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Leaves in the stream of life

Leaves In A Stream
photo by Jeffrey Eisen on Unsplash

Life is often compared to a river, a current that carries us along. We become leaves in a stream.

There’s no stopping time, no stopping the current. Just like water life will always find ways to move forward.

And as time marches on we begin to feel that we can’t do anything about it its passage. And that’s true. We can do nothing about its passing. But it’s not the forward movement that’s the problem. It’s the direction. Your direction.

It’s not the fact that it flows. It’s the direction of that flow.

I have a water run-off problem in my yard. It’s eroded the soil, left bare patches in the lawn and debris from the road, the driveway and the eroded ground is scattered all over.

I live on the downside of the mountain. The water will come. My focus is now on directing it where I want it. Rain garden, anyone? (And, as the garden is an essential part of my Multidimensional Life, I am being true to myself when I give it my attention.)

So, as in the metaphor above, life is just like that water. It happens. It flows. It carries life’s debris and if left to its own devices can erode our very beings. But consider this: you get to decide where it takes you even if it’s merely the way you choose to frame it. You get to take a pause, maybe grab onto an overhanging branch, take a breath and consider where you go from there.

The flow of your life.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Life will happen. We can’t control everything. But take a moment now and think about what you can control. Make a decision on what direction the flow of your life will take you. Whether the current of time will carry you along like a leaf in a stream

Will you be swept away? Or at the helm and navigating?

Will you succumb to a torrent of emotion or step back and, once again, pause?

But go beyond just “managing”.  In addition to navigating are you also setting the course direction? In your pause are you giving yourself choice? Are you directing some of your time and energy to what actually lights you up and gives your life deeper meaning? Or are you stuck in a holding pattern where you never make time for yourself, where time becomes a vacuum that is filled by others?

It’s not always easy but remember that you do get to decide.

And when it’s challenging you can consider getting a co-pilot.

A case study

One of my clients, with whom I’ve worked for several years, has had lots of life wash over her. Health, career, family “stuff” that could have easily knocked her off her path permanently. Remember how that water carves its own way?

But in spite of all that was going on, with my help, she was able to maintain perspective, take what were sometimes miniscule steps forward, and sometimes take a break from the journey and take care of what needed care. It was a pause; not the end. It was conscious and deliberate.

A serious injury laid her low for a while. She experienced a lot of pain. However, as her coaching journey was leading her toward healing modalities, she was able to consider how her particular situation could benefit her work with others. Her intuition had been honed in our work together and she knew that this was grist for her particular mill. It didn’t take the pain away, but it gave it some purpose.

I was able to help her with that. I was able to help her with the decision to step back, even to stop coaching for a while, to regroup, be sad where she needed to be sad, hurt where she needed to hurt and to provide a safe container for her to come back to and resume her journey. And what a journey it has been!

Your own experience

But you don’t need to just take my word for it. Or rely completely on someone else’s experience either. Experience it yourself. Explore how it feels to begin to take a new approach to the stream of life.

Contact me for a discovery call. What’s calling to you from deep within? What have you left behind in a busy life? What’s getting in the way? Discover how our work together will make a difference.

(Here’s a little short read on growing old that calls up this age old metaphor of life as a river.)

Tracking Time

Clock

Recently, I started tracking my time. I was inspired by a comment on a recent call with my coach, Isabel Parlett. It got me curious. Where does my day go? Am I living the Multidimensional Life I want to be living where those things that are important get the same attention as the urgent? Where there is some space in my day to breathe or think, or do both at the same time.

Whoa! This little experiment immediately snapped my head back into a mindset that had whips cracking and deadlines breathing down my neck. That is a familiar and, unfortunately, comfortable mindset. It’s a perfect illustration of a hamster wheel that resides in a very deep groove in my head and into which I can easily fall. It was constrictive. I’d rather my time be expansive.

I’ve done this type of exercise before: while I was still working in corporate, when I first left and started my business.

It never felt good. I don’t respond well to whips and things breathing down my neck.

But…

This time was different.

I woke up from the wheel induced coma much quicker.

I paused to evaluate the results of this tracking.

I observed what got done and what didn’t.

I wasn’t thrilled with what I found.

