The Thirty-Minute Exercise That Helped Me Forgive and Forget

There are people in this life who make me weary.

You know who I mean — the lover who discarded me; the boss who denigrated me. Even the kids who relentlessly bullied me in grade school. For many years, there was an entire cast of characters in my psyche I thought I was done with.

Except that I wasn’t.

They still chimed in from time to time, simply as disembodied voices in my head. And why? Because again and again, I invited them in.

The truth is I longed to let them go. Fie on those bully kids and that impossible-to-please boss. And what about the toxic lover? I longed to get rid of her, too!

How I craved some much-needed space in my head. Once I had it, then all kinds of kind, lovely, nourishing things could grow in my mind instead.

So I decided to set these angry rants free.

A book I was reading at the time suggested it would be as simple as writing a letter to each person I was still resentful with. I would never send the letter, of course, but instead simply write it. And that alone would free up space in my heart.

Okay. Fair enough. At this point, it was three years after the toxic relationship, 31 years after the obnoxious boss, and 46 years after the bully kids … so why not let it all go? I’d had those negative voices in my head far too long already.

I sat down to write each person a letter and a very surprising thing happened. I began with my former lover, a person I felt had done me wrong in many ways. I really let it all hang out as I wrote.

Spiritual bypass was not allowed — I scrawled every last one of my petty, crude, pissy thoughts. I gnashed my teeth on paper. I told her exactly what I thought of her … and then half way down the page, the tone suddenly shifted.

All of the sudden a small awareness of my role in the relationship became clearer. I found myself writing, “Of course, I invited you into this dynamic by being a vacant, pliable victim … so we acted out our little drama just like actors in a play.”

Whoa. Really?

Yes, really. The fact was I was being so nakedly honest gave me no recourse but to be honest about my own responsibility, too. Did she mistreat me? Did she use me? Did she manipulate and control me?

Absolutely! And did I manipulate her right back?

I certainly did.

Every time I was silent and let my former lover abuse or control me, I fed our off-kilter dynamic. Every choice I made that didn’t serve me merely cemented the unhappy lockstep we both found ourselves stuck in.

As I continued to write my letter to her, I discovered what a great thing our break up was. It was actually a great relief when she dumped me. Now I could actually see how critical this relationship was to my personal growth.

As a direct result of that break-up, I found my way into work that helped me become humble again. I learned to live in a far healthier way and found a new, far deeper connection to God.

Out of this work, I also found the truly happy, deeply loving marriage I am now in.

Our greatest teachers often show up as irritants in the path – the rock around which we must flow. The bully kids taught me to protect my most sensitive self, and let her only be seen in ways that are safe and whole.

The obnoxious boss taught me how low my standards were, and how to aim higher with the next job I got – and then the next, and the next after that.

Again and again, life conspires to bring the very best teachers our way, whether we like them or not. I say our souls demand it – for how else can we really grow?

By finally telling the truth, I owned the entire picture of what had happened. Here was my safe forum to truly express myself, and so discover the lessons buried behind the grief. Now I found I truly was ready to let go of the hurt, the pain and the anger.  

At the end of the letter, I was filled with compassion, empathy and even gratitude for this remarkable woman I had once loved. I knew that part of me would even love her for years to come, whether or not we ever spoke again.  

I had been reborn — simply because of one small, thirty-minute exercise.

If you are carrying resentment towards anyone in your life or your past, why not lay your burden down? All that you will lose is the artificial crutch of your resentment.

There is an innate joy that awaits all of us. It lives on the other side of humility, honesty and willingness.

I invite you to write a letter of your own – a letter you never send. For, if nothing else, it will be a supreme act of self care.  
As it turns out, all this letting go of resentments is part of becoming truly happy. If you’d like to find your own innate happiness, listen to our new podcast with happiness expert Andrew Matthews.

 

 

 

 

The Secret to Relaxing About Life

There is a strange paradox about life. Seldom is the one we are living the life we think we should be living. 

Somehow we can never get quite enough money, or power or titles or sex or adventures or love or anything to truly feel we’ve got our share. Like hungry birds in their nests, our beaks are always open, demanding yet another worm. There is always some better position, some higher level of responsibility, some more exalted realm we think should be ours.

At least, this much has been true for me … until recently.

Not only have I consistently believed throughout my life that I didn’t have ‘enough’, I believed that I wasn’t enough either. I honestly thought that if I got that million dollar book deal/perfect body/perfect … whatever … then I’d finally be whole and complete.

