Sacred Vows

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I’ve been thinking about how, when people get married, they exchange some bighearted and weighty vows with each other. Things like, “I will take you to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health.” And when these words are spoken, we really, really mean them. After all, so many of us grow up being taught how special it is to find someone to love for the rest of our lives, and then we spend years trying to find “the one” to whom we can commit so fully.

Without taking one inch of meaning and importance away from the commitments we make to our partners, I’ve been thinking that it’s too bad we don’t take part in a similar ceremony early in our lives, where we get to publicly announce a deliberate and earnest commitment to ourselves.

Imagine standing in front of friends, families and loved ones, stating out loud your undying commitment to have and hold yourself from this day forward. That no matter what happens – when things are good or bad, when you’re doing well or struggling, when you’re in sickness or in health – you will stand by your own side, fully committed to taking care of, loving and being kind to yourself.

If we all took a vow like this, perhaps instead of spending years trying to find “the one”, we’d spend the same amount of time and energy trying to find ourselves, what makes us tick and what gives us the most joy. We’d commit to our personal growth, our health and our mental well-being for our own sake, not for others.

Imagine the amount of trust you would have in yourself to step into the unknown, live big and be seen. You would step into your “arena,” knowing full well that if you fall, you will be there to catch and comfort yourself.

Imagine the friends you would choose for yourself; the boundaries you would set; and, the care with which you would enter into relationships. After all, if your first commitment is to you, then you’d be responsible for choosing only the friendships and relationships that truly serve you.

If your commitment was first to you, imagine the freedom from judgement you would experience. Imagine the forgiveness you would show yourself for making mistakes. Imagine the lightheartedness you’d feel about your own imperfections… all because you’d know that the commitment you made to yourself way back when meant that your self-love and self-compassion were limitless.

Imagine the life you would rely on yourself to build, if your prime commitment was to you. And imagine how deep our connections, compassion and generosity to others would be, because we’d be living in a world where everyone around us had also taken a commitment to have and hold themselves, for better or worse. We’d know what was our business and what was their business, letting go of any need for external affirmation of our worthiness.

And we’d know that by taking care of ourselves, we’d then be complete and resourced and in the very best position to take care of others.

I’ve painted a pretty lofty picture here, but in the spirit of Mother’s Day – a day when I think about the way I’m raising my kids and what I’d like them to learn from me – I’m sticking with it. It’s my wish for them – and the world – that we all declare a sacred vow to self: a commitment to our own well-being, personal growth and self-care for life.

 

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!

 

 

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

 

 

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!

 

Shame Happens (or, How I Survive My Shame Storms)

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If you have ever heard me talk about The Daring Way™, you’ve likely heard me say, “I live this work.” Here’s a story to prove it.

Last Thursday morning, my kids’ caregiver texted me to say she wouldn’t be able to pick up my daughter and son that day after school. No problem. Whenever that happens, I’m lucky enough to be able to pick up the phone and call my parents to meet my kids after school and watch them until I get home.

Fast forward to 5:30pm that day: I’m heading out of my office to leave for the day and it suddenly hits me: I never made that call to my parents. Oh. My. God. No one was there to pick up my kids after school. I repeat: no one was there to pick up my kids after school.

If you’re a parent, you’ll understand the instant shame storm that came down on me at that moment. Not to mention the immediate panic and fear.

I called my house right away to find out what had happened between 3:30pm (when school got out) and 5:30pm (the moment I realized that I hadn’t arranged for my parents to meet my kids). What happened was that my 10-year old daughter, realizing that no one was there to pick them up, took charge of the situation: she walked herself and her little brother home (which is right behind the school) and luckily found the house unlocked (we had two workmen at the house installing some doors). My daughter found my parents’ phone number, called them up and told them that they were supposed to pick them up. My parents came right over and all was good. And I guess everything went so smoothly that no one felt it necessary to call me.

I hung up the phone and breathed a sigh of relief knowing that everything had worked out. In fact, it was wonderful to know that my daughter actually put into action exactly what I had told her to do if ever there was an emergency and they found themselves without a pick-up after school. Whew.

