Negative Bias or Wrong Goal?

Currently I am involved in my fourth coaching program.  Yes, my problem is I am addicted to learning.   The program is Positive Psychology and Wellness Coaching, and twice a week we must be a client and a coach.  This means I must come up with a wellness goal two times a week.  I try to change it up, but one I have focused on twice. 

The other day, I chose the goal of wanting to work out more than twice a week.  Generally, I tend to work out only on the days I am off or teleworking, as I seem to find I have more hours in the day.  But squeezing in additional workouts during the week has not been happening.  I thought I would have the consistency to do weights or the thigh master while on group zoom calls, but lost interest. The coach tried to have me explore small areas which I could add small bits of exercise, but with each suggestion offered I quickly responded with a counterargument.  She offered getting up earlier or changing my morning routine, but 4:33 am is my earliest.  Sleep is precious, as is my morning meditation and journaling.  She queried about anytime after work, but I wouldn’t budge.  My biggest conflict is my aging dogs.  

My life currently revolves around work, creativity, and my English Bulldog Puzo, who turned 14 earlier in the week.  This is astounding for this breed, or any breed for that matter.  Overall his health is good, but he walks slower, sleeps more, and is extra needy.  Perhaps we all get like this when we age.  The days I do yoga or pilates at home, I have to ensure he has been walked, fed, and is taking his first nap of the day.  If he wakes up during my flow, cries and growls will repeatedly come out of his mouth.  It’s anything but relaxing.  What follows is my pet mom guilt.  Free time should be spent with these two dogs, which includes Bella, my 12 year old chug.  Guilt prohibits me from working out in the evening, as Puzo’s new bedtime is anywhere between 4:00 -5:00 pm.  

Back to my coaching story, upon processing the session, I apologized for being a “difficult” client.  I didn’t mean to be.  She said, “I guess we need to know what it’s like if we have negativity bias.”  I automatically got defensive, to call me negative seems like blasphemy.  I feel I’m an optimist at heart.  Was I really being negative?  I shared with her, “I guess exercise is something that’s not high on my value list.  The truth is my dogs are my number one priority, I don’t know how long they will be alive for.  So I’m not negotiating that.”  She offered that compassion may have been more beneficial at the moment versus pushing me, and I agreed.

I repeated that conversation in my head later that night.  What went wrong?  I was not agreeable to placating her with physical commitments I would make.  I knew that was inauthentic.  Exercise is not a top value of mine at this moment.  This is not a bad thing.  Society makes us feel we should make it a priority, but the reality is “if everything is a priority, then nothing is.”  I have accepted that right now, my priorities are work, my dogs, and my creativity.  If workouts are squeezed in, they are added bonuses.  Yet, I will not force myself to commit to goals that aren’t truly mine at the moment. 

I am curious for you reading this.  What goals have you set this year or decade that you haven’t achieved?  Upon reflection, are they what you value at this juncture in your life?  Or are these goals simply accepted as ones that you feel you “ought” to do because society expects it of you? 

Drawing Upside Down

This weekend I began an online version of an art class Drawing from the Right Side of Your Brain.   I have heard accolades about this book and class for years, and I was determined to take the course (even it was in the confines of my own home).  One of the initial homework assignments was to draw a Picasso drawing upside down.  This may sound preposterous to the average person, but there are reason behind these odd instructions.  The instructor noted that many of us tend to use the left of our brain more predominantly, which is more verbal, logical, and sequential.  Yet what drawing and art require of us is to use the right side of our brain, which is the creative and free flowing side.  When we draw for example lips, we draw what we think lips should look like versus what we are actually seeing.  Naming an object actually prohibits our experience of it.  Therefore, to draw an image upside down, we learn to draw what it is front of us versus our perception of what it must be.  This concept reminded me of aspects I have heard authors and speakers Eckhart Tolle and Adyashanti discuss before.  

