Doing Deep Work

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“It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking to compensate for a self love deficit. “ ~ Eartha Kitt

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A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures. It is usually undertaken by young males entering adulthood. Individual indigenous cultures have their own names for their rites of passage. “Vision quest” is an English umbrella term, and may not always be accurate or used by the cultures in question.

Among Native American cultures who have this type of rite, it usually consists of a series of ceremonies led by Elders. The process includes a complete fast for four days and nights, alone at a sacred site in nature which is chosen by the Elders for this purpose. Some communities have used the same sites for many generations. During this time, the young person prays and cries out to the spirits that they may have a vision, one that will help them find their purpose in life, their role in community, and how they may best serve the People.

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I am not a young male entering adulthood. And a vision quest is not what I will pursue. Yet, I am acutely aware of deeper trials that I need to and am choosing to resolve for myself.

“Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.” “And the warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’” ~ Author unknown

Love Yourself More

There is more meaningful work for this warrior. It is time.

Thank You

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“One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.” ~ Lewis Carroll

Many of you have read Awakening to Awareness for several years. You have thoughtfully offered your ideas, views and understanding. It has been previously communicated that I value the content on your blogs more than the messages shared herein.

Acknowledging this, I am choosing to express my gratitude in a small way.

Six months ago my first book was published. It reflects much of what has been shared on this blog. In appreciation for reading some of these eclectic messages, I am gifting 30 copies of the book… with a couple of guidelines.

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To qualify for a copy (which will be mailed) I invite you to be one of the first 30 to:

  1.  In comments, identify the one blog that most inspires you and briefly tell us why. You may link the blog if you so choose.
  2. Subject blog cannot be mine, yours or any affiliated with you.
  3. And… you cannot cite a blog that has previously been mentioned (hint: read the comments).

There is a purpose here and I hope it’s obvious. It’s to introduce those who follow this blog to others who take considerable time to write posts with genuine meaning and significance, often accompanied by delightful images of their own creation. Via this exercise we open doors and come to appreciate even more of the incredible talent within this community.

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Melody Beattie, an author whose insights I admire said,

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

To get the ball rolling, the blog that most inspires me is China Sojourns Photography, a brilliant collection of written wisdom and extraordinary photography by Randy Collis. This ought not surprise many readers as Randy guest authored here with this post in January, 2015.

Thank you! for choosing to add to our collective growth and blogging experience.

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How Images Frame

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“When words become unclear I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ~ Ansel Adams

Meaning “reflection in a mirror”, the word image is early 14th century. The mental sense was in Latin, and appears in English language in the late 14c.

What we see has a profound effect on what we do, how we feel and who we are. Images can be impressive and compelling. They grab our attention. While reading takes work, the brain visually processes much faster.

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Images help educate. They enhance stories. And not surprisingly, vision is the far most active of the senses. Yet, do you intentionally create time to reflect on images and the empathy they can evoke? The teaching moment? Or the underlying sentiment?

When you seek to conjure memories or arouse emotions, do you find it challenging to find descriptive words? Rather than struggle with words, does an image more easily convey feeling, inspiration or thought? There is a reason that we are drawn to the works of photographers, illustrators and painters; there is promise, potential and reality in their renditions.

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Think about it. Would you rather go deaf or blind? To live in silence is difficult but to live in darkness would be devastating. There are messages in images, sometimes deep themes. Just as the adage “Stop and smell the roses” encourages us to pause and appreciate, perhaps some willful breathing space could awaken you to an image’s more nuanced meaning and significance. Just maybe?

When contemplating how you frame images or how images frame your perceptions, considering these points may be helpful:

  1. Images don’t actually change; only what we think about it has. There can be plausible, alternative interpretations.
  2. Be aware of intentional image use in marketing and advertising. The subliminal message may be far from the accompanying, pleasing visual.
  3. Your unique experiences leading up to the moment you encounter an image will shape your appreciation of it. Like what you like, even if you’re not sure why, or can’t put the reason to words.

To close, a warming (perhaps to some) image…

Opening photo: Il cielo in una stanza (2013) credit Loris Rizzi

Maintaining Relevance

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“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” ~ Satchel Paige

At a recent professional conference a keynote invited those present to publicly share what they feared. A colleague in her late 60’s responded “losing relevance.”

What would your response have been?

As a trailing-edge boomer, I cross paths with many people who are thinking about “retirement.” Note I said thinking about, not necessarily planning for it. What I find fascinating is that, more and more, those giving intentional thought to active lifestyle change are open to doing something besides playing board games or painting (not to disparage either). They seek increased engagement.