Granted, I got a lot of tasks done. Work tasks, household tasks, personal tasks.

But do you see what was happening? Everything became a task. Just the word task has a certain crackling quality to it. It’s not onomatopoetic (you have to love that word!) but it may as well have been, because it sounded just like a bullwhip snapping close to my ear.

Important vs. Urgent

There was no space woven into my day. It was a race to the finish so that tangible results could be documented. List items could be checked off. I could hear the “good girl, Kathy” in the back of my head.

No! No! No! Get off the hamster wheel!!

Here’s what I know about life off the hamster wheel:

  • We can still be productive.
  • Thinking and dreaming are essential to a full and fulfilling life.
  • Hard, tangible lists can be replaced with curiosity and creativity.
  • The cracking whip can be replaced with an inner GPS check.
  • We can get the urgent done while leaving space for the important.

The important is what is woven into a Multidimensional Life, what gives it its dimension and sparkle. It should be given the same priority as the urgent.

Actually, it should be given a higher priority so we’re sure to get to it.

The intangibles

Because often the urgent is easier than the important. That’s an interesting phenomenon, isn’t it? The edges of urgent are easily defined.

Set up a landing page for an offering? Easy. Yes, there are some tech challenges but there will be steps to follow. We figure it out.

Other things are not quite as simple. Get to the next chapter of my book. Ooh, now we’re in the amorphous world of “I don’t know what happens next.”  Adding more movement/exercise to my day – also important.  Not always simple steps to follow if I want to keep and loose and intuitive.

What’s important to you? What might your day feel like?  Is there a creative project or a refresh of your day-to-day rhythms called for? What about noodling about a new business or retirement? There’s no real template so it’s hit or miss. It’s curiosity and practice. It’s not knowing and trusting.

It’s never an end result like an urgent task that has a starting and ending point and can be given a neat little check box that you tick off.

But it’s so very important.

The thrill of the process

It’s a process, a journey and guess what? That is where the good stuff is. That’s the juice, the thrill, the joy.

It’s messy and complicated and simple and fun all at the same time.

I know. This is what I am reminded of when I come out of my hamster wheel induced coma and remember what’s important.

That next chapter of the book. The garden dreams. My business. My clients. What I’m doing at this very moment.

Does this whet your appetite for your own Multidimensional Life? I hope so. I hope it gives you a yearning for what could be. That sensation of “I can taste it but I can’t put my finger on it…yet”. This is where I shine in helping you shine. Are you being called to do the work you’re called to do?

The other stuff will get done. This is the Multidimensional Life we all crave. And deserve.

I’d love to talk to you about getting you off your hamster wheel and into your Multidimensional Life. Click here to book a consult with me.

Help with the Midlife Journey

You Can Lighten Up Your Journey

Do you find it hard to ask for help? Do you feel that you need to do things on your own? After all, why would you work with a coach for help in the passage into midlife and beyond? To lighten up the journey? That beautiful unfurling of a Multidimensional Life? After all you can read a book or talk to your friends. And hiring a coach feels frivolous. I used to think that way.

Lots more road ahead

At a certain point in life we start to sense feelings of disappointment. It can become a close companion. Regrets, ruing, what if’s, the road not taken. I know I’ve been there. We aren’t that 21-year-old anymore with starry dreams and no road dust. We have been through the thick of it. We have worked and nurtured, we’ve laughed and shed a lot of tears. Tears of sadness, happiness, anger, frustration, laughter. We’ve been knocked for loops, left adrift, fallen down, gotten up, been pulled up, been knocked down. So, how do we put it behind us and move on? Because there’s still more road ahead.

And, here’s the thing: You’re still here!  All the stuff I just listed? This is the stuff that will be used for the next leg of your journey. This is the stuff that you can sort through, dialogue with, toss out. You can thank it for its lessons and let it go. You can use the Marie Kondo method – does this bring me joy?  No? Toss it. This is grist for your personal mill, lead to be transmuted into gold.

You are an alchemist.

Moving forward

Now, you can certainly go it alone. You’re smart. This isn’t your “first rodeo”. However, my personal experience is that without support dreams just float by. It’s hard to get momentum and easy to slip back into the rut of the status quo. The pages of the calendar fly away at an ever-quickening rate. Oh, well, you sigh. Maybe I’m too old for change. Maybe it’s too late. Life isn’t so bad.

