Saturday, December 7, 2019

How good can you stand it?

My idea of bliss
My cousins and I got together this morning for our annual Christmas breakfast at Fishermen's Terminal. While we pondered the lengthy menu, we acknowledged we don't usually eat much for breakfast these days, but it was still a good idea since this is different enough from our day-to-day and we've now done it often enough that it feels like a tradition. And, we get some quality time together which feels like a rare thing these days. 

There were fewer of us this year. Over warm scones with orange-infused butter, we reflected on our family. One cousin recently turned 60, and we noted how she's now lived longer than several in her immediate familyboth her mom and two sisters left this plane by that age, and looking a little more broadly, we've all lived longer than several others. 

So we had to acknowledge how grateful we are. We all have it pretty good. We're generally healthy, working, and in relationships that work for us. And we're not actively engaging in addictive or destructive behavior like a few others who are remarkably still around.  

What a gift... a gift we gave ourselves. 

Giving and receiving

We're now in the throes of the holiday season... a time for giving to others as well as receiving. While I'm less of a consumer than I used to be, I do love finding just the right gift for someone or putting a fun package together.  

That said, giving is so much easier than receiving. Don't get me wrong. I love gifts. But I often feel uncomfortable when offered something I feel I haven't earned in some way, or perhaps haven't reciprocated, whether it's a gift, a compliment, or an act of kindness.  

This isn't uncommon. 

It's important to learn that it's OK to just receive and say thank you. When we receive a gift from someone else, they're giving themselves a gift, too... it makes us feel good to give to others. And, if we give and never receive, we end up depleted. 

Acknowledging our good

Whether it's doing a gratitude practice every day, like I do, or just counting your blessings as you see them, it's important to acknowledge the good we have in our lives. Because good begets good.  

My life is hardly perfect, and it can still be hard. But hard is what makes it better. It's that act of moving through something, finding an answer or solution, of feeling accomplished, that brings meaning and satisfaction. 

Which is, as I continually learn, what life is all about. It's less about happiness and more about meaning and purpose. The more deeply we know this, the better our lives become. How often have you said, "I'll be happy when..." or "I'll be happy if..." When we get whatever that is, something else replaces it. To relentlessly pursue happiness is a way to live in a constant state of unhappiness. 

How's that for wisdom? But think about it. If we're always out there looking for something we say we want, then we don't have what we want right now. That's a recipe for discontent. Happiness is right here, right now, in the journey; we find it in the meaning and purpose we assign to our lives, along with what we do, and who we spend our time with. We can even find joy in pain. (Yes, it's true, although we may not fully get that until we're on the other side.)

Looking back over the year

December is a time when many of us look back over the year. Radio stations play the top songs, writers and readers share their book lists, newspapers review the top stories. 

Many of us do this, too, although it may just live in our heads. Before looking at the year ahead and setting new intentions or goals, it's useful to assess the year and write it down.  

What worked well for you this last year? What are you most proud of? What do you want more of that you started? Are there lessons gleaned from what didn't work well? 

No need to lament or shame yourself if you didn't reach your goals; we can be optimistic about what we can accomplish and forget to account for real-life twists and turns. There's always something to be learned. 

How much good can you stand? 

So I'm curious: How good can you stand it? What would you love to receive? What brings your life meaning? What would it feel like to live in joy or bliss? Where do you feel that? 

I feel bliss when I'm outside, in the woods or on the water. Sometimes I feel it when I meditate or when I reflect and write my gratitude lists. I feel it when I'm with my partner. Bliss is fleeting, but oh so satisfying for those brief moments as it melts into contentment. 

It's up to you to state it, create it, find it, own it, and be that which brings you meaning, purpose, and ultimately, joy. 

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Thursday, November 28, 2019

When life takes a hard turn... can you fix it?

Talented gardeners, builders, creators
Imagine for a minute you live in an RV, parked on a city street, with few resourcesno running water, no working toilet, no refrigeration or cooking facilities (and no money for propane for your stove or heater).

I know two people who fell on hard times and this is their current reality. I feel profound sadness for them and try to help by providing work when they ask, and a little bit extra. And maybe just as important, inviting them in for coffee and conversation, with some dignity and compassion on the side. 

I write this today because I can't get these two out of my mind, and today is Thanksgiving.