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I have yet to hear anyone at this life stage say they want to be bored. Or to become insignificant. Most people want to create and strengthen meaningful connections and to broaden their community. They have the energy and drive to explore and effect change; they’re just unsure what to do next.

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For those interested in doing something entirely new, the possibilities are boundless – often limited only by their own beliefs and stories. For those open to discovering and experiencing something unfamiliar, here are five popular gigs that “retirees” are stepping into and enjoying:

  • Tour Guide Operator – allows a coupling of personal travel interests with social interaction and exercise
  • Virtual Assistant – as the title implies, the work can be done virtually and you get to determine what assistance you provide
  • Uber Driver – an opportunity to meet new people, see new vistas, and you define your personal workload
  • Peace Corp Volunteer – seven percent of volunteers are aged 50+. A new adventure with a humanitarian focus where you can share accumulated wisdom and experience, often benefiting the less fortunate
  • Tutor – anyone, of any age. People love to learn. Sometimes they simply need another caring individual to help them navigate new subject matter.

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What you choose to do next could easily keep you pertinent. It need not be a complex undertaking. A willingness to play in some initial uncertainty might be the very stimulation you seek… maybe it could become vastly rewarding.

There are numerous ways in which to maintain one’s relevance. And not just as “retirement” approaches.  Here are three to consider:

  1. Stay curious. Welcome learning and acquire knowledge any way you can. Share your discoveries with others. In doing so, you show you are willing to try new things, even (gasp!) methods considered outside the box.
  2. Meet new people. Negative friends drain us. Positive friends propel us forward. Our possibilities can be limited by our current ‘network.’ Rejuvenating your network is an important part of staying relevant.
  3. Get your hearing checked. Seriously. Not being able to hear potentially puts you out of touch with people. As we age we tend to deny natural loss of hearing. Eventually younger people shut out the hearing challenged and move conversations elsewhere. One must hear to remain relevant.

An Invitation

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“I believe I have a personal responsibility to make a positive impact.” ~ Anthony Fauci

I chose this image (source: Pinterest) of a “fire rainbow” to illustrate a rare and wonderful atmospheric phenomenon. I also wanted to contrast the point that beauty demonstrated, is not always rare.

Some of you know that I have been wanting to give more of my time, talents and energy to a meaningful and significant cause — on a volunteer basis. This Spring a beautiful opportunity presented.

This March, 2016 Press Release announced my election to the Board of The Coach Initiative – a ten years young organization that supports nonprofit initiatives worldwide to make a greater positive impact.

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More specifically, The Coach Initiative (TCI) offers, on a pro-bono basis, coaching support to exponentially expand the positive global impact of projects that focus on the betterment of the human condition and on uplifting the human spirit.

TCI looks to a future where every not-for-profit organization with the purpose of making a positive impact in the world has the support of an experienced professional coach to enhance their contribution toward safer, healthier, happier, more productive global citizenry and the protection and care of our planet.

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We are moving quickly! And herein lies the invitation:

If you are aware of an established not-for-profit organization that could benefit from what TCI offers (see above link), I would like to learn about that nonprofit from you. Preferably, it would be an organization that you have personal experience with, one that you can vouch for their efforts and meaningful focus. In turn, I will have TCI contact that organization with information on how to apply to its program.

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In lieu of often shared points for consideration, following are three quotes that, I believe, remind us of what we are capable of doing. Choices that we make can contribute to the betterment of the human condition.  We simply need to act.

  • “A freely given gift can create a ripple of positive change in a person’s life, their family and their community.” ~ Unknown
  • “You have to throw the stone to get the pool to ripple.” ~ Glenn Tilbrook
  • “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

When Life Calls

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“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

When Death Calls was the title of her last Saturday presentation. An expert in the field of planning for death and subsequent life celebrations, she shared some statistics that gave me pause – one of which is that slightly more than 70 percent of Americans do no planning specific to their own or other family members demise. Most leave the matter unaddressed simply assuming others will take care of things. And that can be an unfair burden.

Thinking later about her message, I acknowledged this as a serious topic, one truly worth talking about and planning for.

Then my mind pivoted.

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Are you prepared for when life calls? Not necessarily for death (though it warrants attention) but for how you find meaning and significance in your remaining years?

Many people simply go through the motions, allowing life to determine outcomes rather than each of us having a measurable say in what’s next. Yes, there is tremendous satisfaction, often fulfillment, in going with flow – just as there can be in letting go and lessening the need or desire to control. However, I’m talking about how you can proactively determine the extent to which you want to be engaged with your life; what is important to you.

