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?

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 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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Living authentically “Down to My Bones”

August 20, 2008 at 5:28 pm | Posted in Life Calling | 1 Comment
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Speaking and living one’s truth. This is something I think about a lot, try to practice faithfully, and love to discuss with others nearly every day. Speaking and living truth is my elemental life value.

As a result, I’m always impressed when I see someone daring to live authentically, and I’ll be profiling them here from time to time. Derek Turner embraces this fearless lifestyle (see my January 1, 2008 post) and so does Jenny Leigh Antill.

Jenny is a lovely singer and composer whose first CD, “Down to My Bones,” will be released September 6. In this haunting compilation of songs Jenny explores the depths of human love and loss, the hope we can share, and strips bare her own soul in the process. Her willingness to be honest about her own journey is a powerful invitation for us to do the same. You can listen to a few sample tracks here.

If you like what you hear, let Jenny know . . . and forward her website to your friends.

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Community-building one smile at a time

January 22, 2008 at 6:24 pm | Posted in Community-building | 1 Comment
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When you’re waiting with a crowd til your plane boards or sitting alongside others in the park during your lunch hour . . . do you tend to make eye contact with those around you, or do you avoid it?

There are all kinds of reasons why you might be inclined not to meet the gaze of a total stranger, including:

* inseparable bonding with your laptop, ipod, or cell phone,

* discomfort with your appearance,

* cultural inappropriateness,

* belief that if you lock eyes with someone, they might “come on” to you or they’ll think you’re hitting on them,

* shyness,

* fear that someone will actually engage you in conversation and you don’t want to take time to talk.

If I’m not careful, I can sometimes fall into this last category.

Let’s imagine, though, that you have absolutely nothing to fear or distrust in simply making eye contact with another person and smiling. Wouldn’t it be a revolutionary step toward community-building if each of us could take a few seconds to be more intentional about connecting with one another . . . with friendly eyes and a sincere smile?

It may sound corny but, perhaps, it’s just because it’s so true — sharing a smile with someone can really lift your own spirits and greatly encourage the other person as well. As Dan Allender writes in The Healing Path, your smile can often lead to conversation and discovery of life stories that have “the potential to change our lives.”

Why not give it a try this week? Deliberately make eye contact with someone you don’t know . . . and smile. Then let me know what happens.

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Take the first step toward your dream

January 1, 2008 at 11:14 pm | Posted in Life Calling | Leave a comment
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Whew! The holiday season — as lovely as it was in many ways — really zapped my blogging time! Hello again . . . and thank you for embracing with me this journey toward authentic life.

Many of us have seen and heard the phrases, “Pursue your dream” and “Follow your bliss” throughout our lives. They’ve been plastered on the sides of buses, stenciled on coffee mugs, included in the titles of best-selling books, and amplified from TV commercials. But how many people do you know who are actually living their dreams?

Derek Turner is one man who’s doing this very thing.

A tall, red-haired lover of world cultures and photography who wants to change the world, Derek graduated from college several years ago and since then has worked and traveled extensively. Toward mid-2007, when he was about 30, Derek began thinking about getting a “real” job with a salary and benefits. You know — Stability. But also he dreamed of more adventuring, this time around the globe in a sailboat even though he knew nothing about sailing.

In an effort to make the wisest choice between stability and passion, Derek asked a number of friends for their input on his decision. All of them encouraged him to pursue his sailing dream. I bet a few of them were pea-green with envy over his freedom to entertain such a vision.

Today Derek is a deck hand on the Nicole Marie, a 33-foot sailboat owned and captained by his friend, Dan Patterson. These two voyagers are currently making their way toward the southern tip of South America, stopping intermittently at ports along the way and spending time with local residents. You can track their progress on Derek’s blog, The World by Sea.

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Now here’s where Derek’s passion to change the world becomes evident. He’s formed a non-profit entity, Lampstand, which exists to collect financial contributions so that he and Dan can buy food, clothes, medical care, and other resources for the impoverished people they meet during their port visits.

Dreams and life callings come in all shapes and sizes; they can last for a few months or ’til the day you die. The point is, no dream is too “crazy” or “impractical” to pursue. Dreams are not just for other people, like Derek, to turn into reality. They’re for you too, regardless of how many reponsibilities you may have.