My two cents, for what it's worth: 

Nobody should live in an RV or a tent, especially in one of the richest city's in the country. I don't understand why some who have means, and often power, don't connect the dots that by caring for others, we care for ourselves. Giving peopleother humansthe care they need at the most basic gives them the opportunity to again contribute in ways that are meaningful to them, and also to us. Providing a baseline improves lives all around: better public health, greater economic stability for people and communities, and a lot less crime. I understand that some on the street decline care when offered, usually because of addiction or a mental health issue...and we need better policies to address this, too.


So, after that, what follows may not sound compassionate, but there's truth here. Trust me and I'll explain. I say this but there are a few exceptionse.g., the insanity underway in Syria or what happened during the Holocaust, and other global tragedies. These are only explained by a deeper look at collective consciousness, and that's not this blog. So this isn't a treatise nor opinion on world poverty, injustice, or suffering, nor am I referring to anyone with mental illnesssomething we completely suck at addressing in this country.

But here in North America, assuming largely sound mind...  

We're a product of our choices

My questions to you:
  • Do you know that everything you do, feel, think, experience, is the result of a choice? 
  • Do the choices you make improve your life and circumstances, or make them worse?
If your life isn't working the way you want it to or think it should, at some point, likely early on, you made a choice about what you believed you deserved. That choice wasn't conscious, because if it was, you'd probably make a different one. You may have made that choice because you suffered badly by another's hand, actions, or words. Bad stuff happens, and there is no shortage of things that shouldn't be.
  • This is not victim shaming or blaming. It's a potential way forward.
  • While the action that happened isn't your fault, as an adult, you're responsible for what you do with it.  
Case in point: my belief 

Throughout much of my life, I believed I wasn't supposed to be here, that I didn't belong. My father died when I was two, but he didn't know me. He met me oncewhen he signed paternity papers. He wasn't an active participant in my or my mother's life. By the time I was born he lived a couple hundred miles away, was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and between various treatments and tests and the European trip his brother sent him on, he wasn't available. But his family also dismissed us. His sister and mother said I couldn't possibly be his.

The impact

Every choice I made about my life stemmed from this beliefa belief I unwittingly choseamong others I added along the way, like not being worthy, smart enough, nor pretty enough. I looked for love and approval in all the wrong places, leading to plenty of bad choices. My teen years were precarious and took me down some pretty scary paths.

Along those paths, I lost several friends, including those I called my best friendsone to heroin addiction and prostitution, several to overdoses, a few to life-threatening illnesses caused by drugs and alcohol, and yet a few more by their own hand. And during a time when drinking and driving was acceptable and seatbelts weren't compulsory, countless car accidents cut too many lives short.

There but for the grace... mom always said I had a guardian angel.

Most of us don't realize that we make choices every day about who we are, who we'll become, what kind of lives we want. And that's a sad thing because without that awareness, we can make some really bad ones. Our choices define us.

Meet Kelly & Barry

I met Kelly (names are changed) a few years ago through a neighborhood group. She does the gardening I'm unable to do (allergies...ugh!). She considers herself a businesswoman, rightly so, and when I met her, she was also in a vocational program to help others with addiction. She's very close to receiving a certificate. 

Kelly's partner Barry gets odd jobs here and there. They're smart, capable, and caring people but they've both struggled with their own addictions, and while clean and sober now, they had a recent relapse. 

Kelly initially fell on hard times due to a health crisis, but got some help from family to get through it. She wasn't able to work then, but when she and Barry lost their subsidized housing, they rallied, put in some labor, and earned enough money to buy an RVwhich, sadly, barely runs and needs a lot of work.

I spent an hour or more chatting with them on Sunday, before and after they transformed my yard for winter. Growing up, both experienced what we now call adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Now all I can think about is... how to reverse that cycle? How do you spiral up when you've spiraled so far down? They deserve better.

Barry said it: I know I'm responsible.

Good. Awareness is the first step toward change.

Kelly added: But without meeting that base layer of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, when you're solely focused on survival, it's nearly impossible to move up the hierarchy.

Fair enough...

They offered to work for whatever I was willing to pay them, whether it was $20 a day or $20 an hour. My head screamed: Know your worth!

Their words say they deserve better, but my gut instinct is at their core, they aren't there yet. They have dreams and desires, and the capacity to achieve themwhen they find a way to get out of their own way. 

