A Holiday Reflection: A Live Meaningful Christmas & New Year

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A Different Kind of Christmas

Hi friends,

Hope you all have been well.

I have been enjoying the cheer of the holiday – cups of hot cocoa, warm sweaters, crackling of the fire, twinkly lights, and the warmth of laughter with friends and family.

There was definitely a time in my life when I did not allow myself to enjoy these simple joys of the holiday. It felt wrong in the midst of knowing the hurt and struggle in the world.

But I also know, I must nourish my soul with a simple gratitude. And when my soul is nourished and my spirit is grateful, I am able to extend myself in caring for others.

So, I first ask you, how are you nourishing your soul and spirit in this season?

And secondly I ask you, how are you nourishing the souls of others?

As my husband and I enjoy the simple pleasures of the holiday, we are also looking into what gifts we can bring to those in difficult situations. Currently we, along with a small group of friends, are preparing care packages of winter clothing for refugees living in our city, along with a note translated in their native language, simply telling them that we are glad they are here.

Let’s feel the simple joy of the holiday. Let’s be grateful and full of cheer. And let’s also not forget this season is about giving and bringing light to others as well.

Nurture the light of your own candle. But also, extend that light to others – bring light to the darkness they may find themselves in.

I know this holiday season can be frustrating watching what should be a time of spirit, joy, and hope become a time of consumerism and materialism.

If you are shopping for others, consider shopping at shops that empower human rights, such as Ten Thousand Villages or Preemptive Love Coalition. Or choose to shop at small locally owned shops and empower small businesses. Or make purchases on Etsy and help support someone’s creative passion.

And, also, give yourself grace if you find this challenging, or too difficult to do.

We are looking to make more meaningful choices this holiday – but we will not be able to do this perfectly. We are not perfect. And the world is not perfect. And we give ourselves and our world grace.

And we press on, as meaning makers. Allowing ourselves to experience joy, giving that joy to others, and embracing grace for all the imperfection in between.

 

End of Year Reflection & Hopes for the Future

I know it’s a bit early, but I have begun my end of year reflection and hopes for the new year. As I reflected on some questions – I was actually a little blown away with how much I have grown over this past year and how much a little intention can do.

A little over a year ago I was feeling really lost in my life – I felt a lack of meaning and deepness in my life – and it nagged at me in distressing ways. There was an emptiness I couldn’t shake.

So, I decided 2016 would be a year in which I lived meaningfully – I would focus on mental health, spirituality, and living a meaningful life. I would help others on their own journeys and would try to make a positive impact.

First I attended a conference focused on living a meaningful life. Which led me to take a writing class. Which led me to start this blog. Which led to thoughts and growth and ideas…which led to internal and external change in my life.

I can happily say, one year later, I am living more meaningfully. Not perfectly. But meaningfully.

I don’t know where you are on your own live meaningful journey, but I can’t encourage you enough, to set your intentions, journal and reflect regularly, seek learning in the direction you want to go, and take action. It doesn’t always take big life altering action…small steps will get you there too. Just take the step.

I invite you to partake in your own end of year reflection. If you’ve been on your live meaningful journey for the past year as well, I hope it is exciting to see how far you have come.

If you are just starting out, don’t be too down on the past, and focus your energy on the future that lies ahead.

I have some questions below to get you started. The majority of these questions are from (or inspired by) Susannah Conway’s free workbook Unravel Your Year. There are many, many more questions in her workbook than I listed here, so I definitely recommend you get it! Just make sure you carve out time to do it – it is a deep dive!

Are you ready? Grab a hot drink, your journal, and let’s begin…

 

Focus on feeling gratitude & recognizing progress in the past year…

1. What worked well this past year? What brought you joy? How have you grown and changed? What gifts did 2016 bring? (Jot down everything that comes to mind!)

2. If you had to summarize 2016 into one meaningful (& positive) word – what would it be? What was the theme of this year? If it was a movie or book, what would the title be?

3. What did you fully and wholeheartedly embrace in 2016? What did you allow yourself to let go of in 2016?

4. What changed for the better in the past year? What did you discover about yourself?

5. Where did you practice bravery?

6. What is something wonderful that happened this year, that you did not expect at all?

7. What is your end of year conclusion?

8. In what ways did you make progress on your mental health? In your spirituality? In living a meaningful life? What other accomplishment or progress did you make?

9. What challenges did you face this year? What new tools did facing those challenges bring you?

10. What were your favorite moments of 2016?

11. Consider the gifts that 2016 offered on your life’s journey. What were they?

12. What are the top 3 words that come to mind for 2016?

 

Anticipate and set intention for the future…

1. What are your values for 2017? What are your intentions?

2. What word would you like to choose as your intention/hope/what you want to embody for 2017? What comes to mind?

3. In what ways would you like 2017 to look different from 2016? In what ways would you like it to look the same?

4. What are actions you can start in January to make small shifts in moving toward your word, intention, or value?

5. What part of yourself do you need to focus on nurturing in 2017?

6. What unhelpful beliefs do you want to let go of in 2017? What negative attachments will you release yourself from?

7. What 3 skills would you like to improve in 2017?

8. What are the 3 interests or hobbies you’d like to explore in 2017?

9. What 3 dreams do you have for 2017?

10. What will you say yes to in 2017? What will you say no to?

11. What will you carve out time for in 2017?

12. This time next year you will know you are different because…..  And you will be able to see that your life is different because….

 

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If you are open to sharing any of your end of year reflection answers, I would love to hear them!

Or if you have ways that you are living more meaningfully this Christmas/holiday –  I would love to hear about that as well!

 

Wishing you happy & cheer & meaning this holiday season…

 

Yours,

signaturesmaller

Quiet & A Force to be Reckoned With

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Hi friends,

I have learned through the comments that I have a community here that is not okay with injustice and ready to change the world.

I love it.

I also know many of us are quiet, introverted, and sensitive souls.

Although the author is unknown, there is a quote that has stuck with me-

Just because you are quiet, doesn’t mean you aren’t a force to be reckoned with.

 

Why You are Uniquely Designed to Change the World

I think there are some misunderstandings about us quiet, introverted, and sensitive types. That we wouldn’t be world changers or that we are passive.

Honestly, it is my quiet, introverted, and sensitive friends that I see a drive welling up inside of them to make change and stand up against injustice.

I would guess many of the readers of this blog might be an INFJ personality type on the Myers-Briggs. Or if not an INFJ, a personality type close to it. (If you don’t know what you are, you can take a test here).

So, why would an INFJ be a world changer? Let’s break it down.

Introverted:

Introverted souls think about things deeply. Therefore, if there is an injustice in the world, it is unlikely that they could just turn on the TV and forget about it. The injustice bothers them, which motivates them to want to make change.

Intuitive:

Intuitive types have a vision – there is a deep seated intuition that leads them. They care far more about what is deep and meaningful, rather than material possessions and the things of this world.

Feeling:

They are feeling people – which mean they care deeply about others and are in tune with the suffering of others.

Judging:

They do not passively sit back and allow whatever happens to happen – they form their opinion and feel conviction to act on it.

 

So, you can see why an INFJ personality type would be a “perfect storm” for a world changer.

And guess what, you are in good company.

Martin Luther King Jr. was an INFJ.

And so was Mother Teresa.

And if you take the test, and you are not an INFJ, as I said, you are probably something close to it – because you are here on this site – and motivated to live a meaningful life.

 

It is Time to use Your Superpower

This is the thing about the INFJ and similar personality types. In daily life – we feel like we can’t quite do anything right. It feels like everyone can do everything better than us.

But maybe, we are designed to do something different.

Maybe we have unique abilities that others don’t have, and now is the time to rise up and use these abilities to their truest calling.

Your quiet nature that causes you problems at work is suddenly the exact reason why you feel convicted to make change, and your thoughtful nature gives you the ability to see things from many perspectives, that others may not be able to.

Your feelings that are strong and overtake you causing depression and anxiety at times, are suddenly the same strong feelings that cause you to have deep empathy for those who are suffering right now.

Your judgmental and perfectionist thinking styles that cause you to feel like you are never good enough and no situation is ever good enough, is suddenly the very thinking style that identifies when something is not okay in the world and will not be okay until is changed.

 

You are 1% of the World’s Population

We have built a community here where we have discussed how our unique challenges show up in daily life and found support in knowing we are not the only ones that face these struggles.

And now we must realize that within that unique struggle, we also have an amazing superpower that not everyone else has.

And we have a responsibility to use it.

The INFJ personality type is the rarest type that exists.

It is literally 1% of  the world’s population.

(And the types that are similar to INFJ, are also very rare types.)

So, it is not a stretch to say, we are a unique.

We are very unique.

But this is why I encourage you to use this uniqueness wisely.

Don’t waste it.

Don’t waste your energy thinking about how you are different from others, or not as good at this or that, or too quiet, or whatever it is you think about that leads you into the negative spiral.

