Choosing Between Two Commitments

IMG_2915Have you ever had that experience where you are pulled in two different directions? Where you have agreed to, perhaps, volunteer to lead a day at the soup kitchen or you have a big work deadline, and your child’s team makes the playoffs and their game is at the same time.

A while back I had an experience that shifted my world view. I am someone who, once I make a commitment, I stick to it. If I tell you I’m going to do something, I will do it.

Over the years, I often felt the tension between a commitment to an entity outside of myself (work, community, charity) and my own or my loved ones’ needs. I realized that I would sometimes sacrifice my loved one or myself for my commitment to another entity.

Through the years, I became more aware of this disconnect. I worked to have fewer commitments, to have less on the calendar, to allow for more empty space.

The big shift happened one time when my daughter was visiting me. We were supposed to have some friends over one evening. My daughter came to me that afternoon. She was really burned out and needed some down time. She just didn’t have the energy to be social.

In the old days, I would never have cancelled the dinner plans. I would have wanted us to muscle on and put on a brave face. “We wouldn’t want to offend our friends.”

But, this time, I asked myself, what was most important? What was the goal here? It became perfectly clear. I called the friends and cancelled.

WOW! That was a first!

The reward was my daughter felt heard. We both relaxed and had a lovely low-key evening on the patio, talking for hours. The evening was a gift.

This was a lesson for me. The world did not shatter or fall apart. I was not deemed a “bad” person. And both my daughter and I felt tended to and fed.

Instead, I learned to stay focused on what was truly most important. Sometimes it’s not clear and there are ramifications for our actions. But asking the question, “What is most important?” helps guide the ship.

Photo and content © Copyright 2018. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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Stepping Back From Time Crunch

stopwatchFor much of my adult life, I have been wrestling with Time. I tried working harder, stretching myself to do more, and multi-tasking my butt off to try to get ahead. But I just never seemed to make any headway.

It took a long time, but I finally realized pushing harder doesn’t work. What was needed, was a shift.

So, I altered my point of view from seeing myself jumping on the hamster wheel and feeling like I’m constantly chasing the clock to thinking of time as spacious.

I suspect that we as a society can wear “busy” like a badge of honor. If we are busy, we get strokes to our ego. We look important, competent, like a good person. And that can feel really good! But, it is a double-edged sword. Being busy means we are probably not taking time for self-care, we may not being doing our best job on any one thing, plus it really ramps up our blood pressure and stress hormones.

So I stopped buying into the attitude that “busy” is the norm.

I shifted my perspective from “I’m busy” to “I have all the time in the world.” It’s amazing how pivoting my point of view changed everything. Even if I’m in a situation where it could feel like the clock is “against” me, it’s like time stands still.

The parameters I put in place to live this out include some tools.

When time gets tight, I do things like take a deep breath and pause before I move forward on anything. This allows my frontal lobe to engage more so I’m more present and better able to respond from my best self.

Then, I make a list. Somehow, capturing what needs to be done on paper puts everything into perspective and I’m able to make a plan.

And, here’s a biggie, I also just say no to more things and have less on my schedule. I try to remember that my time is precious and I can’t get it back.

I realized that what I do should be important, even if it’s doing what looks like nothing. This allows for space and time to create, and it respects me and my real needs or the needs of those I love. I’m not just rushing on, ignoring my truth. This feels real and respectful and is a joyful place to be living from.

The bottom line is, when an opportunity presents itself, I ask myself if this moves forward what is important. Sometimes going out with friends is the perfect thing to do, and at other times, I’ve realized I need to say no. Feeling like I don’t have to agree to do everything is incredibly freeing.

Part of this scheduling less is tied to not feeling bad about saying no. I’m taking care of myself, and when I do that, my life is richer, more peaceful, and more enjoyable.

It took me some time to really integrate this, and there are times when I rush, but overall, the tempo of my life is much more peaceful.

So what comes up when you ask yourself, what more could I do with my one precious life? What if I wasn’t filling my schedule with an endless list of tasks and to-dos? What if I focused on what was really important in my life?

Here’s to more joy and less stress! Enjoy!

Photo and content © Copyright 2018. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

One Thing At A Time

ant

“Just focus on one thing at a time. The data clearly shows that we can’t multitask and do things well. Just do one thing and do it well.”