And then I began sobbing uncontrollably. My body took over and the tears just came rolling down my cheeks. I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to.

Brené Brown often talks about how shame is a full-contact sport: we feel it intensely, all over our bodies. That’s what happened to me. My body knew it before my brain did. I wanted to roll up into a little ball and hide away. This is what I thought and felt at that moment:

  • I suck.
  • What kind of mother am I to forget something so simple AND so important, to make sure my kids are taken care of after school?
  • I hate my life and how busy I am! If I didn’t have to work at my stupid job, I would have been home and I would have been there to pick them up.
  • This is all my husband’s fault. If he did more at home and with the kids, I wouldn’t have forgotten this.
  • What will my parents think of me? What will those workmen think of me? And worst of all, what will my kids think of me?
  • I NEED a glass of wine, pronto.
  • I suck.

If this was two years ago, before my work in The Daring Way™, these feelings and thoughts would have lasted with me for days. Maybe weeks or even months. I would have blamed my husband. I would have blamed my job. I would have discharged my shame as anger toward my family. I would have numbed myself with wine. And I definitely would have continued to relive those painful feelings through my own negative self-talk.

But here I am, after a lot of Daring Way™ work, and my choice was to practice shame resilience instead. This is what I did:

I got in my car, and let the tears flow. There was no denying how I felt, so I just let myself feel it. I stayed present and mindful.

I then started to unpack what was happening to me:

  • I’m upset because I’ve been triggered. What’s triggering me?
    • Feeling like I’m not enough. I should be able to do it all, and I failed.
    • I am tying my self-worth to an identity I hold for myself as a mother: that is, I want people – especially my children – to think I’m Supermom (an ideal identity for me). I don’t want anyone to think that I am the kind of mom who would forget my children (an unwanted identity for me). The thought of being perceived as a mom who would forget about her kids is extremely painful
  • Deep breath. Ok, so now I know why I’m triggered. What is my truth here?
    • I don’t suck. I don’t hate my life. It’s not my job’s fault. It’s not my husband’s fault. I simply forgot to make a call.
    • I am human and I am having a very human, messy moment. 
    • I am a mom who does a lot of things right and also screws up. I am “every-mom”: I adore my children; I scream at my children; I give, give, give; I laugh and make them laugh; I am strict; I am tired; I forget things (but not as much as I remember); I am grumpy-mom; I am Ninja-mom; I give them vitamins, flax seed and broccoli; I give them pizza, ice cream and chocolate. I love ’em and they drive me crazy. ALL OF IT! 

Then I called my husband. I reached out and shared my story and feelings of shame. He listened, he talked me through it, and he reminded me how great it was that we got to test my daughter’s ability to handle situations like this.

When I got home, my eyes were red from crying, but I was done. I was back to neutral, back to “me”. I drove up to the house, and my kids were having a picnic on the front lawn. They had no sense of anything being wrong or out of the ordinary. When I told my daughter how proud I was of her for the choices she made, she beamed. I told her I was sorry that I had forgotten to call her grandparents to pick them up, and expressed gratitude for her, my parents and that everything had worked out.

Brené Brown explains in her book, Daring Greatly, the four elements of shame resilience:

1. Recognizing shame and understanding its triggers.

This means being able to recognize your physical reactions to shame. I knew when I was sobbing uncontrollably that something had triggered my shame. I stepped back to really look at what I was thinking about at that moment. What did I fear most? What messages was I playing over and over in my head?

2. Practicing critical awareness

This means reality-checking the messages. For me, I looked at what I was telling myself and got real about what I know for sure: I cannot be reduced, defined and measured against a single identity. Forgetting to call my parents does not make me a bad mom. I am much more complex than that.

3. Reaching out

This means owning and sharing your story. My go-to when I’m feeling shame is to call my husband. I know I can tell him, “I’m in a shame storm right now, and I need to talk about it.”

4. Speaking shame

In Brené’s words, shame cannot survive having words wrapped around it. Shame wants us to keep silent so that it can fester. It wasn’t easy, but not only did I tell my husband what happened, I also told him how I was embarrassed and mostly worried about what the kids would think of me. My husband didn’t gloss over it or judge me for having the reactions I was having; he listened and told me he understood why I was feeling the way I did.

