The Wisdom of Balancing Rocks

July 10th, 2012

‎”Like rock balancing, nothing is permanent in this world so why worry? Just give everything you’ve got, with what you can and make do with what’s around” (Ildefonso Vista, a landscaping artist).

While hiking in the desert, I happened upon these balancing rocks.

This gift from nature was waiting…patiently and quietly.

These balancing rocks are not permanent–they will fall and, with the guidance and imaginations of many hands, they will evolve and grow into another version of art…patiently and quietly allowing others to give, to take away.

I am not that different from these balancing rocks.  I stand planted in this sand, that is firm yet can easily give way at any moment.  Just as these balancing rocks will fall, I, too, will stumble and fall.  The challenge is remembering that stumbles are not moments of shame, but opportunities to reflect, learn and grow…opportunities to reveal your genuine self.

I am not that different from these balancing rocks.  I stand with my face warmed by the early morning sun, enveloped by the dry desert air…vulnerable to the elements. The challenge is remembering that vulnerability controls us when it is hidden in darkness…expose that vulnerability to the sun! Let the sun warm it, soften it!  Own your vulnerabilities as a part of who you are, a part of what keeps you in balance, not off balance.

I am not that different from these balancing rocks.  I stand up straight, stand my ground.  I am strong and durable, yet can crumble at any given moment.  The rocks are balancing each other.  The challenge is remembering that letting others help is not a weakness because the guidance and imagination from others are gifts that  help me find balance.

Nothing is permanent, shifts will have, we will grow and change; people will come into our lives and leave us;  relationships will gather strength and some will fade away; the unexpected will happen (whether we like it not).  The challenge is remembering that shifts are gifts that nature gives us…we can choose to look to the wisdom of the balancing rocks and try new ways of doing things, let many hands participate and let change happen…one stumble at a time.

Finding Your Balance:  Stumbles leave us feeling off-balance.  The art of balancing the stumble is in welcoming the guidance and wisdom of  those around us.  How do you welcome guidance from others?

 

Solitude Matters

June 19th, 2012

“..being in the fog does not have to mean being altogether lost”

Joan Anderson, A Year By The Sea


When I am engrossed in life, I can be overcome with the feeling that there is never enough time.  I tend to fall back on black-and-white, either-or, yes-or-no thinking. When I do not have time alone,  I find that I move through days reacting and catching up, instead of responding and moving forward with intention and balance. Think about the word “alone”–it means “all one”.  When I am alone in solitude, I am “all one” with my self, tuning into all the crevices of my thoughts, feeings, experiences and wishes that are easily over-shadowed when I am reacting and catching up.

“sit still and listen…in time you will hear the answers”

When not distracted by the demands of others and life, you can (re) discover your true self (recall that person you are when on vacation or doing what you love), swapping out feeling run-down by life with feeling engaged in your  life.  In her book, A Year By the Sea, Joan Anderson listened intuitively to her inner voice and realized that she had a choice: she could continue to struggle against feeling lost in the fog, or she could embrace the murkiness- stop, breathe and  listen.  She took the risk and spent a year “just being”  by the sea, repairing and reviving her true self.   Reading about her  journey, I was “working up an appetite for just being” and fantasized about taking a year, a month or even a week retreat in order to re-focus.

“Don’t wait until you need a full year away from life in order to replenish yourself!”  I say.  Change your perspective about time and what you use time for- create moments of solitude.

Moments of solitude are moments away from the distractions and demands of everyday life and family.  Practicing solitude,  I find moments that give space for reflection, and discovering the treasures and answers to be found within  my own mind .  A favorite moment(s) of solitude is the early morning, before the world around me starts it’s day.  Whether I am practicing Balanced Breathing, reading, journaling or simply sipping my cup of tea–I am all one and open to receiving the treasures from within.  Oh sure, there are mornings I would rather sleep in, or can easily spend these moments seized by the lists of to-do’s awaiting me.  I put these thoughts aside, and remember that when I start my day with moments of solitude, I have more physical and emotional energy to engage with demands of the day and feel good while doing it!

Finding Your Balance:  Create moments of solitude throughout your day.

Maybe you are able to carve out 30 minutes each day; or, 10 minutes twice a day. Maybe you crave 20 minutes after work to replenish for the rest of the day by reading your favorite magazine or book. Maybe morning tea and balanced breathing puts the day’s needs into perspective.  Maybe a quite walk by yourself helps you return to  balance.

When you feel like you can not take time away from family or work, remember that your family will enjoy being with you and you will be more productive at work when you create moments of solitude to revive and replenish yourself.