Then I could relax! Then I could be happy! I could stop pushing so hard and endlessly striving. Then, in the eyes of the Universe, Mom, and everyone else I would finally be enough. Or so I thought.

It was only recently, at the ripe old age of 58, that I finally decided to let go of this toxic illusion. This, right here and right now, is the life I’ve been given. And this, right here and right now, is as good as it gets.

What happened was that I was standing in our church singing in one of our annual concert, singing my heart out with my fellow choir singers. There was nothing slick or high visibility about the event. The audience was peppered with families and dotted with unruly kids and crying babies. Heck, we barely had microphones.

And there was nothing slick about my life. My work continues along on a humble path. There is no massive book deal, no high visibility position, none of the things that I’d always imagined would make me happy.

But in that moment as I looked out over the crowd and sang, delivering my gift for that particular moment, I felt intensely bonded to each person sitting there. I could feel the love rising in the room, and the slightly sweaty, restless-child imperfection of all of it at the same time.

It was spectacularly beautiful.

These were my people, I thought to myself, and I am in exactly the right place doing the right thing at the right time. On the other side of the choir, my new wife Rachel was singing in the tenor section. We were experiencing the uplift of the music together, as our choir director beamed his approval.

Simply put, we were one with the audience, with each other and all the good and caring musicians around us.

That’s when I understood, unequivocally, this is as good as it gets.

And that’s when I saw a grand illusion that my long held dream has been. As long as I quantify my life by many book deals, or income hikes, or vacations, or … whatever … I receive, there will probably never be “enough.” Not in this congested, tired little mind.

Furthermore, I will miss the deep and beautiful treasure of the life that’s happening here and now.

I realize now that it’s okay to have dreams and goals as long as they are accompanied by an intense sense of gratitude for what is present now. As long as I don’t reject the reality of the present moment for some cherished illusion in my mind – because that illusion has no substance.

Down here, in the thick of life, only one thing counts and that is tapping into the love that is here and now, in this present moment. And then being grateful as we gaze ahead, ready to be surprised by life.

Wherever you are and may you know that, today, right here and right now, you are enough.

 

 

 

P.S.

On my Before the Afterlife podcastTony talks about maintaining a zestful life, and what his ‘magic bullet’ is for Emergency Zest as needed… check it out here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find this episode below, or subscribe with any podcast player.

Here are the links to iTunes and Google Play!

 

 

What’s on the Other Side of Letting Go? It’s Flow, Baby!

Once you do the hard work of letting go, an interesting thing starts to happen. You find yourself with nothing much to worry about.

There is palpable peace there, if you allow it. All you have to do is tune into the small, quiet frequency that lies just below the hectic pace of everyday life. You know this place … it’s just beyond the to-do lists, and multi-tasking and the worried sense that you’re not doing enough.

It’s that lovely, floaty place you arrive at when you’ve been meditating for a while. You’re calm, clear headed and you have no particular place to get to in that moment.

Instead, you allow yourself, for once, to be in flow.

Now, flow is a very powerful state of Grace. Flow is what brings miracles to your door, unbidden. It’s what allows you to walk down the street and bump into the very person you were just thinking about.

Flow is also the stuff your dreams are made of.

Once you make the break – whatever it may be – and let go of the all-wrong situation you’ve been anxiously clinging to, space in your psyche opens up. Your soul relaxes. Your heart expands.

You may even feel like humming or skipping a little. (Go ahead … it’s actually kind of fun!)

Once you find yourself in flow, each day can take on an organic design of its own, no matter what you are up to. So instead of sitting down to a rigid, even overwhelming list of To-Do’s,throw them out. Instead, just sit quietly at your desk for a moment and feel what your heart wants you to do next, and next, and next.

Then do it. You may notice a certain ease or lightness, or a sudden, remarkable passage of time as you dig in productively.

Even if your beautifully in-flow work occasionally requires you to do something you’d rather not, like attend a tedious meeting, you can still be in flow. Just ask that glorious state of flow to accompany you to the meeting and inform your presence there. Let it move you to contribute in the most beneficial way you can.

Ideas may pop up out of nowhere, and agreements made that are simply easy. Flow is always marked by ease and a marked lack of ‘doing’. Things just show up, again and again, and they are always in harmony with what you want and need.

However, be aware that the state of flow resists certain situations.

If you cling to a job that is 100% wrong for you or a relationship that’s a struggle, flow will disappear the moment you step through that door.

Flow also disappears when you watch it too closely, or cling to it too needily. You can’t shut your eyes, cross your fingers and hope for flow with all your heart. Instead, you must invite it in gently, graciously and without attachment. And then go about your business until it arrives. Only then can it do its magic.