No, you have way too much potential for that.

Take that energy and pour it into your purpose, your cause, and your amazing abilities.

And if you struggle with low self esteem, you might be thinking,

What amazing abilities? I don’t have amazing abilities.

I know that you have amazing abilities. And I know you know that – if you really get honest with yourself.

 

Where Are You Being Called?

Where are you being called to use your gifts right now?

Do you have a unique ability to hear and understand different perspectives? Are you being called to talk to the other side to gain understanding, be a force of peace, and build a relationship in which you can gently teach others what you believe is right?

Are you passionately fired up right now? Do you love to write? Do you feel called to write a blog post of facebook post that brings a different kind of voice into the online world right now – a voice of hope, or grace, or conviction to others to make change?

Is there a creative project you could do that would help share the voices you feel are being unheard right now?

Do you need to develop a group of like minded friends to get together and be a force of change in your communities, neighborhoods, and cities?

Do you have a heart for the suffering? Do you need to find a place to volunteer for a people group you feel is being neglected in your country right now? Do you need to donate money to this cause? Do you need to use an artistic ability to help raise money?

Do you need to get to know the suffering people in your community? Do you need to invite them over for dinner? Do you need to bake them cookies and leave a note on their doorstep letting them know they are loved and valuable?

 

Only you know where you are called right now.

I can’t answer that for you.

Maybe as you were reading this, a thought kept popping up.

Is that where you are called? Is it time to act on that idea?

And if nothing came to mind, or you are unsure, I encourage you to spend time journaling about this and see what clarity comes to surface.

 

In Closing

You may be quiet.

You may be overlooked in our society.

But that doesn’t change, that you are a force to be reckoned with.

I hope you can believe me when I say this – there is honestly and truly something inside of you that makes you amazing, and a vessel of beautiful and hopeful change.

Don’t take this responsibility lightly.

 

Yours,

signaturesmaller

 

 

Journal Questions:

  1. Whether you are an INFJ, or a similar personality type, how does knowing this personality type give you insight into yourself and life?
  2. Do you believe you are a world changer? Do you believe you have a “unique superpower”? What are your superpowers and how might you use them?
  3. Where are you being called right now? What stood out while reading that section, or what idea came to mind? What action step do you need to commit to take?
  4. Are you willing to accept that you have a responsibility to live out your unique gifts to effect change in our world? How might you live differently if you accepted this truth?

 

P.S.

If you would like to read more on the INFJ personality type, you can do so here.

Also, I want you all to know you are very welcome to be “quiet readers” on my blog, but I do want to express that I really do think about what you post in the comments and this inspires and informs what I write about in my posts. I enjoy hearing what you are thinking about, working on, and struggling with – and I always want my message to be relevant for you and your life.

And one more thing before I go – I appreciate all of you who have said they are glad to see I am still writing. I had written that “Letter to You”post because I had not posted in 3 weeks and wasn’t sure when I was going to again. But, apparently, I still have a lot more to say.

Anyway, thank you to all of you who read, you guys really are wonderful. ❤

This is Our Chance.

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Hi friends,

If you are here with me in the US, you know there has been a lot going on lately.

If you are not here in the US, you still probably know.

It has been a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings. I have seen passion. And I have seen hate. I have seen hope. And I have seen grief.

What is strange for me, is that I feel like I know everyone, on all sides, on all beliefs.

The street I live on is filled with Trump supporters who have very different opinions from me. And I believe my husband and I have been called to love our neighbors, just as we always have.

I have family members who voted for Trump. Not because they are racist, bigots, or sexist, but because of their Republican values and belief that having Republicans in office will be better, even if they do not think the candidate is great.

It doesn’t matter if I agree, I still love my family and believe I should hear their perspective. And I will share mine with them, too.

I also know people from church and college, who I have always considered very kind and caring, who are actively supporting the presidency. This is confusing for me, and I am trying to understand.

And then I know the majority of my friends, who are of a much more liberal perspective. Some are disgusted. Some are fearful. Some are motivated to make change. I have seen them post beautiful inspiring convictions online about caring for the marginalized. And I have also seen others post hateful and mean spirited comments toward those who voted differently from them – calling these people worthless and stupid.

Many of my co-workers and clients are people of color and gay/lesbian sexual orientation. They are hurt and confused by what is happening. I work with young homeless adults trying to help them get housed and gain resources – and they express great fearfulness of what a Trump presidency looks like for them. My husband has worked the last 3 years in a program helping refugees, and is fearful what policy changes could mean for these people he has grown to care for so deeply.

 

This Our Chance

Despite the chaos, despite the mess – I believe this is our chance.

This is our chance to fiercely stand up against injustice.

This is our chance to be instruments of peace.

This is our chance to rise up.

Although these are concerning times for America, I have seen something that has inspired me.

I have seen people get serious about their causes and their beliefs. When we see injustice, it creates passion in us. And when there is passion in us, this fuels us to do things we may not have done otherwise.

The day after the election, one of our friends started a Facebook group focused on how we can love the marginalized in our city better. For those who might be fearful living in the US right now – how can we show them that they are cared for and valuable.

I have heard before that the Chinese word for “Crisis” means danger + opportunity.

When there is a crisis – there is danger. But there is always an opportunity as well. There is an opportunity for good. For transformation. For people to rise up and make change.

It’s easy to sit back when we feel like others are handling the problems of the world. But when we feel like it is truly up to us, suddenly there is a passion within us to take action because the work of our hands and our voices suddenly matters now more than ever.

 

Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

Micah 6:8: He has shown you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

Let us act justly. Let us fight for what is right. Let us not tolerate violence and hate. Let us stand up fiercely for what is wrong.

Let us be merciful. Let us be merciful toward those who are hurting right now. Those who are fearful. Those who are marginalized.

Let us walk humbly. Let us be open to hearing opinions that are different from our own. Let us try to understand them. Even those who are out right doing wrong and being hateful – why are they doing this? Is their own insecurities or lack of self worth fueling their actions? We are not excusing bad behavior, we are just trying to understand it.

Love fiercely.

Love those who are hurting.

Love those who feel misunderstood.

Love those you disagree with.

 

A Few Last Words

Although this post was specifically about the US election, I want to extend this message to everyone reading, no matter what country you live in, or what is going on in your life.

I challenge you to reflect on these questions.

 

Where do you see injustice?

Where do you need to rise up and show love?

How can you show love to the broken?

How can you love those you disagree with?

In what ways do you feel called to act justly in your life right now?

In what ways do you feel called to show mercy in your life right now?

In what ways do you feel called to be humble in your life right now?

 

Also, I don’t usually post about politics on here, but I want you to know, if your views are different from mine, you continue to be very welcome here. I want to make sure you know that. I hope I can learn from you, and you can you learn from me.

Friends, will you join with me – in using our voices, our hands, our feet, our skills, our love – to change the world?

To make it be a more joyful and loving place.

These times may be scary.

But there is also great opportunity here, for us to rise up.

This is our chance.

 

Yours,

signaturesmaller

The Pursuit of Meaning vs. The Pursuit of Happy

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There is a lot of “pursuit of happiness” going on out in the world. And of course, who can blame humans for wanting to be happy?

I was reading an article recently, and they suggested that instead of chasing happiness, we should chase meaning.

I (obviously) agree.

And another article invited us to chase after flow, kindness, and meaning as an alternative to happiness. (Their definition of “flow” being so engaged in something that you lose the sense of time)

After reading these two articles, I happened to listen to a podcast episode with Scott Barry Kaufman and Susan Cain discussing these very topics.

They were discussing introverts and extroverts and how introverts have less dopamine (the pleasure/happiness brain chemical) than extroverts. So, by definition, extroverts are in fact happier.

If you are an introvert like me, you might initially have a bad feeling in hearing this, just as I did.

BUT, Kaufman went on to pose the idea – that having a lot of dopamine (pleasure & happiness) does not equal fulfillment.

He asks, if you could just be hooked up to a machine that would just give you constant dopamine for the rest of your life and you never had to do anything else ever again, would you do it?

The answer is no. Because although you would technically be happy, you would not end your life feeling fulfilled.

Or another example. You could either spend one evening a week watching Netflix or one evening a week helping the poor.

Which would make you happier and bring more pleasure? Maybe Netflix.

Which would potentially be frustrating at times but also leave you with a sense of meaning and purpose? Helping the poor.

Let’s stop reaching for a happy life, and start reaching for a meaningful and fulfilled life.

Will you join me?

 

Balancing Self Care & Self Sacrifice

If you know me and have kept up with the blog – you know I am an advocate for self care.

Before my advocacy in self care, I was living in the framework of self-sacrifice. Which is not a bad framework – but I pushed too hard. I am a highly sensitive introvert that needs 8 hours of sleep to function. I need downtime and a sense of stability. But I would try to pretend I didn’t need those things – and I would burn out. I had to realize that being able to contribute to the world meant I needed to learn self care.