When we trip ourselves up

I know addiction can impair cognitive and emotional ability, but they're of sound mind (from my layman's perspective). I also know that depression is a serious issue, and Kelly mentioned a while ago that Barry is sometimes incapacitated by this... yet, there's so much we can do personally and with help, if that's what stops us... when we can access resources, both internal and external. I understand this may feel or seem nearly impossible, however, for someone just trying to survive. But it isn't. 

When my partner and I separated (not long into the start of this blog; you can read my early posts if you're curious), we both realized we got in our own way. But we couldn't see the way forward. It took a skilled therapist to help us see it.

What it all came down to was beliefs, mindset, choice... 

We uncovered those beliefs, looked back at our life choices big and small, and made a conscious effort to shift the resulting mindsets and behavior, and finally, changed our trajectory. And we can both say that truly, life is so much better, and acknowledge how fortunate we are that we had the means to access such competent help. 

Leverage points

I wish I had the means to do more for Kelly and Barry but it's not mine to do. I offer what I can, but I can't change them, their circumstances, or their minds (although I hope I influence). I believe in them, and know they're capable and creative.  

And, they have some choices to make, and they need help. If I can be a leverage point by providing work and a good word, I will. But they need more than what I can offer. 

This is probably a good time to acknowledge that those who have little also have fewer leverage points. It's hard to get a break. I think about my own privilege and how easy so many daily activities are, like eating, showering, even using the loo. Let alone the stuff I write about here. When you're living on the edge, it's extremely hard to climb up and out of your circumstances. And, it's not impossible. 

The court of public opinion

On top of all that... Right now, what they face is a scathing public, a public that lumps all homeless people together, as addicts or lazy people who leech from the system. While mental illness is a huge part of the addiction, garbage, and public health problems in our homeless population, and while some do aim to get away with whatever they can and buck the system, not everyone deserves these classifications. 

They are all an 'other' and treated as such: mean-spirited neighbors throw garbage around their RVs or tents, while those living in them try to keep the area clean. Yes, some encampments are filthy and are a public health problem; many of these are due to mental health or active addiction. 

Those two I'm writing about? Someone even set off a bomb near where they were parked. The public complains, and they have to move, again and again. In lieu of housing, what about our tax dollars providing a safe and sanctioned place to park, with toilets, showers, and proper garbage disposal areas to better serve them and address public health concerns?  

I think it's on all of us to be aware of the complexity here, mind our own judgments, and do what we can, when or if we can, especially when we see an effort and willingness to make change.   

Our choices have consequences...

We all make choices, every day, from the most minuscule to life-changing. Changing our circumstances, especially when they aren't in our best interest, requires deep honesty with ourselves, a willingness to let go of who we are and what we believe, and the determination to make and stick with new choices. We have to continually evaluate those choices and whether they align with who we say we are and what we want. We have to imagine what better looks like.

My mantra from Ken Keyes' 12 Pathways comes to mind yet again: I feel with loving compassion the problems of others without getting caught up *emotionally* in what they need for their growth.

As I told another friend, now former, there are some journeys we must take on our own, and the journey inward is one of these. Even with help, only we can do that inner work.

Live your best life

So, if you're not living the life you want to live, these questions come to mind: What do you need to believe, think, and/or do differently? What's your inner voice telling you? What message must you hear to change your own trajectory? Where do you need help? 

It may be painful, but it's the only way through. Pain is part of life but how long we suffer is on us. It's our choice. Both are thankfully impermanent.  

One thing I know for sure is we're all here to learn and grow, and we often learn what's most important through pain. My hope for all of us would be that we learn through less suffering.


Update 12/3: On Sunday, Anderson Cooper did a story for 60 Minutes on homelessnessor, the 'unsheltered' as they were referred towhere Seattle is front and center. We apparently have the third-largest unsheltered population in the country. While it's mostly fair reporting and speaks to the root problem of unaffordable housing and the growing wage gap, it's not entirely representative. Cooper gets kudos, though. You can watch it here

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thank you

Autumn glory
On this Thanksgiving eve, with just a month of posts to go to achieve my goal of one post a week for a year, I'm grateful to all who read this blog, for your encouraging feedback, and for all I've learned this year through writing.

Having had a gratitude practice for many years, I recognize it's one of the most important things I do for myself. Over the last year, I also had the good fortune to witness what gratitude looks like from a position of leadership when it's authentic and coupled with humility. It's transformational.

Through a number of experiences this year, I also deepened my appreciation for forgiveness and acknowledgment. While it seems we do these practices for others, we really do them for ourselves. By continually forgiving and acknowledging, we give ourselves and others the grace to be human.

