Creativity Needs…

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Ok, I’m a month or so into my Year of Creative Living and I had a big “a-ha” today.

A quick recap: to kick off my Year of Creative Living I started tap dance lessons about four weeks ago, and also picked up a ukulele at the beginning of January to teach myself how to play.

So far I’ve learned that tap dancing is REALLY HARD! Between trying to remember the footwork (in slow motion) and keeping the rhythm with the steel toes and heels, it’s basically on par with learning rocket science for me. To make matters worse, there is NO glossing over mistakes in tap; if you miss a step, you don’t just see it, you HEAR it!

During my first lesson I swore I could feel the neural pathways growing in my brain (and that brain of mine is not as elastic as it used to be, so it was more like an exercise in bushwhacking the neural pathway than gently laying down new tracks).

And then there’s the fact that there are varying levels of expertise in the class. So while three other women and I quietly whisper “heel-toe-heel-stamp, heel-toe-heel-stamp” to ourselves whilst clodhopping across the dance floor, there’s a handful of other students tappity-tapping their way across the floor at about 3x the speed and style, right next to us.

And do I really need another reminder of my age? Oh, my knees! Oh, my feet! Oh, my hips! Seriously!

But, I confess: I love it. It’s playful. It’s fun. And funny (especially when I catch a glimpse at myself in the mirror looking so very, very uncool). And, every so often I get the steps down for more than 45 seconds and it feels awesome.

I feel the same way about learning to play the ukulele. When I first brought my little Uke home, I was so excited. I showed everyone who came over and played chords for my kids, my husband and for my ungrateful little dog. I even recorded a video of myself just days after getting it. I found my ukulele mentors on YouTube and bookmarked an online ukulele tuner (as instructed by my YouTube ukulele instructors), so that I always ensure my ukulele is playing at its best.

Six weeks in and… well, let’s just say that I thought progress would be faster. I faithfully click onto my YouTube instructors each day to practice my strumming and chords. I play along to videos and sometimes belt out the lyrics while I play. But I thought I’d be ready to serenade my loved ones by now. Instead, I’m still visited by a whining dog begging me to stop every time I pick up my Uke to practice.

But again, I love it. It’s fun. And I never really started out to become expert at this (although I secretly want to ukulele-rock your socks off!) I just wanted to give my thinking-brain a rest and try things that help me let go and play around.

Today, however, I had the a-ah! I was speaking with a dear friend who had seen the video I recorded of myself with my new ukulele and she told me how much she enjoyed watching me be so kind and compassionate with myself in this new challenge. I hadn’t scolded myself. I hadn’t excused myself. And I hadn’t hid my newbie-ness from the world. In fact, I posted the video to my Facebook page for all to see.

I got what she was telling me because I remember feeling that self-compassion when I recorded it, and I still do. I also feel this way about my tap dancing lessons. I’m not frustrated or embarrassed or seeking perfection. I’m just putting myself out there, trying it and having fun.

So here comes the a-ha… as I’m chatting with my friend about the lightness of the self-compassion I’m showing in the video, I thought to myself, “Wait. Why am I not bringing this same level of self-compassion and playfulness and ease to other arenas in my life? How about being that playful with my coaching and workshop consultation business? How about being that light and easy with my desire to exercise more and improve my health? How about showing that level of self-compassion for the mistakes I make at my job every day? And… this is a big one… with my parenting?”

So creativity needs compassion with a playful and light touch. And, I’m coming to realize, so do a lot of other aspects of my life.

Tap and strum on!

 

 

My Year Of Creative Living

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“Creative living…is about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”  

– Elizabeth Gilbert

I was really struck by this statement written by Elizabeth Gilbert in her latest book, Big Magic.

I actually believe I was meant to read this statement when I did. I had been feeling a simmering of sorts for a while and when I read this sentence, I sat up and took notice. Yes!  This is what’s been simmering: a more creative life. I had been feeling a deep-seated charge inside to get more of “me” out “there”. I want to live a creative life. I want to live a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than fear. This will be my year for creative living!

