I bet when you think of all the things that might be holding you back from attaining the life you desire –career, relationship, love, friendships, support, health, creativity, finances, etc.– you don’t automatically put self judgment at the top of your list.
In fact, many high achieving people, perfectionists included, think that negative self talk is beneficial.
But the research shows a different story:
“The #1 barrier [to a willingness to learn how to release self judgment and learn] self-compassion is fear of being complacent and losing your edge. And all the research shows that’s not true. It’s just the opposite,”
Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin
In fact, according to Dr. Neff, there are five myths about self-compassion that keep us stuck in the negative mindset loop.
Self-compassion is a form of self pity. ➡️ The research shows that compassion and pity are actually near enemies. Pity is a form of separation, while compassion allows us to see ourselves and all of humanity as imperfect evolving beings.
Self-compassion is a sign of weakness. ➡️ The research shows that self-compassion leads to higher levels of resilience, inner strength, and achievement.
Self-compassion will lead to self-indulgence. ➡️ The research shows that replacing self-judgment with self-compassion is actually linked to healthier behaviors.
Self-compassion is selfish. ➡️ Research shows that self-compassionate people have more concern for and are more caring and supportive and forgiving … and that this is reciprocated in their relationships.
Self-compassion will undermine my motivation ➡️ The research shows that self-compassion is actually linked to higher motivation. Our personal standards remain high but we have less fear of failure and more grit and determination to succeed.
Let’s look at another researcher:
“Self-criticism can take a toll on our minds and bodies. It can lead to ruminative thoughts that interfere with our productivity, and it can impact our bodies by stimulating inflammatory mechanisms that lead to chronic illness and accelerate aging.”
–Dr. Richard Davidson, founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Does that sound like something you want in your life?
Choose to interrupt those negative patterns and replace them with a new soundtrack.
If you’re anything like me, it’s more often than you realize.
Last Lent, I chose to give up judgment. Going in, I didn’t think I was a very judgmental person. But I figured it was a good thing to do anyway. “Even a little judgment goes a long way, and the world is a better place without it,” I said to myself smugly, (unaware that I was already judging those people I know who are always judging others.)
The challenge induced me to pay attention to all the different ways I judged. I was blown away by how often I really did judge other people, especially loved ones, and even more amazed by how often I judged myself!
Of course, judging in its principle form is neutral. You’ve just formed an opinion of something. “Judgment is a good thing, really,” I can hear you saying to yourself. “Without good judgment, people make poor decisions.” (I’m imagining a finger wagging lecture here.)
But (without going into the difference between judgment and discernment,) many times our opinions are toxic and mean, and they contribute to the toxicity of the world (even if we don’t mean for them to.)
We get a fix of self righteousness for judging others. And for a minute, it makes us feel better than them.
But what about what it’s doing to us after that first minute? What’s causing us to feel those feelings that come before we judge another anyway? Perhaps we feel hurt, or betrayed, insecure, disappointed, or vulnerable. After all, we’ve probably been judging ourselves all day.
According to research, all that negative self talk is the root of many of our other struggles.
“Self judgment leads to feelings of shame and unworthiness, and is the basis of many problems we experience with our relationships, careers, and creative endeavors.” –Clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Tara Brach
Hmmm. Self judgment could be the root cause of those areas where I’m still feeling stuck?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself …
Have you done tons of personal growth work, yet still feel like you’re hitting a brick wall in an area (or two?)
Are you tired of being single, but have trouble finding the trust you require in a relationship?
Or are you married but your relationship isn’t giving you the strength and joy you need?
Do you have an idea for the next phase of your life but feel afraid of letting go of the known to make that next leap into the unknown?
Maybe you’ve been thinking about trying something new FOR FOREVER, but stay frozen in indecision, unable to be sure it is right for you.
Do you want to feel supported, but struggle to ask for and accept help?
Do you have good solid friendships and a full life, but still feel alone?
