The Me I Like Better

A few weeks ago I had a wonderful conversation with a dear friend. We’ve both been experiencing some challenges in our lives, and we check in often to compare notes and encourage one another.

She was describing a challenge in one of her relationships and how she would normally respond to the person giving her grief. She said, “I know that I could give him my advice, but ‘the me I like better’ asks more questions.”

That’s a wonderful way to describe doing something differently, of striving for personal improvement.

When do you experience the “me I like better?” How can you be her or him today? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

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I’ll Have What He’s Having

Waiting for Paul McCartney. July 31, 2011, Wrigley Field, Chicago.

Paul McCartney turns 70 (!) this year. I had the privilege of seeing him last summer when he came to Wrigley Field for a concert. He was amazing. As you can tell by the photo we were way, way up; thank God for the large video screens so we could see the performance.

Sir Paul had incredible energy and his voice was strong. It was a very warm and humid summer evening, and there he was in a suit coat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants. He eventually took off the coat and rolled up his sleeves, but the concert was outdoors and he sang under hot lights. Personally, I would have melted, and that’s why I don’t make a living singing in concerts.

The Beatles are part of my earliest memories. And since he was already a grown up when I was a kid, I wasn’t sure exactly how old he was. On the way home I looked him up in Wikipedia; he was born in 1942. Time has been kind to him; he looks like a healthy, happy older man.

Granted, he is vegan, which surely contributes to his great energy, vitality and good looks. I also believe there’s something more. He’s been doing something he loves for virtually all his adult life. There was a point in the concert where he was singing “The End” off Abbey Road: “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.” He blew a kiss to the audience, pointed to his heart and then back to the crowd. The love “exchange” was palpable. It was a memorable moment in an extraordinary evening.

The next day I facilitated Job Seekers, a support group for people looking for work. We talked about meaningful work, of striking a chord (no pun intended) between what we do for a living and who we are. Anyone who’s ever had a glimpse of doing what they’re meant to do knows how incredible it feels. Often we lose all track of time, all awareness of things around us. Sometimes it washes over us as profound gratitude for being alive, as strength to persevere through obstacles and disbelief. Some of us catch a glimpse for a day, maybe a little longer. Others, like Sir Paul, have the privilege of experiencing it for an entire career.

We can all be so fortunate. If you’re still experiencing dissonance between who you are and what you do, get a good coach or therapist. Speaking from my experience, and the experience of many of my clients, you probably already know what it is you need to do to live your purpose. If it were easy, you’d be doing it already. Someone who cares (and who has no interest in keeping you where you are) can help you acknowledge what you already know; they can help you find strength and courage to overcome whatever challenges you face. It is so worth it, and a way of making the most of your life.

Our world needs you and your love. What are you waiting for?

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Letting Go of Resentments

The other day I ran across a quote in the book A Course in Miracles:  “…to forgive the world for the mistakes I made.” Now I know some people consider A Course in Miracles heretical or demonic, and I’m not here to create a debate around this. If you’d like to stop reading because of the source, that’s your choice. I, however, would like you to stick around. You may find something helpful.

Resentments are funny things. At first we feel resentful or angry toward someone for things they did or didn’t do toward us. Sometimes others have been quite horrible and we’re furious, other times we experience a slight and still get mad (you know, like when another driver does something you don’t like).

Recovering people in 12 Step Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) get to make “a searching and fearless inventory,” and the suggested way to do this, at least by AA’s Big Book (page 65) is to list your resentments: who you’re mad at, why and how this affects you. At first many people look at this and wonder what this has to do with their own “defects of character” or personality flaws. “I’m resentful and it’s the other person’s problem.”

Well, guess what. Whether you’re in a 12 Step Program or not, resentments are not the other person’s problem. You’re the one who’s angry. You’re the one affected by another’s actions or inactions. “Resentments corrode the container they’re in.”  And there’s really no peace until you’re willing to heal them–and yourself.

So what do you do, especially if you don’t “qualify” for an appropriate 12 Step Group? Start with identifying your resentments; you can use the AA example. List who you’re mad at and why. Keep going. Write it all down. After a while, when you look at your resentments more closely, you’ll likely discover some unmet expectations. You may have left these expectations unspoken or perhaps they’re unrealistic. Notice they are your expectations.

Having expectations for others to live up to when they don’t or can’t is like doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. And when you get resentful, you’re ingesting some of the poison you’re directing at them.

This is also not to tell you not to be angry. Being mad is a human emotion, just like happiness. Anger can be quite informative, when you allow it to be so. The point is not to take up residence in your anger.