It feels a little like the past couple of years have been serious years for me. Lots of deep work; lots of deep reflection; lots of quiet inward gazing. I don’t know what it is, but for me, 2016 feels like it has to be about living out loud. Letting go of seriousness and letting in fun. It’s going to be about testing waters and playing with expressing myself in new ways (read: not just by writing my blog). I’m taking a page from my kids’ playbook: if something looks like fun, try it.

Here was my first taste: I have a deck of self-care cards, which is basically a deck of 52 cards with different intentions and inspirational tidbits on them. I pick a card every so often to see what the universe wants to tell me at that moment. Back in December, I chose a card that said “Resurrect a childhood dream. Let your passion take flight.” Ok, sometimes these cards are dead-on with their messages and I’ll read something that resonates big-time for me. This card, however, fell flat for me. I kept thinking back to what I dreamt about in my childhood and came up empty. I couldn’t think of one childhood dream that I’d want to resurrect.

Later that day, I was searching online for a painting course at our local recreation centre when I came across a course description for tap dancing. My jaw dropped. THAT was my childhood dream! To tap dance! I remember pretending that my shiny black Mary Jane’s were tap shoes. I remember bringing those shoes to school and lying to all my friends about taking tap lessons. I dreamed about being the next Shirley Temple with the blonde curls and the cute skirts, charming everyone with my dimpled smile and mad tap skills.

Alas, I never took a tap lesson in my life. Until now.

So, okay universe… thank you for the message! I signed up that week. And I start in a week and a half. That got me to thinking: what else have I always wanted to try and haven’t? And with that, I came up with a list of 10 creative acts that are completely new for me that I want to try in 2016. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Tap dancing
  2. Playing the ukulele
  3. Writing a book (yes, a book.)
  4. Building something (out of wood, I think)
  5. Decorating a cake – like one that you’d want to buy in a bakery
  6. Painting an abstract painting
  7. Left-handed drawing/sketching
  8. Writing a poem (or a prayer or a song… whichever way it decides to come out)
  9. Voice training – to sing, orate or otherwise be in better control of my voice
  10. Write a series of jokes… like for a one-minute comedy routine, or something.

Let me say, for the record, each one of these things scares me. I mean, really scares me. Life would be a whole lot easier if I didn’t choose to do any of these things this year. But I am curious. And this IS a year of fun. So I’m doing it! I’m doing them all!

I’m going to take on one creative act per month (save for the summer, when I will practice some of those that are a bigger commitment, like ukulele-playing) and write about it here. And, you guessed it, the themes of vulnerability, shame, courage, connection and compassion are going to show up… because putting more of “me” out “there” is a big, new, scary arena with a whole audience of critics I’ve avoided most of my life.

So, welcome to a new chapter of showing up, being seen and living bravely. Onward, upward!

 

 

What I’ve Learned About Surrendering

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I wrote about my Surrender Experiment back at the beginning of November, and here’s what I’m learning as I practice letting go of control, embracing what shows up and honouring each moment as sacred:

Surrendering is hard.

At least at the beginning it is. I cannot tell you the number of times (each day) I catch myself with eyebrows furrowed, planning and playing out scenarios, all in an attempt to control the direction of any given thing in my life. Big and small things alike, my mind is kept very busy in future-focused mode.

And, like everything worth doing, surrendering is a practice. So now it’s coming more easily to me to release the worrying, the planning, the playing-out of every possible scenario to find the “best” way forward, and choosing instead to let go and see what happens. I have moments, mind you, where the conversation in my head is something like, “Are you crazy? You can’t just let things go. What if this-and-this happens? Or that-and that?” Anxiety creeps in, and that brings me to my next lesson…

Trust is surrender’s best friend.

Turns out that an experiment in surrendering is also a big experiment in trust. And I don’t mean trust in the sense of “trusting everything will work out just fine”. No, I mean trust in myself. Surrendering control means I must be willing and able to trust in myself, that I will be “enough” – smart enough, strong enough, grounded enough, resourceful enough – to manage, deal and otherwise live with whatever happens, good or bad.