Flow sometimes takes its own sweet time about showing up, which is its privilege. It will come when it, and you, are both ready.

Most of all, the state of flow is marked by desire. Whatever you desire from moment to moment will guide you most effectively to the state of flow. You simply have to be quiet to know what that is … then follow the directions that well up from your heart.

Try it right now. What is it that you desire most right now?

Perhaps a gluten free chocolate fudge tart? Okay, why not? Go get one … and chances are while you’re walking down to the corner to get your tart, you will see something that will inspire a great idea. Or maybe you’ll have a chance encounter with someone you need to meet.

Or maybe you’ll just have an utterly fantastic chocolate moment. Thus becoming prepared more completely for your next moment, and the next one after that.

I invite you to delve into flow and let the rapture of it sweep you away. You will not dissolve, and you will probably be surprised how much you’ll actually accomplish.

This is what life looks like on the other side of all that clinging and grasping that makes us suffer. It’s free, easy and remarkably simple. And yeah … it’s bliss.

Why not give it a try?

Want to learn more about Suzanne’s healing approach to life? Listen to her Before the Afterlife Podcast on iTunes.

How To Stay Calm in the Trump Era

teddy bear on roadI didn’t vote for Donald Trump and I’m scared. I feel vulnerable and shaky … and really uncertain what the future brings. Some days I can barely work because I’m so distracted and worried.

And yet … this is the chaos that often happens before a very big shift in the public consciousness. It’s the breakdown before the breakthrough. But in the meanwhile …

Here are some things we can do to stay calm and be more effective as the chaos unfolds.

We owe it to ourselves and … really, at this point, we owe it to the world at large.

  1. First, go on a news diet. Pull away from the steady, alarming, adrenaline pumping news. Put down the Times app. Turn off the TV. Remember much of the media is on repetitive 12 hour cycles, so once you’ve got the basic news for the day, you can turn away. The world will still go on. Your central nervous system will thank you for it.
  2. Show up and protest. Don’t march because it will necessarily make a Washington sit up and take notice (though reports are that Congress has begun to pay attention.) Do it because it will give you a feeling of control.Actively protesting makes you feel remarkably better. You stop feeling so alone, and you get inspired. Put on your pink hat and march, loudly and often.
  3. Feel your grief and fear. Have you had a good cry yet? Listen … you deserve it. We all do. Let yourself cry and an amazing wave of relief and peace will follow. If Chuck Schumer can do it, so can you.
  4. Remember that every four years there is an election in the US. The current state of duress many of us feel is only going to last so long. Trump can be voted out just like he got voted in. In the end this is a democracy in the US … and so far, it’s been working for more than 240 years.
  5. Think of this as the division before the healing. Nothing brings people together like chaos and stress. Remember the aftermath of 9-11. And take note of the fact that Democrats and Republicans have, together, been doing clean up on Trump’s missteps with foreign leaders. That, alone, is a small miracle. The more our internal conflicts escalate, the more opportunity there is for us to come together.
  6. Meditate … and do a little yoga, too. 5000 years of global practice say they work. Even scientists agree the combo reduces worry, doubt, and increases overall happiness. Consider this an excellent time to begin … even five minutes a day of sitting quietly with eyes closed will help.
  7. Give money to causes directly affected by new policies. Citizen action has proven at times to be more effective than government policy. Give to Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Sierra Club, and other conservation organizations. Join the more than 335,300 people who joined the ACLU in the last week – and donated more than 24 million dollars. Even making a small contribution per month will increase your sense of well-being.
  8. Sign online petitions and letters. SumOfUs.org, MoveOn.org, The Daily Kos and others make it one-click simple to lodge a protest with your elected officials. Getting on the email lists of these organizations will put almost daily petitions into your inbox that you can sign with a simple click. Calling Congress has been proven to be even more effective – and so you will feel that much better after you do. Simply dial 202-224-3121. Here are some handy instructions.
  9. Sleep with a bear. Call it primal … but a teddy bear makes you feel ever so much better. It really will.

Don’t worry, keep breathing. Not only are will the US get through this … we’re going to be a more respectful, awake, conscious country. One that ultimately will prove worthy of respect.

Feel free to add ideas of your own below. After all, we’re all in this together!

How I Learned to Relax and Stop Being a Perfectionist

nervous_0This just in: we are imperfect, every last one of us. Always and forever. And here’s the great news … within that imperfection actually lies our perfection. If this sounds like a koan or a word puzzle, it’s not. It’s just a bit of gristle the Universe has given us to work on.

