Good Exploring, Little One

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I’m well into My Year of Creative Living and, at this point, I’m appreciating (and sometimes begrudging) more and more the crazy, surprising and delightful ride that creativity is taking me on.

For example, what started as a simple goal (Write A Book) back in January spurred me to enrol in an online blogging course in the spring; hire a writing coach in early summer; and, travel 2 1/2 hrs north to Georgian Bay for a five-day writing retreat, from which I’ve just returned.

With all this, I’m definitely still on the path to writing a book, but my “Writing Life” has broken open and here I sit with all these words in me, all these stories to tell, and what seems like not enough time and space to get it all out.

Side note: my two new mantras right now are: “Be Patient And Be Willing To Pass Up Good For Great” and “Progress Is Progress“.

The writing retreat, in particular, cracked me wide open. Something about being in the most beautiful setting imaginable (Georgian Bay, I <heart> you), in two small, quintessentially- Canadian cottages, surrounded by 12 other crazy-freaking-amazing writers has given me a brand new set of lenses through which to see the world.

Everything I look at appears to me as a touching and story-filled photograph now. Words seem delicious and rich enough to eat. On the drive home, I realized that Writing and I are now in a serious, committed relationship (the best kind of relationship too… the one that keeps me both grounded AND sky-bound). Like all good and evolving relationships, I know I’m in for some tumultuous times. But I’m ready for the ride.

One of the most vulnerable stages of the writing process is sharing our work with the world. Good thing I’ve had lots of practice with vulnerability and putting my shit out there! With that in mind, I want to share three things I wrote at the retreat.

The first is a quick ditty, based on the photograph above. And it goes like this:

I want writing to feel just like this little baby who is exploring and looking with fresh eyes at everything around her, with no concept of what being messy even means. This little one has no judgement of herself. And she is loved simply for existing. She follows her heart and her curiosity without any preconceived notions of reward or consequence.

She isn’t scolded for getting dirt on her bottom or tracking mess into the house. Instead she is praised and held and celebrated.

“What a curious little explorer you are,” they say.

“Look at what you uncovered, clever little girl,” they say.

“What have discovered today?” they ask.

With a chuckle and a coo, they brush the dirt and mess off her hands, legs and feet. No harm, no foul.

Good exploring, little one.

 

The second is a poem I wrote:

Sisterhood

precious wind

of sincere love

roots me

and I rise high.

 

Lastly, a Haiku I wrote:

Dandelions

First bouquet for mom

So proud to be the giver

Promptly thrown in trash

 

What kind of creativity are you exploring these days? Are you in a serious, committed relationship with painting, sculpting, knitting, wood carving, square dancing, jewellery making, cake decorating, comedy, poetry or some other lovely creative pursuit? If yes, please share it with me here or on my FB Page so I don’t feel so alone in putting my work out into the world! If you’re not ready to share, tell me where you are in your relationship… just starting, deep in the trenches or perhaps just flirting from afar?

 

 

Walking Bravely and In Great Happiness

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As you may know, I declared this My Year of Creative Living. So far, I’ve taught myself to play the ukulele; took a tap dance class; spent a weekend dabbling in abstract painting; and, participated in a three-week blogging course.

What I’ve learned so far from these activities: creativity is the core of feeling really alive. I’m never so giddy, conflicted, anxious, thrilled or joyful than when I’m in creative mode. It’s a definite high, folks… I highly recommend it.

My current endeavour is… writing a book (ahh!). I’ve hired an amazing writing coach to guide me through this process and keep me accountable to the task (which is worth its weight in gold), and I feel like I’m diving into my most personal, meaningful creative pursuit yet. Its exhilarating and terrifying at once, which is the very definition of entering “the arena” of vulnerability, as Brené Brown calls it.

I was listening to Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey speak about creativity in their latest meditation challenge podcast, and their explanation of creativity hit me on a whole new level:

“Creativity is the root of our biological existence.”

Our bodies – each and every cell – are constantly evolving and responding to brand new conditions. Chopra defines creative living as bringing freshness and renewal to each day, each circumstance. In this light, it’s easy to see that we are all – by our very biology – creative beings and the tired notion of creativity belonging only to artists and writers swiftly abates.