If you’re not sure you want to let resentments go, imagine yourself as a balloon filled with helium, tied to the ground by rocks and stones. You know that to soar is your purpose, and yet you’re held back. By untying yourself from the rocks of resentment, you can disengage yourself from them and rise higher and higher until eventually you’ll soar. Picture for a moment what the view looks like. You’ve seen a helium balloon held down for too long; it loses its buoyancy until it’s nothing but a smaller, weaker version of its former self. The rocks don’t care, they’re doing what rocks do. They sit there. They don’t need balloons to serve their purpose.

If you’re having trouble managing your expectations or anger or letting go of your resentments, you may want to talk to a therapist or counsellor. And if you’re in the Chicago area, I’d be happy to discuss with you whether I’m a good fit for you

Now let’s soar!

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Loving Your Fears

What is the opposite of fear? If you’re like many people, you believe that the opposite of fear is courage or faith. And that’s a logical step. Lately, however, that belief no longer seems to fit me, and I’ve found myself growing into the belief that the opposite of fear is Love.

Trying to get rid of fear using brute force, sheer willpower or hatred may cover it for a while, but fear is still there, under the surface waiting to rise up again. Courage or faith can get you past a fearful situation and may even give you momentum to change.  Loving your fears can dissolve them and transform your life.

OK. Let’s look at something you fear: spiders, traffic, your job, the dark, success, failure, the economy, whatever. Now become very still within yourself. Think of your fear and notice your thoughts, your body, your breathing. Chances are when you think of that which you are afraid, your body is responding with tightness, maybe pain or discomfort. Maybe you didn’t feel anything or the whole idea of thinking about what you fear sparked a desire to run away.

Whatever your experience in the last exercise, please try this one next: breathe calmly, and become aware of your breath, the physical experience of breathing, what it’s like in your body. If you can, try to feel your heartbeat; put your hand over your chest or find your pulse if necessary.  Now imagine with each inhalation you’re breathing in love; allow each exhale to send love to something in front of you physically or mentally. After a few breaths like this, imagine that which you fear. Send it love. Give love to that creepy spider you saw in your home last night. Send love to your boss, your in-laws, your child or spouse. Breathe love to your bank, your checkbook, your mortgage and bills. Breathe love to the situation that scares you the most. Keep breathing love to it (or them) whenever you remember today. It may take time, it does with many of my own fears; and after a while you’ll notice that some, if not all, of your fear is softening or dissolving. You may find yourself doing that which you’ve been avoiding. Your thinking about whatever you’re afraid of will likely change, and with it the emotions and behaviors around it.  This exercise can transform, not only your fears but your life.

Whatever your experiences after this exercise, I’d love to hear from you. If you enjoyed this kind of breathing, I encourage you to check out the Institute for Applied Meditation (IAM): http://www.appliedmeditation.org

 

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Love As An Action Verb

For many of us, when we think of Love, of falling in Love, of Loving someone, we think of the feelings we experience: the highs and lows, ecstasy and despair, passion and desperation.  Love is heady and often unrealistically presented in songs, movies and poetry. When we don’t feel these feelings, we believe we’ve fallen out of Love, or we’re not in Love, or, perhaps, we’re unworthy of Love.

What if we shift our perspective and consider Love as an action verb? Verbs describe a state of being, an occurrance or an action. What happens when we shift from feeling to action?

Think about someone you Love. What first comes to mind? Probably a feeling: “I Love my kids and feel warm inside when I think of them.” How Loving, as a feeling, were you to him/her/them today? “Well, I got frustrated they took so long and made me late for work.” How did you Love, as an action, him/her/them today? “Well I fed them, made their lunches and got them to school.”

I believe it was Steven Covey who first planted this seed of Love As An Action Verb in my head. When I think of acting Love, even if it means acting “as if,” I soften and become aware of things I can do that are kind and appreciative. When I Love my pets, I attend to them; I feed them, clean up after them, pet them and play with them. When I Love my family or friends, I spend time with them, engage with them, converse with them, do kind things for them. When I Love my colleagues and clients, I support them in doing their best work. When I Love myself, I am kind to myself and do things for myself that are life-affirming. The list of Love in our lives can continue to infinity.

We’re heading into Valentine’s Day, a difficult holiday when we’re not feeling Love. When we’re acting Love, the brittleness of the holiday–and our hearts–can melt away like ice in the warmth of the sun. If we’re fortunate enough this Valentine’s Day to feel Love, we can also act Love and experience the results.

I encourage you, whether you feel Love this coming Tuesday or not, to use the day to act Love. I’d Love to know what happens.

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