What Moments of Solitude have you created?

Moments of solitude may not lift the fog completely, but they will let us see the road signs more clearly.

The Space To Be Close

April 30th, 2012

“If I didn’t argue with you,

I wouldn’t have been married

to you for 72 years”

Selma and Kenny

Depending on which book you are reading, the experts say that the secret to a long and happy relationship is “do not argue with your partner” or “go ahead, argue.”  I wonder if this either-or-way of seeing the world is helpful.   Maybe it is not about whether or not we argue with others, but what we do with the space that is created by differences? What if, instead of giving folks the idea that following one of these ideas will lead to authentic relationships with those in our lives, we talked about the space we need in order to be close to others?

Sometimes you have to allow for the disconnects, the differences of opinion that naturally occur in relationships.  Afterall, everyone needs to represent themselves..even if your true self is at odds with others.

Sometimes you have to give disconnects their rightful space… to simmer, letting the humanness rise to the surface.  The arguing is not the hard part…it is tolerating the disconnect, waiting to see what well-guarded gem is lying beneath the surface of the argument.  You may not resolve the issue today, tomorrow or next week.  You sit with it, be curious about yourself in relation to it, and know that it will arise again…giving you another chance to get to know yourself and significant others on a more genuine level.

When we make room for our differences, we allow space for authentic and intimate relationships with the people in our lives. A wife says to her husband, as they are encountering a new issue in their marriage, “Logically, I understand why you are doing what you are doing.  But, it is a new way of thinking about things for me.  You will have to allow me some space to think about it, and know that I will keep coming back to talk it out with you.” In this space, they discover new things about each other.  In this space, the walls come down and we see each other for our real-selves, not the idea we are projecting onto them (an idea they will never live up to, by the way!).

Finding your balance:  Your challenge is to do more than simply avoid or put-up with the disconnect. Change happens when we lean into the difference. When we are curious and thoughtful, willing to represent ourselves to others. As well as listen to the other’s truth.

The next time you find yourself feeling disconnected from someone, don’t rush and fix it, don’t avoid it.  Find Your Balance by allowing for the space to be curious and thoughtful, and then returning (again and again!) to represent your authentic self and listen to them..you never know what you will discover!

 

As a side note,  I hope that you will not limit this way of thinking about differences to your romantic relationships.  Try it out with your co-worker, sister or neighbor.  I am interested in hearing how this shift allowed for growth in any relationship.

 

 

Strength In Owning Our Weaknesses

April 16th, 2012

“I recently realized something about myself and it made me ANGRY!”

“I realized that I need someone guiding me, challenging me and then

 giving me positive feedback in order to stay focused.

After years of self-help books that encourage me to look to no one else,

I realize, that for some things, I need guidance from others. I hate that!

And I am not proud of this admission!”

a realization by a friend

Applause! for your authenticity!

Applause! for your vulnerability in saying this out loud!

Applause! for your strength of owning your weaknesses as a part of what makes you the glorious person that you are, instead of letting them negatively define who you are.

For years we have been hearing messages that demanded we look to ourselves, that we “dig deep” to find the answers and the motivation.  These messages have left us feeling bad about ourselves because of our humanness…our craving for connections to others and our valuing the knowledge of others.  Asking for others’ feedback or guidance is NOT the same thing as asking their opinion of you.  Allowing others to teach and guide you is NOT the same thing as letting others’ opinions shape how you feel about yourself.

Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” (Brene Brown)

We experience no shame when we hire a mechanic to fix the brakes on our car or the plummer to repair a broken pipe.  I wonder why we apply shame to seeking out experts when it comes to our interpersonal needs? When you realize that you are motivated when an expert is guiding you…surround yourself with those people!  When you realize that consulting with others helps keep you focused and on track…seek out those folks!  When you realize that you want to change a thing and do not know where or how to begin…connect with those people who do have this knowledge and ask for guidance.  Stop running from who you are, be who you are.

Finding Your Balance:  When we hide those parts of ourselves that are not “perfect,” we block our potential to be our authentic selves, to achieve our goals. Be your authentic self by acknowledging your whole self.  Embrace one “hidden” idea about yourself at a time, write it down, think about it, talk about it.

 

 

When I need some guidance and connection on embracing my authenticity, I like to read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown.

Change One Thing…Enjoy Many Rewards

March 19th, 2012

There are givens in life that we cannot change, such as our boss’s mood, the traffic on our way home, our partner’s behavior.

There are also things that we can change…our own thoughts, feelings and actions.