Lordy, I’ve been telling my clients this for years. Heck, I’ve been telling myself this for years! And it is such strong, beneficial advice. And it’s true that we can’t multitask without losing like 37% of our brain’s bandwidth! (According to the American Psychological Association) No wonder we feel scattered!

But how do we do this?

I recently had those tiny little ants crop up in my house. Again.

This is not the first time they have appeared, so I wondered to myself, what is the Universe trying to get me to pay attention to? What do ants make me think of?

Well, they are busy. They are super busy, but each one has one duty and that’s why they are so effective! For instance, the queen does one thing: lay eggs. That’s it. She is not foraging for food or anything else. The survival of the colony depends on her doing her one thing.

But, as a human, I often struggle with the how. How do I tend to the different aspects of life that I want to nourish?

There’s the physical part: Am I getting my walk or hike in today? Do I have healthy, yummy food in the house to eat? Have I gone food shopping for that food?

There’s the spiritual aspect: Am I meditating? Am I feeding and being fed by my spiritual community? Am I going to Meetng? Am I involved in the life of the Meeting?

There’s the social part: Am I tending to my friendships that feed me? Am I involved in the life of my community and building it?

You get the point. There are so many facets to a healthy life that need tending. How does one balance them all? If one is out of whack, they all are. If I am working out like crazy and eating great food, but I am not in a job where I feel valued, that is going to affect me in all the other areas.

So how do we balance it all out?

I am no expert, but I suspect at least part of the answer is time, space, and presence.

To not fill my schedule so full that I am constantly chasing time, so there is space in my calendar to just be and to allow myself to hear that still, small voice from within that is always guiding me. And, in doing one thing at a time, I can be fully present to it and do that one thing well.

Thank you little ants, for the reminder that a mountain can only be climbed one step at a time. And, the call to relish that step, and the next one, and the next is what life is about.

Photo and content © Copyright 2018. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Letting Go: Spring Cleaning

It rained over the weekend. This morning rises clear, clean, and blue. An early March day with cherry blossoms and tree buds scattered along the path.

The grandmother cottonwoods were hosting turkey vultures in their branches. It’s funny how you rarely see them here, and on the East Coast they are so common. I take these famous clean-up-the-mess birds as another sign of spring.

As I walked the crisp morning path, I heard a scraping noise. I rounded the corner and saw the outbuildings of a long-vacant home being taken down. The front-end loader reaching up and crashing through the roof bit by bit.

Suddenly, I was surrounded with other people’s memories of that home. Someone had cared about this structure: the colored-glass windows, the roof’s cupola.

I was touched by a deep inner sense of our shared experience–the sense of breaking down and clearing away the old to make way for the new, and the mix of emotions that accompany that.

My aunt recently sold the home she and my uncle (before he died) lived in for the past 15 years. That house harbored family reunions, parties, laughter, sorrow, and tears. She is, at times, overwhelmed with the gathering up and sorting. Although she knows she doesn’t need to carry much of this to her next home, even the old and the used are saturated with bittersweet recollections.

Perhaps part of the breaking down is acknowledging what’s there. It can be sadness, old camping gear, regret, photos of unknown people, fear. If we allow the bitter as well as the sweetness to surface, we will have fewer accumulations physically and emotionally.

It’s almost like giving these emotions the respect of acknowledgement allows them to dissipate instead of us trying to stuff them down into another cardboard box and carrying them to the next home. And so, our emotions too need a spring cleaning, a breaking down and clearing out, so they are released from the burden of having to be carried.

Photo and content © Copyright 2018. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

She is waiting. Will you set her free?

IMG_3035I know it is dark and you are tired
and frustrated
and angry
and feel trapped.

There is a way out.

There is a better way.

You can stop trying so damn hard. Just be. Just be yourself. Your true self. The one who is Light and joyful.

Follow those things that turn you on, that make you alive, that bring you joy.

Those are the ways that Spirit is talking to you. Come, follow me. Follow the lighted path.

When you are in doubt and fear, stop and ask, “Am I constricted, am I resisting? Or, am I open, is it easy?”

Follow the easy, knowing that the universe is dying to support you, to love you, to bring you joy.

We make it hard by getting in our own way. By thinking we need to be in control. By doing too much. By taking the reins and steering the damn train.