I also learned even more how important it is to tell those I love how much I care, continually, because life is short and we never know how long we have on this earthly plane.

I've shared the Hawaiian Ho'oponopono before, but here's Carrie Grossman's Thank You version again. (For my Canadian readers, if you can't access the link you should be able to find it with an online search.)
I'm sorry, please forgive me, I love you, thank you. 
There's so much power in these words. You don't need to say them out loud, or to anyone. Just say them whenever you need grace, or feel grateful, of need to shift something in your life.

Please know that I continually strive to be the best version of myself, and I hope that through this blog and other ways, I help you, too. 

Four more weeks! And then? Stay tuned... 

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Goodbye, goody-two-shoes, hello determination

Can you see what's possible? 
"You shouldn't smoke. Smoking is bad for you," I'd say as I encountered someone smoking in a public placebe it walking on the sidewalk, in a store, or especially, in a park. 

As a perky, pint-sized, pig-tailed 8-year-old, I wasn't afraid to speak my mind, even if it wasn't appropriate. Never mind that my whole family smoked like chimneys, or that, in those days, smoking was allowed everywhere, and second-hand smoke wasn't even a thought.

Then in fifth grade, my split 5th/6th-grade class added fuel to my fire with a progressive, Barbie doll teacher named Mrs. Tschirley whose husband was a doctor. We did a real-time experiment showing the effects of smoking, testing our vice principal's blood pressure and heart rate immediately after smoking a cigarette, as well as watching what smoke did to angel hair-filled jars that mimicked lungs. We also saw the tar-and-nicotine damaged lungs of someone who died of lung cancer. 

Goodbye, goody-two-shoes... 
If 'goody-two-shoes' is a new expression for you, here's a definition

So you'd think I'd never consider smoking, right? You'd be wrong... 

The summer between 6th and 7th grade, as I graduated from elementary to junior high school, I found a new set of friends. This was right after my grandmother died. Mom worked full time, so I also found myself with no one to be accountable to, nor anyone who really gave a damn what I was up to. 

It started simply enough. A couple of girlfriends and I would steal smokes from our parents, and then hang out in places like my basement and practice smoking. At first, I'd get dizzy and sick. But with a commitment to be cool, and a solid determination to smoke, each hit of nicotine made it easier. And soon, I was a full-blown smoker. 

I wasn't just a casual smoker. I liked to smoke, and I smoked a lot. I smoked even more when I drank, which I also did a lot. Add some stimulants in there, and well... you see the pattern. 

And just as I was an obnoxious child, I was an obnoxious teen, and an obnoxious smoker. If for some reason I couldn't smoke, I was uncomfortable. I was vocal and rebellious, and even then lived by 'better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission' (a few things don't change). I'd find a way. 

This lasted about 10 years. 

The stigma

Directionless and purposeless, I had quit college for a boring admin job and then found myself suddenly back home when my roommate had an emotional breakdown. I wasn't happy to be back, but I had few options. I somehow had the presence of mind to think I needed to grow up and get a 'real' job, as opposed to crappy temporary or meaningless jobs. The one thing I knew for sure, as I've noted in previous posts, is that I didn't want to follow in any family footsteps regarding work. 

As I was interviewing, I decided that smoking wasn't cool anymore, even though smoking was still allowed in most places and we still weren't talking about second-hand smoke. Most of the men I noticed weren't smoking, and I'd notice people taking smoke breaks and I didn't want to be one of them. So while I'd half-assedly tried to quit a couple times before, I finally decided it was time for real. 

So I quit.  


Two weeks before starting my new job at a travel agency in the heart of downtown Seattle, I smoked my last cigarette. I had a planstraws cut to cigarette length and a supply of carrots tackled the hand-to-mouth habit (I didn't want to gain weight, either), and I decided to skip the bars for a weekend or two. I went for a lot of walks and took a lot of deep breaths. I asked my mom if she'd stick to smoking in the back of the house, and to her credit, she smoked outside for a while. 

I can't say it was easy, but once I decided, I never looked back. Like when I decided I wanted to smoke... 

I still continued to drink pretty heavily off and on, hooked up for a short time with a guy I call my backslide and did a lot of things I'm not proud of, but I never started smoking again. When I met my current partner, 20-some years ago, he smoked, so I would occasionally 'play' with cigarettes. But I knew I didn't want to be a smoker again. I'd had dreams in which I smoked, and I'd wake up in a panic and mad at myself until I realized it was just a dream. So I stopped that soon after... 