Creativity lives in our divine freedom to choose our response to any given moment.  The ability, however, to bring the freshness and renewal of creativity to each moment is, you guessed it, a practice.

The practices of letting go of comparison, staying present and cultivating your awareness for what’s true for you in this moment (and not what your long-standing, self-limiting stories tell you) nurture your creative life. And it nurtures what you are likely seeking for yourself: to feel alive, to feel worthwhile and to feel so very you as much as possible in your life.

I invite you to rebrand yourself as a creative being, starting today. I mean, you already are a creative being… and now you have the choice to start seeing yourself this way and living your life from this perspective.

What would it be like to approach your job, your marriage, your parenting and your personal growth as a “creative type”. As an artist, even? As someone who walks “bravely and in great happiness”, as so beautifully said by artist Robert Henri?

It is, after all, in your nature – in your very cells – to do it.

 

Kick-ass Author #5 Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Is Not Brené Brown)

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As I’ve put together this short list of kick-ass writers over the last several weeks, I know I’m leaving out countless other amazing authors whose books also pick up on the powerful themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living. In fact, I could probably make writing about other people’s books a full-time blogging job. I’m an unabashed devotee of books that inspire and nudge people to look inward and move forward. And I love connecting people to books.

But alas, this time around I’m committed to five recommendations only. So here’s the last in my series on Authors Who Write About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Are Not Brené Brown):

 

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

This book is for you if: You feel you have something inside you that needs to get “out there” but don’t know where or are too scared to start; you have silenced or hidden your inner artist ever since that elementary school art teacher told you, “you’re not doing it right”; you are trying to solve a problem or express an emotion or amplify your life and think creativity might be the way forward. 

If you are thinking, “I’m not creative, this book is not for me” then you need to read this book. If you’re thinking, “I’m too busy with serious ‘real-life’ stuff to concern myself with creativity” then get yourself to a book store pronto and buy this book.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert takes a stand for all of us to live a creative life: To live a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear. She explains that creative living is what separates a mundane existence from “an amplified existence” (don’t you love that?) Creative living – in all its manifestations – is for all of us. Do you see how you need to read this book?

Big Magic is a great read, presented in nice, easily-digestable chapter “nuggets” that speak to overcoming the fear of stepping into the creative arena. Her book invites you to find all your “not enough” gremlins, look ’em square in the eye and then promptly kick them to the backseat.

 

She is like the friend who tells you, “My wish for you is that you don’t take too long to get over your fear and do what you really love to do.”

 

Gilbert challenges you to question all the stories you tell yourself about the way things are, nudging you to find a different, better and more daring story to tell. She speaks to self-care and compassion, giving yourself permission, and the occasional, much-needed smack upside the head (e.g. “Fear is boring.”)

What I love the most is Gilbert’s voice in this book: it feels like you’re sitting down with your best friend over a coffee/glass of wine, and she’s telling you the things you need to hear about expressing your creative self. She is like the friend who tells you,  “My wish for you is that you don’t take too long to get over your fear and do what you really love to do.”

As an added bonus, Gilbert launched her podcast, Magic Lessons, to continue exploring her ideas from Big Magic. It’s really worth a listen, especially Episode 12 which features an interview with Brené Brown herself!

Now, if you really want to get serious about exploring your creativity, check out my awesome friend and coaching colleague, Allyson Woodrooffe. Allyson helps people find their voice and live their truth through creative expression, and she is definitely someone you want alongside your journey to find your creative self.

To wrap up, let me say that I would love to hear about your favourite reads that touch on the themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living. Send me your list on my Facebook Page.

And if you end up reading any of the five writers/books I’ve suggested over the past few weeks, please post a comment below or to my Facebook Page to let me know what you thought of it!

 

Kick-ass Author #2 Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Is Not Brené Brown)

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While the concepts of shame, vulnerability and living wholeheartedly are central to Dr. Brené Browns research and writing, these themes are actually quite common in books. That’s because we are all drawn to ideas of rising up against the oppression of real or perceived limitations, and finding the courage (vulnerability) to radically live life according to our own rules.

My next pick for Kick-ass Author Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living is a perfect example:

Seth Godin,  What To Do When It’s Your Turn (And It’s Always Your Turn)

This book is for you if:  You’re a budding entrepreneur; you’re thinking of quitting your job to pursue a passion; you want to create art and put it out into the world; or, you long to get unstuck in any aspect of your life.