You’re not too old.

It’s not too late.

Life can be richer, deeper and more meaningful.

I’m not talking huge epiphanies or complete 180’s. I’m talking about beginning an exploration of possibilities with small questions, small steps, curiosity and joy.

Why go it alone?

Getting support, hiring a coach, taking courses…this was hard for me in the beginning. I always thought that I should be able to fix whatever wasn’t working. I thought asking for help was a weakness. It didn’t fit in with the image I had of myself as a strong, self-sufficient woman. Yes, my ego was quite fierce!

But, the reality? Staying in my own head, having no objective person to bounce things off didn’t work. Yes, I have a great husband and friends and siblings but their views and feedback will usually be biased. They know me as they think they know me.

Fresh ideas, fresh tools, fresh mindsets? That has made all the difference. Finding new people who resonate with the person I was becoming and who weren’t stuck on the old me (like I also was!) was life changing.

That is what I do for my clients.

What else I do

I also:

  • Remind them of their dreams
  • Help them create small questions and determine next small steps. (There’s an art to this!)
  • Provide accountability, celebration, deep listening and someone to reflect back their words.
  • Have an array of creative tools to make this process more intriguing and fun.

By midlife we carry so much. We are containers that life has filled to the brim with all our experiences – both good and bad. Up bubbles the regrets, the disappointments.

It’s time to tip that container over and sort through things. It’s time to stop being weighed down by this slag.

What worked, what do you love, what is important to you, what are your values – have they shifted, what brings meaning into your day, your life? What about joy, delight, a giggle?

Work with what is working

Let’s shine the light on that, expand it, thank the other stuff for their contribution, for their strengthening power, for making you who you are. Know that there will be more challenges and tears but the depth and richness of your MD Life will be able to contain them, hold them and let them move through and out of you.

Now is the time to begin living as if you believed you have a lot of life left and that the quality of that life matters. Because when you do, it begins to come true. It’s magic. It’s alchemy. You are golden.

You are so much more. Contact me and we’ll uncover the you that is in waiting. Let’s show the world all your beautiful layers. Your Multidimensional Life.

The Art of Listening

Listening
Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash

Let me listen to me and not to them. – Gertrude Stein

Listening is an art. It’s a vital part of communication. We listen to learn, to understand, to make the other feel witnessed.

But how well do we listen to ourselves?

Our minds are full of chatter. They’re also full of different voices. The voices of our parents, teachers and peers. The voice of perfectionism, fear and deprecation.

The other voices continue in an endless loop and do quite a job in the background. They become part of the noise that turns white that we barely notice. Make no mistake, though, those voices are orchestrating a good part of our lives.

At the same time our wise, true voice speaks. However, too often we minimize that voice and magnify the others.

Until we listen, nothing changes.

I recently noticed my inner commentary on my lack of ability to play. It made me sad. I thought I had lost the knack. That I had forgotten how to have fun. That I was a dull girl, all work, no play.

I noticed because I had stopped and listened. I hit pause. I didn’t dismiss it or brush it away. I really listened.

Here’s what I heard:

Play is frivolous. It’s what you do when your work is done. Furthermore, adult fun involves high energy, adrenaline-soaked activities that have to be done somewhere “away” and costs money. Just like those TV commercials and ads for “active seniors”. Therefore, my play/fun is too small and insignificant and, consequently, not worthy of my time. Hey, go big or go home, right?

Wrong!

That was the loop that was running in the background. That was the driver. Therefore, if I was going to hear my wise, true voice I needed to move the conversation down to my heart.

Here’s how I reframed the conversation:

Play can be that thing I’m already doing after I’ve put it into a different light. It can be, lighter, less linear, more whimsical, pleasurable, silly, intuitive. My play is specific to me and anyone else I choose to have as part of the activity. It is not what I see on those pharma ads for seniors or what I see on Facebook or Instagram. Those feel shaming. Play can be fun; fun doesn’t need to be play. Play for me could be coffee and good conversation with a sister that includes laughter and silliness; a walk at the lake with a friend as we compete with our last best pace. It could be a satisfying yoga class. Play is a state of mind.