Through all of this – every choice I made from the point when my shame was triggered – I had given myself a huge dose of self-compassion. I stayed mindful and didn’t let my emotions get the better of me. I made a choice to examine what I was thinking and to put it in a perspective that was caring and kind. I understood that everyone makes mistakes like this, and that we are all just muddling our way through sometimes. I reached out and asked for what I needed from my husband, which was to let me talk it out. And then, when I got home, I modelled for my kids exactly what I want them to do when they make mistakes: I owned it, but I didn’t beat myself up for it. And I expressed gratitude.

I wanted to share this story with you because it wasn’t until a little later on that evening when I realized I had actually “lived the work” that I so often praise. It’s coming to me a little more easily now, but I’m constantly reminded how much this work is a practice. Building shame resilience does not mean that you’ll never feel the pain of shame again. I don’t walk around in a constant state of zen with nothing affecting me. However, I am much more present to what’s going on for me at these moments, and I know what might have taken me days or months to get over now takes less time, and it’s less intense.

And the impact? Aside from my husband not getting blamed for a mistake I made and my children not feeling the wrath of my shame disguised as anger, I’m actively honouring my values around family, courage, connection and authenticity, and embracing a wholehearted life.

 

 

 

Why We Are At War With Ourselves

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In preparation for the last Dose of Daring call I hosted on March 27, I had spent some time re-reading Tara Brach‘s amazing book, Radical Acceptance and listening to her podcast episode, Freedom From Fear-based Beliefs. Brach is so inspiring and I love her compassionate, mindful invitation for us to “stop being at war with ourselves”.

Brené Brown always talks about how we’re hardwired for connection, and how this hard-wiring automatically generates a deep, painful fear within us of being disconnected and unloved by others. The thing that is hard to understand is why we opt for self-hatred at these moments of pain, fear and vulnerability, and not self-compassion. It was Tara Brach’s teachings that really helped me understand what this hard-wiring is all about and why we universally default to judging and berating ourselves – instead of showing ourselves compassion and kindness – when we feel vulnerable.

On the one hand, Brach explains that it has been part of our very survival for our brains to have a negativity bias. We naturally pay attention to what’s wrong and not what’s right. Our early ancestors used this negativity bias in order to avoid being killed: if anyone stopped to relax and enjoy what was right and good in their lives, they’d likely be killed and eaten by the closest lion, tiger or bear. Our brains have simply evolved to focus on the negative and make it unavoidable for us to not notice to the bad stuff. It brings to mind the warning cry of Grug from the 2013 animated film, The Croods: “Never not be afraid!”

On the other hand, as another apparatus of survival, we “sort for differences”. This was how our ancestors knew who to trust or not trust as part of their tribe. Those who are like us can be trusted; those who aren’t must be a danger to our very survival. It was as true then as it is today that we also sort for differences within ourselves: those parts of our being that make us different (and potentially unlovable) from others threaten our belonging in a group and must be hidden away lest we get booted out. Better to only show those parts of ourselves that guarantee our membership in the tribe.

You see, people? This stuff is ingrained in us! No wonder we’re all culpable for listening to our gremlins, keeping ourselves small (and safe) and talking ourselves out of Daring Greatly. Brach explains that “staying on top of what’s wrong with us gives us the sense that we are controlling our impulses, disguising our weaknesses and possibly improving our character.” The problem here is that beating ourselves up actually reinforces our insecurities and deepens the neural pathways that generate our feelings of inadequacy. We can’t embrace love and belonging if we continue to question our own worthiness.

And why is important to know this? Because by understanding that a lot of our suffering stems simply from the way our brains are built, we can avoid feeling that extra layer of unworthiness and badness when we catch ourselves engaging in negative self-talk. You know those times when you beat yourself up for beating yourself up? (Psst… remember the crazy concentric circles in my last post?) Don’t do it! Remember that you’re just beautifully hardwired for survival.

