What makes you laugh?

August 7, 2009 at 12:30 am | Posted in laughter | 2 Comments
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I have learned to hold my so-called plans very loosely. This leaves so much more space and time for spontaneity and creativity and joy.

Those of you who’ve been a part of my journey for the last several years know that I launched my life’s work, Authentic Life Consulting, nearly 6 years ago. About that same time I began the 3-year process of earning my master’s degree. After completing my M.A., my dream/plan was to work with Authentic Life clients, facilitate groups, begin my first book, start a non-profit. None of those dreams have disappeared . . . but the timing has shifted a bit.

Fast-forward to several months ago when I made the agonizing decision to separate from my husband, move back to southern California where I grew up and, in many respects, start over again. Of course, one of the most significant “fresh start” elements involves getting back on track financially. It’s utterly amazing to me though, how some of this particular life aspect is being addressed.

I’m caring for three children, beautiful kids ages 1, 3 and 5, three mornings a week, and will soon be providing tutoring and after-school care for two more children, five afternoons a week.

There’s no way I could have foreseen these complementary opportunities, even just two months ago! Yet, they’re perfectly orchestrated. So, this is the first thing that makes me laugh, with amazement and relief — being reminded again that I have free will, intelligence, and energy, but ultimately, I’m not in control.

The second thing that makes me laugh is the sweet and unexpected gift of being with young children on a regular basis. Their silliness and honesty is so immediate and refreshing. What a blast!

What makes you laugh?

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What’s the toughest part of loving someone well?

April 29, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Posted in Truthtelling | 6 Comments
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As a recovering “good girl” (one who works overtime to protect herself by trying to be perfect, keeping others happy, and avoiding conflict at all costs), certainly the toughest part of loving someone well is telling the truth about who I am.

And yet, learning to step out of fear and self-protection, and expressing my truth in as caring a way as possible is the essential element in living authentically.

I would hazard a guess that for many of you, like me — whether you’ve spent much of your life hiding your true self behind being “good” or “tough” or “focused on fun” — truth-telling in your meaningful relationships can feel terrifying. Because you may have experienced a long time ago that when you honestly shared your feelings and needs, you were minimized or ignored or abused or abandoned. (For more details on key styles of relating, see Dan Allender’s The Wounded Heart, even if sexual abuse is not a part of your story.)

What could be more important than engaging with a process that supports you in trusting and loving yourself, so you can love others well?

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How do you practice gratitude?

April 20, 2009 at 10:31 pm | Posted in Gratitude | 1 Comment
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I’m not one to stick my head in the sand or cop a Pollyanna attitude, but I purposely limit my exposure to TV, radio, print and internet news. Somehow I manage to stay in touch with current events without inundating myself with crisis-based stories that can send my spirits nosediving.

It’s important to stay informed, but in my experience it’s far more essential to care for myself so that I can effectively care for others. My number-one, daily self-care intention is practicing gratitude, usually first thing in the morning for 10-15 minutes. For me, this generally means reading a page or 2 of something by one of my favorite authors (i.e., Parker Palmer, Sue Monk Kidd, Henri Nouwen, John O’Donohue, Frederick Buechner), then meditating and/or journaling about what I’ve read.

I let myself sit in silence for a bit and simply listen, which gradually flows into more mediation or prayer about specific issues in my life, in the lives of people I love, in our world. And this is where gratitude comes in.

I ask for the fearlessness to accept whatever’s going on around and within me, to see it as a gift. Of course, it’s easier to embrace the “fun” stuff, like starting a new client or taking a trip to Tuscany, than it is to be thankful for my aging uncle’s illness or a friend’s shattered marriage. The main thing I know is that when I release my resistance to what is and receive the change with gratitude — just as Eckhart Tolle writes about in The Power of Now — a very elemental shift can happen.

I rarely understand the shift in an intellectual way; it’s an internal process that I sense. And the shift doesn’t always happen. When it does, though, my spirit becomes tender. I stop fighting. I’m no longer afraid of what or who might come my way. I’m at peace with who I am and in knowing I’m right where I need to be to do what I’m called to do.

How do you practice gratitude?