Are you one of many people who are stuck and overwhelmed at the idea that there are too many things that need to change in order to feel better?

Change one thing at a time. Do one thing different each day, each week or each month.

 

By the time Annette arrived home from work each evening, she was a nervous wreck from deadlines at work, the commute home and the anticipation of her family’s demands. She was stuck in the feeling that she had no control over these things, although these things seem to be controlling her and affecting her mood, her work performance, her interactions with family, she was having difficulty sleeping and was having frequent headaches.
After trying the internal dialogue, Annette stopped fighting against it and practiced rolling with it — changing one thing (that was within her control). When she arrived home from work, she set a timer for 20 minutes..during which time no one was permitted to disturb her.  She used her 20 minutes to just breatheor have a cup of tea and relax, or read emails from friends, read a magazine or walk in her garden.  Mary Changed One Thing in her daily routine, and reeped unexpected rewards. She found that her communte home was less stressful because she knew she had 20 minutes waiting for her.Mary found herself refreshed and able to enjoy quality time with her family (instead of being solely task oriented with her family). She experienced other rewards as well…her family found ways to work out their usual demands on her in other ways; she slept better at night, so she was energized and focused at work and not overwhelmed by deadlines; her headaches decreased, and she finally had the time to enjoy that garden she had planted.

Finding Your Balance:  You cannot change the world, you can change one thing in your world each day, each week or each month.  What one thing will you change today?  Feel free to share your one change and the many rewards you are enjoying as a result.

Just Breathe: Your Daily Balancing Act (Part 1)

March 12th, 2012

How can I find balance when I am juggling so many things?”  This is the question I often hear when I suggest that someone find their inner balance.  This is the question we ponder when we are focused on the outside world and not on inner balance.  When we focus on the outside world, we are focused on all those things that we DO NOT have control over…other people’s thoughts, feelings and actions.  Finding inner balance is about re-focusing on self and what we have control over.  Finding the breath encourages us to be aware of our thoughts, feelings and actions.  When we are focused on all the things we do not have control over, we are simply surviving.  When we turn our focus inward and cultivate balance with the things we can control, then we begin to Thrive!

Just Breathe…and nothing else.

Start with being aware of what your breathing is telling you.

Notice the rhythm of your breathing:

a.   Are you taking shallow breaths in and out?

b.   Are you taking quick breaths in and out?

c.   Are you holding your breath?

Being aware of your breath patterns cultivates awareness of your mind and mood states.  Changes in the rhythm of your breathing are your Red Flags that you are reacting and not responding.    “When you are hungry, you breathe in a special way; when you are busy, you breathe in special way; when you angry, you breathe in a special way, when you are happy, you breathe in a special way….”(1)

Just Breathe.  We hear it all the time, but what does it mean, really?  When you Just Breathe, you breathe deeply, replenishing your mind and body so that you have the energy to engage fully.  When you Just Breathe you expand your mind, thus creating the space to be thoughtful and mindful. When you think clearly and feel fully the experiences/emotions/events in your life, you  become aware and accepting of your needs and wishes.   With this awareness, you begin to set daily and life goals that excite you and you begin to Thrive!

You can balance the demands of your everyday life (and the moments your emotions have been hijacked) and Thrive (instead of reacting and just getting by) when you practice just breathing.   The only thing you are asking your mind and body to do is breathe.  Give your mind permission to be quiet and calm, thus creating room for a more creative and intentional approach to the emotions and tasks that await you.

Practice Just Breathing daily:

1.  Seek out a quiet place and sit comfortably.

2.  Be aware of your breathing.  Notice the feel of breathing in and breathing out

3.  Begin to slowly breathe in deeply, feeling  the clean air entering your body and traveling throughout.  As you breathe out, empty your body of the used-up air by exhaling fully.  Your attention is on the breath..breathe in and breathe out, noticing the rhythm of your breath and feeling the air moving in and out.

4.  As your mind wanders, notice the thoughts, let them go and return to the breathing..breathe in, breathe out.  You may want to say to yourself “I am breathing in and I am breathing out.”

5.  Slowly Breathe In and Breathe Out, Breathe In and Breathe Out….Practice Just Breathing 10 minutes each day and move through your day with intention and thoughtfulness, creativity, energy and patience.

Finding Your Balance:  Just Breathing 10 minutes each day can help you feel energized and clear-headed, and move away from simply surviving the daily grind and towards a Thriving life.  If carving out 10 minutes a day seems too much in the beginning, start with 2-3 minutes and work your way up to 10 minutes.  Find a time that fits your life…before work/school, on your lunch break. upon returning home in the evenings.  Rmember that you already have the tools, so start small, start slow and start with you….just breathe.