So, if we can get over beating ourselves up for beating ourselves up, that’s a good start. But we have to go a little further down the road of self-compassion and mindfulness to really start to heal ourselves and get to that place of truly believing ourselves worthy of love and belonging. That’s what I’ll unpack  in my next blog post.

For now, I’ll leave you with this lovely intention from the Buddha and I encourage you to repeat it to yourself often as a prayer or mantra:

Like a caring mother

Holding and guarding the life

Of her only child,

So with a boundless heart

Hold yourself and all beings.

My next Dose of Daring will be held on Friday April 24 at 12pm (Eastern Time). On this call, we’re going to stay with the theme of self-compassion, and look at how practicing self-kindness is NOT the same thing as self-indulgence and is, in fact, an absolutely precondition to serve the world and live the life you were meant to lead.

Dial: 647-558-0588

Access ID: 693 929 1438

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connection Matters (and introducing… A Dose of Daring)

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I am absolutely craving connection these days. And this, from a self-professed introvert!

Last year I set an intention to get more deeply connected to others, especially like-minded women who were embracing their vulnerability (and awesomeness). I wanted to share and learn from them. Well, as you might have guessed, the universe delivered wholeheartedly. I met and forged connections to some amazing women (you know who you are!) and I know those connections will continue to deepen in 2015. And now I’m inspired for more. Let me explain…

Each time I connect with my peeps, I am reminded that you can never underestimate the power of a good conversation.

After connecting with any one of my friends, colleagues or clients – whether it be a quick check-in via text or a long, lingering conversation over coffee – I feel a buzz and a spring in my step as I walk away with a renewed sense of self, sense of gratitude and sense of alignment with the world. Brené Brown is right: we are hard-wired for connection and I am really beginning to understand the force of this truth. This is the kicker: for connection to work its magic, both you and the other person have to be willing to show up as you really are… imperfect, messy, flawed. You have to let go of any need to appear perfect, or to pretend to be someone you’re not, or to say things just to please the other. When you both show up authentically and come together with a sense of curiosity and empathy, you walk away with a connector’s equivalent of a runner’s high.

Interestingly, the critical role of connection in our lives seems to be popping up a lot lately in my newsfeed. Take a recent post by Johann Hari, author of Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, where he points to the role that connection (or rather, disconnection) plays in addiction. In the post, Hari makes reference to the fact that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. “It’s how we get our satisfaction,” and he argues that an addict, in the absence of being connected with other human beings, becomes “bonded” (rather than addicted) to a substance or habit. That is a powerful statement about how deeply we are wired for connection.

And, not surprisingly, it seems that almost every how-to article and Top 10 List for living a fulfilling or happy life these days rank building stronger social connections at the top, like in this article or this one or this one, to name just a few.

So, you want some of that?

Good! Because I have this idea to help quell my craving for more connection, and I hope you will be as excited to try it out as me! I’m going to start hosting a regular “tele-chat” called A Dose of Daring, and YOU are invited! Here’s the gist:

About once a month, I will host a gathering via teleconference where interested people – like you! – can dial-in to join a lunchtime discussion of all things daring, vulnerable, courageous and awesome. Our jumping off point for every discussion will be (of course) something  à la Brené Brown’s The Daring Way™. I’ll introduce a theme or topic via my blog, Daring Matters, and then we will chat more about it at A Dose of Daring.

This regular tele-chat is perfect for you if:

  • You have or are just about to make a big change in your life, whether it be in career, family, health or personal endeavour – you’ll get some great insights on how to build a courage practice for those times when you question or doubt yourself.
  • You’re struggling to feel good enough in your role as a parent, spouse, employee, entrepreneur or leader – you’ll see how we all struggle with feeling “not enough” and how a good dose of self-compassion and empathy can help.
  • You’re a fan of Brené Brown and want to explore some key themes of her work – you’ll be a part of lively discussion that will reinforce the things you’ve read or heard from Brené.

My goal is to build conversation, connection and community around The Daring Way™.

If you haven’t had the chance to join one of my workshops, THIS will be a great way to get introduced to the work and to meet some other lovely, like-minded people! And don’t worry if you haven’t read any of Brené Brown’s books… this is just all about conversation and connection about how you want to show up, be seen and live bravely in the world (and you don’t need to read a book to start talking about that – just an openness to sharing and a curious mind!)