            Spiritual teacher Adyashanti once shared on an interview with Oprah on her Super Soul Sunday the following quote: “Once you give a bird name. You no longer see the bird. Try to go through life without naming things. That brings the wonder back. You’re living in abstraction. No longer an intimate experience with life. That’s what we crave.  An intimate experience with existence…That’s what attracts us to the innocence of children. They feel the wonder of the world. They know they don’t know. Adults, we think we know. Just because we can call something a tree doesn’t mean we know what it is. Our labels can disconnect us from the intimate experience of existence.”

            I want to encourage you to reflect on how your naming of an object impacts your relationship to that.  This could be your expectation of what meditation looks like, what a relationship is, love is, one’s purpose, the concept of beauty, and numerous other possibilities.  Our expectations cloud our perceptions.  Try to see something for what it truly is.  Not what the label defines it as.  Maybe even try taking an art class where one draws from the right side of one’s brain. 

For More information on the book and course, check out https://www.drawright.com , Author and Instructor Betty Edwards.

Memorial Day Getaway

For Memorial Day weekend, I decided for a different type of getaway.  I chose an internal one.  I decided to take the plunge on my first ever gong bath.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I was up for it.  As a yogini and curious wanderluster, I find myself in surreal experiences oftentimes. 

This was advertised as a monthly reiki gong bath.  I had reiki previously, which is energetic healing on our chakra system.  I’ve done tai chi, qui gong, acupuncture, yin yoga and numerous other methods to shift my chi (also known as life force energy).  This evening’s event was to do the same.  It was a group setting in a room with a massive gong behind us, with mats on the floor as we entered the room.  Gong regulars were prepared, bringing not only pillows, but a proper duvet for this experience.  

The instructor warned us that the sound would have a healing impact.  Emotions or old memories could arise.  If they did, we were to “not think about them too deeply, but let them pass.”  Old wounds and pains could heal.  We could be expected to love it or hate it.  When an attendee next to me asked if there would be movement, the instructor informed us there would not be.  She had no blanket or pillows, as she thought it was a yoga class.  We were in a yoga center.  The only thing that would be moving is our chi.  Another individual wanted to know what would be the best area of the room for the night.  The teacher reminded her we would all hear the gongs and the experience would be what it’s meant to be for her that evening.  “Choose a spot that calls out to you tonight.”  

I wondered what was I in for? 

As my eyes closed, we were led through a brief body scan relaxation.  Then a gentle etheric sound arose.  It wasn’t the gong I expected, and the teacher travelled with this over our bodies individually, as she walked around the room.  We literally were being bathed with sound.  I couldn’t help but compare this experience to an ayahuasca experience.  Both involved people laying on mats, music playing, and were meant to be healing to our systems.  Yet for this we were solely ingesting sounds, and not substances.  

And then the gongs began.  It was very Disney Fastasia like.  The sounds appeared to be an ominous entity approaching, but they were not all consuming.  The gongs were tempered between other instruments throughout the evening.  It was as if it was a musical performance to be experienced lying down, eyes closed, in an altered state of consciousness.  A concert for our energetic senses.

I drifted in and out of sleep, as this is what my body needed. 

 But near the end of the evening, a thought arose.  

“I am a performer.”

Let me give this context.  Prior to the gong bath, I had spent the day reading, reflecting, and writing about my life’s purpose, regrets, and how I want to pivot my life.  I was writing about how we are pivoted to live up to the standards of an American dream, and queried what life would be like if we stopped trying to push agenda on our youth and allowed them to express and live into their authenticity.  As I wrote that, nothing sprung up for me.  I was unaware of who I was at my core, as I had lived up to the expectations of my family and society. 

But in the gong ceremony, I realized I am a performer.

Multiple early memories, connections, and synchronicities internally arose.