With that being said, everything is a balance. Self care does not mean always choosing the easiest option. We have to be able to use our intuition and inner wisdom to determine what is the right choice in any given moment.

In the example above, Netflix might seem like more self care – but living a life consistent with your values and making choices to help others brings fulfillment and purpose to your life.

It’s a balance – we must embrace the tension of both being important. If you had a busy stressful day and are almost over the edge – maybe Netflix is the right answer in that moment.

I work with at-risk young adults and I would face extreme burn out if I tried to do everything I possibly could for each and every person. I work in the Social Work field – where setting boundaries and having self care are very important in order to avoid burn out.

One day, a young woman popped in my office full of stress, fears of the future, and overwhelm. I asked if she would like to go for a drive, get some fresh air, and talk. She said yes and off we went.

Did I technically have time to go out with her for an hour and hear her stories?

No, not really. But in that moment, I knew it was the right thing to do.

Not only did she feel better after our outing – it also communicated that I cared about her – and began a positive relationship between the two of us.

Which made me feel good. And fulfilled.

And really, isn’t making decisions that make you feel purposeful, caring, and good about who you are – a form of self care?

Sometimes caring for others means staying home to recharge, so you can be more present for them in the future.

And sometimes caring for self, can mean extending a helping hand when you have other things you could be doing, and giving yourself the sense of purposefulness that comes with that action.

 

Balancing Living out Values vs. Just Being

You are good enough, just being you.  You do not have to be perfect. When you aren’t doing, you are still valuable.

These are lessons I had to learn.

And again, it’s balance.

I hear the phrase, we are “human beings” not “human doings.”

Yes.

But, it is living out our lives consistent with our values, that makes life meaningful, purposeful, fulfilling, and worth it.

And we give ourselves grace, when we can’t do this perfectly. And we give ourselves self care.

But there is something missing, if there are no values or mission guiding that life.

Balance.

I like exploring ideas and ways of thinking. And new ideas and new ways of thinking are helpful, but I also must course-correct when the ideas go too far.

I had to do this when I became overly focused on self sacrifice, and stopped caring for myself.

But, I have found myself re-adjusting again – it has been very important for me to learn about about self care and just being. But, I began reading books and articles on this subject – and realized there were people I felt were going too far, and I stopped agreeing.

The goal of life isn’t for me to sit in my house feeling relaxed and cozy. These moments are important and necessary, but when I go to work and hear the stories of my clients who face abuse, loss, mental illness, poverty, hopelessness, trauma…

Cozy at home is not where I belong. Bringing hope and encouragement to the poor in spirit is where I belong. I have been lucky to have certain things in my life, and when I see others who do not have those same things – this makes me question too much self care.  I don’t want to throw self care out the window, but I want to use self care as a tool so I am recharged to take on this mission and bring as much encouragement, support, and kindness I am able to.

You are valuable just being who you are. With no actions attached.

But if you have abilities to change and impact someone’s life for the better-

why not do it?

 

In Closing…

Follow your values and give yourself grace.

Trust your inner wisdom to know.

 

I hope for you, a happy life.

But moreso, I hope for you a meaningful, purposeful, and fulfilled life.

 

A life that is aligned with your values and your core beliefs.

 

A life where you don’t define yourself by the problems you have, but rather, by the kindness and hope you bring to others.

Where you simply forget about yourself for awhile, because there is a mission in your life that has consumed you, in the best kind of way.

 

You will do amazing things.

 

Yours,

signaturesmaller

 

Journal Questions:

  1. Are there any areas in which you need to shift your thinking from the pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of meaning? If so, how will you do this?
  2. What comes to mind when you think of balancing self care and self sacrifice? Are there areas in your life that come to mind where you need to focus more on care or sacrifice? Do you feel open to trusting your intuition to know which one to embrace, in any given moment?
  3. Reflect on the ideas of living out your values versus just being & giving yourself grace. What does this balance look like for you?
  4. What is your mission right now? Who are you showing kindness to? Where are you feeling a sense of purpose? What is bringing you a sense of fulfillment or meaning? If this is lacking, how could you make choices and take actions, to invite more of this into you life?
  5. What was your biggest takeaway from this post? Is there an action you need to take, based on this? What do you need to focus on this week?

A Letter to You

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Hi friends,

I know I have been a bit absent on the blog lately, so I wanted to write a little letter to you – so you know I haven’t disappeared!

I have been spending lots of my time investing my live meaningful values into my non-online life. This has been going quite well, but I also have used some of my time in which I usually wrote, to focus on other things I am working on.

Also, I have never been one to force myself to write – the thoughts, ideas, and writing always came very naturally. Although there have many thoughts swirling around in my mind, nothing has felt quite right to post on here.

So, I have been following my intuition and allowing myself to take this little break. Please continue to check back, as I plan to still write, but I am allowing myself to focus on some other things as well – which means my writing could be a bit more sporadic.

I am curious to know what is happening in your own life. What shifts have been happening for you? What values have you been focusing on? What practices have you developed to further implement these values? Please feel free to share in the comments, as I would love to hear!

When I started this blog, I mentioned before, some of the main values I wanted to focus on were Creativity, Helping Others, and Growth.

And I am happy to say, the last 10 or so months of this blog have been bursting with creativity, a sense of helping others, and experiencing continual growth.

I am happy about this, but also sensing new values I would like to focus on. They are actually all values I have held in the past, but ones I would like to re-visit and re-focus on again, as I have not made them my main priority in the past 10 months. They are:

Simple & Conscious Living: Minimalism / Environmentally Friendly Living / Purchasing that Supports Human Rights

Exercise & Diet: Focusing on eating foods that will nourish my body & give me energy and focusing on taking care of my body through exercise

Using my Talents to Impact the World: Focusing on how I could bring my talents into my current workplace, thinking through how my agency could best serve the youth we work with, looking for other opportunities in my life where I could be of service to others by using my talents, skills, and knowledge – and specifically focusing on those who are in poverty, vulnerable, or poor in spirit

So, that’s a little bit where my mind has been at lately, I would love to hear where living a value centered life has taken you and what thoughts and actions it may have prompted.

One other thought – when I started this blog, I was very clear that sometimes we have to work on getting our mental health in order – to be able to live out our live meaningful goals. And just as it is important to care for our mental health, it is also important to not stay in that place where we are only focused on ourselves. Sometimes we need to forget about our own problems for a bit, and put our energy into sharing light and goodness with others.

There is a quote by George Bernard Shaw that I love. I will leave you with it today, to reflect on.

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

-George Bernard Shaw

You are a mighty one. You are a world changer. I can’t wait to see what you will do with your life.

Enjoying the journey with you.

Yours,

signaturesmaller

 

P.S. I don’t have any journal questions with this letter, but I do encourage you to be thinking of three things you can do this week that will incorporate the values you have chosen to focus on right now.

What is Your Present Moment Purpose?

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Many of us wait for our purpose, for later. Some date in the future. Once this or that has occurred.

There may be an amazing in purpose in your future.

But, there is also a purpose in your life right now, too.

I always want to be clear, that seeing the purpose in the present moment, does not mean you have to give up the purpose of the future.

I have always been a bit of a dreamer myself, I love to dream of the possibilities of the future. And I remember reading articles about how “maybe the purpose is right now after all” – and actually left the article feeling disappointed. Because I felt like dreaming of the future was off limits.

Dreaming of the future is not off limits.

There may be an exciting adventure for you to take in the future. There may be an awesome project. There may be a new job.

Feel free to dream.

You can anticipate and take steps toward the future.

BUT, please do not do this at the expense of today. Right now.Your current life and these current moments.

As you read this article, I challenge you to think reflectively and deeply, as you ask yourself,

What is my present moment purpose?

 

Values, Intentions, & Your Present Moment Purpose

So, now that you know that you don’t have to give up any dreams of the future, let’s get focused on the present for a bit.

I recently heard spiritual teacher Ekchart Tolle use the term “present moment purpose.” It resonated with me so much, because I have spent so much of my life living only in the future, instead of investing and embracing all that the present moment had to offer.

I think we can come up with excuses for why we can’t live out our purpose now. Saying things like, I can’t live my purpose until I have a new job or move to this next phase of life. Again, new jobs and new phases of life are not bad things – but if our belief is that we cannot live out our purpose in any way at all, until these things are done – well, I am going to challenge this idea a bit.

So, how do you start embracing your present moment purpose?

You have to be intentional. Maybe you have heard the phrase before, “The grass is green where you water it.” If you place all your happiness in the future and don’t water the the grass that is right in front of you – well, you are going to have dead ugly grass – so of course you are going to be desperately looking for the greener grass somewhere else.

I am advocating for a mental shift in which we anticipate the future because there is joy in the future, NOT because the present is terrible and we desperately want to get out of it.

So, starting today-

Begin to water your grass.

Plant some flowers.