This is a big one for me. A big gremlin message for me is, “are you sure you can handle it?” The thinking behind this is: If I’m not prepared, if I haven’t thought through every possible scenario, if I haven’t set up all my ducks in a row, then when the shit hits the fan, I’m going down. There is so much fear pooled around this thinking that my chest feels heavy just writing about it.

So, letting go of control and surrendering to whatever shows up in my life is really about self-trust. And choosing to trust in myself rather than giving in to the anxiety of not being in control is also huge act of self-compassion. The moment I treat my anxiety with a message like, “trust that you are enough” or “you’re going to be ok” or “you can handle whatever comes”, a huge sense of peace and ease comes over me, and I am brought right into the present moment. Which brings me to my next lesson…

Possibility lives in every moment.

In any moment of surrender, another cool thing happens: it levels the playing field of all my life experiences. There are no moments more important than others. Whatever is here is what life is offering up, and who am I to say that this moment is any more or less valuable than the next?

It’s like this: when you surrender control and choose to embrace whatever shows up, then “whatever” is full of possibility. Surrendering makes me pay attention to everything I’m doing, because there could be magic in this moment (and, turns out, there is magic in every moment if I choose to pay attention to it). So walking the dog isn’t a chore that I have to get through just to get on to more important things. It’s the only thing that needs to be done at that moment, and so why shouldn’t I be fully present and attentive to the magic of it? There is no wasted time, no chasing time, no losing time. Each moment matters.

Nobody knows like the body knows.

One thing I couldn’t make sense of when I started out this experiment was, when does surrender turn into boundary-less, aimless drifting? If I surrender to everything, won’t people walk all over me? Won’t I be overwhelmed or run down by saying yes to everything? Won’t I just be going from one thing to another, saying yes to everything without any sense of direction?

Then, of course, I was reminded by my body that it knows better than my brain when it comes to these matters. It’s pretty simple, actually: When I’m in struggle, when I feel the tension in my gut and my eyebrow furrows and my head tilts forward in serious thought, it’s time to surrender. Feeling tense? Time to let go. Replaying thoughts in my head? Time to let go. Feeling my shoulders hunch up? Time to let go.

On the other hand, when I find a sense of positive energy and aliveness bubble up over something I see, hear or think about, then it’s time to embrace. Feeling peace and ease? Embrace. Feeling tickled pink? Embrace. Feeling hopeful and giddy? Embrace.

And luckily, because my body is always living in the present moment, attuned to what’s here now, I can trust what it tells me (if I just take the time to quiet down and listen, of course).

 

In a nutshell, I will say this: surrendering is an exercise in mindfulness that has the incredible power to bring instant peace and ease to my life. My word for 2015 was ease, and this has been an amazing experiment with which to end my year of choosing ease.

I’m excited for the holidays ahead of us, and will take a break from blogging until the new year. I’ve decided on a new two-fold focus for my blog in 2016: exploring and unpacking the Physics of Vulnerability, which is a foundational piece of Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong AND exploring my own vulnerability through creative expression (inspired by my other BFF, Elizabeth Gilbert and her Big Magic). That’s right: I’m challenging myself to a Year of Creative Expression where I will take on a new artistic medium every month and write about my experiences in pushing boundaries and being vulnerable in the arena of creativity. My first stab at this will be… wait for it… TAP DANCING! Nothing like starting off a year of vulnerability with a bang (and a tap)!

Happy holidays, dear readers. I wish each and every one of you love, light, peace, ease and big magic!

 

 

 

Surrendering Justification

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about taking on my own version of a surrender experiment, inspired by the memoir, The Surrender Experiment, by Michael A Singer. This is what I recall saying:

Practice letting go of my ideas of how things should be. 

Surrender to what shows up and then give it 100% of my attention.

Hold each moment as sacred.

