I had a big "Ah-ha" moment last week. I hold the belief that where my focus and energy goes, my day goes, in terms of outcome. For example, if I wake up and say, " Oh crap, not another work day!" that trend will continue for the rest of the day because I will notice only the things that fit that negative expectation. If I wake up and say, "Who knows what wonders this day will bring?" I will look for good stuff to happen and notice when it does.
However, I found that words, as powerful as they can be, are empty without corresponding action. Last week, I had a series of days that started off with a positive intention but ended with mental exhaustion even though nothing was really "wrong". The culprit? Well, I started my work day with the most difficult, boring, or meaningless tasks on my to-do list so that I could "get them over with". My mind became so obsessed with "getting things done" that I just kept going for hours, no pauses for appreciation and no time for fun or relaxation. By the end of the day, I had missed the potential for good, the evidence of Love all around and within me. Even though I intended to make room in my day for "wonders", I left no time in my schedule for them to happen! Have you been there?
So this week I have a new plan called "Start the day with Love". The first itm on my to-do list is something that feeds my heart, my soul, or my creative spirit. One day Love took the form of calling a friend. Another day Love was looking at the ocean while I drove to town to get my favorite coffee. Today Love was watching a motivational video. I am starting to get excited about the form that Love will take tomorrow.
Knowing a bit about how the brain works and noting my experience so far, I anticipate that the energy of Love will propel me into a day that is more productive and happy and lead me to a place of inner peace like you see in my photo. I will be ending the day with Love also. How cool is that!
Did you ever notice how easy it is to start the day in a way that makes you want to turn right around and go back to bed? When I turn on the news and listen to everything that is going wrong in the country, I soon find myself thinking about what is wrong with my job, my partner, and myself. I am headed down the "what's wrong" track. But when I pay attention to how happy my dog is to see me when I stagger into the living room half asleep, I notice that his whole body is wags and his tongue reaches up to lick my face in an expression of pure joy. I set myself on the "what's right" track. That feels good, especially when followed by coffee.
A bigger challenge is to stay on the right track for the rest of the day. Science tells us that the brain possesses a natural "negativity bias" which makes it easy to turn around on the positive track and almost impossible to turn around on the negative one. The brain is like the dog in the animated movie "Up". Squirrel! One little thing goes wrong and the brain is chasing after it at full speed.
Out of both desperation and determination, I have developed a Positive Track Tool Kit to keep my brain's engine on the right track. Here are some of the tools in my kit:
Did you ever want to do something fun or daring or unusual or forbidden but you stopped yourself because your all-too-serious and critical inner Voice told you couldn't or shouldn't do it? "Grow up! Act your age! Be realistic! Don't be crazy! Think about what could happen! " On and on it went, crushing your creative energy and making you wonder why you even got out out bed. You can stand up to your all-too-familiar inner bully. A little kindness works wonders.
The inner critic is part of the emergency system built into your brain to keep you from getting hurt. The problem is that it doesn't work unless the danger is physical and immediate, such as if you are being chased by a lion. In that case, you would want to put your thinking cap aside, send all of your energy to your legs- and run like crazy! But when the "enemy" is silent and invisible, when it comes from the past but shows up in the present, the Voice is not helpful. Still, it is trying to help. So the first thing to do is to say "thank you" to your mom or your teacher or your ex lover or whomever the Voice came from originally. The next thing to do is to be kind- to yourself. Recognize the fear of failure or of not being enough that is behind the critical voice. And choose the message that you want to hear instead. Tell yourself things like, "It's scary but you can do it. Your best is always good enough. Everyone feels afraid sometimes, but you are still ok. Go for it!"
At first, you may have to repeat the new message over and over in order to move tiny steps forward. But eventually you will love your critic into another inner realm. And you will be free to go where your heart is leading you. My inner critic told me that musical swings were only for kids. But look at me flying!
I do believe that we create our own reality, be it heaven or hell, from our thoughts and feelings. However, I do not believe that, if something gets screwed up in life, it’s our fault. Life events happen, good and bad, for a very complex set of reasons, so we surely are not responsible for the bad stuff that comes along at times in everyone’s life. Instead, we create our reality by interpreting the meaning of life events and then finding evidence to support our personal “story” about it, as though it was true.
If I am in a place of fear, my story doesn’t have a happy ending. In fact, it spreads, like a virus of doom, through my mind until soon everything seems pretty bad. The good news is that I don’t have to accept my brain’s natural tendency to look for the worst-case scenario as the gospel truth. Instead, I can look at what is actually here in the moment. I can have an intentional conversation with myself that goes something like this, “Wow, I don’t like this. This hurts. How can I be kind to myself right now? What else is true right now? ” Usually, the negative event is only part of the whole picture. Being kind to myself when I feel upset allows me to move to a place in my mind where I remember that there is more to life than the negative story I have created.