Do some landscaping.

Although you are allowed to dream of the future, pretend – just for a moment – that you are here forever. What would you do differently? How would you invest more?

I love how Jess Lively talks about value based intentions on her site.

Jess describes that intentions are “statements of our deepest values in particular areas of life.” And once we establish our value based intentions, we are to “embody our values in the present moment, given our current circumstance.”

Given our current circumstance.

I have spent a lot of my life fighting the current circumstance. But this new way of thinking suggests that we show up fully, given whatever circumstance we are in.

I had struggled with my job when it shifted and changed – when my caseload and workload increased. Some days I tried to fight the way things were. Other days I would apathetically detach.

But, when I focused on what values I wanted to live out, given the current circumstance, there was a bit of a shift. We cannot always control outcomes, but we can choose to live out values, to the best of our ability, in any situation.

So, if I have many clients to meet with. I am busy. Things are hectic. I am juggling too much. I can still focus on and live out my value based intention.

I developed a little phrase for my value based intention for work. And no matter how busy I am, I commit myself to living out my value. Any time a client steps in my office, I commit that I will be –

Kind, supportive, and seeing the inner light.

I can’t always control how much time I have. Or how busy or free I will be. But when I meet with a client, I can always make sure that I am kind to them, that I am supportive of them, and that I am looking for the inner light within them.

And if I can leave my day, knowing that I committed to this value, I can leave feeling good about my day. It’s not about outcomes. It’s about asking “Did I live out my values fully, given the present circumstance?”

The more you live each day committed to the values that align with you, the more meaningful and purposeful your life will feel.

 

Adding What Will Bring Value & Purpose

When we are talking about present moment purpose, this is not to say that you can’t add anything to your life, that will add that purpose more.

The key is focusing on adding things to your life – that you can add now, in the present moment. Not one to two years down the road, or when some circumstance changes.

When I got serious about living my “live meaningful” life, I realized that there were three words that stuck out to me, and felt really important to me. I have many values and many things that I enjoy – but when I thought about what I truly wanted in my “live meaningful” life, three thoughts came to mind:

Creativity

Helping Others

Growth

I realized I needed to find ways to embody these things in my own life. To be looking for opportunities to embrace these things in my life currently, and to also be adding things to my present life that would help me live in such ways.

At times, I recognized that I was putting too much pressure on areas of my current life, because of the lack I felt. I have a creative mind and wanted to be able to engage in creative pursuits, I wanted to feel like I was truly helping others in their life, and  wanted to feel like I was always growing and learning new things.

I would try to force my job to feel this way at times – but then get frustrated when the work wasn’t creative, or I wasn’t helping people in the ways I thought was best, or that my job wasn’t helping me grow or learn new things.

This of course, led to the desperate fantasizing of the future – not the good kind of future anticipation – but the kind where my present situation was NOT OKAY and it needed to change immediately or I would be NOT OKAY.

And then I started this blog.

I didn’t quit my job. I didn’t move across the country. I didn’t re-arrange my entire life and everything in it.

I simply found something that I could do now, in the present moment, that incorporated my values of creativity, helping others, and growth.

It took the pressure off my job for a bit. And once I had found fulfillment elsewhere, it allowed me to take a second look at my job, and begin to incorporate my values there too…but in a much gentler and realistic way.

If I ask you, what are your three values – what are the first three things to pop into your mind?

Is there anything you could start doing today, that would incorporate those values?

And what are some values you could live out in your daily life, starting – today, tomorrow, and next week?

 

Valuing & Sharing Your Experience

I have talked about this concept many, many times on the blog, and I will probably keep talking about it, because, it really is that important.

But, a large part of embracing present moment purpose, is valuing the experience you are having right now. Showing up fully to it. And asking yourself –

Why am I having this experience?

How is this experience teaching me something?

What lesson am I being taught right now?

What could I spend time reading about, writing about, or listening to – which would help me learn more from the experience I am having?

And how could I learn from this experience, so that I could then share it with others?

How could I help others because of the experiences I face in my own life?

I am not telling you to stay in a bad situation. But, if you are in a situation that cannot be changed yet, why not show up fully to it? Maybe there is a purpose in it?

A purpose for you – to learn and grow.

And a purpose for others – that you will be able to use your experience to help others.

Maybe, just maybe, there is beautiful, lovely, amazing purpose in your life right now.

Maybe you are here for a reason.

 

Every Moment has a Purpose

I believe every moment has purpose and is precious. A moment of quiet can be a space to reflect on your gratitudes. A moment of stress can be a chance to work on your mindfulness skills. How can you find purpose in each and every moment that comes your way?

It starts with the moment. But beyond the moment, how will you find purpose in your life today, tomorrow, and next week? Not the life that you will have a year from now, but the life that you are in right now.

I believe we all have a present moment purpose that we can live out in the circumstance that we are in.

We can live it out everyday in each and every moment we are in.

I encourage you to reflect on what your values are – what is a phrase that encompasses how you want to show up at your job or with others in your life?

What are three values that come to mind? Is there a way you can add these three values to your life more?

How can you show up more fully to you present circumstance by accepting that there is a lesson that you can learn and/or share with others?

Not sure where to start with all this? What resonated with you the most as you read this article?

That is a good place to start.

 

May you be presently purposeful.

 

Yours,

signaturesmaller

 

 

 Journal Questions:

  1. Although dreaming of the future is not off limits, pretend just for a moment that you are here in your current life forever. What would you do differently? How would you invest more?
  2. Reflect on what your values are – what is a phrase that encompasses how you want to show up at your job or with others in your life? (For example, mine was “kind, supportive, and seeing the inner light” for when I met with clients). Think of something that can be a phrase that reminds you of your values and purpose in a specific situation.
  3. What are three values that come to mind? (For example, mine were creativity, helping others, and growth). Is there something you can add to your life that would incorporate these values more into your current life?
  4. How can you show up more fully to you present circumstance by accepting that there is a lesson that you can learn and/or share with others? What is the lesson you are learning right now? How could you share it with others or help others because of it?
  5. What resonated with you the most as you read this article? Based on this, what is your intuition directing you to do?

 

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please consider “following”this blog by clicking the button on the bottom right hand corner of this page. By doing this, you will receive an e-mail update when a new article is posted. Thanks for reading! : )

Self Care, Self Awareness, and What Separates us from Joy

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I have learned a lot over these past couple years about the importance of self-care. I will say, it did not come natural to me.

Self care isn’t actually hard – it’s just the mental shift of allowing us to care for ourselves that is hard. You have to wrestle through thoughts about it being selfish or self-indulgent.

But as I have allowed and invited more self care into my life, I recognize the huge benefit of inviting it into my life more and tuning into my body more, and asking what it really needs in any given moment.

I would like to share some these practices with you, and invite you to give them a try in your own life.

As for self awareness – that is one I really thought I had down. But there was a large piece of self awareness I was truly missing. Which I will go into later in the article, in case maybe you have some blind spots like I did?

And finally, I will share what I believe separates us from joy. It is one of those things – not easy – but so simple – all at the same time.

Will you join me in in the journey of developing self-care, self awareness, and connecting closer to joy?

 

Developing Self Care as a Habit

As I said, self care did not come natural to me. Engaging in self care felt like laziness and indulgence.

But when I finally gave in and tried it, I realized it was just the opposite.

I was more productive when I engaged in self care. And, I was a better partner, friend, and co-worker.

You can engage in self care in a variety of ways.

It could be getting enough sleep. It could be taking a break or the day off from something. It could be developing an exercise habit. It could be taking walks in nature after work.

It also could be making your work environment a more calming place. This could mean turning off fluorescent lights and using a floor lamp instead. This could mean bringing in a scented candle of your favorite smell – and when you find yourself getting stressed – taking a “mindful minute” and focusing on the scent while taking a few deep breaths. If you love nature as much as me, maybe this means surrounding yourself with photos or artwork of nature.

I have actually been at work before, found myself stressed with a headache, and I would ask myself the question,

What do I need right now?

The answer I got back was “To be somewhere calming. To be in nature.”

When I tuned in and realized this was my answer, I was initially frustrated, because being in nature was not an option in that moment. I think for some, going on a short walk could be a good idea, but for me, I work in the city and a walk right outside my building would NOT be calming.

But instead of remaining frustrated, I asked myself what the closest to nature I could be in this moment was.

And then I decided to start looking through nature photos online. I actually was NOT confident that this would be helpful at all.

But, as I looked through the photos of trees and trails and sunsets and sunrises…I did find that it began to ease my mind. My mind, even if just for a few minutes, was taken out of my office and into calming nature. I could picture myself walking down the trails. I could imagine how the breeze might feel on my skin.

After a couple minutes of looking at the pictures, I was surprised to find, it was almost as if I had gone on a walk. My mind had expanded beyond my office and brought me a bit of clarity I didn’t have only moments ago.