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What was your favorite toy as a child?

February 3, 2009 at 9:15 pm | Posted in Play | Leave a comment
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Maybe my old clamp-on roller skates are rusting away in a corner of my mother’s garage. I don’t know. They definitely saw lots of action when I was 7, 8, 9 years old. I always used to try and wear my skates with my tennis shoes, which never worked very well because there wasn’t any hard edge for the skates to fasten to. My scuffed-up saddle shoes were the best.

Somewhere in my mom’s home movie collection (remember those hulking 8 mm cameras?) there’s some footage of me rollerskating downhill with my cousins, my 2 long braids swinging in rhythm with the big skate key around my neck, my tongue sticking out of one side of my mouth as I labored to stay upright. I was not terribly athletic but I loved to skate!

All these skating memories came up for me recently when I received an electronic questionnaire called the “2009 Girlfriends Survey.” You may have gotten it, asking about 57 little-known details about your life, like “What’s your favorite candy?” and “Do you wish on stars?” The question that generated the most enthusiastic response, by far, from my friends was “What was your favorite toy as a child?”

That’s what I’d love to hear to hear about from you today — What was your favorite toy as a child? Feel free to be as descriptive as you like.

How are you staying awake to life?

January 21, 2009 at 7:23 pm | Posted in Creative Risk | 3 Comments
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“Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love? We still and always want waking. We should amass half dressed in long lines like tribesmen [or women] and shake gourds at each other, to wake up; instead we watch television and miss the show.”

In the above quote Annie Dillard (in her book, The Writing Life) is referring to the capacity of a good writer to rouse us from the mundane and infuse our hearts and minds with a sense of fresh possibility.

Reading is a wonderful way to shake up your perspective, one of my favorites. But what else can you do to juice up your reality? Sometimes the smallest change — like taking a different route to work or trying a new recipe — can transform how you think and feel. It doesn’t have to be a major shift, like learning a foreign language or becoming a political activist or moving to a new town . . . but it could be.

The point is to do something — hopefully, every day — to stay awake to life . . . so that you’re not caught off guard by death or love or crisis when it shows up in your life.  These elements are part of all our lives.  Fear can make us avoid people or situations that make us uncomfortable, but it’s our willingness to embrace drama and break away from the ordinary that keep us truly alive.

How are you staying awake to life today?

What does your heart need right now?

January 8, 2009 at 6:50 pm | Posted in Emotional honesty | 2 Comments
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It’s really easy for us to get stuck in thinking in a linear way. After all, it’s a pretty linear world that most of us live in, right? The kind of world where reasoning traditionally follows a fairly 1-2-3 pattern. For example, “I need to work at a job that pays well enough, so I can save enough money, so I can buy a house, so I can start a family.” Or, “I need to stay in relationship with this particular person because without him/her I can’t survive financially and we’ve got a family to support and, besides, what would people think?”

Do you hear the fear that can often accompany linear thinking? Fear that if you don’t do things in a particular style or sequence, you won’t get what you need . . .

In his book, The Theft of the Spirit: A Journey to Spiritual Healing, Carl Hammerschlag refers to the heroic journey being one where we recognize and confront our fear so we can move past it to discover our truth. I like to believe that this is what the Authentic Life process is all about — moving from fear-based living to a reality based on trust, becoming more honest and free along the way.

Wherever you are today is exactly where you need to be, to learn what you’re called to learn. When you feel you’ve learned what you can — and your heart is ready for a fresh direction — move on.

There are times when a linear approach is appropriate and other times when it can keep you from movement, growth, change. Sense the difference, release the fear. Take a leap of faith and ask yourself, “What does my heart need right now?”

So tell me, what does your heart need right now?

What do you expect from your relationship?

November 17, 2008 at 8:15 pm | Posted in Emotional honesty | 2 Comments
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I’ve been listening to an audio version of Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, and recently heard a familiar idea posed in a brand new way.

Tolle writes about the impossible expectation that many of us have that when we find the “right” lover, spouse, or friend, we’re going to experience a transcendently joyful relationship. Quite a few of us seem to believe that a relationship is going to make us happier. Tolle points out, however, that relationships are meant to teach us, not necessarily bring us bliss. Certainly, relationships can bring us love and deep fulfillment, but the discomfort or heartbreak we also can feel is designed to help us learn and express who we are and also discover more about the other person.