Recently, I was frantic upon discovering that I was half an hour late to catch my plane. My brain and body went into “danger" mode, complete with rapid heart rate and respiration, trembling hands, and a host of negative thoughts about what it would mean if I missed the flight. “How could I be so stupid?” “I am going to lose my job.” “I will have to pay back hundreds of dollars” "If I don’t lose my job, they will never pay for a flight for me again” “I won’t be able to get home”. My ability to reason had fled the country.
In my rush to the airport, I managed to lose my wallet and my phone in two different places. I could not call for help. I could not pay taxi fare. I had no ID to board my next flight the following morning. I was on a ship of hysteria that was sinking fast. In a daze, I started walking aimlessly, dragging my suitcase.
Suddenly, from somewhere deep inside, I remembered that I have the power to choose my focus. I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and asked myself, “What do I really want right now?” The answer was clear, “I want to have both my wallet and my ID back again so I can go home.” At that very moment, my friend drove by. She stopped to check on me. I used her phone to track down my missing items which, miraculously, had ended up in the same place. I was able to retrieve them that same evening and be on my way.
Looking at this incident later, I realized that I had changed my story about what happened. Had I kept the original one, I might have been wandering the streets for hours until my husband called the police to look for me. Instead, the matter was taken care of within three hours of the event.
What negative story are you holding onto? It might be about the wrong someone did toward you or the wrong you did toward someone else. It might be a story that someone else made up about how limited or fragile or inadequate you are. You might be playing out your negative story this minute and feeling miserable.
But what if your original story was never true? What if the event was the result of causes beyond your control or a natural consequence of things you had learned and acted upon unknowingly?
You can avoid living out an unhappy story over and over again. What would you like to experience or believe or intend instead? Daydream about your new story until you can feel how good it feels. Then let it go. Don’t worry about how or when it will happen. Find something fun to do while the components of your new story come to you. And they will.
Our minds can create something out of nothing. We are expert at “making a mountain out of a mole hill”. The cool thing is that the opposite is also true. We can re-create our circumstances by visualizing and feeling the reality of a new series of events that will take us where we want to go, no matter where where we think we are right now.
My perspective is that we have nothing to lose and much to gain if we throw our wishes and dreams out into the world, along with a bit of faith and one small step of action, to see what comes out of the mix. I like happy-ending stories. I enjoy letting go of the fear that the world and I are hopelessly screwed up. It’s so much fun to see how the new story plays itself out.
Play around with this idea. Change your story and see what happens.
This is my space. I call it my "studio" in this house, but it has had other names in other buildings- my "den", "corner", "office" or "sanctuary". It was the last room I put together when we moved into this house because, for one thing, we piled all the boxes in it as we unpacked. But I had intended to save it for last anyway because to me it is the "dessert" of my home, the whipped cream on top of hot cocoa, the frosting on the cake. Designing this space was a ceremony. My favorite things were carefully unpacked and inspected one by one. Things that were given to me with love over many years. Things that I made and saved for and collected. Things that I use every day and things that have no use except to add beauty and color to the world. Things that I share only when I want to and only from my heart. Things I treasure because, collectively, they say, "This is who I am ". When I come into this space, my body relaxes, my mind quiets, and my spirit rejoices. I own this space. I am home.
Mindful awareness helps me to own my inner personal space. When I practice, whether in a formal sitting position or while doing every day tasks or taking a break from those same tasks, I practice coming home to myself. I feel the experience of being alive. I follow my breath, in and out, and feel my fingertips touching these keys as I type. I look around me and appreciate being able to see the colors in this room. I hear the rain outside and a truck going by and my dogs playing downstairs and feel thankful for all the wonderful sounds I can hear. I feel the warmth of the blanket that covers my legs against this chilly winter day. I notice the play of light and dark creating shadows and highlights on my favorite books and musical instruments. Right now there is only this moment, this breath, this thought. Just this. And it feels very good.
Yes, I have projects and bills and deadlines and responsibilities. I will get back to those. But, in this moment, it is not only the space that feels just right. Somehow my whole existence has more meaning when I slow everything down for a moment and enjoy what is here. This is a decision and a practice. I choose to remember that life is precious, that love and beauty are everywhere if I look for them, and that there is nothing I have to prove to anyone. Neale Donald Walsch captured the essence, the gift, and the offering of this decision. "Decide right now that, when you walk into a room, every room you walk into from now on will feel better, better to be in, because you are there.-Neale Donald Walsch. Yes, that decision requires practice to make it more than just words. But it is the savoring of this moment that provides the evidence that I am alive and all is well. that's where I get my energy for the action part. Sharing my space is the frosting on the cake.
It's 2017! I am happy to announce great changes for the Wellness Adventure Blog and Creative coounseling Solutions!
For me, setting intentions is a better way to start the year than resolutions. Intentions come from the heart. They are flexible, capable of shifting and expanding as we grow. Resolutions are more like orders or rules that are destined to be broken because they are inflexible and often harsh.
Some of my intentions have already happened!
Web site updates make www.beverlyccs.com more user-friendly for you.
