is this: The human body is between 50 and 75% water, with the average human body consisting of around 55%. That is at least half of our body weight! Knowing that, try to imagine yourself as a large container of water. When that container is calm, the surface area of the water is like a mirror, accurately reflecting all of its surroundings. However, if you rattle that container, throw a pebble into it, etc.… the water begins to ripple and the reflection of its surroundings becomes distorted. I think of having a mindfulness practice as a tool to help “keep my waters calm” so that when “life happens”, I can process a clear reflection of what is actually happening and choose how to respond. As opposed to reacting to a distorted perception of that reality.

Have fun finding a practice that works best for you, no matter what it ends up being. Maybe you’ll come up with something brand new and unique to you. Maybe you’ll have a few different practices for various times/situations and/or circumstances in your life. There are no rules, the important thing is that it works for you and that you do it, that’s really all that matters!

Be an active participant in your life, one moment at a time. You won’t be sorry!

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