I am practicing all of this, and trust me when I say practice. I notice the crazy number of times my brain goes into planning mode, trying to come up with schemes for this and that, especially when it comes to my work and especially when I look at what others in the coaching world are doing. But I noticed something in particular one day when I caught myself comparing my coaching business to others. My thinking went something like this:

Wow, look at what that other coach is offering to clients. That’s so cool. Why didn’t I think of that? Well, too late now, I guess. Or should I do that too? Wait, no, I don’t have time to do that. Ok, fine. Well, that coach can do it because that’s their full-time gig. Not like me, working a full-time job while also trying build a business on the side. Remember Sabrina, you chose to have this full time job at the same time as building a business. It’s important to you: the security and consistency , especially in terms of the kids. Wait, is it? Hmmm. Yes, it is. Or is it? Maybe I just gave up too soon. Maybe I gave up on myself. Well, no, that’s not true. I’m still doing what I love, just not full time for now. Right. That’s right… I remember deciding that this is a better balance for me, for now. But man I wish I had more time for my business. There are so many things I’d like to do. But I also remember how frightening that could be sometimes. Yes, that’s right. I’m fine to be doing what I’m doing right now…

And I could have gone on and on. Isn’t this how the thought process works for all of us? It’s an incessant back and forth, especially when we’re trying to make sense of something. And that’s when it hit me: I am very invested in justifying my decision to work a full-time “regular” job while also building a business around my life’s work. It’s like my brain NEEDS to know that I made the right decision to work a regular job in addition to having my own business.

There is a reason my brain wants to know I’m making the right decision. Brené Brown talks about this in her new book, Rising Strong. Brown explains that when we go into struggle, our brains automatically make up stories in order to make sense of what’s happening. In fact, our brains reward us with a nice little dose of cortisol and oxytocin when we succeed in connecting the dots and making meaning from a struggle (think of how good it feels when you have an “a-ah” moment).

The problem is, our brains reward us whether the story we make up is true or not. When our brains piece together data to make meaning, there are often gaps in our knowledge. That’s when we start to make up stuff to fill in the blanks. In my example above, I’m making up a bunch of stuff such as a) other coaches can do what they do because it’s their full-time gig, b) I don’t have time to do that, c) I gave up too soon,  d) I need balance, e) there is such a thing as balance, f) there is some kind of strict dichotomy between my day job and my coaching business, just to name a few.

This, I realize, is going to be a huge part of my surrender experiment: Letting go of justification.

I want to let go of all the thinking my brain is doing to justify a decision, since the justification is there only to make me feel like I’m smart enough, hard-working enough, brave enough, thoughtful enough and righteous enough. Reality is, I am enough, with or without the “right” choice. Whether the decision is right or wrong, I’ll never know. When I surrender the need to be right (or smart or hard-working or brave or thoughtful or righteous), I’m free.  And as long as I’m showing up fully and completely as me, with all my values intact, then no decision can be wrong or a waste of time. As I practice surrendering the need to justify my decisions (which, boiled down, looks a lot like justifying my very existence), I embrace my right to be here, just as I am and simply because I am.

 

My Surrender Experiment

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In his book, The Surrender Experiment, Michael A. Singer recounts the events of his life after making the decision as a young man to let go of his personal preferences and ideas of how life “should” be and, instead, to simply surrender to whatever showed up in his life. For the past forty years, he’s basically said yes to whatever has come knocking on his door. He has surrendered to what he calls “life’s perfection” – the natural, amazing and intricate unfolding of life that happens without any conscious acts of will. He’s allowed life to be in the driver’s seat and has kicked worry, anxiety and fear to the curb.

In addition – and, I think, more importantly – Singer also decided to give himself 100% to everything that showed up. He didn’t make one pursuit or event more important than any other. Whatever showed up, he said yes and then gave it is all. He made every task, every action, every moment sacred. He writes,

“…I had thrown myself into the arms of life. From that point forward, all I did was my very best to serve what was put in front of me and let go of what it stirred up within me. Joy and pain, success and failure, praise and blame – they all had pulled at what was so deeply rooted within me. The more I let go, the freer I became.”