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
See, here’s the thing: all these negative thoughts running through your mind turn into beliefs when they’re repeated often enough. And beliefs are the hidden scripts that run our lives.
“Your beliefs are THE master commanders of your behavior and your results. Beliefs control our bodies and how we respond to crises, criticisms and opportunities. They tell us what to notice, what to focus on, what it means, and what to do about it. “–Marie Forleo, entrepreneur, writer, philanthropist
And on top of that, beliefs beget behavior.
Which is a fancy alliterative way of saying that the script running through your mind all day long can keep you stuck …
OR you can choose to interrupt those negative patterns and replace them with a new soundtrack.
I found the detox process so valuable, I put together a 30-Day Challenge so I could offer it to you this year.
I’d love to hear from you … when are you at your most self-judgmental? What have you noticed about how you feel inside just before you snap a judgment about someone else? What practice(s) have you found most valuable to curb your natural judgmental tendencies? Do you –like I did– think of yourself as a mostly non-judgmental person?
Personally, I’ve always had a love / hate relationship with Valentine’s Day … here’s where it started:
When I was in the 4th grade, I had a huge crush on this new dark haired boy in my class named Daniel.
I’d like to tell you that it was because he was kind, or brilliant, or the best speller in the class. But honestly, it was just because he was new, and I thought he was cute. And maybe because he was shy, and that seemed sweet.
I kept my feelings hidden to anyone but myself and my best friend Sherry –who liked him too– for months. We both spent many a daydream sitting by him in class, hanging out with him at recess, and other acts of 4th grade love.
Finally, on Valentine’s Day, we decided to reveal our secret crushes.
I scrutinized my entire box of Valentine’s cards to find the perfect phrase — one that said “I really like you a LOT” but that could also pass for just an average valentine’s card in case I needed to save face.
Probably something like one of these:
Next, I spent days agonizing over whether or not to sign my name or to be anonymous.
In a big burst of courage, Sherry decided she was going to sign her name to her card, so I was encouraged to risk it too. And then just to be certain he knew it was a special card for a special person, I also added a handful of cut out hearts inside the envelope.
Man. I still remember the breathless anticipation of waiting for acknowledgement… in vain … inspecting each of the valentines I received … breathlessly anticipating one with his signature. … Nothing!
And then the masterfully orchestrated denial that fell into place …. First, I convinced myself he hadn’t given valentines to anyone.
And then, once I knew I’d been dissed after Sherry reluctantly showed me her card (with such grace and genuine sadness for me, and no gloating at all) she suggested that his card to me must have fallen out and been accidentally thrown away by the janitor.
Because that’s the kind of friend she was.
My second major Valentine’s Day memory is from years later, when I was a junior in high school. I was the publicity manager of our student council, and that year we decided to sell carnations as a fund raiser.
By lunch time, it felt like everyone in the school had received a carnation –except me!
I was pretty forlorn and feeling sorry for myself, and my best friend Sherry had transferred to another school, so there was no one there to convince me my carnation had been dropped and accidentally thrown away by the janitor.
Just when I was ready to throw myself off the second floor balcony, the delivery person handed me a pink carnation –for friendship– from one of my guy friends.
I will never forget that small kindness.
Maya Angelou once said, “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.”
Let’s pause for a moment to consider …
It’s wonderful to have amazing friends who will either help you concoct the perfect face saving excuse when you didn’t get that valentine from the boy you liked, or that interview … or that second date, or whatever.
Or one who will supply you with exactly the encouragement you need at exactly the right time … whether that comes in the form of a pink carnation or a beautifully selected card, or simply kind words on a rough day.
I wish those kinds of friendships for you. Always.
Wouldn’t it also be amazing if you could always be that kind of friend … to YOURSELF?
Here’s a little quiz for you:
Do you often call yourself names (like dummy or stupid or ugly or fat)?
How often do you treat yourself with sarcasm?
Do you criticize yourself frequently?
Do you always say kind things to yourself when you look in the mirror?
Do you isolate yourself when you’re feeling most down?
