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Don’t Be a Sunflower

I’m not happy, I’m cheerful. There’s a difference. A happy woman has no cares at all. A cheerful woman has cares but has learned how to deal with them. ~ Beverly Sills

One morning I woke up thinking “be a sunflower”. I have no idea where it came from. I can’t remember any context, just the statement “be a sunflower”. Sound a little goofy? Maybe. But, for me, that’s an opportunity to follow a thread of thought and see where it goes. It piques my curiosity.

I love sunflowers. I love the way they grow and bloom and how their faces follow the arc of the sun in the sky. They signify happiness, warmth, abundance and loyalty. They feel so positive.

Why would we not want to imitate the sunflower!

Percolation

I started writing this post several weeks ago.  And each time I came back to it, I disagreed with myself. I began to browse books on my shelf; I searched for articles on positivity, positive psychology and Pollyanna. I looked for ideas that substantiated what I thought I’d set out to say: That we should only be looking for the positive in life.

But that wasn’t quite right. It brought to mind the quote by Beverly Sills. Where was the thread? I kept thinking and asking myself questions to help give shape to this amorphous thought that was trying to emerge.

The Shadow Knows

At the same time, I was reading Awakening at Midlife by Kathleen Brehony.  I came to a section called “The Shadow Knows.” “At midlife unconscious, shadow material erupts into our life.” She goes on to say how the emergence of the shadow is an attempt to bring balance to our personality, accepting ourselves as we are, “… coming to love those neglected parts of ourselves as elements of our own authenticity and humanity.”

Okay, now we’re getting closer.

Looking for Balance

I had always strived to be a happy person. If something knocked me down, I would put on my big flouncy Scarlett O’Hara hat, say fiddle dee-dee and leave it for another day. I’d put it in the “long bag we drag behind us”, so aptly described by poet Robert Bly.

Boy, was I out of balance! And, at some point it got to be a lot of work. More than it was worth.

I could see where being a sunflower and only following the light no longer served me. As I followed this train of thought I also realized that I had already done a lot of the work. Coaches, reading and a little bit of therapy had helped. I gave myself a little pat on the back.

Brehony suggests that this distortion is quite normal in our second half of life, when we begin “perhaps for the first time to see the “other”, the parts of ourselves that have long been ignored in favor of who we always thought we were”.

How gratifying to know that it was normal to throw off these old stories at midlife and open up to the parts I’d kept hidden; to attain better balance.

A Need for a Pause

However, that balance is not attained by quick fixes, but rather a Pause where we can explore and experiment with those other parts of ourselves that have been neglected.

That pause is a juicy place that includes light and dark, sun and shadow, clement and inclement weather. It comes bearing gifts for midlife.  It is the first step into a mindful second half of life.

I love sunflowers. But don’t be one. Our journey is rich and complex and the good news is that we do not have to travel alone! Contact me to find out how I might help you pause as you honor all your beautiful parts and create a path back to a whole you.

Please note that this is not intended to replace professional psychological help where needed. If life is okay but you feel there’s more I can help. If you are feeling despair, please seek a skilled therapist.

Begin

 

“What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

– Johann von Goethe

Welcome to a beginning.

While some may want to craft elaborate resolutions, I prefer a different approach to this fresh new year. I would like to begin by recommitting to my journey of becoming, a journey of awareness and constant beginnings as I move through midlife and beyond toward my truest self.

So, while a new year or a new week – hey, there’s nothing like Monday morning to get us motivated whether it’s with a carrot or a stick! –  feels like a great place to begin, I would suggest that any time is a perfect time to do that. Any time can be the time to restart the journey.

After all, we are always somewhere on the journey even if we’ve paused or gone into the ditch.

Therefore, any time is a good time to get quiet and listen to the inner navigator who will show us where to resume the voyage/passage; to point us in the right direction to begin again.

Any time is a good time to pause and dream and wonder about the possibilities in a new beginning.

And beginning again – and, again – is essential to a meaningful rich life.

What I believe

Every dream deserves to be unpacked and explored. As I do, I will remember to bring along my compassion and curiosity and ditch the judging critic.

Every moment – not day or month or year – is an opportunity to begin again. It’s a chance to course-correct and feel into a better direction.

I don’t need to know the entire itinerary. The best trip is that which unfolds with imagination and inspiration and trust.

When it feels hard to continue with only the immediate path visible, I can choose to continue “just for today.” My commitment can be in very small steps.

The journey is the goal

So, as I move through life, I will begin and begin again.

Untethered

“Time slows down. Self vanishes.
​Action and Awareness merge. Welcome to flow.”
​~Steven Kotler

Can there ever be too much summer? Even though the calendar says we have until later in the month, the start of September always feels like the end. We’d like a little more, but seasonal cycles prevail and the world returns to its regularly scheduled program.

Sometimes, though, it can be tough. There is such a looseness to summer. Lengthy days, languid weather, a longer tether to normal routines.

Maybe there can be too much summer. We say we need to get “back in the swing” or “refocused”. We have to “regroup”. September feels like the right time to do so, but we feel scattered and untethered. Now, where was I???

Does this resonate with you? If so, perhaps summer has pulled you out of flow.

Flow, that hum deep in our bodies when we are in connected to what makes us come alive. Just like the stream that moves unimpeded, steadily, from its source.  It is a meeting of your life forces that can propel you toward the manifestation of what is most important to you.

This manifestation doesn’t need to be world altering, but it does need to have meaning for you. When you step into this flow, you allow your own life to be altered.

What is most important to you as you move forward into this new season?

It’s not just summer that pulls us out of flow. Life offers many distractions and externally imposed changes. When you feel detached to the important and are just running in circles with the urgent, your initial response may be to just stop everything. However, when you recognize that feeling, it might not be the best time to do nothing.