Let go.

Let the real you step out from the shadows. Let her emerge from the layers of should and to-dos that have been piled on her.

Set her free to take over your life and open your gifts, so the world can reap the joy of your being. So others can enjoy your gifts, your reason for being on this planet at this very time.

She is waiting, will you set her free?

Photo and content © Copyright 2017. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Opening Your Gifts

IMG_1510Tis the season…for giving and receiving gifts. There’s the hustle and bustle of shopping for everyone on your list, finding the right thing, something that won’t disappoint.

But what if it was easier than that?

What if in just letting go, in following your true path, the rest of the world would be given the greatest gift?

I know it is dark and you are tired and frustrated and angry and feel trapped.

There is a way out. There is an easier, a better way.

You can stop trying so damn hard. Just be. Just be yourself. Your true self. The one who is Light and joyful.

Would you like to follow those things that turn you on, that make you alive, that bring you joy?

Those are the ways that Spirit is talking to you, saying, “Come, follow me. Follow the lighted path.”

When you are in doubt and fear, stop and ask, am I constricted, am I resisting?

Or, am I open, is it easy?

Follow the easy, knowing that the universe is dying to support you, to love you, to bring you joy.

We make it hard by getting in our own way. How do we do that? By thinking we need to be in control. By taking the reins and steering the damn train.

Let go.

Let the real you step out from the shadows. Let her emerge from the layers of shoulds and piles of to-dos.

Set her free to take over your life and open your gifts so the world can reap the joy of your being. So others can enjoy your gifts, your reason for being on this planet at this very time.

She is waiting, will you set her free?

Photo and content © Copyright 2017. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Freely Accepting Gifts

IMG_0103In working through another layer of worthiness issues, I came across the realization that I have a deep-seated belief that I have to work hard at everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to know how to work hard and to be willing to do it when the need arises. My issue is that I was feeling this about everything, and that’s a big problem. That means that I’m setting myself up to have to work hard across the board in my life, from relationships to jobs to learning a new language to alleviating the pain in my neck.

I know where part of this came from. Good ol’ Protestant Work Ethic, mixed with some immigrant mentality—hard work is the key! You need it to survive. You need it to succeed.

BUT, when we believe that we always have to work hard, then we always have to work hard! We attract what we expect, what we focus on. So, if I’m expecting things to be difficult and that I’ll have to work hard, guess what? It’s going to be true. Smack the forehead!

I was driving to go vote the other morning and a radio station was giving money away. Awesome! Once I stopped, I texted the keyword to their number.

When I thought about winning the $500, I could feel this big boulder on my heart. It felt immovable. So, I thought, what is this boulder?

What was my answer? Guilt! Guilt at not having worked hard for the money.

Here’s the junk I’m feeding myself: When I work hard, I am a good, respectable, and worthy person. You survive through hard work. When someone works hard, they become a success. And, I should feel guilty if someone freely gives me something. (Ugh!)

So basically it boils down to me having to earn anything good in life. This flies in the face of my belief that this is an abundant, generous, loving, bountiful universe.

I don’t have to earn
The blue sky
The warm sun
The taste of a ripe strawberry
The comfort and joy of dark chocolate
The sunflowers outside my window
The coyote allowing me to follow her
The beauty of the jay
The gold of my egg yolks
A restorative, good night’s sleep

These were all just given to me. One gift after another. I didn’t have to work hard. I didn’t have to earn the love of this bountiful universe.

Plus, I know how much joy I get from giving to others. So why am I taking that joy away?!

So, why can’t it be easy some of the time?

If I step away from my you’ve-got-to-earn-it mindset and think about gifts, I realize that, for example, I’m really good at remembering people and names. I don’t have to do any of those tricks to remember a name. It just locks in the vast majority of the time. When people ask how I do it, I tell them, “It’s just a gift. I don’t have to work hard for it at all.”

I know some people are great with numbers, others have been bestowed with musical talents. Spirit blessed you. Sometimes we have to uncover it, finesse it, grow it, but the big part of the gift was just given to you.

Money can be this way too. Money can be given to me, to you, as a gift. You don’t have to earn it all the time. Sometimes, it’s just like a clear blue sky. You didn’t have to do anything to deserve it. It was just freely given.