 

1. “Paths Are Made By Walking” by Theresa Jacobs-Stewart…If you are interested in exploring more breath practices to  help cultivate a Thriving life, this book is a helpful guidepost.

Red Flags: Balancing Our Reactions and Responses

February 20th, 2012

 

Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling dazed and confused, asking yourself, “what just happened?”  You know, that question from your partner about whose turn it is to empty the trash that quickly deteriorates into you
accusing your partner of TOTALLY disrespecting you.  Or, that simple request from your boss for those reports, which has you spending the rest of the day obsessing over the feeling that your boss has absolutely NO confidence in your abilities.

What happened?  You were hijacked by overwhelming emotions–our automatic responses that do not allow us to see clearly.    This is what happens when we react instead of respond to others.  This is what takes over us when we are disconnected from our emotional states and fall into that black hole.  Balancing these emotional states begins with cultivating awareness and appreciation of our Red Flags.

The other day I was driving along one of my favorite roads in the area.  As I was enjoying myself, I noticed the  “Caution Falling Rocks Ahead” sign.   I was struck by the possibility that I could be enjoying the scenery one minute,  and then be overtaken by falling rocks the next.  Red Flags are our minds way of signaling that there may be falling rocks ahead, in this case “automatic responses ahead.”  Red Flags are just like that road sign –they bring our attention to possible danger ahead and give us enough time to respond before we reach the “point of no return.”  When we see the “falling rocks ahead” sign we slow down, proceed with caution, ever mindful of possible danger ahead.

In his book, Mindsight, Daniel Siegel describes the “tripod of reflection: openness, objectivity, observation” as way to cultivate this awareness.    Be open to the feelings you are experiencing in the moment, instead being fearful and pushing them away.  Allow for observation of your feelings and behavior by taking a step back and asking yourself “Is my reaction congruent to the situation?”  Objectivity is the opportunity to have your feelings, without being swept away by them.   Although we may not always know the source of the overwhelming feelings,  observation allows for the opportunity to stop the madness before we destroy good relationships.  Noticing your Red Flags gives you the space to be curious and reflect about these overwhelming reactions and emotions.

Lean into your feelings….breathe, stay with them and simply be aware.  Soon you will begin to notice patterns and reflect upon the connections.  Be curious about what is happening inside you and around you when your heart begins to pound or you break out in a cold sweat; when your emotions and reactions are bigger than the situation at hand.  Begin by simply noticing your Red Flags.

Here is the really cool thing–Red Flags are there for everyone to notice.  Red Flags signal all those who are present to be mindful of the experiences of ourselves and others.  In the conversation above, the partner who inquired about the trash may have noticed his partner’s Red Flags and simply listened (the trash can wait).

Finding Your Balance:  Let your Red Flag fly!  Cultivate a balance between reacting and responding.  Honor your Red Flag’s purpose to bring your attention to something valuable.  Breathe, step back and be curious.

Moving Towards Balance (and away from juggling)

February 13th, 2012

I remember the moment I realized that I was now a multi-tasker.  I was in my office, sitting at the desk.  I had scheduled this time to make an important phone call that would take a while to wrap up.  While on hold, I decided to finish my notes
from an earlier meeting.   As I was writing these notes and waiting on hold, a co-worker came into my office asking
to consult about a case.  “Sure, come on in.  I am just finishing up these notes while I am on hold.  What’s up?”  In the amount of time it would take to complete one task I had “completed” all three tasks.   On paper, I could check off everything on my to-do list, I was done.

In reality, it looked something like this: Throughout the course of this consult with the co-worker, I had to ask her to repeat herself, because I was writing and hadn’t comprehended everything she was saying.  I eventually had to cut her off because my
phone call went through. By the time I had the attention of the person on the phone, I was too unfocused to articulate what it was I needed.  The next week I was preparing for a follow up meeting, took out the notes I had completed while multitasking and couldn’t make heads or tails of them.   I didn’t fully attend to any of these tasks AND I actually spend more time going back and cleaning-up the multi-tasking messes.  That first moment of multi-tasking could have also been the moment I fully understood that multi-tasking really wasn’t the great time-saver-thingy that everyone was making  so much hype about….only
my brain was too overwhelmed to notice.