Without doubt, planning for and making life decisions can be made more helpful when one has a sense of and comfort with their financial plans and security. They’re definitely interwoven.

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Yet when and as life calls, I invite you to ask yourself…

  • How often do I deliberately pause to consider what really matters to me? Deliberately?
  • What is it that can make me a better person?
  • How clear am I on who I want to be in “x” years?
  • What causes are worthy of my active involvement?
  • What have I missed?
  • What stirs my soul?
  • How can I give back?

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Embracing this as a process and creating time to intentionally plan, what unfolds could be renewed clarity about what to do When Life Calls (as well as when death calls).

For your consideration, three thoughts as you explore this theme:

  1. Create space. Don’t cram your life with too many things to do. Give yourself room and permission to enjoy each experience. Give yourself space to find your joy.
  2. Spend time with loved ones. If you want to know how to live an even more meaningful life, spend more time with the people you love. Quality relationships truly matter.
  3. Think “aloha.” This Hawaiian term does not simply mean hello or goodbye but in the truest sense stands for “the process of passing a blessing from one person to another.”

Credit: Light at the end of the tunnel / iStock by Getty Images photo ID 35839548

Companions

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“A good companion shortens the longest road.” ~ Turkish Proverb

Companion defined (Dictionary.com): a person or animal with whom one spends a lot of time or with whom one travels; one of a pair of things intended to complement or match each other.

This Thursday, a fellow blogger (Silvia Writes) asked readers “What type of music inspires you?” Answering her question was relatively easy yet it prompted thought about music as a significant companion. When we think of the essentials, we think about food and shelter. However, we often ignore aspects that are essential to our mental health. We do not normally think of companionship as something that’s essential. Yet research has shown that social interaction is crucial for one’s health. And music and companions are social.

When we reflect on companions we often think of a friend, a spouse, a significant other, a soul mate, an animal, a travel partner or maybe an escort.

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Wine and cheese are ageless companions, like aspirin and aches or good people and noble ventures. I like wine and cheese. I relish traveling with a curious travel comrade. And my two dogs shadow me wherever we go, often as unwitting accomplices. But these aren’t the same as having cherished human companions.

For me, music will remain a companion, an inspirational one at times. Just as time in and with Nature will always be a welcomed balm. But have you ever wondered about that human ‘match’? I do, sometimes.

Alas, before digressions co-opt this post, let’s circle back to Silvia’s question. A female vocalist who collaborates with the group Above & Beyond, Zoe Johnston, accompanies amazingly uplifting music. Here’s a clip of Zoe singing a favorite:

What is significant in a companion to/for you?

If you are wondering what contributes to making a good companion, perhaps these three considerations will help:

  1. They listen to you (and you to them). They’re not just nodding their head supportively while you talk. They are actually paying attention because they care about what you think and how you feel and what you find interesting.
  2. They have something in common. Companions have a balance of shared interests, but not in everything. Art galleries, trying new foods, hiking along a coast… What matters is some cross-commonalty.
  3. Life is a dance. Enjoy dancing (literally or metaphorically) with those who will complement your life. Bow out of the dance when it isn’t time to dance and welcome new dance partners as they join in to your life.

Image Credit: Flying Companions by Artsammich (Sam Nielson) Deviant Art

What Others Know About You

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“We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.” ~ W.H. Auden

Eleven years ago I met my first Life Coach. It was Jane who saw that my blocks and my direction were closely connected. We worked for some time to rediscover my direction. One early exploratory exercise that Jane invited me to pursue was to ask five people to describe me in short words/phrases.

Some time later I realized the purpose and benefit of this exercise. You see, most of us believe we know ourselves better than anyone else. And to measurable extents, this may be true. Yet when those five people replied with candid feedback, I read and learned of strengths that I did not clearly see or embrace.

There is a lot about us that we don’t notice or acknowledge because it’s simply who we are and how we’ve developed over years and through learning and experience. Yet there are often attributes/personal gifts/qualities that define us as seen (and known) by others!

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There is comfort in knowing how connected you are to your strengths. When confident in/with your personal gifts, you expand the potential by which you can impact others and effect favorable change. If you find yourself resenting what you’re doing or the way you are living, ask yourself if you are utilizing what you believe are your qualities and what others see in and know about you.

Some times tapping into what others know about you (that you don’t fully see) can awaken you to reconnect with a dream, with your heart or perhaps, with a new calling. New self-awareness may even inspire you to let go of what you perceive(d) as a strength, once you’ve adopted an even more valuable virtue(s).

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If the prospect of learning how others see you intrigues, I invite you to consider the exercise I embarked upon eleven years ago. It was revealing and the insight that was shared helped me to consider a new direction (and a more passionate focus!), simply because I sought candid input from people who knew me as well as I believed I knew myself.