I say this as a recovering perfectionist. And you may have to find your way through this truth to truly get it.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen how raggedly I’ve run myself throughout my life. All, of course, in the pursuit of that invisible ghost: perfection.

But when upheaval happens, suddenly you are forced to stop and let go, and then the truth dawns. There is no book of standards you must live up to. And the only person waving that whip is … you. It wasn’t until my daughter suddenly died that I stopped trying to be a heroic superwoman. Because frankly, there didn’t seem to be much point.

That was four years ago. Now I have a different perspective. I’m back to producing my writings and other creative work, and I have decided to give myself all the time in the world — and all the permission in the world to do so.

Now I can mess up, make mistakes and not get things right. Then I can ask for help, get feedback, course correct and improve. And I can do this again and again and again.

Recently I experienced this around a book I just finished writing. I asked my partner to read the first draft, knowing her analytical mind would pick up all kinds of loose ends in my complex plot.

She came up with a long list of fixes, all of which were feasible. After the list was delivered, what I felt was pure gratitude and some relief. I knew there were missing pieces but I wasn’t sure what they were. Hallelujah!

Hours later it suddenly occurred to me that my inner perfectionist hadn’t even flinched. The first draft wasn’t a glowing model of perfection — it needed work. And beautifully … that was okay! Bottom line is that the book will now be vastly improved, and so this is actually very good news.

In the old days, my perfectionist would have been appalled. It needed me to be impressive at everything I did the minute I did it. Lord, was that tedious! It was an ancient mindset locked in place when I was a child, by an encouraging father who frequently told me I’d be a star someday. So I was left with the massively huge job of delivering on that promise.

No one ever said to me, “Go ahead and be mediocre, honey. That’s just fine.” I was expected to be a star, and it was up to me to figure out how to do it.

When a therapist first delivered this news to me, I was appalled. My own father set me up for perfection-mania? I loved my dear dad, and couldn’t imagine that he meant any harm. Which, of course, he didn’t. But this is how perfectionists are born.

Somehow, somewhere in our pasts, our little survivor selves believe we must overachieve to get our basic needs met. Perhaps you know what I’m talking about.

Today I keep the following promises with myself:

  1. Good enough is just fine with me.
  2. Mistakes ultimately make things better.
  3. Ask for help the minute you need it.
  4. There’s all the time in the world to get things done.
  5. Creating is a process … so go with the flow.

I also make a practice of stopping and breathing. I allow things to unfold, and I dive into the mystery of what will happen next.

Most of all, I keep in mind that if I don’t get things perfect the first time, the sky will not fall. In fact, I know I will be just fine — as I have been through every step of the last four years.

Perfection is nothing more than the cry of a frightened soul trying to get our attention. When we stop to listen to it, and we reassure ourselves that we’re going to be okay, then we grow.

For it is our compassion towards ourselves that really unlocks our brilliance, one sweet, vulnerable step at a time.

All we have to do is be willing to see the truth.

 

 

 

 

How to Keep the Faith When All Hell is Breaking Loose

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.

               – Cynthia Occelli

seed breakDo you know this place of complete surrender? Life happens and you are swept along with it. You stand in the wind and feel nothing beneath your feet as you are buffeted here and there. Yet … if you look … you will find there is something beneath your feet.

That something is belief. — you know it in your heart . As the wind rattles everything around you, you distantly recall platitudes about ‘this too will pass’ and windows closing and doors opening.

But belief’s a slippery bugger, and it’s so hard to hang in there when life seems to threaten your very existence.

Here are some things you can do to keep the faith while your own seed is breaking open.