Multi-tasking is about getting more done with less, quantity over quality, productivity over attention
to people and tasks.  While we may take less time to complete things, we are actually being less efficient and tend to
make more mistakes. The multi-tasking brain is flooded with data.  OUr brain is fragmented as we demand that it go back-and-forth, processing various types of data at rapid speeds and expected to generated multiple solutions at one time. When we function at this level for periods of time, there is no space in our brains or in our minds to be thoughtful about our mission, to positively problem solve, or to approach people and tasks creatively.

Just breathe and go slowly.

When I find myself having to ask others to repeat themselves, having to  re-do a task or my brain feels like cottage cheese, I know that I am in the multi-tasker’s sludge through the mud.  These are my red-flags to slow down, breathe and engage in some balancing .

Approaching with clarity and intention is a way of balancing (instead of juggling) the demands that come our way.   When your red-flag is drowning, rescue your mind with the cure for multi-tasking…Do One Thing At A Time.  I know, if it were that easy we wouldn’t be talking about it, right?   Before we can Do One Thing At A Time, we must re-focus our mind by giving ourselves a PAT on the back:

1.   Prioitize: address what matters most and let the rest fall away

2.   Attend to one task or person at a time:  give that person or task your full attention in that moment and complete that task;  then move on to the next.

3.   Transperancy:  Be clear and  honest with yourself and others about your availability and time requirements

If I had slowed down and given mysef a PAT on the back, the earlier scenario could have had the opportunity for greatness:

While awaiting the important phone call I had scheduled, I spent the on-hold time preparing by organizing my thoughts and questions.  During this time, a co-coworker came by the office and asked about consulting on a case.  I replied that I would be happy to consult, that I was on hold for an important phone call and we negotiated a time that worked for both us.  After positively concluding the phone call, I turned my attention to writing comprehensive notes outlining an earlier meeting (a quick review of which would prepare me for the follow up meeting).  At this point, I would have been able to genuinely affirm that I was done for the day.

Just breathe and go slowly.

Finding Your Balance: How can you move from juggling the demands of living a multi-tasking life to attending to tasks and people in a balanced manner?    PAT yourself on the back, take a deep breath and begin again,  allowing change to happen slowly and over time, one task at a time.   Your challenge is to start small, start slow and start with you.

Change Is Waiting

January 27th, 2012

Are you waiting for things to change?  When we function from a place of “When they,” “If only they would,” or “As soon as they,” we are waiting for change.

Waiting for  others to do something different before I can change is a big ‘ol red flag that I am stuck, overwhelmed and feeling vulnerable.  That red flag is a reminder that when I want to focus on other people to make my life easier/happier, I am usually
feeling vulnerable. It’s my sign that I need to re-adjust that spotlight onto myself and look at my role in changing my place in this world.

To help get me unstuck, I remember the words of David Richo in his book Five Things We Cannot Change “To accept things we cannot change does not mean that we roll over but that we roll on.”

To begin “rolling on”, I engage in this internal dialogue to remind me that there are several pathways to affecting change in my world that are awaiting me:

Question:   What do I have control over?

Answer: I have control over what I think, feel, do and say.

Question:  Who do I have control over?

Answer:  I have control over me!

Question:    What am I feeling/experiencing/trying to avoid in this situation that is leading me to feel vulnerable?

Answer:       (fill in the blank)

Question:    What choices do I have in this situation?

Answer:       I can choose to keep expecting them to do it differently.  Or, I can create change by leaning into my feelings of vulnerability, which allows me to shift the way I think about myself in relation to them/situation.  And, gives me the space to change the way I react/respond to them/situation.

Nothing changes until I/you change.

There are days that I need to talk to my husband, during the work day, about a family decision that needed to be made.  During my break at work, I call my husband at his job.  Typically, my husband explains that he is busy and will see me at home in the evening.  I hang up the phone, frustrated and proclaim “if only he would ask me if I needed something, then I would know he that he had time for me.”  I have been waiting for change.  Instead of getting stuck in the disappointment that my husband doesn’t always know what Iexactly what I need and when I need it, I began to engage in the internal dialogue and recognize what I had control over. I ch anged my approach with my husband (I am still a work in progress).  Now, when I need to address an important issue with him during the work day, my phone call sounds something like this:  “I have something that I need to talk with you about.  Is this a good time to talk?” my husband either says yes and we complete their conversation; or he says no and we schedule a time to talk later. By focusing on what I have control over (expressing my needs), I am making change happen…and getting my needs met.

Finding Your Balance: What one thing will you change today? Continuing to wait for change prolongs your misery and feelings of helplessness.  Trying to change everything at once will lead you right back to feeling stuck and overwhelmed.  The challenge is to start small, start slow and start with you.