Think about doing just one thing today or this week that will give you a little more room for an old dream to re-emerge or a new vision to be born. To get the creative juices flowing, kick around some ideas with a friend, do some reading or research on a particular topic, try a free workshop.

Go ahead. Take the first, simple step toward your dream.

Get your ya-ya’s out – it’s play time!

November 21, 2007 at 6:53 pm | Posted in Play | 2 Comments
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little-wolf.png“Little Wolf” is the name of the magical house and wild mountain acreage owned by my cousin Susan, her husband, and members of his family. Isolated amid conifers and madrone high above the Klamath River in northern California, Little Wolf is a sanctuary for those seeking simplicity. I returned to Phoenix late last week after spending 5 days at Little Wolf . . . and by now I’ve almost made the shift from spontaneous wilderness time to my more structured urban agenda.

This is the third fall season I’ve visited Susan at Little Wolf. Susan’s sister, Lindy, also flew out this year from Santa Fe, New Mexico. The three of us share similar life passions and spiritual awareness, and during our get-away time we talked about everything under the sun, from our children, to creative destiny, to sex. We also hiked in the woods, read, sang, slept in late, baked a pumpkin pie, prayed, worked with clay, drank wine, and swapped stories by the fire. We giggled like school girls and laughed — a lot! Laughed so hard our stomachs ached. In short, we played together.

easusan.pngOn our last morning we reflected on what our most meaningful take-aways would be from this year’s Little Wolf experience. Lindy began with, “Peace, fulfillment, rest.” Susan added, “A more open approach to community.” I said, “A reminder to create time for active play.”

For me, active play means more than relaxing or taking part in sports activities. It’s about seeking interests we choose to practice or discover for the pure, exhilarating, participatory fun of it. There’s an element of learning in it and also a willingness to release anxiety about a particular pursuit being embarrassing, weird, or overly difficult.

easusanlindy.pngEmbracing active play starts with identifying elements that, perhaps, we’ve always thought sounded appealing but (for a hundred different reasons) have never given a try. What do you think might energize you or get you laughing so uproariously that the tears stream down your face? Here are some of the active play ideas I’m considering for myself as well as for my husband and myself:

* Classes in gourmet cooking, home decorating, desert landscaping, pottery-making, jewelry-making, western swing dancing (this last one makes me nervous but at the same time, I can see it being really fun)

* Hiking or rafting trips in all the U.S. national parks, shorter local hiking trips

* Bed-and-breakfast hopping

* Singing in a folk or bluegrass group

What are some of the things you already do or that you’d like to do for “active play,” to get your ya-ya’s out?

Those liberating creative risks

October 16, 2007 at 5:19 am | Posted in Creative Risk | 2 Comments
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neptunus-rex.pngCreating something new that’s never existed before can be scary business. Whether you’re delivering a motivational speech, or singing an original song, or sharing a feeling with a friend that you’ve never voiced before, or having a baby — you can never be sure how others will respond to what you’ve so lovingly crafted. It’s always a risk, isn’t it?

The sensationally encouraging news is that even though it’s rewarding to have others appreciate our creativity, there are times when it’s good and right to take the risk to put something fresh out there in the universe and release any anxiety about the reaction of others. How incredibly liberating to stand back and declare, “I did it!” It makes us feel alive.

Today I hope you’ll indulge my parental pride for a few moments as I celebrate my son Logan’s willingness to take creative risks. The particular risk he took about 18 months ago was to move from Phoenix to New York City to pursue his passion to write professionally. One of the projects he wanted to work on with his friend Robbie was a film script. The very short version of that lengthy process is that now the 41-minute film, “Neptunus Rex,” is finished. In fact, it premiered this past weekend at the New Hampshire Film Festival and was awarded “Best Student Film.”

This is one of those times when creative risk met with praise. But the dream of critical acclaim was not the prime motivating force behind Logan and Robbie writing a film script. They came up with a novel concept and some endearing characters who had a fun, distinctive story that simply begged to be told.

Taking creative risks — whether or not there’s an audience, whether or not we’re pleased with the result — is an essential element in our becoming more whole and fearless . . . and infinitely more free.

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