If I were translating this Seth Godin book into “Brené-ese”, I’d say this book is about showing up, being seen and living bravely. It’s about stepping into the arena, without armour or shame shields, ignoring the critics, the cheap seats and the box seats, while holding the value of courage to light the way.

You need to get this book into your library. Then you need to get a copy for your spouse. Another for your best friend. And then anyone you know who is about to graduate from college or university.

Why? Because this book is a trip.

First of all, Seth Godin is a master of witty, concise and inspiring writing. He is also, in his own words, someone who “mostly creates projects, many of which end up failing.” So he speaks from experience AND knows what is possible. Trust me, his writing will get you fired up, and “taking your turn” over and over, in new and different ways.

 

“When was the last time you did 

something for the first time?” Seth Godin

Secondly, this book is basically a piece of artwork in itself. Bright colours, provoking images and photographs, big fonts/little fonts, historical references and pop culture musings, stirring quotes and big questions like, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” and “Are you taking it seriously or are you taking it personally?” and “When did you lose your voice?”  It’s part-coffee table/part-self help book, rolled into one.

But it’s the way Seth Godin made this book happen that I love, as its creation is the very illustration of what he preaches in the book. Godin didn’t go the traditional publishing route with this book, which would have been easy for him as the author of 17 bestsellers. Instead, he asked his online community if they would be interested in pre-purchasing the book, sight-unseen (I was one of thousands who said ‘yes’). He got the capital to publish the book from the pre-orders, then published it and shipped it directly to readers. Now there are over 100,000 copies in print.

Godin wanted to challenge the status quo of the “vertical publishing world” where publishers decide what gets published and how it gets distributed, and instead went for a horizontal approach, getting readers themselves involved in the creation of the book.

You may not find the word shame or wholehearted in this book, but the message and the book itself is ALL the stuff Brené Brown talks about:  feeling the fear of vulnerability and doing it anyway.

Get a taste of Seth Godin’s work by checking out his awesome blog. And you can order What To Do When It’s Your Turn here.

Pick up his book and tell me what you think in the comments below or on my Facebook Page!

 

It’s All About Andragogy, Baby!

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I took up tap dancing and playing the ukulele at the same time. I had not done either in the past and had not shown any previous affinity or talent for either. I pretty much launched into two different artistic forms from the same starting point.

Three months on, I’m loving one and ready to quit the other.

Why?

Interestingly, I boil it down to the learning process. Not the art form, not my degree of talent, and not my level of effort. It’s andragogy, baby. I chose two different approaches to learning these artistic endeavours and that has made all the difference. Let me explain.

To learn to tap dance, I signed up for lessons at my local recreation centre. It’s a structured class with about a dozen of us middle-aged mommas trying to replicate the fun their tiny tots have in dance class. Our instructor is a young, spritely thing who LOVES tap almost as much as breathing. Important to note (and I’m foreshadowing here), she is the same instructor of all the tap classes for kids at the recreation centre.

To learn to play the ukulele, I decided to teach myself. Without much of an action plan, I bought the ukulele and a beginners instruction book, and then found a bunch of websites and YouTube videos hosted by ukulele junkies who love to show other people how to do it.

At tap class, after a four minute warm-up of tapping our toes and heels in unison, our teacher demonstrates a random step combination and then has our group repeat this combination up and down the length of the room. Then she shows us another random combo. We follow. Then another. We follow. In our hour-long class, we learn about five or six of these combinations. Think of it like doing piano scales for an hour. Except that each week, the combinations are different. One doesn’t build on another. It’s just random combination after random combination. And just as I’m getting the fancy footwork down for one combo, it’s time to stop and learn a new one. Sigh.

With my ukulele playing, I began by learning to tune the thing (a very good place to start) and strumming some of the basic and most-used chords. Then quite quickly – and quite naturally, I might add – I looked for a song I could start playing. One website suggested mastering “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad” as a good start. Hmmm… no thanks. I had to jump to something more fun, so I found “Someone To Lava” (If you’ve seen the movie, Inside Out, then you might recognize this song from the short animated film that was shown before the feature).