Here’s how Diane Ackerman defines play in her book, Deep Play.

“The spirit of play is spontaneity, discovery and being open to new challenges. As a result, it allows one to happily develop new skills, test one’s limits, stretch them and then maybe refine the skills and redefine the limits.”

That feels so much better. Play is not always idle; it reaches deep inside and moves us.

Getting back to listening.

If you paused and really listened to your wise and true voice, what would you learn? Would you discover that there is a tape running that is sooo out of date? Would you gently let that old chatter go (or maybe dropkick it to the curb? I don’t know how tenacious it is!)

I know you will learn something vital. For instance, you may learn that you, too, are looking at an idea through someone else’s lens and that the view doesn’t work for you anymore.

Pause and listen more often. Just be aware and noticing. You might be surprised at what you hear and how much lighter you feel when you change the tape.

As always, if you need some support as you hone your listening skills, please contact me to see how we can work together to assemble the small steps that will move you back to your own wise and true voice.

Creative Expression and What We Ache For

Creative Expression Brings Us To What We Ache For

Over the years, I have personally experienced how creative expression opens us up to the liberation found in discovering and following our truest yearnings. A recent article led me down a train of thought that brought this home to me again.

It was an article by Jaleh Bisharat, Co-founder/CEO at Naked Poppy, called “10 Books That Changed the Way I Think About Business”.

First, I chuckled as I am reminded of the magic in numbering. This many life hacks… days to…, habits… and yes, so many books.

But then I gave thought to the books that have had a meaningful impact on my life. There’ve been many. But one stood out. It was one that opened me up to the creative being that I am and became part of my own journey to finding what was truly meaningful for me.

The one that floated to the top

Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s What We Ache For fills the bill on so many levels. (Hey, why knock myself out to come up with a compelling “number”, I thought.  One is good.)

Dreamer’s book is chock-full of beautiful prose. It offers reflections and exercises that deepen the reading experience. And it goes to the heart of what I believe to be the most important mission in the second half of life. That is, liberating ourselves to tend to those things that are truly important and using our innate creativity, our own creative expression, to weave them into a Multidimensional life.

While I won’t say that reading this book was a triggering event in my life, it was definitely a spurring one.

A well worn and loved book

I read it approximately 10 years ago and I’ve picked it up many times since then. For coaching programs or writing workshop ideas. For my own writing inspiration. It is a book that I need to have in hard cover, that I can rub my finger along the rough paper as I read. I highlight and underline and put notes and exclamation marks in the margins. I engage with it as I read it or skim through it or open it up at random to see what wants to be seen. It has post-its and random pieces of paper to hold a place and the end flaps tuck in between pages to remind me where I want to go next. It’s the whole enchilada!

Doing creative work allows us to follow the thread of what we ache for into a deeper life, offering us a way to cultivate a life of making love to the world.

– Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Yes! Following that thread is my mission in my second half of life. Cultivating a deeper, more meaningful (to me) life and honoring the tug in my gut, the quiet voice in my heart. Having the spiritual courage to do all this while living in my world and doing my own work.

This is what I want for myself and, if this resonates with you, it’s what I want for you.

What do you ache for?

Have you also felt that ache, that tugging? This is what my 6-week program, You Are The Artist of Your Life is about. It will ease that ache, gentle that tug and begin your journey into a more integrated, Multidimensional life that is unique to you alone.

Want to learn more? Join me Thursday, August 29th at 6:30 pm ET on Zoom for my free monthly call. This month a I’ll be talking about my upcoming workshop You Are the Artist of Your Life. We’ll get to meet; you’ll get a taste of what the longer program will be like. One person will have a chance for a mini coaching session.

Begin your own journey to a deeper life!

An Invitation to Pause

Chaos
All great changes are preceded by chaos.
~ Deepak Chopra

I was always a leaper. Challenges? Problems? I was compelled to do something. Anything! I often thought in terms of “close my eyes, hold my nose and jump”! Must be that trial and error life I’m destined to live.

However, what I learned was that in doing that I was surrendering my freedom of choice. I learned that the better course of action was non-action. A stop, look, listen. A Pause. A bit counter-intuitive, I know.