Naming your personal gifts is unusual but the more exact the better. It is important in asking for words and phrases (not sentences) from respondents that they be honest, positively and negatively. The preliminary steps:

  1. Choose four people from among immediate family members, a close friend(s), former schoolmate, partner, spouse, colleague, supervisor (past of present). Aim for a mix from among all of these. The fifth source of input is yourself.
  2. Ask each of them (and yourself) to “Describe me as you know me,” “Describe me as you see me,” and/or “Describe me as you remember me.”
  3. Your lists will contain lots of words and phrases. When you have all of them, print (don’t type) them on a table.
  4. If/when you get this far and want to know what follows, let me know; I’ll craft a follow-on post. This involves some time and work. Yet the results can be quite telling.:)

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Credit: Child playing piano / M-IMAGEPHOTOGRAPHY via Getty Images

Inspiration Meets Sandstone

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“Far better to live your own path imperfectly than to live another’s perfectly.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

This is a short, meaningful read.

Ra Paulette is an amazing confluence of passion, creativity, inspiration and living at choice. He is proof that people can follow their chosen path, as unique as it may be.

At 69, Ra demonstrates that even when we play, our efforts and contributions can stir the hearts and imaginations of others. To say the man has a vision might be an understatement.

For 25 years Ra has been axing, sanding, and forming exquisite sandstone caves in Taos County, not far from where I live in the New Mexico High Desert.

Following is a CBS video of Ra and some of his work. Or is it really work? If you enjoy being inspired and awed, sit back and enjoy this 5.5 minute story.

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If you’re looking for the intersection of your passion and how it might inspire others, consider these three actions:

 

  1. Change your story. We all tell ourselves about who we are, what we’re capable of, and what we believe we deserve. If you can dispel your self-limiting stories, you can begin to write new stories grounded in courage and action.
  2. Nurture the nudge. You have inspirations and opportunities coming at you every moment. Start to nurture these inspirations by following through on the insights.
  3. Embrace your natural abilities and use them in new ways to bring excitement into your days. Embrace your strengths by reflecting and acting on them.

Who Do You Listen To?

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“The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.”  ~ Confucius

This previously shared: I have neither owned nor watched TV for 16+ years. I do not read or listen to mainstream media. However, I do read about topics that intrigue, inspire and/or inform me. It’s selective choice.

Last week a friend forwarded this linked article, knowing it would induce a cringe rather than a favorable nod. It’s a healthy read so I’ll leave that choice up to you. The article is titled “Drugs You Don’t Need for Disorders You Don’t Have.” Essentially, it is about Big Pharma’s campaign to sell us prescription drugs.

For a variety of reasons, drug companies are now increasingly relying on direct marketing to American consumers. Last year, the pharmaceutical industry spent $5.2 billion on ads promoting specific drugs – an increase of 16 percent over the previous year. In this era of escalating drug prices, spending on prescription drugs now accounts for one in every six dollars that go into medical care.

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When the people raising awareness about a condition are the same people selling a drug to treat it, some obvious concerns arise. Ads rarely provide the kind of context consumers need to make good decisions about our health – about how a drug actually works or whether an alternative treatment might be better.

Only Europe and Australia have considered and decisively rejected proposals to allow companies to advertise specific drugs there. Wonder why?

A study on drug safety conducted by the Institute for Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, found that “The credibility of the FDA, the pharmaceutical industry, the academic research enterprise, and health care providers has become seriously diminished. Of particular concern are the common but inaccurate perceptions that the FDA approval represents a guarantee of safety, that approval is based on high degrees of clarity and certainty about a drug’s risk and benefits.”

Yet many people listen to these ‘authoritative’ experts.

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Disease mongering is prevalent in today’s media-rich world. It can be harmful to our health. When it comes to considering any prescription drug, I listen to my body and personally vetted, trusted sources. What do you do for yourself and loved ones?

There are many steps we can take to ensure we are listening to the right sources when it comes to what (if any) pharmaceutical we put into our bodies. Following the Nike tagline is not one of them. Here are three for your consideration:

  1. Ensure you are getting the right medication. Make sure your health care provider understands your condition and the signs and symptoms. Ask that individual whether there’s an alternative medication with ingredients that have less potential for bodily harm or addiction.
  2. Familiarize yourself with Alternative, Complementary, Holistic and Natural Medicine. Western medicine is not always a silver bullet.
  3. Consult Medication Risk Assessment Tools online. They are simply another resource as you evaluate what you may not need for a disorder you may not have.