When you’re having a bad day, do you obsess or fixate on everything that’s going wrong?
How do you treat yourself when you’re going through pain?
When you’re feeling inadequate about something, do you compare yourself to everyone else who seems to be better at it than you are?
How do you treat the parts of yourself that you don’t like?
When something painful happens, do you find yourself thinking about it over and over?
Based on your answers above, if YOU were your own best friend, would you even hang out with yourself?
For most women, the answer is no. And if someone was treating OUR best friend the way we treat ourselves, we’d tell them to end that friendship immediately. Right?
Even if not all of your answers to the questions were terrible, I bet there is still room for improvement, am I right?
So what can you do to practice being a better friend to yourself?
I read a book this week (written about five years ago) that said that we have a NINE SECOND attention span before we succumb to distraction. I bet it’s down to five now.
(Ha ha. Are you still here?)
Then, I read an article that pointed out that WE (you and me, all of us) have the power to create change, especially in our culture in our interactions with each other, with friends and family members, with power and authority, online and professionally, in our businesses and our platforms. We can interrupt the cultural norms we don’t consent to, and we can create new ones. This wasn’t new to me, as it’s been an evolving part of my manifesto for years, but I liked the way the article was worded.)
Have you ever thought of yourself as a culture shaper?
When I was first learning the HeartMath tools (ask me more) I took a year long program called Heart Mastery, which taught me how to apply the basic tools to all the aspects of my life in order to live a more Heart Centered life. In one of those classes, we talked about the power –and the value of– our ATTENTION.
I’m writing this just days before the Super Bowl, so it’s very relevant. Guess how much it costs to run a 30-second ad? I wish I could make you guess a couple times before I just tell you, but: $5.6 million for a 30-second slot!! Crazy, isn’t it? That’s how much your attention is worth.
Think of that the next time you’re deciding what to do with it.
It’s true that we place more value on the things we pay for … and WE certainly don’t value our own attention that much, do we? That’s why it’s so easy to get distracted from the Things We Really Want To Do.
So this year, I quit a few things:
I quit binging shows on Netflix … and prioritized my “to-do” list instead.
I quit my negative self – talk. (Or at least cut it waaaaay back … ) My new mantra is “everything is figuroutable” –thanks Marie*.)
I quit isolating myself … and prioritized my friendships and connections instead.
I quit ignoring my inner wisdom and depreciating my woo* … and had some major break throughs just this week.
It’s your turn:
What things are you ready to quit this year? What will you do with your time and attention instead? Let me know!
In the late ’90’s, I called myself the Bridesmaid on Wheels. I kid you not, between the years of 1998 and 2000 ALL my friends got married. And I was invited to be a bridesmaid in SO MANY weddings!! Which was wonderful.
But in the year 2000, when my second roommate in two years moved out, I decided that I was going to buy a house. By myself. For myself.
The spiritual tools I used to help me manifest my dream house came from Sonia Choquette, my first self-selected spiritual teacher. I followed her guidelines through the book Your Heart’s Desire: Instructions for Creating the Life You Really Want.
The three main tools? Desire, Imagination, and Action.
My desire was very clear. I wanted a log cabin, on acreage, with mountain views, on water, in my price range. (Which was around $120,000 at that time.) I applied the tools of imagination and action and found and fell in love with a super cute, but very run down log cabin on the Raging River (near the town of Preston, WA) that was at the end of a dead end road about a mile from a friend. It backed up against DNR land and was PERFECT. Except that the banks wouldn’t give me a loan for it because it had to be a non-conventional loan and I didn’t qualify. Oh man. I was so disappointed. But I didn’t give up.
More action, more looking at houses. So many well meaning people told me I should give up on my dream –for now– and buy a house in Kent, because the prices were lower. But then … (did you know miracles are simply a shift in perspective?) I got a bigger than usual raise, at the same time that ANOTHER super cute, less run down cabin on the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River towards the end of a dead end road with views of the mountains dropped its price significantly. I knew it was perfect before I even saw the inside –cathedral ceilings, amazing views– and on Memorial Day weekend 2000, I moved in.