A virtual waiting room and telemedicine technology makes it possible for me to visit with you in person for life coaching or counseling sessions thanks to doxy.me.
"Gifts to Myself"- A decorated box that contains a slip of paper for each of the fun projects that I never seem to have time for. Every day I choose a project and spend at least half an hour enjoying it. It's amazing how happy I feel as I anticipate guilt-free time for the things I love to do!
Make your own from a gift box or a canning jar. Write on little slips of paper all the projects you want to do because they are fun but never seem to have the time for because you are too busy doing what "should" do. Place them in the jar and draw one per day as a gift of time to yourself.
More Intentions (to be accomplished in the perfect timing of my Inner Wisdom):
Writing more Wellness Adventure Blogs for you this year!
Creating a monthly newsletter with tips, tools, and happiness-builders to send out to all my wellness -focused friends!
Updating my mindfulness home-study course with audio and video components!
Completing my first book on everday mindfulness practice, co-authored by my puppy Springer!
Joyfully creating income for traveling to beautiful places and connecting with amazing people
Being the best and happiest ME I can be!
What are your Intentions for 2017? I would love to hear about them. Just submit your comments on this page. I read and respond to every one!
Wishing you many blessings...
Here I am, settling in to my new life in Wrangell, Alaska. My son remarked that I have come "full circle" by returning to the first town I experienced in Alaska in 2007. I feel that way, too. This time I plan to make this beautiful town my permanent home base for many new adventures. This is not my first "full circle" experience. It seems like I often need to re-visit old relationships, friends, activities, or places to see how they "fit" with the latest version of life in this moment that I have created. Each time, the experience is rich and "new" in many ways. I recall a practice given to me by my angel family during a painful transition. I was instructed to walk counter-clockwise on one of my favorite circular paths, focusing my inner attention on anything I wanted to release- emotions, people, ideas about myself. I walked until I felt a sense of inner clarity. The second part of the practice is to reverse direction and walk clockwise, envisioning my life just as I wanted it to be, until I could really feel it. Since then, I have used this powerful "circle walk" in many places, including my own living room. Each time, I experience a sense of peace about the original stressful situation and joyful anticipation of my desired life. Want to release the old and bring in the new? Try this simple practice and let me know how it goes. Many blessings...
I live in a rain forest. It rains here almost every day, to some degree, and overall we have less than 100 days of sunshine per year. It is very easy to get into a pattern of focusing on the almost- constant grey skies, rainy days, and continual dampness that penetrates everything, including people's moods. But really that's almost the definition of insanity. For me to live in a rain forest and expect something besides rain is crazy (not to mention ecologically frightening). Yes, I can choose to focus on what I don't have (ie. California sunshine and Hawaiian warmth)- but it's not much fun. On the other hand, I can revel in the sun when it does come out ( I have seen businesses close here so the owners can take a "sun" day). I can take photos like the one above- the raindrops creating lovely mirrors in my flower bed. I like that SO much better. And the key here is how I FEEL when I choose my focus. I worked in an agency where staff would ask participants "Where's your focus?" The idea was to re-direct negative thinking. But if the question was delivered in an accusing way, the negative focus became even stronger because it felt bad. I have been exercising lately to video presentations by Abraham-Hicks. Over and over, I am inspired by their loving messages about choosing my focus. Why am I inspired? Because It feels GOOD to remember that I can choose to focus my attention on what I want instead of what I don't want. And when I do that, more of what I want flows into my life through the universal Law of Attraction. But don't take my word for it. Do your own little experiment. Next time you feel restless, grouchy, or out of sorts, ask yourself, "Where is my focus?" And then choose to focus on something that you are genuinely pleased about or thankful for. That is magic of the best kind, folks...let me know how it goes...
At our area Chamber of Commerce Trade Show I invited attendees to play a "Happiness Game" to illustrate the brain's plasticity and the power of choosing- and savoring- good things each day. More than 40 people ranging form age 8 to 88 tried the "game". It consisted of thinking of something- some person, place or thing- that consistently brings feelings of joy and happiness. I asked participants to savor their happy thoughts by focusing for 30 seconds on inner visual and sensual details as well as the feeling of joy that accompanies them. That is the key to the exercise- savoring pushes the thought into long-term memory where it can gather momentum with other good thoughts and form new connections in your brain. To complete the game, they were asked to write their happy thought on a sticky note, as shown above. The exercise turned out to be a great way to begin a conversation about the benefits of focusing on what is wanted instead of not wanted, liked instead of not liked, and appreciated rather than complained about. According to the latest research, growing happiness through exercises such as this one can actually change the brain and, if practiced regularly over time, can lead to better health, relationships, longevity, and ability to bounce back from stress. Pretty cool possibilities for a 30-second investment of time and attention.Play the Happiness Game as often as you want every day (sticky notes aren't necessary but journaling about the game is fun and makes the good stuff "stick" even better in that long-term memory where it can grow happiness for you). Have fun with this...write and tell me how it goes...