His book describes a pretty amazing journey that resulted in abundance in every form. He set out wanting nothing and at every turn was surrounded by wholehearted people, interesting work, meaningful influence, serene environments and a very generous income.

Sounds a little too good to be true. But it’s a memoir, so we’ll have to take Singer’s word for it.

No matter, I still find the premise of his experiment fascinating, perhaps because I spend a decent amount of time thinking and planning and trying to control outcomes in my life. Of course, no amount of thinking or planning or controlling can make things turn out exactly how I think they “should” turn out, so inevitably I also spend a lot of time feeling the unpleasantness of fear, anxiety and worry.

I also rank order my moments, which of course leads to a lot of frustration, blame and judgement. So if I’m sitting in traffic, I tense up because I would rather be at the office. Then, I just want to get through my workday so that I can get home to be with my kids. Then, the kids better not bother me because now I have to make dinner. Then, when I’m making, say, spaghetti again for dinner, it seems like a mediocre moment compared to the roast turkey I made for Thanksgiving dinner a few weeks ago. This puts me in constant battle with what is and results in me not fully showing up for anything.

So what would it mean to let go of my ideas of how things should be? To give up planning and controlling and worrying and fear?

What would it mean to say yes to whatever shows up in my life?

And, what would it mean to show up fully to whatever I just said yes to?

I’m not sure what it would mean, but I’m curious to find out. I’m going to take the next 60 days or so to try my own surrender experiment. I want to practice letting go of control, surrendering to whatever shows up in my life and holding each moment as sacred, as no less or more important than any other moment.

Where do you need some surrendering in your life? What could you let go of? How could you show up 100% to every moment? We have a couple of months left until the end of the year; let’s experiment together and see what unexpected gifts come with surrender.

P.S.  As these thing tend to happen, the universe decided to test me in my own experiment: After finishing my first draft of this post, it got lost in an internet blackhole. Gone, vanished. All that time writing and re-writing…poof! Gone. In an instant, I had to surrender to what showed up: a blank canvass on which to rewrite my thoughts on undertaking a surrender experience. Perhaps life’s perfection was making sure I was serious about taking this on  😉

 

 

 

Meditations On True Refuge

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I am overcome with the stillness, the beauty, the connection, the aliveness. I am all these things. They live inside me. And they crackle and come alive in recognizing themselves in this place.

In this moment – in every moment – there is ease and peace and stillness. It belongs to me, always. It belongs to each of us, always. It’s where we meet and are connected. It’s love.

How can the universe be so kind? So compassionate? What did I do to deserve this? Nothing. It’s mine simply because I am.

I send this peace, this love, this bliss to the world, to all my brothers and sisters, each one of us with breath in our lungs, feet on this earth, sky above our heads. We are all ocean; let’s make peace and be playful in our waves.

The universe is perfect. The universe takes care of me. I am a child in its care, protected and loved and cherished and celebrated. Nothing to fear. Nothing to fear. Stay still and listen. Or just be. Stay open and surrender. Let the ocean carry me.

 

I spent last weekend at Kripalu Centre for Yoga and Health, quieting down for five days of meditation, yoga  and stillness. The highlight was a three-day program led by the incredible Tara Brach, who took us through guided meditations, gentle talks and interactive exercises based on the teachings in her book, True Refuge.

The passages above were the thoughts swirling through my head on my last morning there, as I sat in Kripalu’s Meditation Garden. This post is a bit of a departure from what I normally write, but I wanted to share what I wrote that morning because a) it had just spilled out of me without much thought and so it occurs to me that it’s the most raw, unedited thing I’ve ever shared on my blog, and b) the thought of sharing something so raw and unedited makes me feel nervous and vulnerable (and alive), so I’m daring myself to publish it here.