  1. Remember that nothing is permanent. Whatever is happening right now really will pass. In a year’s time it will be a memory, perhaps sooner. And with that remembering comes perspective. Right now is possibly the worst this experience will feel.
  1. You might as well embrace reality. Trying to duck it is basically like trying to swim upstream against an impossible current. You will eventually get pushed back to that inevitable truth. So make life easy in the end by opening that letter, making that phone call, having that conversation now. Then just let the chips to fall where they may – no matter how painful. By honoring the flow of life, you will ultimately be rewarded.
  1. Enjoy what there is to be enjoyed. There will be strange little flickers of joy (and even big ones) along the way. They are Spirit’s way of saying, ‘It’s OK, you can take a break from all of this heaviness.” I saw it all around me in that terrible week that my daughter lay dying in the hospital. At the time I couldn’t understand the joy, but now I do. There is divinity even in great pain and loss. By recognizing it and even savoring it, you give your heart a little relief.
  1. Take time for yourself. Whatever is challenging you, you can allow space and time to comfort yourself. You must if you are ever to get to the gold buried deep within the fire. (Did I mention there is gold there?) Take a walk, write in a journal, listen to soothing music, read something comforting. Close the door on the rest of the world and allow yourself to actively feel what you need to feel. Then breathe, and know in the end everything’s going to be okay. This is where the magic healing happens.
  1. Ask Spirit to show you the way. Know that this, too, is part of the divine plan, no matter how heinous or difficult your circumstance. Who said life was meant to be easy and free all the time? Where would the growth be if it was? Above all know that God has your back, now and forever, and nothing that happens is without reason. Whenever you need to understand more, or get more guidance, simply ask. The answer is there.
  1. Create a bed of support. No one says you have to cross the desert alone. It wouldn’t be in your best interest to suffer excessively. So ask for help. Call a trusted friend or five. Reach out to family. Find a good therapist. Go to a support group, like  hospice grief groups, or even 12 Step recovery groups. These are people you can learn from and support, in turn. People understand and they genuinely want to help you. They really do.
  1. Trust the process. You may feel excruciatingly alone. You may feel like you are so lost you will never recover … But here’s the thing. This is all happening for a reason, and you will never be the same again. So allow the magic of life to do its work and set you free. Your soul will thank you for it, and you will emerge stronger and better for it. You really will.

How do I know this? I was given this truth after my own seed exploded into the Universe with nary a trace left behind. It is only in complete surrender that you can know the most profound joy.

Believe it or not, there is magic here, friend. But you must let go to let it in. And so it is.

Stop, Drop and Feel – A Recipe For Moving Through Fear

crying_ladyThis morning I was being interviewed by a radio host, and he asked me a simple but critical question: What do you do to move through fear?

I am happy to say that first of all … I had an answer! Secondly, the trick I shared is something anyone can do. And it works.

But first … let’s talk about our fear. Cause we all have it, right?

I know I do.

Our fear is pretty much the shark that is always lurking just off shore. Once you wade through anger, anxiety, frustration, depression, confusion and dread, you find fear back there, driving all of it.

It’s our basic, go-to emotion when the going gets rough. My theory is that this is all about our flight or fight response. These days we are smart phone jockeys who spend our days tethered to a computer. But the problem is that we’re still wired to outrun (or outsmart) a lumbering T-Rex.

So when a stressful emergency strikes, we react as if our lives are in mortal danger. Before we know it, we are having a dinosaur-sized adrenal rush. Suddenly we are three again and in total survival mode. We feel a surge of panic and then all that other emotional intensity kicks in.

For me, fear has often driven my angry outbursts. Or my need to control and micromanage others. For years it drove a whole lot of nail-biting. Sometimes I just flaked out, put my fingers in my ears, and pretended some big scary grow up issue wasn’t happening all around me.

But then I learned a much better way to deal with it. An example …

A few years ago I got to live one of my dreams and hang out in Paris for two months. My entire adult life I’d wanted to do this. And yet, when I finally arrived after a 12-hour flight with numerous delays, I had a total lying-in- bed, sucking-my-thumb, weepy meltdown.

I could have made that retreat to infancy all about tough travel or my lost luggage (it eventually showed up) or the intense new stranger I found myself living with, courtesy of Air B’n’B.

But instead I remembered what to do in case of emergency: I checked in. I went into my bedroom, closed the door and lay down. Then I put my hand on my belly and my feet flat on the bed, and I allowed myself time to just breathe.

Pretty soon my feelings came rushing up: anger, sadness, real grief, anxiety … followed by cold, bald fear.

I realized I felt like a four-year-old who suddenly got lost at the mall. I wondered why I assumed my college French would get me around Paris — for two long months! Really? What the hell was I thinking??

The tears began and I breathed into them. And then the sheer shaking misery of the fear welled up. Oh, I was so uncomfortable! I had visions of myself getting permanently lost in Paris’s labyrinth of streets. I saw myself a stranger in a strange land, desperately lonely on a Saturday night.

The more my fear came up, the more my heart pounded. My palms began sweating and hot flash after hot flash descended. I began to feel terrified. But I remembered the advice of a therapist and I kept breathing through it.

Then suddenly, the fear began to lift. As quickly as it came upon me, my panic subsided.

And then …just like that … it was gone.

In fact, now I felt great! I got up, washed my face, put on my coat and went out to greet my new, incredible city. Five hours and a few café crèmes later, I was still at it – reborn, renewed, in bliss.