New awareness 

Because I still had plenty of other bad behaviors and habits, I can't say I was on a wellness path yet, but giving up cigarettes was a turning point. Suddenly a lot more mattered. And I saw what I was capable of. 

At some point, hindsight again being 20/20, I got that my penchant for smoking, especially in public and even more when I was somewhere I couldn't, had less to do with the addiction and more to do with my lack of self-confidence. Cigarettes were something to hide behind. And, all that smoking played well with my allergiesnotand was likely why I had several viral infections, tonsilitis, and strep throat every year throughout my teens.  

What I learned? 

I could do anything I set my mind to: from getting the job I was determined to get at the company I wanted to work for, to quitting something studies show is the hardest addiction to kick. 

It all starts with a decision, coupled with a lot of determination, and a vision for what's possible. Even though I still struggled with self-worth, had plenty of hidden beliefs that would continue to trip me up, I set myself up for ongoing success. 

I think back on this now, and everything else I've set my mind to and achieved, and realize I can do it again now. 

We all can. I'm no better or stronger or more capable than anyone else. But we have to want something bad enough, envision the possibilities, and then believe in ourselves just enough to make it happen.  

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

When we need new friends...

Symbiotic relationships:
Life & death
When I lost my job due to a reorg in 2016, it was immediately clear how much I relied on my work life to provide much of my social connection. Outside of work and my partner, I had few friends nearby and few ways to connect. (Most friends I consider close don't live in my city.) 

While finding a job was important, I quickly realized building community was equally important.  

Studies now show that social connection is as important as good sleep, a good diet, and not smoking for health and longevity. But studies also show that we'll sync with those we're closest to; for example, if our friends are overweight, we're more likely to be overweight, too. 

Who we spend time with matters.

Be intentional

Not long after the layoff, my partner went back to workwhich means, he's on a ship and away for months at a time. While he's not my everything, he's a lotmy companion, confidant, cheerleader, housemate, playmate... When he leaves for work, it's a lot like losing an appendage. So between no job to go to daily, and my partner now away at sea, I had a big gap. 

What I noticed, though, is I could no longer fill that gap randomly. It must be intentional. I know a lot of people. I live in the city I grew up in. But most of those I grew up with are no longer true 'friends' nor are they my 'community.' Our paths diverted in far-flung directions, and while I enjoy seeing many of them on Facebook, most aren't who I choose to spend time with in person. 

Connection points 

So I looked elsewhere. I considered the kinds of connection I wanted, what I wanted to do, learn, and experience, who I wanted to learn from, as well as where I could contribute. I looked for similar interests, but also where I could meet people who shared a similar mindset. 

For example, I like to hike, but anyone I hike with must share some variation of optimism, positivity, gratitude, authentic generosity, and an abundance mindset. That's not to say they shouldn't be informed about the world at large or never have problems; just the opposite. But scarcity, doom, and gloom don't work for me anymore. It's an approach to lifea mindset.     

Relationship audits

Sometimes we outgrow our friendsand not just those from high school. There's a saying I don't love, but it's applicable: Some people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. And that's OK. We're on this earth to grow, and we're all on different paths.  

I know a few people who regularly audit their "friends" on Facebook. I don't do this because I don't spend much time there, but I have found it important to audit my 'real-life' friends. We only have so much time and energy.  

There are many reasons to spend in-person time, whether it's shared interests, deep connection, or just for fun. But it's important to know why, and if for some reason, a friendship no longer feels right, to honor that. Here's a way to tell: Do you feel energized or drained after being with that friend?  