Mark Your Calendar!!

Our First Dose of DaringFriday February 27th at 12:00pm, Eastern Time  (call will last approx 30 min)

Dial-in Instructions: 1-647-558-0588, Access Code: 693 929 1438

Topic:  Why, connection of course!  How Connection Is An Act Of Courage

I would LOVE for you to join the discussion! Put it in your calendar now and make a commitment to YOURSELF to connect with others and learn more about wholehearted living.

P.S. Would love to hear from you on some of the topics you’d like to discuss in the coming months. Which parts of Brené Brown’s work interest you? Anything you need clarity on? Curious about how others feel about the work? What is the hardest thing about daring greatly in your life?  Let me know by replying below, posting on my FB Page or emailing me at sabrina@sabrinaguerin.com.

 

 

 

 

The Year Behind The Work/Life Lab

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Circle Back: I updated this post on Jan 30, 2015, changing a word I used to more accurately reflect my actual experience. When listing out the stressful events of 2014, I mentioned an “addiction” to sleeping pills. It’s been bothering me that I used that word, because I would not qualify what I went through as an addiction at all. What I experience was a dependence on sleeping pills to help me deal with the insomnia I was experiencing. It was careless of me to use a word like addiction, and certainly doesn’t honour the true struggle that those dealing with addiction have to endure. My apologies.

 

I promised myself to take a break from blogging for the month of January, and I almost kept my promise. We’re close to the end of the month, and there is nothing like a self-imposed hiatus from writing to make me burst at the seams wanting to express myself.

I spent some time in late December and early January planning for the year ahead. And in doing so, I couldn’t help but look back at the year just passed. And specifically, I couldn’t help but look back at The Work/Life Lab and the weekly posts I wrote in an effort to inspire readers to shake up their world a little bit and see if a little shift here or there could make a positive difference in their work and personal lives. I loved my year of writing under this construct, as it forced encouraged me on a weekly basis to think up different experiments and to write stuff that felt fun, challenging and meaningful to me.

But as much as I loved writing The Work/Life Lab, looking back I realize that the content of my writing was certainly an arms-length from what my year was really like, “behind the curtain” so to speak. The Work/Life Lab was structured and instructive; my life, meantime, was just plain messy. It was a damn challenging year, but – as all challenging times tend to do – I learned so much along the way about how I want to be in this world.

In many ways, 2014 was my year of “trying to keep my shit together.”

Don’t get me wrong; lots of great and wonderful things happened. I met my hero (and secret BFF) Brené Brown in San Antonio, and learned all about The Daring Way™. I cultivated new and meaningful friendships with some awesomely strong, creative and trailblazing women. I travelled to BC with my family and was completely filled up with the beauty of the west coast. And, we moved to a new home which provided a fresh, new chapter in our family’s life.

But, all the while I was writing those daring, upbeat posts for The Work/Life Lab, I was coming head-to-head with some of life’s biggest stressors:

  • My 6-year old son was diagnosed with ADHD
  • My marriage was seemingly on the brink of kaput
  • I started medication for anxiety and depression (for the third time)
  • I suffered with insomnia for 6 months straight (with a corollary dependence on sleeping pills to deal with said insomnia)
  • We got totally scammed by the movers on our moving day, and not only suffered the financial damages, but the humiliation alone seemed to tarnish any sense of a fresh start in our new place
  • I learned the hard lessons about starting my own business which included:
    • this is damn hard!
    • it takes a long time and a lot of work to see the fruits of your labour
    • you will get your ass kicked, a lot
    • not making money sucks
    • it’s hard to know what to work on first
    • it’s hard to know what to work on second
    • it’s really easy to feel like you’re the only one having a hard time

I’m not sure how I managed to keep my shit together this year, but I did. I didn’t do it all gracefully, mind you. There were definitely ugly moments throughout. But, as I said above, I did learn a lot about myself and the world along the way that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And so, from a deep place of gratitude, I share with you just three key things I learned in 2014:

Never Underestimate The Law of Least Effort

This continues to surprise me. After all, I spent most of my life digging in my heels whenever life’s challenges came up at me. Struggle. Worry. Lament. Ruminate. Repeat.