What we so seldom do in moments of crisis is relax and allow in the surge of emotions. Instead we focus on what’s happening and scramble to manage and control. Or we go hide and shame ourselves for needing to have a good cry. We do anything we can to resist that necessary upwelling of emotions.

Yet this is just the natural process the body and soul go through when an auto-correct is needed. When we do allow ourselves to honor our emotional flow and simply feel, we truly can be reborn. That, friends, really is the shortest route back to joy.

Take a moment and probe this question for yourself. How do you handle your fear? I highly recommend the ‘Stop, Drop and Feel’ approach the next time you find yourself melting down.

Try it! You might even like it …

 

Is Your Inner Four-Year-Old Running Your Life?

 

mad child

 

Who is in charge of the decisions you make?

You … or an angry, fearful child who lives in your heart?

I ask because it might be time to get to know her.

You know she’s in charge if any of the following ring true.

 

 

  1. You find yourself drawn to difficult people in love or work … kind of like all those kids who bullied you in the schoolyard or your tough parent.
  1. You spend money too freely – or perhaps not often enough — getting a physical rush of satisfaction when you do so, despite any financial or personal mayhem that may ensue.
  1. You eat that last jelly donut or drink the extra martini, even though you REALLY ARE trying to stop. Because … well, it’s been a hard day.
  1. Financial, career or business chaos seems to follow you around, no matter how hard you try to shake it.
  1. On some level you feel addicted to excitement and drama, even though you ‘know’ it’s draining and debilitating and you’re sick of it.
  1. You consistently attract people who encroach on your boundaries in some basic way.
  1. You find yourself feeling mad for no reason sometimes. And really, you can’t help it.
  1. You long to do things you can’t get started with. Or finish the ones you have started. Yes, you’re scared but … why?
  2. Procrastination is second nature … though somehow things always finally happen. But not without a fair amount of adrenaline.
  1. You buy things on impulse only to return them later – or stockpile them in a room or closet filled with unused items. You don’t really know why.

Chances are some of this is true for you, it’s time to meet your inner child.

Honestly, the foot-stamping or frightened little self who lives in your heart is so entwined with your life that there is little you can do WITHOUT her involvement. And sometimes she feels completely out of control.

For most of us, our inner child operates like … well … a four-year- old. Decisions get made and impulses followed that mirror that distinct 4-year- old logic. Which is why the last jelly doughnut is impossible to resist.

Our inner child becomes the source of many of the unbreakable patterns that show up again and again in life. And it is not until we begin to work with this formidable power source that things can begin to shift.

For me, I’ve had to spend active time first of all finding my inner child … and then just plain old listening to her. I began this work in earnest after I noticed I’d attracted a string of difficult women in my life in love and friendship.

Yes, they reminded me of Mom. Point made.

I experienced a palpable gut-level fear around these women … the same fear I knew as the kid who got bullied at home and at school. But there was something deeper going on as well. Somewhere behind the annoyance and upset was anxiety ,,, as well as a strange, subtle desire to feel that feeling.

It was all incredibly familiar. So when I found one of these women it was an auto-yes to engage.

It’s this kind of recognition that can begin to break the log-jam and end the pattern. So I began calling my inner child out into the sunlight so I could get to know her, day by day.

This happens by sitting quietly, tuning in and inviting ‘Little [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE]’ to show up. When you do this, you may be surprised how she appears.

In the beginning, my inner child, Little Susie, was pissed. She was furious really, because I’d shown such a complete lack of interest in her through my entire adult life. I was taken aback.

First I had to just listen while she had a nervy tantrum. But over the weeks that followed, she began to lighten up. At the same time, I began to tune in to her more and more deeply.

In my imagination, Little Susie sits on my lap when I meditate. I stroke her head and tell her how much I appreciate her. I ask her what she needs.

Inevitably she just wants me pay a little attention to her. Or maybe take her to the beach.

My big take away is that this little girl was just plain bewildered by the circumstances of her childhood all those years ago. And so all that anger I bottled up inside has begun to finally dissolve.

I no longer auto-rant at myself for opportunities missed and mistakes made. Nor do I lose my head when I’m scared. Instead, I tune into this sweet little soul’s innocent heart. If I made a mistake, I assure Little Susie that the world will not end. If I’m afraid, we hug each other and hang on for dear life for a while.

Most of all, we now both know it’s all going to be okay.