Sending love and light,

Sabrina

 

 

Sidelined By Scarcity

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I have not been my best-self at work these past few weeks. I’ve been reactive, blaming and cynical, and have even had (I’m embarrassed to say this) my inner-belligerent-child emerge during a few interactions with my manager. Yes, there’s a lot of drama and stress and uncertainty in my work environment these days, but this is exactly the time when I want all of the personal growth work I’ve done around authenticity, courage and values-based living to help me to rise above the drama, so that I can still be my best-self and not succumb to the things that trigger my grumpy “it’s not fair” gremlin.

Then, a few days ago, I was doing my morning meditation with Deepak Chopra (via his Infinite Abundance app), listening to his wise and soothing voice say to me:

“There are those who live day to day concerned about not having enough of whatever they feel is necessary for their happiness and security. Their bodies most likely echo those feeling by sending messages of discomfort in the forms of anxiety, discomfort, worry or stress.”

The second statement hit me first. I zeroed in on his words: anxiety, discomfort, worry and stress. Yup, that sums up how I’ve been feeling lately. Then I considered his first statement: what I am concerned about not having enough of? Then all the Brené Brown wisdom kicked in. Whenever I hear “not enough” I know scarcity is at play. So, I sat with this for a while: What feels like “not enough” right now? The answers came at me fast and furious:

I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough time to do my job, to organize and offer workshops, to be with my kids, to exercise, to relax, to get the house clean, to pull weeds, to read all the books I keep buying, to call my friends, to reconnect with my husband, to get a good night of sleep, to register my kids for swimming, to buy birthday presents, to pack a healthy lunch for myself, to listen to the backlog of podcasts on my iPhone, to create a vision for my business, to meditate…  

Obviously, I could go on and on and on.

This is nothing new, of course. Most of us feel the pressure-cooker of not-enough-time. But what has taken me off guard was how this was impacting my mood, outlook and behaviour. A sense of scarcity is so settled into our subconscious that it can so easily throw us off our game, and in ways that are unexpected. Take my behaviour at work, for example. Here I was, feeling grumpy and acting out like a toddler in the workplace. I’m not sure I would have connected that back to a sense of time scarcity had I not sat with my anxiety around “not enough”. But there it was.

It makes me think of all those times I’m short and agitated around my children only to realize what I’m feeling is anxiety and fear that has nothing to do with them or their behaviour. This happened recently, after the photo of the drown Syrian boy on the beach was everywhere. You would think that the sorrowful image would make me go home and hug my children. Instead I went home and was uber-stern with them. Again, when I checked in with myself, I realized how much fear and anxiety I had around what happened to that child. And I was acting out that fear and anxiety by being agitated with my children (it doesn’t make sense, but our sense of vulnerability can be overwhelming and trigger some strange behaviour, folks).

So making the connection between my sense of scarcity and my fear/anxiety and my less-than-ideal behaviour at work was the necessary first step to making better choices. I have to say that time-scarcity is a big trigger for me and I try to be very aware of how this manifests in my thoughts and behaviour. I don’t always catch it, but this is all a practice after all. I remind myself that it is all enough; that everything I do and don’t do is enough. There is no race, there is no finish line, and the only thing I need to do is stay 100% in the moment in order to be my best-self.

 

 

Practicing Guidepost #7

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I’ve been struggling for a few weeks to find the time and headspace to write a new blog entry. And this morning it dawned on me: it’s time to take a break from blogging and it’s time for me to start practicing Brené Brown’s Guidepost #7 (of the 10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living).

Guidepost #7 is Cultivating Play and Rest. I know it’s time to seriously cultivate some play and rest right now, because:

 

  • Summer is here, a natural time to slow down and enjoy the long, sunny days.
  • Things at work are starting to slow down after a crazy busy season of planning, budgeting and forecasting.
  • I’ve been suffering from insomnia for the past two months (yes, in large part from the crazy busy season at work).
  • My brain feels wrung dry of ideas and inspiration – hence the dry spell in writing for my blog.
  • My body came crashing down a week ago with a nasty cold that I can’t seem to shake.