I’m not talking about passivity, but rather a purposeful decision of which way to go. Not always the most popular, but the best for me. Not always a well-lit, well-traveled path, but one on which I would find the most joy.

When we are in the midst of change – which is really so much of life – it can feel chaotic. No, forget the “can”. It’s damn chaotic. It feels unsettling and uncomfortable. We feel rattled, uneasy, cranky. Something’s up. We soldier through. Because that’s what we’re taught to do.

In the moment, we may not realize what’s happening but when we pay close attention, we can recognize the symptoms of change and transition. Dang! Didn’t I go through this a few months ago??

Yeah, life is about change.

That is your invitation to pause.

Not only an invitation but an opportunity.

Consider this: If you had paused the last time you felt this way, would you be thrust into another round so quickly? Oh, there’d still be change and transition in your future, but it might play out a little differently.

Why Pause?

  • Pausing gives you the freedom to choose, to actively decide on a course of action rather than be swept away by outside currents. You may choose the same plan that life’s currents suggest, but it will be your decision.
  • It’s an opportunity to tap into the essential wise self that’s in all of us. It is asking questions and listening to your body’s response. It is heeding your gut.
  • When you pause you remember that your choices are not always set in stone. They can be evaluated and changed at a later time.
  • Pausing slows you down and lets you consider that deferring a choice could be a temporary solution.
  • Pausing jogs your memory so you can remember what you want and what is most important to you, not always most expedient and urgent.
  • The duration of a Pause can be done in a moment or days or months. Is this doctor best for me? I know what others have said, but… (a quick gut check) Is this the right time for me to retire? (longer process)

What helped me.

Looking back, I see that once I began to pause, I made much better decisions. I didn’t just react. I would write it through. I spoke with the right people. (Fortunately, I have lots of coaching friends!)

Were there times in your life where you would have benefited from a pause? Are you in the midst of that chaotic feeling of change now? How would it feel to pause? To step back and look at what is happening from a different viewpoint?

Here’s what will turn your chaos into great change.

Sometimes it helps to have someone to accompany you during a Pause. Someone on your side holding the light so you can see things clearer. A safe place to think out loud. To sort through the noise and, yes, the chaos. The tools to listen to yourself better and discern what is best for you. Because you are the one that knows best.

This is what I do in my coaching practice. Want to learn more? Contact me for a 30-minute discovery call.

Flowing Like a Mighty Wind

Many people live their lives struggling against the current, while others use the flow like a mighty wind.

~ Madyson Taylor, The Daily Om

Midlife. It brings the inevitability of change as well as the quest for wholeness. When you enter wholeheartedly into both you will slip into the current and flow like a mighty wind.

Change is a fact of life, regardless of age. We have no control over it. But the quest for wholeness is something I have found to be more pressing as I move into midlife and beyond. If I resist the former and ignore the latter, life becomes a struggle. It can actually be physically painful as I tense my muscles, eat poorly, bind myself to my work and ignore the multidimensional life that is calling me.

The quest for wholeness

Reaching for wholeness is a normal part of this time of life. It’s gathering together all of the disparate pieces that have been strewn across the first half. It is combining your creativity and dreams with the resources and skills you’ve acquired over the years to shape something greater and truer.

It’s also an exercise in pulling ourselves out of the eddies of the opinions and expectations of the world at large and checking in with the inner world of your essence. Who am I at my most basic self? What do I know now? What’s important to me now? What delights me? What do I do well? How can I transform this knowledge into a current and flow like the mighty wind?

The inevitability of change

As much as we think things stay the same, change is constant. Minute by minute, often invisible, right in front of our eyes.

Here’s another quote. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.)

Clearly, the great mystery of life is that it is lived in an always flowing stream of change. We are one person with one set of ideas at one age, and then, when we look back years later, discover that we became another person at another age. The only certainty about it is the fact that we ourselves decide both what we are now and what we intend to become. And we make that decision one choice at a time.

~ Joan Chittister

What I know to be true for me is that when I cling to what has been, I miss out on the possibilities of what could be and I struggle. If I don’t consciously decide both who I am now and who I intend to become, I struggle. But when I allow myself to flow with change – and I don’t mean the leaf in a babbling brook – with my hand on the rudder, making choices rather than having choices foisted on me, ah, then the struggle drops and I revel in the wind at my back.