I wrote about The Law of Least Effort in The Work/Life Lab, because when this lesson hit me, it hit me hard. The lesson? When I feel my body tense up against whatever is happening in a given moment, chose ease over struggle, calm over conflict. Make peace with reality and what is, and start living from that place of acceptance. I have to practice this, over and over. But I slowly feel it’s becoming my default. In fact, I chose the word “EASE” as my theme for 2015.

Whenever I feel opposition, discord or dissonance with anything or anyone, I ask myself, “how can I have ease with this?” Just asking the question relaxes my body and brain. And usually a sense of peace and alignment filter in, and I can make a choice at that moment that, at the very least, doesn’t go against my authentic self. At best, my next move is one that is life-affirming for both me and those around me. I cannot tell you how much this perspective has changed my life. And it certainly helped me get through My Year of Trying To Keep My Shit Together.

I Get To Define Success and Failure

I scheduled – and subsequently cancelled – quite a few programs and events I was offering this year through Sabrina Guerin Coaching. It’s a good thing – and also a tad ironic – that my major offering is The Daring Way™, a program that teaches people the importance of being vulnerable and showing up in your “arena” even when there are no guarantees of success. I live this every day, especially in wanting to share this program with the world. There were times when I sat there thinking, “I am getting my ass kicked with this coaching thing and trying to bring The Daring Way™ to my little corner of the world.” This sense of failure is hard, hard, hard. And sometimes made me fantasize about how easy my life would be if I would just give it all up.

Then I read The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, and I got it. I got schooled, big time. And here’s the lesson:

It’s all invented.

That’s it. So simple. It’s all invented. And, if it’s all invented, then “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,” say Zander and Zander. So, I promptly sat down and invented my definitions of success and failure. So…. According to moi, success is:

  • serving the world while also being authentic
  • having the guts to put myself out there, again and again
  • honouring the commitments I make to my clients
  • helping and inspiring others
  • showing up
  • doing my best with what I know and what I have at the moment
  • honouring my intuition

And, according to moi, failure is:

  • not trying at all
  • dumping all over myself
  • hustling for worthiness
  • buying into other people’s definitions of how things should be
  • giving up
  • making it all about the money

I like these definitions. They work for me, and they are posted on my wall as my gentle reminders that I get to invent what it all means.

It’s The Ordinary Moments That Count

There are a lot of Brené Brown quotes that I love, and I post them a lot on my website and Facebook Page. But there is one that has been steadily creeping into my consciousness. It’s not one of my go-to quotes; it has never really landed for me… until the last few months. And now it’s almost becoming a mantra:

“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”

This is the essence of mindfulness, which I wrote about a lot last year in The Work/Life Lab. It says to me, forget about the next big thing you are waiting to have happen. Forget the next special event, the next vacation, the next day off… whatever you think is somehow going to be more joyful than the moment you have right now. And stop comparing. Stop looking at what everyone else is doing and thinking that somehow they have arrived in the Land of Extraordinary while you’re stuck waiting on stand-by. And stop thinking about the way your kids “should” be, or the way your marriage “should” be, or the way you “should” look. If you get too busy chasing down the extraordinary, you will miss out on the joy of what is here, now.

Last year was a lesson on Stop, Breathe and Be In This Ordinary Moment. Ahhh…joy. I found how joyful it was to simply to be alive, to be breathing and doing whatever I was doing with whomever I was with.  I released any expectations I had of how things “should” be and stopped squandering the joy that was right in front of me.

 

So who knows what 2015 will be, but it’s off to a pretty good start.

My son is still a whirling dervish, and practicing the Law of Least Effort is helping me deal. My husband and I are in a stronger place now and our marriage feels like a place of warmth and comfort again. I’m sleeping normally (whew!) and I stay present in my moments of anxiety and depression. Our new home is, in fact, a new, fresh chapter and we are blessed to be surrounded by the best neighbours, ever. And, I’m busily making plans for delivering The Daring Way™ in new and different ways in 2015, all of which you will be hearing about very soon!