 

Why Self Care & Self Awareness are Connected

I believe self care and self awareness are very connected.

First off, I had to realize I was a “highly sensitive person” – which is a term developed by Dr. Elaine Aron. People who are highly sensitive are not only emotionally sensitive, but also highly impacted by their environments and the people around them. We absorb what is around us in a deep way.

So, in this realization, I realized how important it was for me to give myself a calming and comforting environment. And although I have always enjoyed nature, it was through studying more about the highly sensitive person trait, that I realized how truly important nature was for me as a tool for calming.

The other way I believe that self care and self awareness are connected – is getting connected with what you truly need in a moment, and what your intentions are.

Whenever I feel myself getting frazzled or stressed, I ask myself,

What do I need right now?

Not “What should I need” or judgements about how I shouldn’t be so stressed right now.

But, what do I truly need right now?

The answer always varies, but here are some examples of some answers I have gotten from myself before:

I need to pace myself.

I need to take a moment to pause.

I need to take a walk.

I need a cup of tea.

I need to do something positive, and think about this later.

Or sometimes, I just need to tune in to why I am even feeling so stressed in the first place. But again, there are no judgments allowed.

Why are you feeling stressed right now?

Again, depending on the situation, it is always a variety of answers. Sometimes it is because I am feeling like something has to be perfect and other times it is because I am not pacing, and I am trying to get everything done at once.

Here is one blind spot I had with my self-awareness – I believed I was not impulsive. I am an overthinker, so by nature, you would not think I would be impulsive. So here’s the difference, I was not impulsive externally – but I was impulsive internally.

What I mean by this is, if I began to feel an emotion, I would immediately engage with it, without question. There was not a moment of pause. There was no moment to think through how engaging in this emotion might make me feel worse. I have worked with youth through my career, and taught them anger management skills to decrease verbal altercations and physical fights. It’s all about taking a moment to pause (not being impulsive with your words and actions) and looking at why you are feeling the way you are feeling – because a fight will not solve that problem.

So, the same with the internal. It is about taking a moment to pause – instead of engaging the experience of stress – and simply asking yourself Why am I feeling this way? and What do I need right now?

 

Separating Anxiety from Wisdom

So, another blind spot I had with self awareness was in regard to what was wisdom and what was anxiety.

You may have heard me talk about this in the blog before as intuition and ego. It doesn’t really matter what you call it. However, what I will say is, I was someone who DID NOT believe I was someone that had any issues with my ego. (Huge blind spot!)

The reason for this is probably because when I thought of the word “ego” I more thought of the mainstream use of the word – meaning self righteous or prideful. And ego can mean this. But ego can show up as anxiety too. The ego wants to protect us – but often takes the worst approach imaginable – whether through pride which disconnects us from others or anxiety which causes us to live in fear.

So, once I realized the ego could show up in anxiety too, I soon realized, I had a VERY big ego. Again, not something to judge myself for, just something to gently work on, one step at a time.

The good news is – on the surface, your anxiety might be everywhere. But inside of everyone, is a deep reservoir of wisdom. It is already there. You just need to learn how to better access it.

Like anything else, it just takes practice.

I will give you an example, on how you can work on practicing it.

In my job, I lead groups for my clients. For some reason, this always causes a bit of anxiety in me. But this day in particular, I was having more anxiety than usual as I was planning the group. I felt myself beginning to become stressed.

Before allowing the stress to go too far, I decided it was time for a “mindful pause.”

I grabbed a piece of notebook paper. On the top part I wrote:

ego/anxiety

On the second part I wrote:

intuition/wisdom

And then I filled out each section – identifying first what my ego/anxiety was saying, and second what my intuition/wisdom was saying. It was helpful to be able to separate the two from each other.

Then I asked myself,

What do I need right now? Why am I getting upset? What are my intentions? Am I making this more complicated than it needs to be?

What it came down to, was a very common experience for me, my ego was trying to make something perfect, and in the process was causing me feelings of stress and anxiety.

When I tuned in to my intuition and wisdom – it was much more clear what I needed to do. I was complicating things I didn’t need to. Once I was able to have some clarity around this, I was able to move forward planning the group, without the feelings of stress hovering over me. They still popped up – but I just reminded myself what my inner wisdom had directed me to do.

 

How the Ego Separates us from Joy

I believe the ego separates us from joy. But the more we can move beyond the ego, the more joyful we will become, and the more decisions we will make that will lead us to joyful experiences.

The ego causes us to be too anxious, too embarrassed, and too afraid to live our lives fully. And although the ego will always be there to some degree, we can decide if we want to believe the ego, or if we would rather believe another part of ourselves. You get to decide “who” you trust.

And again, it takes practice. But with a little practice, brings a little progress. And with much practice, brings much progress.

As I have said before, I come from a Christian perspective. I am going to share a bit of my perspective, but please know, these are very helpful practices whether you add spirituality to the mix, or it is simply done as a secular practice. If this part doesn’t resonate with you, that is okay!

For me, I understand God as synonymous with Joy, Peace, and Freedom. I believe to experience Joy is to experience God. I believe that we find Peace, when through God, we are able to trust. And I believe we find freedom, when we allow our minds and lives, to be transformed by God.

So, for me, the ego represents sin. I know “sin” usually is associated with “doing wrong” – but my understanding of sin is a bit different. I believe sin is anything that separates us from God, and in turn, anything that separates us from Joy, Peace, and Freedom. I don’t think we need to be filled with shame for our “sin” – I just think we need to recognize how it is separating us from God, and in turn, an abundant life.

The word “repent” is often associated with a begging for forgiveness of our sins. However, the word actually means to turn and face God. Again, to turn your direction so that you are taking a path that leads to Joy, Peace, and Freedom.

The ego shows up a couple different ways in the Bible. Jesus eats with those of “lowly position” and you see the Pharisees criticizing him – saying things like “Why would you spend time with people like that?” and the Pharisees believing that they are better than them. Although the Pharisees were keeping all the “laws” – they were missing the whole point. They were missing God, because they were “too good” to be where God was.

And then the other side of ego shows up too. Moses doesn’t trust that God could use him for a greater purpose. After all, he is a stutterer – if he can’t even speak well – how could God have any kind of plans for him? Moses’ ego is filled self doubt. And if we let that self doubt get the best of us, we miss out on the abundant life God has for us.

Again, although I am speaking of this spiritually, please know the message is the same, even if you do not identify with Christianity or spirituality at all.

We have fear, anxiety, and self doubt which shows up as our ego. This ego side of us separates us from joy, peace, and freedom. But, we have the choice to turn ourselves toward joy, and we do this by tuning in to the inner wisdom that is already inside of us.

 

Developing a Morning Ritual

I have found it very important to develop a morning ritual for each day to center myself.

Some people call this meditation.

Some people call this prayer.

Some people just call it a “quiet time” before a busy day begins.

You can call it whatever you want.

In Christianity, prayer is considered one of the most important spiritual disciplines. The word discipline comes from the word “disciple” and the word disciple means “to teach.” We must teach our minds how to embrace the world differently – we must spend time training our minds and renewing our minds.

I will be the first to say, I have been guilty of a reading a blog entry or book – becoming very inspired – and then, well, that’s it. I don’t develop any kind of meaningful practice around it that will actually change my life. Don’t get me wrong, inspiration is a wonderful, wonderful thing. But, it really is the small everyday practices that truly change our lives.

Also, it is going to be a lot easier to deal with certain challenges in your day, if you first equip yourself in the morning, before the challenges even arise. Put on you armor, so to speak.

Going full circle, I believe self-care starts in the morning. Are you going to rush out of your house in a frantic state? Or are you going to offer self care by brewing a cup of coffee or tea, sipping slowly, and equipping yourself for the day ahead?

Some ideas for a morning ritual include:

 

Setting your Intentions:

What are your intentions for this day? Who do you want to be in this day?

Developing a Mantra:

Develop a mantra for the day that you will tell yourself when things become stressful.

Record Gratitudes:

Record your gratitudes from the previous day – this will help your mind to remember the positives and be looking for them in the day ahead of you.

Take a Mindful/Meditative Moment:

Close your eyes and quiet your mind. Focus your attention on your breathing. Focus your attention on the sounds around you. Have a candle nearby and focus your mind on the scent. Take a moment to simply be, in the present moment.

Read Something Inspirational:

Read an inspiring book or blog. Take time to reflect or journal on how you would like to embody this in your upcoming day.

 

Conclusion

I hope that some of the ideas and concepts that I discussed in this article, sparked changes of thoughts and ideas of how you could implement your own self care / self awareness practices in your own life, so that you might be able to connect more with joy, peace, and freedom.

Joy, peace, and freedom are already in our midst, we just need to learn how to access them. But through self care, self awareness, an understanding of what separates us (and lots of practice!) – you will find it. Never will things be perfect, but a more joyful, peaceful, and free version of yourself exists – and I encourage you to find her!