We are all children of the Universe throughout our lives. It is when we can recognize that and feed ourselves accordingly that life becomes more and more beautiful. And so we become more and more transparent, allowing Grace to shine through us.

Take a moment right now to close your eyes and say hello to the little one who lives within. If it would help to dig out an old childhood photo, do it. Leave it somewhere where you can see it often and be reminded to check in.

Chances are she’s been waiting for you.

Soothing Thoughts for People With Anxiety

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You know what the trouble is with anxiety? You’re often stuck in the locked closet of your thoughts. Even if someone is right next to you, saying consoling things – you may not be able to hear them.

It can be that bad.

For me, it helps to have a rational thought in the house.

I wrote this list as something to keep on hand … to help you and me break the logjam of our own thoughts.

Someone else has had this problem before. You are not the only one who’s ever had this concern. Furthermore, it’s been solved before and it will be solved again … potentially by you. Worse comes to worse, you can ask for help from people with more experience.

You are not alone. Whatever your situation is, someone out there cares about you. Even if it’s someone you haven’t spoken to in a very long time. Thoughts are like bridges that connect people through time and space. So why not reach out?

It’s not as bad as you think it is. Whatever is on your mind, know that minds tend to exaggerate things. Yes, things may be mighty painful right now. But remember, your perceptions often magnify the risk – especially if you suffer from anxiety. Out there in the rest of reality, life goes on. People move forward. You will, too.

This is what breakthroughs look like … before they happen. You know that old saw about things being ‘the darkest before the dawn”? Turns out to be true. Ask anyone.

You will be okay. You really, really will. This is just a moment in time, a day in your life, and not your fixed reality for the next thirty years. Even if it seems like it is. You and I both know it’s not.

Why not breathe? Why not just take 3 deep breaths right now? This will help your sympathetic nervous system – which activates your adrenaline – to slow down. You’ll notice an immediate shift.

Tomorrow actually is another day. If you’ve had a bad day – even for no particular reason – there’s always tomorrow. The good news is that you’re still here and life goes on. Your body will have another 10 to 50 trillion new cells … and so, in essence, you will be all shiny and new again.

Hang in there, my friend. Whatever is going on, you will find your way. You truly will.

Please feel free to add a few soothing thoughts of your own just below.

The Five Minute Antidote to Your Fear

wheel-of-dharmaThere came a time not long ago, when I felt like I was on top of the world. My work was going well, my relationship even better – I had a spring in my step as I climbed out of bed each morning. I simply couldn’t wait to unwrap another excellent day.

But now it’s another story.

Today I am fresh out of minor surgery, which means I’m limping around with a black plastic ‘boot’ on my foot. I feel immensely sorry for myself. I’m also battling some age-old demons in my head as I launch my first novel in 25 years.

I feel vulnerable, weak and afraid.

So when am I going to get this right, this slippery, disorganized thing called life? When am I going to finally dissolve into that place on the horizon where money and health are abundant, the weather is always  excellent, and me and my pals are relaxed AND have plenty of time to chat?

Oh yeah … that would be never.

Sometimes I just forget.

The Buddhists say this is one of the Four Noble Truths – the notion that there will be suffering. They even have a name for it: Dukkha.

Dukkha is all about craving and clinging, and wishing that things were any other way than they are at exactly this moment. And if I think long and hard enough, and listen to the sweet consolation of my love as she encourages me, I finally get the point.

Dukkha is actually a critical part of life. And why, you ask? So you and I can get over it, basically, and thus move forward. Which is another one of the Four Noble Truths; there is an end to suffering. We simply must do the work necessary to get there.

I’m not a practicing Buddhist and I’m sure I don’t have the subtleties right here. But I do know when Life presents me with one of her lessons.

The mad, deep fear in my gut comes from long ago. I had an ambitious father who wanted me to be a star, and a mother who was competitive, jealous and wanted me to stay in the background. They have been duking it out in my head for decades now. And the beautiful thing is that now I know when they’re at it again.

So of course I’m going to feel afraid about launching books and being in the spotlight. Yet, at the same time, here I am laid up and unable to move around much at all. So I have plenty of time to contemplate the blank screen, and chip away at my endless list of book promotion tasks.

They go together rather neatly, don’t you think?

It’s as if Spirit just couldn’t resist the chance the help me really live into that old fear of mine – and do something about it. Which is exactly the way I resolve such conflicts.

Where I’m heading is detachment; that divine state of nothingness in which I crave nothing more than doing the next right thing.

In such a simple, joyous place, I imagine I won’t feel beholden to any agenda at all. I’ll be in happy free-flow all day long, taking the path one step at a time. Do you know that essential place of bliss I’m talking about?