These active choices and decisions are unique for each of us and when we flow with it, we are better situated to find that wholeness we seek.

Navigational aids

There are ways to step into the slipstream. Here are a few of my best practices:

Ask a Small Question

The work of reconciling to change and returning to your true self can be daunting. A small question can make it so much more manageable.

However, there is an art to it. You want to elicit curiosity and surprise. One element to consider is the scope. What is one thing I know now that I didn’t know before? Limiting the request to just one thing takes away the overwhelm of life’s great questions.

Another element is letting go of the need for an immediate answer. If you ask the question, the brain will begin to work on it. Straining for an answer will often produce an edited version of the truth or an old story. Allow yourself to be curious about what comes up and tune in to what feels right.

And, finally, consider formulating your question as a how or what instead of a why.  Why often produces reasons why you can’t; asking how and what will offer ways that you can.

Listen

Once the question is asked, open up to possible answers.

One of my favorite things to do with a small question is to take it out for a walk, preferably a solitary walk. (In bad weather I take it for a spin on the treadmill. Not as refreshing but it still works!) You’ve probably had the experience of an aha moment as you walk, drive, do the dishes or take a shower (Consider investing in tub crayons for those moments of brilliance.) You know it works. So put that experiential knowledge to work. Ask the question as you set out and then enjoy the scenery or the bubbles. At the same time, ratchet up your awareness and don’t discount any ideas or thoughts or objects that come into your line of sight. Say hmm… instead of nah.

Capture the Responses

Asking the questions and listening (whether while walking or driving or waking) is part of this adventure. You then need a way to capture what emerges. Doing that lets you go deeper and integrates your findings into your inner conversation. The answers that arise can also lead to more questions and your journey will become clearer.

One of the ways I do this is to use the voice recorder on my phone as I walk or drive (hands-free, of course). I also journal, make notes on a pad or post-it or use the notes app on my phone. I do this so I will remember.

Use whatever action that will help you remember, take you further along in the conversation and give you access to that current and your essential self as you navigate the journey into midlife and beyond.

The more I work with these tools, the more responsive they become. For instance, when preparing for a presentation I ask a small question (What is one thing that will be impactful?  What is one way to make it fun?) I go about my day. I listen. The script is then downloaded, quite effortlessly!

It’s almost magic!

As always, if you need a guide or a nudge contact me to find out how I might you help navigate this rich time of life.

What to do when what you’ve always done doesn’t do it for you anymore

Discover Possibilities In Midlife

When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.– Thomas Edison

Do you feel like possibilities are dwindling in midlife?

You’ve been doing what you’re doing for 30 years or so. There was a time when you were passionate about it. You leaped out of bed in the morning ready to conquer the world. Can you remember that? You were a crusader. There were windmills to tilt at. You were learning tons of new things and gobbling up new experiences.

Now, you’ve hit a certain age and you feel like your spark has gone out. At a minimum, the pilot light is flickering. How do you find new possibilities?

Something has shifted.

As a result, it’s gotten harder to drum up the enthusiasm that had once filled you up. Now many mornings bring dread instead of excitement.  Something has shifted. Is it just you?

No, I don’t think so. I’ve been there myself.

Wayne Dyer said “change your thoughts, change your life.” I used to think that meant I had to change the way I thought about my career. And while that might work for some, it didn’t work for me. For me, in midlife, the thoughts I needed to change were about what else I could do. I needed to see doorways, not brick walls. I needed to widen my lens.

What to do?

First, I would never, never, ever suggest you quit what you do every day. Even if it’s an effort.

But what I always, always, always would suggest is that you step back and Pause.

Some things to do in a Pause.

Do a little exploring and excavating.

A small, Kaizen-like question is a perfect place to start your explorations. Stay away from the question that begs to solve all the problems of the world. Instead, make it smaller and more immediate. Frame it in a positive way. Ask what lights me up as opposed to why am I feeling so flat. (How you frame it is important because your brain will supply responses to the negative also.) Ask it frequently during the day without any expectation for an immediate response. Your brain will grab onto it and go to work. Answers will pop up. The real trick here is to be paying attention and not censoring. Be curious.