 

Take care of yourself. : )

 

Yours,

signaturesmaller

 

 

Journal Questions:

  1. What are your current thoughts on self care? Are you willing to offer yourself more self care? If so, what are some ways you could start doing this?
  2. Look back on your past week – were there any stressful events? Were you able to take a “mindful pause” in these moments? If so, great! How did this help? But if not, how do you think a “mindful pause”might have helped in these moments?
  3. Think about something that is causing you stress or anxiety right now. First, write out the perspective of the ego. Once you’ve done that, write out the perspective of the inner wisdom. Are you willing to trust the inner wisdom over the ego?
  4. How do you see your ego keeping you from joy, peace, or freedom in your life currently? What could be some baby steps in making changes to this?
  5. If you don’t currently have a morning ritual practice, would you be willing to start one? What practices mentioned would you be willing to try out and start using regularly? If you already have a morning practice, how do you notice this practice impacting your days? How would you like to strengthen this practice?

the abundance of flow & the hidden life that was there all along.

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The Veil is Lifted

I used to be anti-going with the flow. Going with the flow meant I could be led in the wrong direction.

I still understand my concern. I don’t want to drift.

But, I have now learned it is a collaborative effort – between flow & me.

I show up as my best self & embrace the flow. I don’t fight it and I don’t force.

But, I do my part – which is the inner work. Finding my values. Finding my intentions. If I don’t do this, then I can’t fully be present for what is flowing toward me.

I am not saying that there is never a time when things need to be changed in your life. There is!

But my problem was, I was missing beautiful things that were already flowing into my life in the present moment.

I didn’t yet have an eye for it. But once the veil was lifted, even just enough to get a glimpse- it all was made clear.

The beauty was everywhere  – in the same old life I had already been living.

There were possibilities and opportunities, that I simply hadn’t seen before.

And there was joy to be experienced – there were wonderful things – already surrounding me.

Reach, dream, and usher in the beautiful future…but please, please do not miss the beauty that is flowing to you right now.

Developing my gratitude practice has been an incredible help in seeing the beauty all around me. I can’t believe I had been missing it for so long.

Sure- maybe I had a frustrating day at work. But how did I miss the gift of creation on my drive home?

The vast blue skies. The sprinkle of white clouds. The vibrant green earth, the golden fields, the sun caressing the world below.

I missed it somehow.

I actually take the back roads home from work now. Because it is so easy to miss the beauty when you are racing home on the highway.

I pull in the driveway to my house. I admire the colors of our garden flowers. And the bumble bees. And the butterflies.

It’s all a gift.

Not only did I used to spend my drive home ruminating on negative thoughts & missing beauty, but I would spend my whole evening that way too.

I would think about my day and how I needed to fix all the problems. I needed a solution and I would wrestle my problems like a difficult math equation.

But problems aren’t always solved that way.

Now, I spend my evenings stepping outside into creation. A couple nights ago I spent my evening walking through nature – admiring the tall grasses that guided my path, the sparkle of water in the pond, and appreciating the deer as they crossed the path ahead.  I had forgotten about my problems of the work day. But when I remembered them again, I intuitively knew exactly what to do about them.

These days, my solutions are found in moments of joy. Not forcing and despair.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what I believe spirituality truly is. I grew up in the protestant Christian tradition. I am still a Christian – but I feel very different from the mainstream understanding of Christianity.

The “God is a genie who grants my wishes” approach never seemed quite right to me. I mean, who doesn’t want their wishes granted? But, it seemed too simplistic, and well, there just was a lot of “wishes” for people that didn’t quite come true.

I now believe that spirituality is a changing of our mind and our inner self. And this changing of our mind and inner self, then, in turn, affects our outer external world.

We change our inner mind to see more beauty and be more kind. And somehow, our outer world, then becomes more beautiful and more kind.

The veil is lifted.

 

The Joy of Flow & Appreciating the Blend

The beauty of flow is that it will take you to places you never thought you would go – in the best kind of way.

It is a more welcoming approach to life.

What is life flowing to me today? A chance to learn a lesson in humility or grace? A journey I didn’t expect? A chance to grow into the best version of myself?

I used to force the same old routine and the same way of doing things, and found myself feeling empty.

But when I live a bit more intuitively, life has a freshness and crispness it didn’t have before.

It has a glow.

It is like the first autumn morning after a warm summer.

You notice the air feels just a little bit different on your skin. You notice the light of the sun shines just a little bit differently through the trees.

You feel the invitation of a new season entering into your life.

You invite it in & you say welcome – I am glad you are here.

Jess Lively, from the Jess Lively Show, talks about the importance of accepting the blending of life, rather than forcing it to be balanced or perfect. She relates it to a spoonful of moose tracks ice cream. Sometimes you’ll get a bit more peanut butter cups, sometimes more chocolate swirl, sometimes more vanilla ice cream.

Each bite is just a little bit different. Enjoy that it is this way.

Don’t force each bite to be exactly the same or exactly like the one before.

Enjoy what is being given to you right now in this moment.

What is life flowing to you right now? How can you embrace this flow? How can you enjoy this flow? How can you get the most out of this flow?

I invite you to taste & enjoy your life right now, as it is.

As I said, dream your future – but know that your live meaningful life starts right now, in this very moment. Don’t wait until things are perfect or every problem is solved. Take a break from your problem and live meaningful, right now, today.

 

Molding your Clay & Trusting the Spirit

You have been given the clay.

How will you mold it?

Will you look at your pile of clay – and curse it?

Will you look at your pile of clay- and wish for someone else’s?

Or will you look at your pile of clay,

and mold it into something beautiful.

We are being molded & we are invited to participate in the molding. Show up for the beauty of work that is taking place inside of you, and all around you.

I have been wondering lately – what God’s relationship to intuition is. It seems a little scary to call intuition God – after all, we are flawed beings. And way too many wars have been started because “God told me to.”

But, I don’t want to throw out the idea altogether, because, doesn’t God divinely live within us?

I think our relationship with God is a collaboration. We are not separate from God – we can access a higher self and a higher understanding, which is divine. But, we are also working within our fallen nature and our humanity – and at times we will be confused and uncertain. But there is a place within all of us – where hope, freedom, peace, and joy can be found. Our ego confuses us, but the divine spirit within us can bring us back to the truth.

And the more you pursue God, the truth, the highest values – the closer you can become and the more clearly you can hear the divine spirit living within you.

We are no longer simply followers of the law. In a literal sense, in a biblical sense, and a figurative sense.

Martin Luther King Jr. was not a follower of the law of this world. He was spirit led.

The rules and the laws have been thrown out. We are a spirit led people now.

Know the principles. Know your values. Fill your mind with truth.

And then allow the spirit to lead.

 

A Few Last Words

When it is asked what the greatest commandment is, it is simple, and not complicated.

Love God and love your neighbor.

Love God by being in awe of creation, in gratitude for the life you have been given, have an appreciation for what is to come, and a listening soul to be guided by truth.

Love others by being kind, offering compassion, and sharing your unique gift and contribution with the world.

There is a beautiful life to be found within the life you are already living. You just need to uncover it. You uncover it, by uncovering the eyes of your soul.

There is beauty all around you.

Once the veil is lifted,

you will find,

although your life is not much different,

your life will be,

so much different.

 

2 Corinthians 3:16-18, The Message Translation

Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face.

They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone.

And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us!

Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face.

And so we are [elevated into something beautiful] much like the Messiah,

our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

 

May you become beautiful.

 

Yours,

signaturesmaller

 

 

Journal Questions:

  1. What are your thoughts on flow? How can you accept more flow into your life? How can you welcome what is in your life & embrace it?
  2. What practices can you start that will help you “lift the veil” from you eyes? How will you develop more gratitude for what is already around you? How will you look at your life differently & embrace it differently?
  3. Are you cursing the clay you have been given or are you molding it into something beautiful? What could you do differently in your life that would help you mold the clay you already have, into something beautiful?
  4. What are your thoughts on being more spirit led? What would it look like for you to embrace a more spirit led life?
  5. What stood out to you the most while reading this post? What action do you feel led to take based on this? Write out a commitment to taking this step.

 

*I have been highly influenced by Jess Lively’s recent podcasts about flow – if you would like to hear her perspective on flow you can check out her podcasts here.

Developing an Inner Sense of Calm

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This post is for anyone who has a fear based mindset. Anyone who dwells on worst case scenarios and how everything could go wrong. This post is for the person that desires an inner sense of calm, but just isn’t quite sure how to make that happen.

I am writing this with recent events in my own life in mind. These past two weeks have been eventful, to say the least. I want to share how I navigated my fears in an effort to move through them smoothly and gracefully, in hopes that you might be able to do so as well.

I have heard it said, “You can’t control the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

So very true. As a former perfectionist, I tried to control my life so that nothing bad could touch it. But no matter how much you control your life, there will still be waves. You CANNOT control them.