Desire, Imagination, [Persistance], Action. And a great deal of love and appreciation for Sonia.
I’ve since followed that formula to manifest more amazing miracles in my life.
But a couple years ago, when I was struggling to make sense of some things, I decided to schedule a one on one appointment with Sonia. I felt stuck in my business and my relationship and wanted some insight to help me shake loose. Thirty minutes later my hope was rekindled and I had an action plan to move forward.
How about you? What are your desires? Do you feel like your imagination is rusty? Are you looking for more support? I have room for two new one on one clients this month.
Single sessions are $125 through February 1st, or you can purchase a package of four sessions for $475.
I have some big and scary news to share. (Scary in part because I get too hung up on what other people might think of me WAY too often, but also because it’s going to force me to stretch outside my comfort zone in a big big way.)
Are you ready for this? Drum roll please.
I am now an ordained minister!! 😲 (Astonished face emoji, in case that didn’t come through as that on your screen.)
This is not a decision I stepped into lightly.
For those of you who do not yet know me well, I consider myself to be a spiritual seeker. If I had to pinpoint when this began for me, I’d say that it was the Easter after I turned 12. My mom gave me a book called Mister God This is Anna, by Fynn. I don’t think her intention was to turn me into a spiritual seeker, as she is what I call “very Catholic,” and has spent many hours of prayer over the years in an attempt to coax me back inside the umbrella of Catholicism.
But I fell in love with Anna and her musings at the age of 12, and quite honestly, I can say that her philosophy shaped mine at least as much if not more than any other books on philosophy and religion that I’ve ever read. (And I’ve read a LOT!) (For a synopsis of the book, see the insert below.)
The book, Mister God this is Anna, describes the adventures of Anna, a mischievous yet wise four-year-old whom Fynn finds as a runaway. Sixteen-year-old Fynn takes Anna home to his mother who takes her in, though Fynn becomes Anna’s main caretaker and closest friend. Fynn recounts his time spent with Anna, and gives a very personal account of her outpourings on life, mathematics, science and her mentor, Mister God. At five years Anna knew absolutely the purpose of being, knew the meaning of love and was a personal friend and helper of Mister God. At six Anna was a theologian, mathematician, philosopher, poet and gardener. If you asked her a question you would always get an answer – in due course. On some occasions the answer would be delayed for weeks or months; but eventually, in her own good time, the answer would come: direct, simple and much to the point. *
*Quote from Wikipedia
I was going to add that unfortunately the book is out of print, because I tried finding it to give it to a friend years ago. But … I just did research and found out that it was re-released in the year 2000, –guess it was over 20 years ago that I last looked– so it’s possible to order a copy. AND there are sequels! Which I just ordered.
What I loved most … no, I can’t really say that because I loved everything. Let me try again … one belief that Anna and I share is that Mister God doesn’t care about religion. Mister God cares about relationship. And that’s what drew me to the Universal Life Church, specifically. It welcomes people of all cultures, creeds, and belief systems.
This Fall wasn’t the first time I considered ministry as a career. My spirituality has continued to deepen and spread into my work for the past several years. In fact, I considered applying for a ministry position at a local unity church when they were hiring a few years ago, but didn’t feel “qualified” because my beliefs don’t generally align with a traditional church.
However, this summer I read an article in Spirituality & Health magazine, called Is it Your Time to Add to the Wild Church Network? The author starts the article by saying, “I am one of those people, who, for most of 50 years, had said, “I don’t go to church; my church is the woods, the mountains, the rivers.” [Um. Yes. Me too!]
But then one day, he was out walking on his wild property and was called to create a church for people like him … “people who encounter God in the woods yet also long for human community with its ancient ritual and wisdom.”
I read further.
What Makes a Church a Wild Church?
Nature as Co-Congregant
What Makes a Wild Church a Church?