What generates flow and that lovely hum? How do you get reconnected to your purpose?

Here are five suggestions to help you ease into flow:

  1. heck in with yourself and the activity or focus to which you want to reconnect. Make sure that it’s connected to meaning. We’re not talking about the car pool or leaf raking, but rather that something that makes your heart sing. That something that is on purpose and deserves your flow. Meditation, journaling and or small questions can help you with that deep knowing.
  2. Physical movement- Get out of your head (and your chair) and into your body. Autumn (or spring in the southern hemisphere) weather is much friendlier for walking and gardening. Or, it could be cleaning out a closet or taking a shower. While you are in your body, the bits and pieces of fractured thought begin to coalesce. Ideas form, aha moments arise. The bigger picture may begin to emerge and show you to your next small step. And your next small step is all you really need to know to move you into momentum and flow.
  3. Intentional exploration – Rather than go down the rabbit hole of the next great idea (and the next and the next), consider taking one idea through to an action step. Continue with it even though you’re not sure how it will pan out. Let each step determine the next. Be okay with what might feel like failure. Failure is necessary for all creative acts. In the words of Samuel Beckett: “Fail, fail again, fail better.” Stay with an idea until you’ve exhausted it, beyond the point where it is hard or something else catches your eye. It may have so much more to tell you. The act of continuing can produce a flow.
  4. Mindful pauses – Instead of stopping because you’ve hit the proverbial wall, make an active decision to pause. During that pause let your ideas and thoughts go off on their own. Choose other activities that stimulate you. Come back to your idea refreshed.
  5. Seek like-minded people – So much creative work – business, writing, art… all the work that connects to your essential self and provides a beautiful flow – is done alone. When you connect to others who are also called to express their passions, you will find a new energy. They will feed your idea, keep you accountable, be a sounding board and a witness to your work. They will accompany you out of your head and into action.

Do you need help with this? Some of us just need a nudge; some a witness. Others need a guide. Which are you? Contact me to learn how I can help.

On Being and Beaning

“Stop a minute, right where you are. Relax your shoulders, shake your head and spine like a dog shaking off cold water. Tell that imperious voice in your head to be still.”

~ Barbara Kingsolver

Just be.

Oh, boy. That’s a hard one for me. How about you?

When I was first confronted with the challenge of “just being” I was very apprehensive. I was going off on a weekend retreat at the beach with two writing buddies. We were going to write and be quiet and “just be.”

“I don’t know if I can do that”, I told my friends. “It feels really hard to not be doing.” A weekend that should have been the ultimate in relaxation was becoming fraught with anxiety.

Being, Beaning, Beaners

They indulged me. You see, they were a lot further along in their being-ness. An ad for a local coffee shop lightened things up by inspiring the alternative of just “beaning”. That, in turn, christened us “Beaners.” Ahh, okay, much easier. I could work with that.

Years later we continue to riff on that moniker and have fun with it. I, in turn, am much more in tune with the need to “just be”. I’m not great at it, but my anxiety has almost disappeared.

The Myth of Productivity

My discomfort stemmed from a belief that I needed to be productive. Constantly. I know how unrealistic this is. At least my head does. However, somewhere in my vast unconscious, this idea has taken up residence and thrived.

I have also come to understand that my idea of productivity might be a little skewed. Multitasking and buzzing around is not always the best use of my time. Ping-ponging between different to-dos in different categories leaves me exhausted and feeling that I’ve haven’t gotten enough done. I have given this mistaken belief of how to be productive its eviction notice.

That space is now occupied by the gentle understanding that being on a walk or being with a thought or being fully with my husband or family gifts me with spaciousness. Ideas arrive, as if on wings. Thoughts are completed. The creative process flows with ease. That is a style of productivity that, while initially counter-intuitive to me, is much more desirable.

I love this quote by Kafka:

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” – Franz Kafka

What would you have “rolling in ecstasy at your feet?”

“Do not even listen”, he advises. He, too, is saying ignore the imperious voice. When we do that we move out of our head and into our bodies.

How can I do this, you ask, in this fast-paced crazy world we live in? I don’t have time to just sit and wait.

I hear ya!

Here is what I have discovered:
  • Just being aware of the fact that it was difficult to sit quietly and be still created a shift for me. I was no longer on auto-pilot. I realized that there could be a different way of being.
  • Daydreaming is productive. Who knew! What I like to call wool-gathering was actually a moment of quiet discovery. I began to notice where I was going. The next time you find yourself staring into that mid-distance, allow it. At the same time, be curious about what’s going through your mind. Listen. (Apologies to Kafka)
  • Just 3 minutes of meditation is super beneficial. Just one example of the benefits: I had never quite grasped just how impatient I was. Meditation showed me. It also lowered it. When I return to meditation after a lapse, I see it again. I know now that it will dissipate. And, yes, 3 minutes is a reasonable way to start. How long does it take a kettle to boil or a pot of coffee to brew? There you go!
  • Practicing quiet opens up a portal from which my inner wisdom flows. Now, if you’re anything like me, your head is a veritable circus. Sometimes, it’s a great place to be with thoughts and ideas careening about. But, that’s not where our true wisdom resides. It lives in the space between the thoughts. For that we need quiet.
  • Finally, I have found that curiosity is an important quality. While that might put us back into our heads, it carries no judgement. It provides an opening to what your true self needs at that moment.
And, here’s the challenge:

Where can you claim small moments of just being?

Can you tell that imperious voice in your head to be quiet? Over and over again?

How would it feel to accept without judgement the offerings of world? Be curious about what shows up? Watch them “roll in ecstasy at your feet”?

All of this has a story to tell you. Is it the one you want to carry forward??

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