I found the tablature (fancy name for chord sequence) for this song and also the video on YouTube, and then just started practicing along as best I could. It was a slow start for sure, and I struggled with changing chords and strumming properly. Every so often I would stop and just practice changing from one chord to the next. Or I’d practice a different strumming pattern. But I could always recognize what I was playing and how it fit into the whole song. And almost every time I’d play along to the song, I could see where I was improving and what I needed to work on. I’ve noticed my progress in not having to always look at the ukulele to change chords, and that my strumming has become more natural. I keep my uke in my office and find myself picking it up to quickly practice my song before starting into some other task.

Can you tell which one I love and which one I’m ready to quit? Yup, tap dance class is becoming a bore and I’m missing more classes than I’d like to admit. And every time I see my ukulele, I smile and want to keep going.

The thing is, there is a solid theory behind why this is happening (read: it’s NOT just me and my fickle ways!)

The theory of adult learning basically states that certain conditions need to be met in order for adults to thrive in learning environments. For those lovers of lifelong learning – like me! – out there, it was Malcolm Knowles who identified these conditions or principles for maximizing the learning experience for adults (and, yes, they differ from what children need). The one principle that I think helps explain my experience is this: for grown-ups, learning has to be goal-oriented and relevant. Basically, in order to keep motivated, adults need to know what they are working toward, to see the relevance of what’s being taught and how it relates to the overall learning outcome. If the goal is not clear and if the applicability of each segment of learning to that goal is not evident, then motivation to learn drops.

Put against the context of my tap dance lessons, you can see why my motivation is waning. I have no idea what we are working toward in that class. We are doing isolated combinations and the steps aren’t building on each other. But I do know exactly what would have motivated me in that class: having the instructor show us a fun and level-appropriate choreographed routine to start, saying “THIS is what you are going to learn by the end of our time together.” Then she could have spent time in each class showing us several of the combinations, starting at with the first sequence and getting the chance to master each before we move on. If I knew that each week I’d be practicing combinations that would eventually tie together to a complete routine, I’d be practicing in my sleep!

Instead, each week I go there knowing I’ll learn some random moves that I will easily forget by the next morning and with no motivation for remembering them. What’s the point? We’re doing completely different moves next week.

But my ukulele playing is altogether different. I started really early in choosing a song I was going to learn. I saw the goal up front: I will learn “Someone To Lava”. And every time I sit down to practice, even if it’s just to practice one or two chord changes, I know that it fits into the bigger picture of playing that song. I’m motivated to keep going because I’ve seen my progress and I know that every time I practice, I’m getting close to my goal of playing the whole song.

So what does this mean for you? Well, if you’re putting yourself out there to learn some new artistic endeavour, pay special attention to HOW it’s being taught. When we lack motivation to keep going with something, we are so easy to blame ourselves for lack of will, lack of talent or lack of skill. It’s easier, then, to give up or make excuses and to, worst of all, give up trying anything else because we already assume it’s us, not them. But sometimes it is them. Not everyone knows what it takes to motivate adults to learn. If you’re trying something new and finding your motivation starting to wane, maybe it’s that the goal hasn’t been made clear to you or the relevance of a particular lesson hasn’t been made evident. Then you can {gently} encourage your instructor to make these things clear for you, keeping you motivated to keep going (and in my case, to keep tapping).

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #49: Celebrating The Holidays, Wholeheartedly

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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 #49: Celebrating The Holidays, Wholeheartedly

I will totally own the fact that this week’s Work/Life Lab experiment is inspired (well, borrowed really) from a recent blog post by the lovely Brené Brown. In her post, Brené recounts a Christmas when she let the “show” of the holiday season hijack her and her family’s enjoyment of it. She recognized that in her determined effort to ensure that “the show must go on”, she paid a very high price: choosing to please, perfect, and perform (in this case, finishing over 200 Christmas cards by herself) over honouring her values of courage, connection and compassion (courage to let go of the need for the cards to be perfect, connection to her children, and compassion to understand her kids’ immediate desires to celebrate the season in their own ways).

She has changed her tune since then, and I love her decision to choose the holiday over the show. So, this week’s experiment is going to ask you to do the same: Make the daring choice to give up the show in favour of the holiday. This means that as you prepare your list of all the things you need to do for the upcoming holiday season, answer the two questions Brené poses in her blog post:

  • Is this thing –  this activity, this gathering, this spending – is this a part of me/us, or just a part of the show?
  • And, does this show really need to go on?