Meets in community.
Has a grounding Liturgy. But not the kind that recruits members into a dogma, but rather to invite people into a deeper relationship with an untamed God, the land, and creatures that share their home, and into a deeper relationship with their own wild, untamed soul.
Hmmm. I said. I wonder if we have one of those here? But I checked, and we don’t. Inviting people into a deeper relationship with an untamed God, the land, the creatures, and their own wild untamed soul is what I do anyway on my pilgrimages, my forest bathing expeditions, and in my 1:1 coaching.
And even though I am terrified at the thought of being labeled “a minister,” I am beyond excited at the thought of bringing people outside to “church” with nature.
I decided to start small, with one church session / month beginning in February. Service locations may vary, but I want to start at the Mouth of the Elwha, which is a newly wild river.
Sign up to get notifications and updates. And stay tuned for more from me on what it means to me to be the minister of a Wild Church.
I’ve been watching everyone do the ten year share … and finally got inspired to dig up my own version. This photo, taken in October of 2009 with (the first set) of my youngest brother’s twins, was the first I came across.
I was fit. Very fit. But recently unemployed and so stressed about my next steps I became a little manic. It was a couple years before I learned HeartMath (or Heart Magic as I’m calling my version now) and just a few weeks before I went to Shambhala meditation “camp” and learned to quiet my constantly running mind.
In contrast, here’s me this past November. I may not have changed that much on the outside, but in my inner life SO MUCH has changed.
How about you? When you look back at the last decade, do you see growth and wisdom? Do you see where you took that wrong turn? Or maybe you see where life threw you a curve ball that you haven’t QUITE recovered from … yet.
Either way, NOW is the best time to shine.
Start your year with eleven minutes of kindness: Click here for a Loving Kindness Meditation
Click here to join the Roaring Twenties, 20 Days of Kindness Challenge (and watch for your first email.)
Yesterday afternoon, Justin and I went to Christmas Eve Mass with my mom, my sister, and her family.
As is my practice since I was a kid, I zoned out during Father’s sermon. I have a special gift for this. Apparently, I’m so good at it that the priest generally thinks I’m paying rapt attention. (I know this because one of my favorite priests from my teen years told my parents he enjoyed giving his sermons when I was there because he could tell I paid avid attention. Ha ha. Not.) It’s my time during Mass when I allow my imagination to float away on its own. Who knows how many realms I’ve traveled during those sermons over the years.
Yesterday, I looked up at the mural of angels surrounding Mary, and began imagining myself into that scene, which reminded me of one of the spiritual practices I learned from Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. (See, I told you you’d be hearing more about this!) This practice is officially called Ignatian Contemplation. (You can learn more about Ignatian Spirituality here. Or under Resources in Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.) Vanessa and Casper (hosts of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text) tend to adapt the official practices a bit, which I love. In this practice, they invite you to enter the text through the eyes of any character you choose.
I decided to imagine myself into the gospel reading — the one you all probably know, from Luke, that begins “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken …” And then takes you through most of the characters and scenes you associate with the birth of Christ, from the angels in the sky to the shepherds in the fields, and into the stable with the animals, Mary, Jesus and Joseph.
I decided to imagine myself into the story, first as a shepherd, then as Mary. Before I could imagine any other characters, the congregation chuckled at Father’s second joke, which I missed entirely. (I was disappointed, actually, because the first one was pretty good.) So I popped back into the real world.
But, the practice made me feel more present to and added back a new level of sacredness to the story of Christmas that surprised me.
I thought as it was appropriate for Christmas, I would invite you to do the same, and give you a taste for yourself of one of the reasons I get so much out of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.
Sacred Imagination Practice
Step One: Choose any character you like. You can even choose other well-known characters not mentioned specifically in the text, such as the Wise Men or the Little Drummer Boy … or even imagine that you time-traveled and found yourself there as an invisible spectator.