Cultivating play and rest might sound nice and easy to put into action, but it can be a tough guidepost to practice. Why? Because of what’s required to let go in order to truly make this practice have impact: to Let Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth. Yup, it may be easy to pour a glass of wine and put my feet up in the name of cultivating play and rest, but that’s not actually enough. That won’t actually give me the true reset my body, mind and soul need.

Practicing this guidepost means making a deliberate effort to embrace being over doing, which can be especially difficult when my default is to measure my “good enough-ness” against how many things I can check off my to-do list in a day. And don’t even get me started on the trap of comparison! What is there to talk about with my friends if not how tired or exhausted we are from all the demands in our lives, from kids to jobs to husbands to health?

It seems that if we are not busy and not tired from being so busy, something is wrong with us. We are all deeply suffering from a sense of time-scarcity. We wake up complaining we didn’t get enough sleep and then go to bed worried that we didn’t get everything done. And when we do manage to check a lot of things off our to-do list, we feel particularly proud of ourselves. Then we wake up the next morning to a fresh set of to-dos, and the exhaustion builds all over again.

Well, for me, it’s time to take a chance on rest and play instead. So, for one, I’m taking a break from blogging and won’t be posting again until September. My brain is saying “I’m full”. My body is saying “I need a break”. My soul is saying “Slow down and rediscover the joy of not doing.” And my choice is to heed these messages with a deep sense of self-compassion.

My wish for you, dear Reader, is that you will do the same. Take these hot, sunny summer days as your invitation to slow down and cultivate some rest and play into your life. Not everything on your to-do list will get done, and that’s ok: you’re not defined by your productivity, and your exhaustion doesn’t determine your worth. You and I, we are – simply and always – enough.

 

It’s All Invented

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The rough time I was having in May has now spilled over into June. It’s mostly related to a critical deadline I have to meet in my job as Learning Consultant with the federal government. My time is consumed with work relating to this deadline and all the things I’ve had to move to the back burner – which is almost everything – loom over me. This includes my regular responsibilities at work, things I’d like to be doing for my coaching practice as well as all the regular stresses and frustrations that come with everyday living. Add to this, the beautiful, sunny spring days are reminding me that I should be outside, getting more exercise, more sun and more connected to nature.

I just want there to be a giant pause button that I can press to stop the world, for just 24 hrs, so that I can be all by myself, lying in bed, reading books and eating Oreos. Who’s with me?

These ebbs and flows are all part of living, I know. And just writing a statement like makes me want to roll my eyes. Because in this moment it feels shitty and platitudes like these just make me want to punch a side of cold storage beef.

That said, the words we tell ourselves DO matter. I know it  and I believe it on a core level. So telling myself, “these are the ebbs and flows of life” makes me want to barf but, on the other hand, telling myself “it’s all invented” moves me out of suffering. So let’s go with the latter.

It’s All Invented is the first practice spelled out in Rosamund Stone and Benjamin Zander‘s book, The Art of Possibility (a must-read, by the way). And these words continually bring me to a very basic, simple understanding of why we (choose to) suffer. Each of us has our own perception of the world and we somehow think that’s the perception everyone has. Likewise, we often let ourselves see the world as (we believe) others see it. And against these perceptions and assumptions, we judge ourselves: I’m not smart enough. I’m not kind enough. I should be better at this. I should have my act together by now. I should be happier. I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I should know my next step. What’s wrong with me?

But as Zander and Zander put it, “We see a map of the world, not the world itself.” Our mind constructs the meaning of what happens in our lives; there really isn’t an objective view of the world at all. And, once again, in the words of the Zanders, “It’s all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.”

In all the messiness I’ve been feeling lately, my go-to mantra has been It’s All Invented and when I say these words, I instantly move to this thought: “Ok, if it’s all invented, then let go of judgement and comparison and what I think others think and everything else that’s making me feel shitty right now. What meaning can I invent about this that makes me feel better and at ease?”

For some, this may seem like a reckless thought. If it’s all invented and I can invent my own meaning of things, then what will stop me from, well, lying in bed all day, reading books and eating Oreos? What keeps any of us from lying in bed all day, reading books and eating Oreos?