As you look at all you have put on your to-do list, consider whether you are doing these things just to please others, so that you will feel more accepted by them or so that they will be happy at the expense of your own enjoyment. Or, whether you are doing it to achieve some sort of perfection, so that you can avoid any hint of painful criticism from family or friends. Or, whether you are just performing in the role of “She who makes all holiday things just so,” or “She who will not have the only house on the block without lights and decorations,” or “She who unselfishly bakes every delicious holiday treat from scratch,” or “She who will do everything and ask for nothing”. If any of these ring true, it’s time to choose the holiday over the show.

Scratch it off your list. Or modify it. Let go of your need to be perfect. Do something because it pleases you, not others. And give up the performance, because everyone wants to see the real you anyway (trust me).

Why do this? Because if you’re caught up in the show, you’ll miss  out on the true spirit of the season: giving, gratitude, connection, peace on earth and goodwill toward humankind. You’ll miss out on being and feeling authentic among those you love. You’ll “get through the season” living from your head, instead of savouring every moment living from your heart.

It takes courage to give up the show. Start slow, and maybe give up (or modify) just one thing on that list. And as you do it, let it truly go (that is, don’t give it up and then feel guilty about it). You’ll be giving yourself the gift of a more wholehearted holiday season!

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #46: Letter To Your Future-Self

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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 #46 – Letter To Your Future-Self

We hosted seven girls for a sleepover last night to celebrate my daughter’s 10th birthday. My daughter came up with the fabulous idea of having her group of friends put together a time capsule to mark the occasion. In addition to taking photos and measuring the height of everyone, each girl wrote out a profile of their current selves: favourite school subject, favourite food, sports they like, boys they like, plus their biggest fears, talents, dreams and what they want to do when they grow up. They all took an oath to open the time capsule together in five years, when they will be 15 years old. I decided it would be an interesting addition to have each girl write a letter to their future-selves, which they would read at age 15. What would a 10-year old girl write to her 15-year old self?

It, of course, got me thinking, what would I write to my 50-year old self? So I’ve decided to take up this challenge and invite you to do the same! In this week’s experiment, take 20-30 minutes out of your busy schedule to write a letter to your future-self. The guidelines are pretty simple: just think about what you’d like to say or ask yourself five years from now, and put it in a letter. Tuck that letter away, and put a reminder in your calendar to open it in November 2019.

What you say in that letter is, of course, up to you. Perhaps you want to write a letter giving a detailed description of what your life is like right now, so as to give your future self an accurate account of this period in your life. Or, maybe you’d like to ask your future-self some questions and advice; when you open that letter, you’ll see what made you curious five years earlier and whether you now have the answers. Alternatively, maybe you can try your hand at giving your future-self some advice from your present-day self, especially if you want your future-self to be reminded of an especially powerful perspective you currently hold of the world.

But here’s what I really think you should write in your letter:  spell out (in not too much detail, please) your hopes and dreams for your future-self. Where do you see yourself in five years? What kind of person are you? What kind of impact are you having? What kind of job do you have? What skills and talents are you using? Where are you living and who are you living with? What do you look like? What are you doing with your free time? This is the kind of thinking that requires you to be a bit brave and a lot creative. Get clear – but not too fussy – on how you’d like to see yourself living five years from now, and put it in writing.

Why do this? Well, there’s a whole school of thought around intention-setting and this is a fun exercise in testing the theory of “your thoughts create your reality”. At the very least, it’s something fun to do and it’s something special you get to give yourself five years from now (think of it as sending your future-self a love letter)! You’ll get a glimpse of what was important to your current-self and see whether or not your intentions have come to fruition. Or, you’ll simply give yourself a good laugh in November 2019.

The trick here is to not shortchange yourself on a fantastic future; go for the gold! If you didn’t have any negative voices telling you “you’re not ____ enough to have that kind of a future” or “who do you think you are, wanting that for yourself?”, then what would you wish for yourself? You are the only one reading this letter, so you might as well give yourself permission to dream big and write down exactly the kind of life you hope to be living in five years.

In any case, you can bet that your future-self will be thanking you for taking the time to write this letter!