Journal. Writing is a powerful tool during a Pause. In The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron prescribes 3 pages, longhand, to be done each morning upon rising. This is ideal and, if you can, certainly start there. However, if this is too daunting, you’ll likely do nothing. In which case it’s better to begin with very small Kaizen-like steps. Promise yourself to write for 1 minute. Ask your small question on the page; do a very quick brain dump of what’s on your mind. If you go longer, that’s great. If you only do one minute you’ve still kept your commitment. As this becomes habitual, stay on the page longer.

As you expand your writing time you will get to a point where you think you have nothing more to say. At that point nudge yourself very gently to write a little more. I promise you will go deeper.

Is what you do for a living leaving you deflated?

Can you explore your current industry? Is there a way to shift the focus of your work, move to a different area of your organization, take on a different responsibility, learn something new? What opportunities are there? Often compensation becomes a factor here. If a reduction in pay is really necessary, put pen to paper and figure out if it’s feasible and worth it. How long would it take to get back to your previous level and what would you gain in the meantime?

Do you have a mentor or a trusted colleague with whom you could confide your frustrations and concerns? This person might be able to role play with you as you practice asking for what you want. She can also provide a different perspective on opportunities as well as an objective look at you.

Do a skills and experience inventory. Dig in to what it is that has made you successful. Maybe more of a functional resume. Where else can those skills be used? Get creative here. And, don’t forget the volunteer work you’ve done: the PTA, the fund raising, the sports coaching, even the family event planning. All of this has combined to make you a unique package.

Or is it something else?

There’s also the possibility that the problem isn’t what you do each day, but rather what you don’t do. Have you over-fished your personal pond? I’ve been there. It ain’t pretty!

More about that next time.

As always, if you need a guide or a nudge contact me to find out how I might help ignite that spark.

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.

Find the Thread

Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found.  – James Russell Lowell

What do we do with an idea?

I am rising out of sleep, not quite awake. It’s 4 AM. Half in/half out of a dream. Seemingly disparate photos slipping away. They get fainter and fainter. Just the sentence “Find the thread and follow it in” remains.

I grasp for the images. But they will not be caught. Pfft! Gone. The who, what, where and why go with them. Just the one line remains.

Find the thread and follow it in.

Writing in my head

I often wake to words that stay with me. I start writing in my head.

While I sometimes reach for something to write on, more often I don’t want to disturb the flow that runs so easily in the quiet dark. In the relaxed body state where I’m melted into the bedding, where my body hasn’t awakened but my mind is gearing up. Many of my blog posts start there.

How about you?

Where do things start for you? What quickens your imagination and shifts your thoughts to possibilities? Opportunities? A project in the studio or around the house, a job or life change?

What do you do with the idea once it arrives? Dismiss it or explore it?  How would it feel to grab that thread and see where it takes you? Recognizing where it starts and allowing your process to take over can be the difference between a dream realized and a dream deferred.

Once the idea is allowed to live, what is your process to get started?

Do you feed it with small questions? Talk it over with a supportive friend or coach? Do you allow yourself to daydream? (Yes, daydreaming is a productive activity!) Do you make a list? Do you sketch it out, mind map it, doodle it? Do you look around at what’s out there to find what you like and, sometimes more importantly, what you don’t like.

Most importantly, do you let it emerge in its time, like a butterfly out of its chrysalis?

For me, with writing, it is often starts in that half asleep state. Rather than dismiss it I let it take its own course. It could be hours or days before anything gets onto the page. That’s okay. I find that the theme will linger for a few days in my waking-up time and show me more. I also find that it will spark other ideas. Those spark more and so on.

Intentional Creativity

This is intentional creativity and it is available to us 24/7. In our dreaming and in our waking. When you’re aware of how ideas take hold – when you’re able to recognize your thread – you become aware of your creative process. This will take so much of the struggle out. Your awareness will provide a magic carpet that you can ride into anything. Your process is as unique as you. Go with it.

If you’d like to explore how a creativity coach (that would be me!) could help you with your process schedule a free discovery session. I’m a very good thread detective.

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