I agree with this concept – how about you? What have you learned through a recent relational conflict?

Imagine how our families and communities would be transformed if each of us could embrace the opportunity in conflict . . . if we didn’t avoid it or get explosive about it but were committed to exploring it together and better understanding each other’s needs. What incredible light and truth would fill our lives and our world.

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How do you keep your love alive? Try affirmation.

October 14, 2008 at 10:46 pm | Posted in Affirmation | 4 Comments
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What do you suppose this woman has just told this slightly amused-looking man?

• “Not here, John!”
• “No, you didn’t really tell my mother that story!”
• “We’ve been dating for 3 years now, don’t you know I love you?”

Or, perhaps, this guy has just received an affirmation from his friend, a few encouraging words about an aspect of his character – “John, I really admire how calm and steady you are, you always put me at ease.”

It’s words of affirmation like this – when spoken by someone you trust — that help you feel valued and cared for. At times when you’re discouraged and insecure, words of affirmation also can remind you of who you are and help you get back on track.

You may have been told that receiving too many compliments will give you a big head, but I disagree. Experience tells me that when I receive honest affirmation from someone who truly knows me, I feel humbled and just want to keep embodying the qualities my friend says are true about me.

Setting the intention to be affirming to others is one of the most loving gifts you can give someone. Begin by looking for those qualities that you appreciate most about your partner, spouse or best friend, then communicate how you feel. Try at least one affirmation a day to start.

Can you recall the last time you were affirmed or you affirmed someone else? How did it make you feel?

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What if you wrote a memoir?

October 8, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Storytelling | 4 Comments
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Memoirs are sizzling hot in the book world just now, and I’ve been devouring them! Real life stories often have the capacity to inspire, encourage, entertain, amaze, and move us even more dramatically than fiction. In the last few months I’ve read:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou) – The first 11 calamitous years in the well-known poet/activist’s life.

The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls) – A news journalist’s growing-up years in the midst of extreme poverty and neglect.

Left to Tell (Immaculee Ilibagiza) – A young Rwandan woman’s survival in the midst of the horrific 1994 genocide in her country.

Beautiful Boy (David Sheff) – A father’s perspective of his son’s battle with meth addiction.

Each of these stories is riveting in its own way . . . and each of us has similarly powerful stories to share. I’ve been musing about what aspect of my life I might address, were I to write a memoir — I think I’d explore my relationship with my father, who passed away 10 years ago.

How about you, what if you wrote a memoir? What season of your life would you describe . . . and/or . . . what memoir have you recently read and enjoyed?

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How do you keep your love alive?

October 2, 2008 at 5:57 pm | Posted in love | 1 Comment
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It’s one of the most dizzying and blissful feelings in the world, being in love. However, after the first few heart-pounding months whiz by, there generally comes a season for exploring deeper emotional sharing . . . a time for the practical and demanding process of learning to love another human being. This second phase of love can feel impossibly tough, especially if you have little idea how to step beyond trying just to get your own needs met.

In his book, “Here and Now,” the spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, comments on our human desire for love and connection, and the complexity that goes along with developing emotional closeness:

“The other, who for a while may have offered us an experience of wholeness and inner peace, soon proves incapable of giving us lasting happiness and instead of taking away our loneliness only reveals to us its depth. The stronger our expectation that another human being will fulfill our deepest desires, the greater the pain when we are confronted with the limitations of human relationships. And our need for intimacy easily turns into a demand.”

Loving someone often feels like incredibly hard work, doesn’t it? But choosing to engage in deep relationship is the most rewarding work we’ll ever do.

Quality work requires good tools, so here’s one that I believe is absolutely essential in nurturing lasting love. On a regular basis take the time to assess your needs and express them to your loved one. Then listen as the other person shares his/her needs with you. Finally, re-commit to try and meet one another’s needs as much as is humanly possible, not out of duty but out of a desire to care for each other.

What’s one of your most reliable ways to keep love alive?

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