Step Two: Once you have selected the character you wish to imagine yourself into, close your eyes and listen to the text. (I’ve recorded it here for your convenience.) Imagine yourself into the scene using all of your senses and emotions. What do you smell, taste, touch, see, hear, feel?
Step Three: Listen to it once more with the same practice. You can either switch up your character, or go a little deeper into the first character’s perspective.
Step Four: (Optional) In a true gospel contemplation, you would finish by speaking person to person to Christ, saying what comes from your heart.
I’d love to know how this went for you. What character did you choose? Did this make the scripture come to life for you in a way it hadn’t before? Did it change the way you relate to this well-known story?
Hope your final days of 2019 are wonderful.
PS) Looking for a beautiful way to set intentions and create a plan for 2020?
Perfect timing for me. I’m sooo ready to welcome in the light and relinquish the dark.
I was going to try to host one of my mini-retreats for you today, but as has been this year’s “normal,” that intention did not get off the ground in the way I’d hoped.
Speaking of this year’s “normal,” up until a month ago, if anyone asked me about my year this year, my answer was “it has been a hard year.” I would have said that my overall feelings this year were sad and depressed, and that my lesson was failure.
I started the process last month by answering the question, “what were the highlights of the past year?” In my head, before putting pen to page, I started with all the negatives … Josh’s death, nothing from my business got off the ground, I even found myself being cynical during the valedictorian speech at my oldest two nephews HS graduation(!!) which would ordinarily –any other year– fill me with hope in the future. My overall “corde desired feeling” words from The Desire Map process last year were supposed to be “vibrant, rooted, and blooming” and I did NOT feel the year went that way.
In fact, most of the time I felt like a big fat failure … with an inability to fix ANY of it.
But … when I put all that negativity aside for the purpose of introspection, and answered the question with the emphasis on word # 2, “what WERE the highlights of 2019?” a whole new side to the year sprouted forth. I realized that, in fact, although I may not have felt vibrant or blooming, I rooted in a LOT. As part of my grieving process, I gave myself permission to feel sad and depressed. I gave myself permission to binge on fantasy Netflix and unabashedly enjoyed getting caught up on ALL the Marvel Comics series. (Not surprisingly, Jessica Jones with her cynical but save the world outlook was my overall fave.)
With that as inspiration, I gave myself permission to be angry and even cynical. I gave myself permission to be unsuccessful in my work and –even more heretical –to not even bother to try after some more sad news in May rocked my world again.
Because it was one of the few things that made me feel good, I also prioritized my extended family. I drove one niece to and from club volleyball practices every other week for several months (2 hours each way) and picked up another niece after school a few times. Justin and I worked on renovating my brother’s rental home all summer. I assuaged my disappointment that my backpacking pilgrimage didn’t sell well by backpacking the High Divide with some nieces and two other brothers. I went to my cousin’s daughter’s wedding.
The Desire Map process helped me discover that even though the year was hard, I grew through it. In fact, I rooted in. Strong and deep roots, of course, are important for a plant to be vibrant and blooming.
And when (this Fall) I started to feel like taking action in my life again, I knocked off a whole list of things I had been “tolerating” … from painting the exterior of our house to cleaning some of the rooms that still had junk from past house occupants, even getting my teeth cleaned and scheduling that physical I was procrastinating on.
And truthfully, I feel the difference. I feel more honest and true to my whole self. I feel more deeply connected to –and even tender toward– my shadow side. And as a result, I’m beginning to feel that old revolutionary spirit gather strength and courage in my root chakra.
And instead of blindly following instructions, doing it exactly the way it was explained, I found myself taking The Desire Map process deeper and eliminating pieces that didn’t work for me. In other words, making it my own.
Which means I’ve got my mojo back. ❤
And so, today, on Winter Solstice, the day filled with the powerful energy of regeneration, renewal, and self-reflection. The day we celebrate the Moon Goddess, I invite you to join me in introspection, not just of the past year, but of the past decade.
You can do this via purchasing one of Danielle LaPorte’s books or planners and going for the deep dive her way. Listening to Marie Forleo’s Decade in Review exercises.