Now don’t get me wrong, be safe. Wear your seat belt. Lock your doors. Take precautions. But just realize even if you do everything perfectly, there still will be waves at times. And that is okay.

Once we learn to surf, the waves will not be nearly as bad.

 

Navigating Stressful Events

So, going along with the surfing analogy – if you fall off your surf board, that’s fine.

Float.

Fighting the waves can lead to drowning. Relaxing and “going with the flow” leads to floating.

I remember hearing author Brene Brown speak on a podcast discussing her realization that stress management was more about changing our perception of the stress, rather than avoiding stress altogether.

Now, just to be clear, decreasing stressful situations in our life is important. Don’t over-stuff your schedule or make decisions that will cause you stress. But, also realize that stress comes when we interpret an event as stressful.

So, I would like to share my stressful events and how I navigated them. In the past two weeks I,

  1. Found out I potentially may have been infected with a deadly disease
  2. Was in a car accident in which a person ran through a red light, hit & totaled my car, and fled the scene immediately

Pretty stressful events, right?

With these events in mind, I cannot encourage you enough to develop your skills of positive self-talk, gratitude, compassion (for self, life, & other), and mindfulness. These practices saved me from a dark spiral. We engage in these practices in our everyday life, so they are available to us when we truly need them the most.

 

Navigating “Worse Case Scenario” Thinking

So, the first event happened to me last week on Tuesday. I work with an at-risk population, but with that being said, I never expected to run into this issue, at least not in modern America.

I was picking up my client from a routine doctor appointment for her pregnancy. She got into the car with me, and we began driving back to the agency I work at, which was just a few minutes away.

As we were driving, she casually remarked,

“I tested positive for Tuberculosis. Is that bad?”

Okay, I thought, maybe she is just confused.

She then handed me paperwork showing that yes, in fact, she had tested positive for Tuberculosis.

If you know anything about Tuberculosis, you may know that it is an airborne disease, meaning that you can be infected by someone else simply by being in a contained area with that person- such as a car. And before this, we had spent an hour in my tiny office together. There was no denying I had been exposed.

I was very confused why the hospital would have released her, because typically someone with TB would be quarantined. I got a hold of her doctor who said they needed to do additional testing to find out if the TB was active or latent. And we may not have an answer for a couple weeks. If it was active, then it was contagious. If it was latent, then there was no risk of infecting others.

This happened in the morning of my work day, so I spent the rest of the day maintaining positive self talk and reminding myself that everything will probably be fine.

However, on the way home from work there was a terrible traffic jam and it literally took me two hours to get home. That gave me WAY too much time to think. I tried to turn on a podcast to help distract me, which was fine at first, until they started talking about how someone was dying of a deadly disease!!

At that point, it was too late. I experienced the “attack of the amygdala” and my fight of flight center had been activated. I was filled with fear.

Once I got home, I told my husband about what happened.

We had plans to go out for dinner with his family. He offered to cancel the plans, but I felt it would be best for me to get out.

As we sat at dinner I laughed and participated in the conversation – on the outside I looked like I was doing just fine. My husband’s parents talked about going on trips and fun things happening in the future. But, all I could think was,

They don’t know I’m about to die… They don’t know I’m about to die…

A little dramatic? Yes. But that is the problem with the “fight or flight” chemicals. Even if it didn’t make sense for me to feel that way, the chemicals made me feel that it was true.

However, although I felt all of these feelings very intensely, because of mindfulness, I was able to have an awareness that these thoughts were not true, and that I would likely be feeling a bit better tomorrow.

And I did feel a bit better the next day. And by the afternoon the next day, I was back to normal.

I still had the concern for the two weeks, but I was able to develop a method for myself that helped me out of worst case scenario thinking. The method was thinking about a spectrum of best case scenario and worst case scenario. This made me realize that there were a lot of possible outcomes, before worst case scenario. And honestly, with modern medicine and a good immune system, the worst case scenario of death was actually very unlikely.

For example, these were the “steps” to worst case scenario,

 

Best Case Scenario:

  • The client could have had a false positive, and she doesn’t actually have tuberculosis at all.

In the middle:

  • The client could be positive for tuberculosis, but it could be latent, and not contagious at all.
  • The client could have active tuberculosis,  and it is contagious, but I did not catch it.
  • I do contract tuberculosis and thanks to modern medicine, go on antibiotics for a couple months and am fine.

Worst Case Scenario:

  • Death!!

 

Thinking about it this way, made me realize how many steps there were to worst case scenario and made me realize just how unlikely it was. If you are facing worst case scenario thinking yourself, I definitely recommend this way of thinking, as I found it to be very helpful.

Now, does worst case scenario ever happen? Yes. But not usually. So it makes way more sense to assume that one of the other four options will happen – these are much more likely. I read a statistic recently that said 86% of our worries have positive or neutral outcomes. So we might as well be positive and optimistic.

So how did my story end?

Best case scenario. My client is fine. I am fine. All is well.

 

Compassion & Gratitude vs. Anger & Despair

So, in the above example, I did fall off the surf board for a bit. My fight or flight system was activated and I was full of fear.

But I floated. I didn’t flail. I recognized I fell…and I let myself float for a bit. Until I made it back to shore.

Next, I will discuss the car accident. Which was a wave I was a bit more successful at “surfing.”

So, I was at an intersection, had the “green arrow,” and began taking my turn. When suddenly a lady runs through the intersection, smashes into my passenger side, continues running into me and scrapes down the side of my car, and takes off my bumper and tail light, and continues driving away so I never get her license plate or info.

I pulled into the nearest gas station. I knew I was “entitled” to anger. I had every “right” to be angry. No one would blame me for being angry – whether at her or the situation itself.

But I knew anger wasn’t a helpful emotion. And I knew feeling sorry for myself wouldn’t be helpful either. Neither of these emotions would make me feel good, they would only make me feel worse.

Instead of allowing this situation to be colored with feelings of anger and despair, I decided to allow it to be colored with feelings of compassion and gratitude.

First, I thought about this lady. I was in a low-income area and wondered if this lady was someone living in poverty. I thought about why she fled the scene, and thought that it might be because she didn’t have car insurance, maybe because she couldn’t afford it. A witness told me she appeared to be in her 60s or older and had a disability sticker on her car. I wondered what her disability was and how it impacts her daily living. I wondered if her life was a stressful and difficult life.

People think of compassion being for the other person, but compassion is as much for ourselves as it is for others. I couldn’t be angry when I thought of the situation this way, which helped me remain calm and collected.

My compassion also led me to gratitude. In thinking about how many resources this lady may have not had, led me to think about how many resources I did have.

I have a supportive husband who met me at the scene. I have the financial resources to invest in a new car. I have supportive parents and in-laws that are willing to loan me a car in the meantime. I have a job that is flexible enough that I could have come in late the next day, or taken the day off to sort things out.

Not to mention, I was not injured in this car accident. And, the fact that this was the first car accident I had ever been in, made me think about how I have taken for granted the safety I have been blessed with in my many years of driving.

As strange as it sounds, getting in the car accident made me realize the abundance I truly do have.

Just to be clear, this is NOT how I would have reacted a couple years ago before my mindfulness practices. It is because of a mental shift that has happened over time, but a mental shift I highly recommend, because it will transform your experience of stressful events. I engage in a gratitude practice daily, and because of this practice, even when a very stressful event happened, my mind was trained to look at what I could be grateful for in the circumstance, rather than dwelling on the negative.

 

Life is Messy & Beautiful

I believe that people face feelings of despair, when they try to force life to be something that it’s not.

Life is not perfect.

If perfect is your expectation for your life, you will have a long miserable life.

But if you embrace your life with curiosity and openness, you will find that life becomes a little bit softer.

When life is wonderful, be thankful, enjoy, and savor it.

When life is difficult, ask – how can I still be grateful in this moment? How can I learn from this? How can I grow from this? How can I struggle gracefully and with ease?

Life is beautiful, but also messy.

But then again, aren’t all amazing things that way?

 

Happy Surfing.

 

Yours,

signaturesmaller

 

 

Journal Questions:

  1. How are you interpreting stressful events in your life? How could you interpret them differently that would lead you to less stressful feelings?
  2. What does “learning to surf” mean to you? How could you get better at “surfing?” What are steps you could take?
  3. What is a worst case scenario situation that is on your mind right now in your life? Write out the best case scenario/worst case scenario method. Try to have at least three steps in between best and worst case scenario. Do you find it helpful to think this way? Remind yourself of the steps every time the worst case scenario comes to mind.
  4. Is there a situation in your life right now that you could look at with gratitude and compassion rather than anger and despair? Write out how you could shift your thoughts.
  5. Do you accept that life is beautiful and messy, or are you trying to force life into being perfect? How could accepting life as beautiful and messy shift your perspective?

The Magic of Mindfulness

mindfulness2

I am not one to throw around the word “magic.” But, honestly, sometimes that is what it feels like.