How to make new friends

Making new friends isn't easy for many adults, though. A recent Broken Brain podcast discussed this in-depth and offered ideas to find and create more meaningful friendships. Here are some examples of what I did that stuck: 
  • I paid more attention to Meet-Up and found a great professional women's group, so I went to their monthly meetings and took a few of their workshops. 
  • The Seattle Lean In chapter was picking up steam, so I went to their monthly meetings, too. I ran into a former colleague and we decided to start what Lean In calls a 'small circle', which still meets (mostly) monthly. 
  • The spiritual center down the street intrigued me, so I went to their Sunday service, despite being church-averse, and signed up for a class. Which led to more classes, some volunteer work, and a few social activities. 
  • I've also found a few groups online based on interests where we connect via Zoomwhile not in the same real-life room, we're physically present for each other. Participants may be spread out geographically, but we connect regularlyand a couple have local participants. I'm planning a get-together in December. 
  • Amazing Grace Spiritual Center, a
    Center for Spiritual Living, on
    their 10th anniversary
  • And there is no shortage of volunteer opportunities. About the same time as the layoff, I was matched with a 'little' through the Big Sisters program. This new relationship forced me out into the world to try new activities and explore, as well as gave me a good reason to say no to invitations I may have said yes to when I wanted to say no. 
One of the outcomes of this intentionality is I now pay close attention to who gets my time, why they get it, and who has access to my inner world, since to make true friends, I have to be willing to open up and be vulnerable. It takes effort. 

I feel like I've found my 'tribe'—or several tribes. From each of these groups and more, I now have not just community, but individuals I call friends. Those I could call on if needed, and who I'd happily be there for in a heartbeat. 

What matters most? 

For me, what matters most now is mindset and values. Our relationships are mirrors, reflecting back what we believe about the world and ourselves. We have to like the reflection, or at least be open to it. If we don't like it, we may have something to learn about ourselves and that's worth looking at. 

But it may also be time to let go. And that's really OK. Our health and wellness, including mental and emotional health, may depend on it. Look back fondly and thank them, in mind if not directly to them.  

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to subscribe (see right column), share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Be one in a million and live up to your potential

Are you one in a million? 
Psychologists estimate that not one person in a million is living up to their potential. When you're in a public setting, like on a bus, or in an elevatorlook at the faces you see and imagine what it would be like if everyone you saw could be their best self. How would that impact the world?  

That's a paraphrase from Eric Butterworth's Spiritual Economics, a book I'm reading for a class of the same name. Butterworth doesn't quote his sources, and he wrote it in 2001 so it's not current, but the 'psychologists estimate' has a ring of truth even now, although I hope it's exaggerated.  

He then asks, "Look in the mirror and reflect on this same thing. Can you imagine what your life would be like if you could realize your potential?" 

Be your best self? 

One thing I know to be true is that my 'best' self changes from day to day, sometimes hour by hour. And I think transit commuters may wear some kind of neutral, resting face while commuting, so I'm not sure that's a good indicator. However... he says "psychologists estimate" so if that's true, that's a sad statement. 

However, he also offers encouragement and hope, going on to say that our "civilization is just beginning and the best is yet to be." 

The idea of self-actualization is recent, at least in our western culture. We're just now starting to understand the brain, the mind-body connection, how we operate, and what drives us. 

We're actually better than ever

While locally and globally we have great cultural problems, including gaping economic and racial divides, statistically we're getting better in more ways than not. Author Steven Pinker talks about this and offers a lot of data in Better Angels of our Nature, to name just one example. 

So much of what we experience is our perspective, no matter where we fall on a socio-economic scale. 

Here's an exercise Butterworth suggests: 

"Why not pick out the most difficult thing facing you right now and say, 'I know that this is the best thing that could happen to me, for I know that in the happening there is revealed a new lesson to learn and some new growth to experience. I know that within me is an unborn possibility of limitless potentialities and that this is my opportunity to give birth to new ideas, new strengths, and new vision. I accept the reality of the difficulty but not its permanence. I am not at the end of anything. I am simply between opportunities, between jobs... I know that in the movement of 'it has come to pass', something wonderful is on its way to me far surpassing anything I have ever known before...'"

Everything is impermanent

My mother was fond of saying, "this too shall pass" and it used to drive me nuts. As a teenager, it wasn't what I wanted to hear when I was looking for emotional support. But she couldn't have been more right about that. Everything is impermanent. What happened moments ago will never happen in the same way again. That's true of everything, for better or worse, and it can make the tough times much easier.

I recently heard someone say to view our 'problems' as 'projects'. Makes sense. It takes the weight out of the heavy stuff. Projects have an end. They always resolve. They methodically move from point A to point Z. They can be broken up into pieces and addressed in smaller parts, making them easier to digest and complete. And they almost always end well; at the least, they're always opportunities for learning.  

Spiritual Economics is full of wise tidbits, although as someone who struggles with Biblical terms, quotes, and names, I find myself doing a lot of mental gymnastics. Butterworth was a Unity minister, so while 'new thought' and not traditionally Christian, Unity adopted a similar language. Conceptually, however, it's gratefully different, and the book is helping me fine-tune my own thinkingand get closer to living in my own potential. 