What were your lessons from 2014? Or, did the lessons I describe above resonate with you at all? Tell me, tell me, tell me! I’m setting an intention to open up more about myself in this blog, and I invite you to do the same. Let’s have a conversation about it! I hereby declare that my blog will be renamed, Daring Matters. This year, I will explore all things vulnerable (like opening up more about myself in this blog), courageous and self-compassionate!

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #52: Month-end (Year-end) Mindfulness – Last But Not Least… Meditate

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #52: Month-end (Year-end) Mindfulness – Last But Not Least… Meditate

In last week’s post, I mentioned that I’m a sentimental fool. So I’m sitting here, writing the final post of The Work/Life Lab and feeling many sentimental emotions: proud (yes! I wrote 52 posts this year!), relieved (yes! I made it to post #52!), grateful (that my posts have resonated with some of you, so much so that you’ve taken the time to reach out to me to let me know), and concerned (what am I going to write about in 2015?).

Ok, on to this week’s post… which is my monthly instalment on mindfulness. When I first posted about mindfulness back in January, I mentioned that I believe so strongly in the importance of mindfulness that I would write about it monthly, encouraging you, dear reader, to experiment with bringing yourself into the present moment in different ways. So much of our stress, anxiety and problems stem from the fact that we are either ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. There is so much peace and ease and wisdom to be found in the moment; right here, right now. And the more we can practice bringing ourselves to the moment — and releasing any judgement of ourselves or our situation (to me, this is the most important piece of mindfulness) — the more we can live in the joy, calm and sense of expansive time that we all crave.

The one mindfulness practice that we have not explored yet in the Work/Life Lab is actually the granddaddy of mindfulness: meditation. There has been a lot of focus on meditation over the last few years, with Anderson Cooper being the latest to “drink the Kool Aid” saying that a visit to a meditation centre changed his life. In fact, there has been so much written about the benefits of meditation that I’m not going to delve too much into it here. Basically, you need to know that meditation:

  • Increases your health (boosting immune function, decreasing pain and inflammation)
  • Improves your intelligence (increases grey matter related to memory and thought, increases brain volume connected to emotion regulation and self control)
  • Boosts your social life (better social connections, improved empathy and compassion and increased resilience), and
  • Helps your mental health (decreases stress, anxiety and depression)

… all of which increase your enjoyment of life. This infographic by Dr. Emma Seppala give a great overview of meditation’s benefits.

Sitting in meditation unnerves some people. For those who have tried it, you know how difficult it can be to get going with a meditation practice. Meditation is not about just sitting in silence. It’s about calming your mind, clearing the chatter. This feels almost impossible when we’ve been conditioned for so long to continually think through our moments, rather than be in our moments.

But this is, after all, the Work/Life Lab and this is about experimenting in your life, right? Ok, so here’s the deal: I want you to try your hand at meditation for seven days straight, only 10 minutes a day. That’s it. Of course, I hope that a taste of meditation over seven days will spill over into a lifetime practice… but let’s just start with seven days.

The basics of meditation: sit comfortably; take a few deep breaths and then just breathe normally; notice tension in your body and release it with your breath; then bring your attention to your breath (and the feeling of the air entering and exiting your nostrils); and, when a thought enters your head, acknowledge it and let it go. That’s it. Do that for 10 minutes and you’re done.

I have two recommendations to make as you undertake this experiment:

  • Use a meditation app to help guide you. My favourites are from Deepak Chopra, and are called Ananda. There are three you can download: Infinite Abundance, Living in Love and Conscious Health. You can download one meditation per app for free. I love these apps because you can choose different types of music to play in the background and also set the amount of time you want to meditate. Then you have Chopra’s lovely, calming voice guiding you through the meditation. There are many more meditation apps out there; try a few and see which ones work for you.
  • For your first foray into meditation, try doing it lying down just before you go to sleep. Read this superb article on How to Meditate Lying Down, by Hwansan Sunim. I think this is a great place to start because it’s easier to fit in 10 minutes of meditation right before you go to sleep, plus it has the added bonus of helping you actually have a better sleep.