I was someone who thought I had no choice but to succumb to my thoughts and emotions. I tried every little strategy there was. At first, I would start out hopeful, but soon realize I was stuck in the same patterns I was in before. Nothing had changed.

The first time I came across mindfulness – honestly, I was hesitant.

Probably not for me.

Probably wouldn’t work.

But I tried it. And I practiced it.

And I am forever different, because of it.

 

The Road Less Traveled: Taking a New Neural Pathway

In my husband’s PhD program, he did brain research. He researched how the brain worked, the effects of stress on the brain, and studied medical therapies that could help the brain function more optimally.

I’ve always been fascinated about how our minds work, so we had plenty to talk about and I had lots of questions for him.

I remember one thing that really stood out to me. He told me that when we engage in certain patterns of thinking, it creates grooves in our brains. He told me to think about it like walking on a path in the woods. If a path has been walked on many times, the path is more clear. It is worn because of the frequent travel.

If you want to take a new path that you haven’t taken before, it’s going to take a bit more effort. It won’t be quite as easy as your usual route.

However, the more you choose to take this new path, the more distinct it will become. The more you take it, the more clear the path will be and easier to travel. We take paths that are familiar to us and that is why you may be stuck on negative path. But the more familiar you can make that new path, the more automatic it will be for you to take it.

We can literally rewire our brains. I challenge you to take a new neural pathway.

I challenge you to take the road less traveled – it will make all the difference.

 

Your Thoughts Release Chemicals

I was simply blown away when I realized this. And so much more careful about what I thought too.

Before I talk about this, let me first say, I do not have a specific position when it comes to mental health medication. I think it is a decision that needs to be made personally by the individual. I know some people have stories about how helpful medication has been for them, and others prefer non-medication methods. I think it is dependent on the situation and the person and every person and situation is different.

With that being said, I was amazed when I realized that thoughts actually release chemicals the same way a medication might.

If you have a happy thought – dopamine, the pleasure chemical, is released into the brain. If you have a calming thought, serotonin, the calming chemical, is released into the brain.

And on the reverse, if you have a fearful thought or a stressful thought, the cortisol chemical is released into your brain.

Now, this wouldn’t be such an amazing concept, except the fact that we can we actually control what we think. And when we control what we think, we literally are controlling what chemicals are being released into our brain.

With mindfulness, I have been able to take a step back from my thoughts, and feel that I have more choice about what I think.

A negative thought will pop up – and before I make a decision about if I engage with it – I think,

Do I want to release cortisol into my system right now? Do I want to release the fear, panic, or stress chemicals right now?

If the answer is no, I do not engage the thought.

Or on the reverse, if I start to feel bad about something, I will decide to think a positive thought, and I will literally be able to feel a difference. I can notice the feeling of dopamine being released from the positive thought, or the feeling of serotonin being released from the calming thought.

I know this might sound completely crazy – but this is science.

We truly do have this much power over our minds and how we feel.

 

The Attack of the Amygdala

It is important that the thought is not engaged in right away. If you start to engage the thought, it will be MUCH harder to get out of that mental state. Once the chemicals are released, they are in your system, and it will likely be a while until you can calm down or get out of it.

I have heard it called the “attack of the amygdala.” The Amygdala is the fight or flight center of your brain. Once it is alarmed, it is likely going to act as if there is an emergency. That’s it’s job, really. In evolutionary terms, this is a very helpful system. When humans were living in the wilderness, and saw a predator, the fight or flight chemicals were quite helpful. You gain the adrenaline to fight the predator or you go into a state of fear and run for your life.

Again, helpful back then, not so much now. That situation just isn’t quite as common anymore.

So keep in mind when you run into certain thoughts – ask yourself, will releasing these chemicals help me survive a dangerous situation? Or, would a rational mind be more helpful right now?

Usually, it is the latter.

And remember, if you allow your amygdala to be attacked, it will be A LOT harder to come out of it, than if you never allow it to start.

 

Okay, so how do I become mindful?

So, maybe at this point in the article you are reading this and thinking “Wow, you’ve made it sound so easy and so simple, glad it worked out for you. BUT, in my experience, it is NOT so easy and NOT so simple.”

Trust me, I’ve been there. I really, really have.

It is like anything else. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.

Will you try it today and have it suddenly work for you?

Probably not.

Will you diligently practice it daily for 6 months?

You will see change.

To be mindful is to detach from your thoughts a bit. It is to recognize and acknowledge you are having certain thoughts, but also realize you are not your thoughts. It is to create a distance between you (your higher rational self) and your thoughts. It is having a curiosity to your thoughts, but not an emotional reaction. A simple Oh, I notice I am feeling sad right now. Oh, I notice I am feeling worried. Oh, I notice I am feeling embarrassed.

It is to notice, but not to engage. You say it calmly. You say it gently. There is no judgment around having the thought. You are not trying to stop yourself from having the thought altogether, you are just not allowing yourself to engage with it further.

It is a method of having awareness around you thoughts. You are able to recognize that certain thoughts, if taken further, will put you into a negative emotional state. You develop an awareness around what thoughts will be productive for you to think, and what thoughts will not.

You are compassionate toward yourself. You show yourself kindness. And you encourage yourself. Remember, your negative thoughts may still be automatic, just gently counter them with encouragement.

For example, if you think,

I am not doing a good job.

Counter it with,

You are doing the best that you can, and that is enough.

Notice if you feel any change when you think the encouraging thought. The more you say it, the more likely you will believe it.

So, just to re-cap, the important components of mindfulness are:

  • Noticing Thoughts
  • Not engaging the thoughts
  • Being non-judgmental of thoughts
  • Gently countering negative thoughts with encouraging thoughts
  • Being compassionate toward yourself

Remember, the more you practice, the more worn the pathway will become, and the easier it will be. Even if a negative thought is tempting to engage in, keep in mind the chemicals it will release into your body. And if you allow yourself to engage the thought, your fight or flight center may be activated, which will take much time and effort to calm down.

I have mentioned before that listening to podcasts every morning on my drive in to work helped me to get to a more positive mental space, so this is one option to try.

If you are someone that might benefit from one-on-one work and accountability, I invite you to do coaching with me, as I would love to be part of your mindful journey.

Also, there are many, many articles on mindfulness if you would just like to educate yourself more.

You might notice I don’t have anything cited from what I wrote about in this post. The reason for this is because what I wrote about did not come from one specific source – it is a collection of knowledge gained from my experience working in the mental health field, conversations with my husband and his PhD work, and a wide variety of research, articles, and podcasts. If there is any aspect of this post you would like to dig into further, please let me know, and I will see if I can find a specific article/podcast for you!

 

Magic, Miracles, and Science

I titled this post “The Magic of Mindfulness” because mindfulness truly feels magical and miraculous to me. Not even just in my own life, but how I have heard about it affecting others as well. And how far reaching and life altering its effects are.

Mindfulness has been found to be a very effective treatment for:

Anxiety

Depression

Attention Deficit Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Chronic Pain

And the list goes on..

 

Maybe you are wondering why I would call something that is scientifically proven to be magic or a miracle?

I remember when my husband and I were first dating – what now feels like many years ago. We were talking about C.S. Lewis’ book Miracles.

I came from a traditional Christian perspective. My husband was also a Christian, but a scientist as well.

We were debating miracles. Are they real? Honestly, I was ready to get mad at him because I felt like his science mind was going to try to talk me out of the idea of miracles. I just figured scientists probably didn’t believe in that kind of thing.

But I will never forget what he said:

Science doesn’t push me away from miracles, science makes me believe in them more. Isn’t it a miracle that there are stars in the sky, that we live on a planet that supports life, that something happened – whether the big bang or something else – that we even exist? Isn’t it a miracle that we are here together having this conversation? Isn’t speech a miracle? Aren’t thoughts a miracle? Aren’t scientific discoveries that heal people and save lives, miracles? Science doesn’t make me believe in miracles less, science makes realize that miracles are all around me. Every movement, every breath – all of it – it is a miracle.

And he was right. Magic and miracles are all around us.

 

I hope you too, can experience the magic of mindfulness.

 

Yours,

signaturesmaller

 

 

Journal Questions:

  • Think about what you read about the neural pathway, the thought chemicals, and the attack of the amygdala. How does this affect how you would like to engage with your negative thoughts in the future? Do you trust that practice will make it easier to take a new neural pathway? Do you think you will be more intentional with thoughts realizing thoughts are releasing chemicals into your mind and body? Will you be more careful to calm the thoughts, before going into the flight or fight mentality? What will you do different because you now have these perspectives?
  • What practical steps will you start taking today to become more mindful and gain better control over your thoughts and emotions? What strategies and suggestions in the “how to” section stood out to you?
  • Write down one commitment / action step you know will keep you in line with your goal of becoming more mindful and give you the extra motivation and support you need to follow through on this goal.