What can you do to get a step closer to living more fully? 

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Why you should consider a flotation tank

Float pod
Today is a repost of a story I wrote for a lifestyle blog while working for a healthcare company; the original post is here (Actively Northwest, May 4, 2014). Many of my previous posts are no longer live on the original site, so for posterity, posting the content below. I'm still passionate about floating, and recently signed up for a membership at FloatSeattle. 

Float your way to relaxation

Flotation tanks are making a come-back, and they’re great for relaxing and improving focus.

As a kid, I’d lay in the grass on a warm summer day, look at the billowy shapes above, and wonder what it would feel like to float on a cloud.

Flotation is the next best thing.

What is flotation?

I can’t help but hum Also Sprach Zarathustra when entering a float center – the “pod” looks like something out of 2001-A Space Odyssey. First introduced to the public in the early 1970s, flotation was developed by neuropsychologist John Lilly in the 1950s to examine the impact of sensory deprivation on the brain. 

Several modifications later, today, a typical “float center” has several private rooms with a shower and the sci-fi looking pod, which is filled with body temperature water and a high concentration of Epsom-salt (along with a dash of chlorine for safety). Floating fell out of favor during the 1990s, but is gaining momentum again as people look for ways to power down and unplug.

Why do it?

Today, flotation tanks today are largely used for relaxation. But numerous health benefits are also cited, from lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels to pain relief. Endorphins released from the anti-gravity effect are said to be mood-elevating, and some people use flotation to improve focus and for visualization. Some studies say flotation helps with depression and sleep disorders, in addition to stress reduction.  

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the hamster wheel in my head. I haven’t mentioned that I also constantly fidget – I twirl my hair, tap my foot, crack my knuckles… Inside a float tank, I can’t do anything. It’s just me, alone with my thoughts, and my breath (which at first, seems very, very loud). There is no stimulus. I can’t fidget. There are no distractions.

What’s it like?

While my first float was more years ago than I’m willing to admit, I’ll own up to feeling edgy as I drove to Seattle’s Urban Float in Fremont (editor's note: this location is now closed). The kind of stillness I expect makes me nervous. But Urban Float is a delight to enter, and my private room is warm and comfortable. 

After showering (and they have Everyday Shea products, so no harsh chemicals), stepping into the pod feels like a soft caress – just 10” or so deep, the temperature of the water is perfect. I choose not to have music (earplugs help block external sound and keep the salt out of my ears) and after closing the lid, I turn off the soft blue light from inside the pod. Then… nothing. Well, a little bit of itching. And incessant thinking. 

But eventually, even my brain slows down, the itching stops, and I relax. I am weightless. It’s a lot like meditation without any effort. It’s nearly complete sensory deprivation, and yet I feel completely supported.

An hour goes by and it feels both too short and at times, too long. Ambient music plays five minutes before my time is up.

My takeaway at the end of my hour? “My body is amazing. Everything functions impeccably. I am completely supported.” I hadn’t planned on a new mantra, but I kind of like this one. I feel toxin-free (in addition to buoyancy, the salt pulls toxins away from the body) and very relaxed.

Urban Float provides everything you need – shower products, towels, earplugs. There’s a hairdryer in the one bathroom (perhaps the only drawback is there’s only one loo). An upstairs lounge – for before and after your float – has filtered water or hot tea, with low lighting and comfortable furnishings. It’s a good idea to sit a bit before heading out.

The impact of floating can last for days. I breathe easier, and my body flows a little more smoothly. My daily 60seconds of mindfulness come easily and effortlessly.

Give it a try

Flotation centers are popping up all over. In Seattle, we have Urban Float and Float Seattle (editor's note: my current favorite, with three locations in greater Seattle), and in Tacoma, Northwest Float Center. In Portland, there’s The Float Shoppe. North of the border, the Float House recently opened in Victoria and Vancouver.

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Cultivate an abundance mindset

Abundance is what we
choose to see.
Most mornings, I listen to a Kenneth Soares "I AM" affirmation on Insight Timer. I've listened to them for so long now I hear his voice in my head. Usually what I hear is, "where focus goes, energy flows." 

You don't have to read Carol Dweck's Mindset, popular among today's c-suite leaders, to know that some of us are more open to learning than others. In fact, that's her premiseare you generally open- or closed-minded (a 'growth' or 'fixed' mindset) to new experiences and ideas? Are you willing to change what you believe and how you learn? 