If you already meditate (yay you!), then your challenge this week is to mix up your meditation practice a little. If you normally sit for your meditation, try a walking meditation. If you normally meditate 20 minutes, extend it to 30 minutes. If you normally meditate by yourself, try joining a meditation circle at your local yoga studio. Any variation from your normal routine will do. The idea here is to expand your experiences of meditation and see how other forms of meditation serve you.

One important rule: do not judge yourself! Do NOT say you’re bad at meditation. Do NOT say you’re not cut out for meditation. Do NOT say you should meditate better. These are all false beliefs, and they are your inner saboteur’s way of dissuading you from quieting the mind. There is no right way. And the very act of trying to calm your mind and quiet the chatter is meditation. It’s all about the effort and energy of paying attention, of noticing your thoughts and the space between your thoughts. That’s it.

I would love to hear how your experiment with meditation goes, so please leave a message below or leave a comment on my Facebook Page.

With that, I bid you a beautiful New Year full of ease, peace and joy!

 

P.S. Dear Readers… I am taking a short break from blogging! I’ve decided to take the month of January off from writing, and will be back at it in February 2015. Be well!

 

 

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #51: A Look Back

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Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #51: A Look Back

I will wholeheartedly admit that I’m a bit of a sentimental fool, especially at this time of year. Years ago, when we were still sans kids, I would make my husband do a “year in review” with me sometime between Christmas and the New Year. Together, we’d go month-by-month over the year that just passed, remembering what we did, who we saw and what was important to us. Much to their chagrin, I’d also make my extended family take turns at Christmas dinner sharing the best thing that happened to them in the past year and the one thing they were hoping for in the year to come. Now that we have children, we collect memories all year long by writing down fun and important days on small pieces of paper and adding them to our memory jar. On New Year’s Eve, we take turns reading out the memories to each other.

I love it. For me, I revel in the memories and appreciate looking back at what we accomplished over the year, especially when they were things that were completely not on our radar at the start of the year. I also like the fact that it helps build and strengthen our family culture. These shared memories create the story of who we are as a family. They point to our values (or, in some cases, point out when we’re not honouring our values) and give us a sense of shared history together. Plus, the sharing and honouring of memories has, in itself, become part of our family culture.

So in this week’s Work/Life Lab, I invite you to take some time and space to do your own version of a year-in-review. I highly recommend you do this with your partner, family and/or friends, because sharing the memories of a 12-month period will strengthen your bonds and your sense of shared history. That said, it is equally powerful to do this review on your own, especially if you want to start becoming more deliberate about your choices in the year to come. Here’s a good template: Hits/Misses/Lessons Learned

  1. The Hits: What were the highlights of the past year? What did you accomplish? What are you proud of? What delighted you? Who came into your life? Big and small, list all those things from 2014 that you remember fondly and made you feel the warm and fuzzies.
  2. The Misses: What were your disappointments of the past year? What did you set out to do, but didn’t get around to accomplishing? What were your mistakes? Your regrets? What caused you sadness, anger, disappointment or the blues? Big and small, list all those things from 2014 that you remember some sadness or regret.
  3. The Lessons Learned: What were some big things you learned about yourself, about others and about the world this past year? In what areas of your life did you grow? What did you experience for the first time? What helped make you the person you are today? Big and small, list all the things that were lessons for you in 2014.

Now, give yourself a moment to take it all in. What a year! Look at all the gifts you received in 2014!

Say thank you for all these gifts… for your accomplishments (yay you!), for the pain and sadness (you’re stronger for it) and for the things you learned (you are a much richer person today than a year ago). In whatever way is meaningful for you, express your gratitude for the year you just experienced.

Now consider this: what did the past year prepare you for? Meditate on this for several moments. Jot down any thoughts that come to mind about what this past year has done to set you up for a phenomenal year ahead!

Finally, it’s time to say a proper good-bye to 2014. What authentic and meaningful act can you do to let go of the year that just passed? What ritual will honour all the hits, misses and lessons learned? Take the time to do this too, because letting go will be the best way for you to move forward and be present in the year to come.