There is no second-guessing, no doubting and shame. There is no wallowing in stories, or853876 peeved fist-shaking at the past. Instead, there is a simply, gracious focus on what is, right here and right now.

Oh … wait. I can do this in this moment. And actually, so can you. All we have to do is look at our fear and get clear on what it is – a ghost from the past, here to remind us to look elsewhere. And then we have to surrender to it. It’s a fact; There will be suffering. So why try to avoid it or feel sorry for yourself about it?

When I remember this, I can forget about the saga of my Achilles tendon and get busy creating the next right thing. I can take three deep breaths and refocus my attention as I choose, very intentionally, what to do next.

I can forget all about my little dramas and let the next moment unfold, held once more  in the lovely grace of divine flow.

So what can you do right now to dissolve your own web of tension? What next right thing can you relax into?

I invite you to consider that this moment – right here and right now – is yours for the taking. So may this be your invitation to take it.

Namaste.

10 Ways to Stop Being ‘Insanely Busy’

Hands with teacupIf you’re like many of us, you work 50-60 hours in an office. Or you take work home, work on weekends — and try to juggle the rest of life as well. It gets overwhelming, doesn’t it?

That plus the ever present demands of children, aging parents, community sends us over the edge. No wonder we get mired in self talk about the impossibility of work-life balance. But here’s the thing …

 Would you unplug if you could?

Often we get lulled into thinking we have no choice. We believe we have to overwork in order to succeed, in order to be viable. We believe we have to suffer to be whole.

For one week why not try some of these unplugging ideas as an experiment in self care? You’ll find out exactly how willing you are to stop being so busy. And you may just find your way back to greater peace.

  1. Begin to breathe. Take five minutes at the start of each day – before you even reach for your phone. Sit up, get comfortable, and simply breathe with your eyes closed. Follow your breath in and out. Just observe it. Let your mind go crazy but keep coming back to your breath. Do this every day for one week, and then notice. Are you starting to feel calmer?
  2. Forgive those who anger you. Easier said than done, perhaps. Take at least thirty minutes of quiet time on a lunch hour to write out all of your resentments towards a particular person. Write it all down. Eventually you will get to the end. And there you will naturally find forgiveness – which feels so much better.
  3. Acknowledge yourself. When is the last time you tuned into your inner conversation about yourself? It’s there – trust me. Consider adding some kind words each day when you’re taking a shower or brushing your teeth.
  4. Take back lunch. If you work through lunch, stop immediately. You need this break. Really! Allow yourself to shut your door and relax. Bring your lunch to work and find something fun to do with this precious hour. Read a juicy novel. Knit. Take a walk. Bring an instrument and consider starting an office jam session. This step, alone, could start a small revolution.
  5. Turn off the ringer and all notifications on your phone. Let your phone fade into the background. Check it sporadically … you can do it! You’ll find you become more present, more relaxed. And far more inspired. If your boss demands you keep it on, simply smile and keep setting that firm, polite boundary. This is restorative time that allows you to work more efficiently in the afternoon.
  6. Turn off your phone at lunch. Just try this for one week, even if it feels incredibly uncomfortable. You will  find that what once seemed incredibly important isn’t so crucial now. And so balance returns.
  7. Start to walk places – or ride a bike. This is a good one especially if you can’t make time to exercise. If your daily commute is filled with traffic, get around it hopping on a bike. If that’s not practical, outfit your bike with a basket or panniers and do your errands this way. Or carry a small backpack and walk. The natural endorphins you’ll experience may make this irresistible.
  8. Take a nap. Insane right? Au contraire. According to The National Sleep Foundation, a 20-30 minute nap will leave you far more alert and better able to perform, without grogginess. Try to find a place at work to curl up — read Take a Nap; Change Your Life for inspiration.
  9. Find a buddy. Making changes in old habits and mindsets requires support. Find at least one good pal you can call as you travel new roads. Check in each day by phone or email on how this slowing, calming process is working for you.
  10. Ask yourself what you need … then provide it. So often we put ourselves last in the rush to please others and get ahead. But our needs never stop. Get in the habit of asking yourself several times per day what you need. Take the first answer you get, even if you don’t like it. It’s okay … you really can trust yourself to know the truth.

Remember, you were designed to be whole and complete — without overwork or stress of any kind. And you can get back to that sweet place by simply allowing yourself to unfold a little.

Please feel free to share your own ideas here about how you avoid being ‘insanely busy’. Thanks!