I realized that recently I was allowing that internal performer to reveal herself, but in different ways.  Becoming a yoga instructor has allowed the performer to peak through.  Facilitating retreats, workshops, and classes were all variations of being a performer.  In addition, I had been in two dance performances post the age of 40, and even taught a bellydance class.  I had an understanding that my current job had allowed the opportunity for me to remove the performance anxiety I had developed over the years.  The job served as a cacoon for the performer in me to be molded, shaped, and transformed into a new version of my purpose, which I would have never imagined.  

The ceremony ended with the facilitator offering chocolate bites that were meant to ground us. 

 When I arrived home, on my front door someone had left a Swedish Jazz cd.  It was a sign waiting for me.  It made sense, I am a performer, I was a performer.  I connect with creatives, being a creativity coach was aligned with my being.  Creatives reside on my wave length.

My intuition in the morning nudged me to read the book Soul Plan, all about one’s life purpose.  Thoughts about this resided in my head all day, and I was grateful that this realization arose during the ceremony. 

If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend immersing yourself in a gong bath. Perhaps you will have an early memory arise, a revelation, release of emotions, or perhaps even just a relaxing hour nap. Either way your sixty minutes immersed in music is definitely an experience not to be missed.

Sunday Strolls

Sundays are opportunities for reflection for me.  It’s generally the day of the week I choose to stroll to the park with my dogs and simply be.  This morning at 8:25, we arrived at the gates of the park, minutes before it opened.  We found a little nook to sit, where the sun could shine on our faces, as we waited patiently for the park staff member to open the gates.  Runners passed by, other dog walkers, couples, parents with children, and solo elderly individuals all peaking if the gates were yet opened.  Our mornings were at the mercy of this staff member to open the gates.  How often we talk parks for granted?  Open spaces that are free to the public to immerse their senses in, with flowers, park benches, and an ever evolving atmosphere of greenery. 

            I witnessed regulars in the park, particularly one neighbor who volunteers at the park.  Although she brings her dog daily for their morning walks, the walk is just as beneficial for her as it is the dog.  I observe her as she talks to strangers, neighbors, and friends with every few steps she takes. Her cocker spaniel waits patiently at her side. This is their routine, as the park serves as her social gathering place.  As we walk further along, I watch another elderly woman walk her two pet ferrets on leashes towards a tiny pond.  They jumped in for a refreshing a swim. As she walked past us, she mentioned their remaining part of their walk was to dry them off.   I have never seen ferrets puttering around on leashes before.  Our paths crossed again thirty minutes later.  I was curious about these peculiar pets.   These ferrets were only three years old, they had half of their lives ahead of them.  Their life spans are generally 6-7 years, and she noted the sadness that will arise when their time is up.     “It’s always hard losing a pet.  But in the mean time I can give them a life full of love.  

As I sat on the park benches with my dogs, I pondered on how I want to live the rest of my life.  I was 42, middle age, just like those ferrets.  How can I give the remaining part of my life the love and care it deserved?    And as I sat there, amidst the locals, I realized this is it.  I wanted to stroll in the park and notice the fluctuations in flowers and gardens and the familiarity of the elderly trees.  I wanted to feel the sun in my face without worrying of having to be in a particular place or be a particular person.

When we are children, the number one question asked is “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  Answers are occupations, which generally include years of education, overtime, office politics, and sacrifice.  But as I sit here now, middle age, I question not what do I want to be but how do I want to be.   

And so this is my Sunday reflection question for you:

How do you want to be with the remaining time you have on this Earth?  

Life Lessons

“In a mirror is where we find a reflection of our appearances, but in a heart is where we find a reflection of our soul.” Anonymous

Yesterday I had my 42nd birthday. Birthdays in the past generally were filled with ways to celebrate my uniqueness, a time to connect with others, or splurge on myself. Yet the older I get, I realize this is actually a time necessary for a reflection. It’s parallel to the new year, as it is a time to take stock on where your life has gone and potential new goals to attain. There is a realization that if you are not satisfied, you can always pivot the course of your life.