For all intents and purposes, we are our mindset. So much of what we experience ties back to what we believe, at our core, which is what we made our experiences mean when we were kids. This belief becomes our mindset, which largely defines our approach to learning and development.

Declutter your thoughts 

Spiritual Economics, The Principles and Process of True Prosperity by Eric Butterworth, is an exploration into our beliefs about abundance, and not just our finances. Butterworth shows us how to recognize our beliefs around abundance, how to change them, and ultimately, how to cultivate an abundant life. 
Amazing Grace Spiritual Center

I'm taking a class based on the book, and last week, the instructor asked if I'd talk about it on Sunday at the spiritual center I often attend. Seeing it as a stretch opportunity, I said yes. We teach that which we most need to learn, yes? That's certainly true in coaching. Funny how that works. 

As if to emphasize the point, Sunday's featured talk was called, Declutter Your Life, Kondo Your Thinking, Change Your Life

Perfect. I shared the following story. 

Garbage in, garbage out... 

I had friends over for dinner a few nights ago, and the conversation turned to national politics, and I noticed I started to squirm.  

I got up, cleared the table, did a few things, sat back down, and I recognized I was very uncomfortable with the nature of the continuing conversation. So I stopped it. I didn't just change the subject. I owned that it was making me uncomfortable. Focusing on everything that's wrong feels like scarcity to me, and it fuels my anxiety. It doesn't feel hopeful, and it detracts from whatever meaning I assign to my life. 

I have no power to change what's happening at the national level, other than with my vote and small financial contributions. My point of power is in my present moment, in the small circle of influence I currently inhabit, and with the energy I put out into the world. I don't want to add to scarcity. I want to add to abundance. Where focus goes, energy flows. 

What we think, we create

Wayne Dyer writes in The Power of Intention, "Be continually alert to the fact that simply by thinking and feeling in harmony with intention... you'll counterbalance the collective negativity of 90,000 people, and perhaps millions." 

What I know is that there are a lot of people doing amazing work, including some of those people at the dinner table. Yes, we can talk about all the giant things that shouldn't be in the world right now but let's focus on what we can do and not kvetch. I'm not naive. I know what's going on; I read and watch trusted news sources. There's an endless list of broken systems. And... there are also people working to fix them.  

What does abundance mean to you?

While not financially flush, I believe my life is abundant. Every day, when I open my back door, I see and hear an abundance of birds, smell a variety of plants, trees, and fertile soil, and can snack on the growing things peppered around the yard. I also count my blessings because I have this yard, a partner who helps me manage it (who loves me), and a house, with heat, and a refrigerator that's never empty. And that's just a starting point. 

I've always liked the saying, "you can lament because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses." 

I choose how I see the world, and my abundance is grounded in what I choose to see. Where I put my attention is what I create.  

Cultivate and protect your mindset

Here are a few tips for cultivating more abundance:  
  • Contribute. Volunteer. Donate. Share. Recognize how much you have to give, even if it feels small. There is likely someone who would gladly change places with you. 
  • Ask better questions. Instead of, what do I need to get done today, ask, what do I need to do for my highest and greatest good today
  • Or, ask, what does the world need from me today (I think that's what JFK asked)?  
  • Start a daily gratitude practice. Either at the start or end of your day, write out those few things that stand out that you're grateful for today. Even better, tell someone else. 
  • Open your eyes (figurative and literal) to what's working in your life, even the smallest things. What or who do you appreciate?  
  • Explore how you define success. When will you know you're there? 
  • What do you tell yourself about your self-worth? What are you deserving of? Is what you tell yourself something you'd say to someone you care about? 
  • Be mindful of how you engage and the quality of content and people you allow into your life. Do you feel good or not? While commiserating has its place, be careful. Pay attention. This may be more important than anything else. 
As I experience more abundance, I'm able to give more and do more, and in turn, generate more abundance in my world. Where focus goes, energy flows...  

What do you want more of? Do that... Give that. 

Whether it's time, money, energy, or just shifting a conversation, we all have a role in creating the abundant world we want to live in. What feeds you, fuels you? That's your gift to the world, which radiates positive energy, which contributes to abundance everywhere.  

If you like this post or this blog resonates with you in any way, please feel free to share it, comment below, or send me a message. I'm also available for one-on-one coachingyou can find me here.