I guess it’s a part of gratitude. I can just acknowledge this bountiful universe and stay open to its gifts.

Photo and content © Copyright 2017. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Getting Unstuck: A Conversation With God

IMG_3132There was a time, actually, there have been many times, when I knew where I wanted to go, but I could not figure out how to get there. I’m stuck. I’m guessing maybe you’ve been there at some point too. I suspect it’s a human predicament.

My go-to response is to push myself harder, to try to do more. This can work in the short-term with physical tasks or sometimes even an activity (like bust out all the stops because my family member has an art opening and we just need to get it all done.) What usually happens is I eventually just end up exhausted, showing physical wear and tear, and feeling crummy.

At that point I know I need to do things differently.  I’ve tried everything I can reason my way into. I need to get out of my head.

One practice I’ve used when I’m blocked is spiritual free-association writing. I just sit at my laptop, eyes closed, and type what comes.

Here’s the dialog from one of these sessions.

Me: Okay, God, what am I doing wrong? What do I need to do? I am just not seeing the results I want. What should I do next?

Answer: Just rest. You don’t have to jump through hoops to be on your path or to be with me. You just need to be comfortable in your own skin.

Me: What about the victim piece of feeling like I can only be so successful because the “powers that be” are in charge?

Answer: I know it doesn’t make sense. If life was about achievement, then only the most capable would be happy, would win. This life is not about winning. Life is about finding beauty, happiness, and peace.

Me: So I don’t have to try harder?

Answer: No

Me: What about showing you I’m serious and putting in my “earnest money”?

Answer: Do you think I don’t know your heart? You don’t have to prove anything for me. You only have to do that for yourself. To prove to yourself that you are serious. I know you. I know you from the seed of who you are.

Me: So what is holding back the veil or holding it closed? How can I walk through the veil to the life I long for?

Answer: Just stop doing. BE and it will show up. When you stop racing around trying so hard to be good enough, you will sit down in the place just right and realize you are good enough. You are amazing. You are just where you need to be. Doing what you need to be doing.

Me: How do I live into this?

Answer: By stopping all your efforts to begin with. Just let go. Do one thing at a time. You’ve done a lot of hard work trying so hard to be better. You are wonderful, amazing, and healthy. You are shining. Just live into where you are. No more effort. You don’t have to be self-sacrificial to be better. When you think of successful people, they are just being.

Me: Is there more?

Answer: Yes, there is more. Shut off the nags in your head. Remember I love you and I shift the sands you are standing on so you’ll stop doing what you are holding tightly onto. Let it go. Drop it like a hot potato. You know the Zone. When you are being your true self, you are there.

Me: Thank you, God.

Answer: You are welcome, dearest.

Photo and content © Copyright 2017. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

On My Way

On my way
The earth is loved into bareness
Walked by thousands of feet

On my way
Along the acequia
I’m companioned by the calls
Of peacocks and roosters
Living into their duty
To make certain
There isn’t a soul left sleeping

The sun peeks over the Sandias
Finally illuminating the
Dawn-rising balloons
Giants that, by now,
Float near the river

Pristine blue dome overhead
And I’m overcome
By the beauty and luck
Overflowing in my days
–Stephanie J. Gretchen

Photo and content © Copyright 2017. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Day 1: Pre-amble

Day 1I am leaving Maryland today. There’s a sense that I’ve started my journey, my pilgrimage. I have that feeling of shifting perspective.

I said goodbye to my dear brother, sister-in-law, and niece this morning. They stood waving in the driveway as I pulled away. They’ve been my home base for the past few months. What a treat it has been to spend this chunk of time with my niece as she perches on the edge of adolescence.

I’m sitting in Panera waiting for my car’s tune up to be completed. Then I’m off to a board meeting in PA. Seems funny to go in the total opposite direction (north and east) for the next few days. At the same time it feels grounding to go to Pendle Hill, a place that is steeped in Spirit, beauty, and centeredness.

I’m so aware of each interaction I’m having. It’s like watching my life in slow motion. This morning I’ve been gifted with joyful souls, caring for me and wishing me well. Little do they know the weight of their words or the distance of my journey. I take their words and the dragonfly’s acrobatic dance outside the window as a beautiful harbinger of what’s to come.

Oh yes, I’m ready!

Photo and content © Copyright 2016. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.