Hmmm, that sounds like the start of a very deep, layered and existential discussion. But the simple answer is, I wouldn’t. And most of us wouldn’t. I wouldn’t even worry about that. I have a deep trust in all of us that we want to get up every day and contribute to the world in some way.

The trick is, of course, to get up every day and contribute to the world in some way with a whole lot less suffering around what we think we should or should not be doing. The trick is not hanging our sense of worth on those comparisons and judgements that keep us from feeling peace. The trick is to figure out what meaning you’re going to give your life – a different and fresh perception, explanation or assumption – that puts your experience of life at ease. One way to do this is reminding yourself that It’s All Invented.

 

P.S. My next Dose of Daring call is on Friday June 19 at 12pm (Eastern). I hope you’ll take a break at lunch to join the conversation! Here are the details:

Topic: Joy Is Hard Work

We all want it, but it turns out that joy is one of the most difficult emotions to really feel. Especially in our culture of scarcity, where we are meant to feel like nothing is ever enough, joy can seem just as fantastical as a unicorn and as fleeting as a fairy. Let’s discuss our cravings for joy, why it’s so difficult to let ourselves feel it, and look at the practices that can help us truly “let go and be filled up” by joy.

12:00pm Eastern Time

Dial: 647-558-0588

Access Code: 693 929 1438

 

 

Dancing In This Moment

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I’ve been a bit caught off guard by the month I’m having. It’s way busier than I thought it was going to be and, truth be told, it’s getting me down.

Like most people, I often live in that place of trying to balance what I want with what I have. It’s like me and all the parts of my world are dancing to a song on the radio, and someone/something keeps changing the station. So just when I finally find myself moving nicely in step with my job, my family, my relationships and my health,  the song changes and the different parts of my life start moving to a new rhythm I can’t quite keep pace with.

Then come the tough choices: what is it going to take to get back in sync? For me, it’s usually a combination of shifting my schedule, realigning expectations (mine and others) and maybe even re-evaluating my short and long term goals. Then I sprinkle in several handfuls of self-compassion and mindfulness so that I don’t to compare myself with others and remember that no one is keeping count, it’s all invented and I get to decide what’s important right now.

But it’s been tougher to practice this over the last few weeks, as I’ve really had to make some hard choices about what gets to rise to the top of my priority list, and what has to be deferred. For example, I regrettably decided to postpone this month’s Dose of Daring call to June, because the week coming up is going to be crazy-busy at my other job (as a learning consultant with the government). And I had to quickly pull back on a bunch of the workshops I had planned for the summer because I realized that between all my existing priorities, I also really wanted this summer to be about relaxing and enjoying the season, as well as connecting more with my family and friends. I’m feeling a bit lighter from these decisions, but the real work is in not judging myself too harshly for not being able to do it all.

In coaching training, we are taught to “dance in this moment” with clients, knowing that we can never be certain what will come up at any given moment and that we need to stay ever-present to our client’s current reality. Of course, this is also a fantastic mantra for dealing with the exquisite tension I’m feeling between what I want and what I have.

The salient point of the concept here is to “dance” in this moment. Notice that it doesn’t say, “stay in this moment” or “be in this moment”? Nope, the instruction is to dance! It may mean different things to different people, but for me this cornerstone is my reminder to stay light, to not take myself so seriously, and to not be attached to any expectation, explanation or story. It’s also one of Brené Brown’s Guideposts for Wholehearted Living: letting go of always being in control.

So as I go into the week ahead with it’s crazy-busy schedule, my mantra will be to dance in this moment. And I invite you to do the same. Truth is, it’s the only moment you and I have, so we might as well dance, right?

P.S. A gentle reminder that there will not be a Dose of Daring call this Friday May 22nd. The next Dose call will be Friday June 19!

P.P.S. There are just a few spots left in my Daring Moms workshop on Sunday May 24th. It’ll be a great time-out for any mom needing to get centred and connected with other moms, reflecting on what it means to let go of expectations and dance in this moment of motherhood! Join me!