Or, click here to participate in my winter solstice retreat from bygone days for FREE. You’ll be taken on a guided meditation, participate in a creative writing exercise, and welcome back the light. Use code wintersolstice2019 at checkout.
* [If you’ve never heard of The Desire Map, or Danielle LaPorte, she is a bestselling Canadian author, inspirational speaker, entrepreneur, and blogger. Her book, The Desire Map, was published in 2014. To be honest, when it first came out I was just annoyed that she beat me to it. By then I’d been working with clients on flip flopping their lives to align with their desired feelings for just over two years, and had seen some amazing results. It took me a few years before I finally decided to see what all the hype was about.
As I worked through the process for the second time, I decided I love The Desire Map process so much I decided to become an affiliate. This means that if you click through using my link and decide to purchase any of her products, I get a commission. No extra cost to you, bonus for me. Bonus for both of us, actually, because you get a great planning process too. And if you organize in fits and starts, like me, there are several undated versions to choose from as well.
I still wish I’d written the book first, but oh well. Commissions are nice too, and we share a passion for beautiful things and living from our heart.]
What I’m loving right now (that you will probably hear more about in 2020:)
Effy Wild Book of Days course. Can’t WAIT for the official start. I’m especially excited about the companion sweet trash journal. And maybe (if it doesn’t feel overwhelming) Moonshine.
And of course, although I have to seek these out because I don’t catch them elsewhere, the best Holiday Ads. Which one is your favorite?
Reply to let me know which ad was your favorite of if you already ARE a Harry Potter and the Sacred Text fan, or if you had a year you thought was sh*t only to discover the magick was underground the whole time.
And you -what of your rushed and / useful life? Imagine setting it all down -papers, plans, appointments, everything, / leaving only a note: “Gone to the fields / to be lovely. Be back when I’m through / with blooming.”
Poet, Lynn Ungar, from “Camas Lilies”
February was an unseasonably cold and snowy month for those of us on the Olympic Peninsula. The snow started falling Sunday the 3rd of February, and we can still see patches of unmelted snow in the field behind the house.
The dogs and I enjoyed trompsing in it, but I’m grateful that my lifestyle allows me to limit my time on the roads .
Now that the Equinox and the frogs in our pond have loudly proclaimed it to be spring, I invite you to imagine setting down everything in your life, and writing the note described above. Do you even know what you would do if you could “go to the fields to be lovely”? And be back when you’re “done blooming?”
If you’re like most people, you’re too caught up in your “rushed and useful” life to imagine that it might be different. Until, that is, you’re forced to … through a threshold not of your choosing.
A colleague and I used to walk the waterfront trails in Seattle, to help us think more creatively as we brainstormed a workshop on living a vital life.
One day we got onto the topic of societal expectations: how so many of us simply set out into the world following the blueprint society created for us –go to school, get a job, get married, have children, buy a house, acquire things, raise children, retire –without thinking about whether those choices are suitable for our unique spirit.
In following this pre-subscribed routine, many of us end up with health problems, or become increasingly restless or burned out. If we’re not working in a job that utilizes our best skills, and the lifestyle best suited to us, we muddle along feeling frustrated. Over time this disconnection from our “best-ish” self –the one connected to our highest potential– can contribute to anxiety, depression and lowered self-esteem.
When either of these scenarios play out, instead of looking inside to our own inner intelligence for solutions, we tend to look outside for prescriptions or escape. We choose things like prescription drugs, substance abuse, or excessive entertainment which keep us stuck in the scenario of escaping, and watching / consuming other people’s lives rather than figuring out how to better live our own.
There is nothing wrong with any of these choices as a temporary fix. But practices become habits when we do them over and over. Habits can be beneficial: the habit of brushing your teeth twice a day, for example, leads to good oral hygiene and prevents tartar build up, cavities, and bad breath.