And so for this birthday I did a multitude of self reflection and artistic projects. One was a list of 42 life lessons. This is by no ways an exhaustive list, but the points in it arose for me at this phase of my life. I pass this on to you, perhaps you may find nuggets of wisdom for your life. In addition, I encourage you to take the time during your next birthday (or even today) and create a list of life lessons for each year you have been born. You will be surprised with the wisdom you have attained. And with each year, we do not have to fear but can lean into the life knowledge that we have breathed into.

Multiverses and The Midnight Library

                              

“The only way to learn is to live.”

The Midnight Library, Matt Haig

            I recently began reading a fictional novel called The Midnight Library, which was released in the past year.  The premise is a mid 30s small town British woman is about to commit suicide.  She hates her life, as it’s not where she thought it would go.  After losing her mediocre job, her pet, and ruminating on numerous other losses she decides to end her life.  But not before a surreal experience occurs.

            Nora, the lead character, enters the Midnight Library.  This a space between life and death where one can explore all other ways your life can go.  The library is filled with books of alternate endings of one’s life, and the librarian who leads her through this journey was the same librarian she had in 6th grade.  

            Anytime I fall in love with a book, I must share it.  Exceptional books do that.  They stir up emotions, reflections, and conversations among us.  We ruminate on the impact the book can have in our lives.   This book seems to combine principles from the Akashic Records, Multiverses, Parallel Lives, and The Butterfly Effect.

            Who would you be if you made different decisions?

            What if there are parallel worlds where you did make these decisions simultaneously existing right now?

            How would this have impacted those around you? 

            I am still only halfway through, but I began to write out a list of multiverses for myself.  These are just one liners in my journal that I have jotted down who would I have been if I …

            -Stayed married.

            -Went into a different career field.

            -Never married.

            -Remained in my hometown.

            -Had children.

            -Did not have my pets.

            -Pursued my childhood dream.

            -Got married to a different person.

            -Never took that three month European backpacking trip.

            -Chose to not live abroad.

            So far I have written 100 of these multiverses, which I will probably continue to do.  I encourage you to do this same activity.  We are a product of our decisions.  Saying yes to one thing is saying no to another.  There are still numerous ways our lives can turn out.  This reflective exercise is not just exploring regrets we have, but ways our lives can still shift.

            You have the power to pivot your life in a myriad of directions.

            Who would you be if you took more risks? Took less?  Does it matter if there are multiple lives where these decisions were made differently?  I encourage you to either read this book and/or reflect on this concept of multiverses in your own life.

Even Cloudy Days

                   

Today I chose to walk my dogs to the park.  It was a Sunday morning the sun was shining.   We wanted to take advantage of the park being ours in those quiet early moments.  As we arrived in the park, my English Bulldog Puzo found a perfect spot to pause in the grass.  The sun shone in his face, there was a light breeze.  He was content, no need to walk further.  And then the clouds came in.  I looked up at the sky, thinking this would be momentary.  Minutes went by, and the clouds continued.  There were tiny breaks for the sun to shine in, but overall the clouds shifted the temperature from warm to cool.  Perhaps this wasn’t the greatest idea.  Bella, my 12 year old chihuahua pug mix, was content regardless of the weather.  But my bulldog who is nearly 14 years old, he was temperamental.   A walk to the park was not always on his agenda. He would put on his paw breaks and refuse to walk further than beyond our doorstep if he didn’t feel like it.  But he was here now, and surprisingly he wanted to stay.  

And so we lingered in the park, we shifted to an open area surrounded by park benches.  We all looked up at the sky, hoping for the clouds to clear.  Nope.  It was just one of those days.  I regretted not going to the park the day prior, which was warmer and sunnier.  I scolded myself for not taking advantage of the sun.  I internally talked to the sun saying, “I know you are there sun.  I see you, if only those clouds could just move a bit.”  My wishes to move the clouds was not successful.   Time passed.  We lingered more.

We then walked towards a gated area, which was surrounded by a tiny fountain and garden.  This generally was our shortcut to the rest of the grounds, which were filled with ruins of an abbey that was hundreds of years old.  

Yet as we walked in, Puzo looked at the bench.  

He wanted to take a seat and stare at the scenery.  

And so we did.

My thoughts shifted from disappointment to gratitude.

He reminded me that despite the clouds, we could still appreciate the day.  There was still beauty beholden in front of us.   We could sit and hear the soothing sounds of the water and take in the greenery that framed the pond.    

We can find joy and beauty, even in a cloudy day.  

A Shift

            There was a moment that arose where I realized I was satisfied with life this week.  I didn’t need to fill my life with things to do, busy-ness to distract me.  It is mid-April, one week post the lift of the UK lockdown.  We have been locked down since Christmas Day, with no interacting with others socially in person, no shops, no sit down dining, and definitely no travel.  In the past 12 months, 7 of them have been in lockdown.  It’s no wonder that people want to dip outside into the stores or explore activities in the local area.  

This weekend was the first time in months that colleagues asked about my plans for the weekend.   I didn’t have any outside of writing and shopping at my local outdoor market.  Yet these are my same plans every weekend, and this was okay.  In the past, I may have felt a need to compare the excitement of my weekend (or lack thereof) to others.  Now I don’t have the urge.  I am satisfied, full.  There’s no need for more.  There will be moments of more in the future, but it’s not necessary for now.  

Now that I am back at the office five days a week, I actually prefer weekends at home, or in the local park in the sun with my dogs.  I realize how precious my time is, and through the act of being at home, I can stretch it versus trying to squeeze in every ounce of activity into it.

Have you made a shift post lockdown? 

Energy of Money

Currently I am re-reading the book The Energy of Money by Maria
Newmenth, PhD.  It’s been years since I have read this book, and I am
savouring it.  It’s filled with self help reflective homework
exercises which I love.  I want to share one with you:

Write out a bucket list.

Everything you want to do in this lifetime.  This include things like
places you vow to travel to, degrees or certificates you want to earn,
dream jobs you want to attain, or creativity bench marks.  After you
have created this list, write out the reasons why you want to attain
these goals.  For example “Write a best selling novel”, the reason
behind this may be “to be recognized as an author.”  Or “travel to the
pyramids of Egypt,” the essence behind this is “to be an adventurer.”

Next, imagine it is your 85th birthday.  Everyone you love is there
honoring you.  What are the accolades you want to hear about yourself?
 What have you accomplished?  Who were you as a person?

Now look at both of these lists, are there themes that are repeated?

What does this say about you?  Are you living your life by these
principles?  If yes, how so?  If not, why not?

It was interesting doing this exercise, I have previously created a
bucket list (and actually laminated it on index cards), but this time
doing a bucket list, it was different.  I realized my goals were my
simple and day to day.  I have achieved many of my far off dreams.
There was a recognition of the everyday life I want to live versus the
one off things to check off a list.  In addition, there was a
realization of how I need to continue to check in if I am living an
intentional life based on my current values.

This was an incredible exercise, and I encourage you to challenge
yourself and write out your future !

A Chicken Soup Full Circle

When I was in junior high, I was overjoyed with The Chicken Soup For The Soul book series. I think I knew in my early teens that self-help books were going to be my favorite genre. I was even able to meet author Jack Canfield when he did a signing in my Ohio town. Twenty plus years later my first story finally made it into a Chicken Soup For The Soul series: Be You.

For those who have never read a book from this series, each one contains 100 stories or poems that help inspire and uplift us. Just as chicken soup mends us during the times we have the flu, these stories help warm our hearts. I am so grateful to be part of the chicken soup family.

I encourage us all to find comfort during these difficult days, whether through our pets, loved ones, inspirational zoom classes, and of course a powerful book.

“Reading Is To The Mind, As Exercise Is To The Body.” – Brian Tracy

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