Plenty of your habits may have served a purpose at one time in your life, but if you continue to follow these habits without listening to your inner voice –your spirit, or Wild and Wise Heart– eventually you lose the ability to connect with this part of you that is deeply connected to your own well-being.
So, what can you do instead?
Step One: Quiet Your Mind
You can google benefits of meditation and find hundreds of articles on how a meditation practice will benefit you, and plenty more that will teach you how. But I know that those of you who do not already have a meditation practice are skeptical. The good news is that if sitting quietly cross-legged on the floor repeating simple mantras to yourself doesn’t sound natural to you, there are other ways to quiet your mind.
A few are active choices –yoga, xi gong, trail running, hiking, fly fishing, knitting, collage, coloring, gardening– to list just a few. Quieting your mind, or mindfulness, is simply the ability to pay attention, on purpose, nonjudgmentally, to the present moment.
Honestly, this can be done anywhere and anytime, especially doing the things you already love to do. You simply need to be taught how, and then make it a practice, until it becomes a habit.
In my opinion, the easiest, most powerful way to quiet your mind is to leave it.
To do this, simply drop your awareness down to your heart. You can place your hand over your heart to add a physical component to this practice, but it isn’t necessary. When you drop your awareness into your heart, and breathe, just slightly more deeply than usual, imagine that your breath is flowing in and out of this heart area. This practice essentially creates a “time-out” for your mind, which enables you to let thoughts go.
Then ground yourself to the earth, by imagining that your awareness is dropping down into your hips, then down your legs to your feet, and connecting you to the earth with invisible roots, intertwining you with loved ones, like trees.*
Then bring your awareness back to your heart, and continue to breathe, imagining your breath is flowing in and out through your heart area for 30 seconds, more if you have the time.
I call this tool my inner sanctuary tool … everything else begins to drop away, and it’s just me and my heart, and the Earth. This tool helps to clear all the static, stories, and amplified emotions your mind creates on a regular basis and begins to reconnect you to what I call your Wild and Wise Heart.
As with all habits, this becomes easier over time. I tell my clients to practice this tool 20 – 25 x per day … but in the beginning, for only five – ten seconds at a time. Essentially, what you are doing is creating a new very simple habit, which will then serve you when you need it the most. You can use this tool in-the-moment and on-the-fly. Or you can combine it with any of the active mindfulness activities I suggested above.
Step Two: Reconnect with your Wild & Wise Heart
There are numerous ways to reconnect with your Wild & Wise Heart. Kicking off the Inner Sanctuary practice will help you jump start this relationship.
However, once you start to feel this reconnection, you will want to kick it up a notch. For this, you’ll need to set aside some time for yourself. Trust me, even though this might be hard at first, it will be well worth it.
Get out a journal or a piece of paper and begin by writing down five things you love to do.
Next, write down three to five things that get in your way of doing these things on a regular basis.
Now, do a time inventory. Think back over the past five days. Did you fall into any of your old “time quick-sand” habits, where you got lost in an activity that didn’t bring you as much value as the time you spent on it? (If so, don’t beat yourself up for this. Just bring awareness to it, write it down, and then drop your awareness into your heart, and breathe until you can feel yourself in your inner sanctuary again.)
Next, do a mindset inventory. Did you fall into any mindset obstacles? (These are things like: I need to set aside hours to do this, I need more money to do this, I can’t do this because ….) Again, the goal here is simply to bring awareness to these thought habits, and then go back to your inner sanctuary.
Release your attachment to all the obstacles. To do this, simply ask these questions, “I wonder where I could find 10 – 15 minutes in my day to do one of these things I love?” And “I wonder if there is some approach that belies these beliefs that I might be able to try today?” Write down your answers. (Try this: write your questions with your dominant hand, then switch to the other hand and write the answers. This is a trick to further interrupt your neuro-typical habits.)
Then act. Follow through –for a minimum of ten minutes– on one of the suggestions you gave yourself.
I’d love to hear how this challenge goes for you. After you try it, please drop me a note in the comments below.