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

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

In Those Five Minutes

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“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you can help them to become what they are capable of becoming.” ~ J. W. von Goethe

The firefighter at your door sternly states you have five minutes to gather whatever you choose and evacuate your residence. A physician summons you with news that you probably have no more than five minutes with a dying loved one. You’re entering emergency surgery and asked to consider an organ donor consent. You’re on a flight when the captain instructs passengers to brace for impact.

In times of uncertainty, danger, or impending loss we are forced to transcend the thinking that usually dominates our everyday awareness. Without notice, you have to make lightening-quick decisions to which you haven’t given much prior thought. Shifting from the trivial to the critical usually exceeds your brain’s speed limit. And you’re likely unfocused and unsure about what to do. In those precious moments are these important…

  • your degree(s)
  • your age
  • technological conveniences
  • what you control
  • social media
  • what’s on the news
  • your investments
  • what you look like
  • global politics
  • how you’re acting
  • material possessions?

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I suspect not. You’re dealing with a racing mind, feeling physically exhausted and depleted, and scrambling to make sense of the seemingly unfathomable. What can you say, think, do? Is this a space in which you anticipated being?

When standing at such an edge, uncertain about the future, one can hope to draw strength from knowing what really matters — for those five minutes… what to grab, what to say, how to react and how to decide, with compassion.

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There’s a purpose here. It’s to encourage thought about what you value and to invite aligning your life with same. Because possessing clarity about what matters, matters!

In anticipation of having only five minutes, would confirmation of any of these help?

  1. Be yourself. When living as a passionate, inspired being, the only challenge greater than learning to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes is to walk a lifetime comfortably in your own. Let your heart lead and take your brain along. When you’re clear and comfortable about what matters to you, making tough decisions can come more easily.
  2. Be a front-runner. Associate with others who share your values and aspirations. Don’t find yourself in a position where social gravity draws you into an unenlightened world and obscures who you are, what you know to be important and how you embrace, confidently, being at choice.
  3. Don’t stop remembering why. Many of us have tendencies to lose touch with what we loved as a child. The social pressures of adolescence and later professional pressures squeeze the passion out of people. Remember what you enjoy doing, with whom and why. You only need to be good at being and valuing you, and being there for others.

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Stealing Time

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“Plant you own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.” ~ Veronica Shoffstall

As I type I’m listening to Lisa Gerrard, one of my favorite artists. Her resonant voice has a way of reassuring me that everything is okay and that I’m aligned with my intended purpose and course.

When you’re in the thick of things, it’s hard to get much perspective. Perhaps you’re struggling with a particular decision or you find yourself putting off decisions or making hasty choices if you don’t intentionally pause and reflect. When you’re engaged in any creative activity – writing, designing, running a business – it’s important to create space (some may call this down-time). You need to get away from the constant busyness in order to do the best work that you can.

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Not even a decade ago we weren’t exposed to nearly as much information as we are now. Compare today to a short 50 years ago and the change is mammoth. Processing all this information can be overwhelming, measurably because much of it is useless to us. We need to use our developed cognitive abilities to cope and survive. With so much information having little to do with our personal lives… our well-being, stealing some time away from the helter-skelter can be incredibly relieving.

So I am. I’m going to take some time to decorate my soul. I’ll be offline (and in an undisclosed location) for the next week. Some of us know when time for a break is important.

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I’ll leave you with three reflections tied to solitude, as shared in this post. Some people are blessed with an abundance of time and have the luxury of its being discretionary. For those who presently have less time, consider claiming an hour, a day, or a week, whatever you need to decorate your own soul.

  1. Avoid mindless consumption. When you’re alone you have beautiful opportunities to think clearly about your life and the direction you want to take it. In the “mitote” of today’s world, you’ve earned quiet. If during that time you gain clarity about your path, what fulfills you, or how you’re feeling about what you spend your days doing – then it will have been time well spent. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose epiphany; simple glimmers and insights are valuable too!
  2. Quiet time is often lucid time. Simply sitting down and thinking through a problem can result in very effective solutions. Yet even if a solution isn’t immediately forthcoming, just thinking things through and understanding a problem can bring peace and a certain courage to carry on.
  3. Find a good spot for contemplation. During the week it’s often hard to make time and reunite with nature (or whatever setting works for you). Yet even time for simple walks in fresh air, maybe a very local visualization outing, can bring some clarity and lend a new perspective. Try to find a ‘place of power’ that gives you true inspiration.

Destinations

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“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” ~ Paul Theroux

As a verb, Google the word “destination” and you will find endless web sites for spas, resorts, retreat centers, honeymoon locations and exotic, far-away places. When you think “destination,” what typically comes to mind? Probably Paris, skiing the Alps, Disney World, safari, a tropical beach or perhaps a historic cultural site, among many possibilities.

What if, instead, a destination was somewhere within you? A place where you could intentionally focus on your inner self, where you could practice extreme self-care and where you could reground and renew.

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When was the last time you created space in which to realign with your mind, your body and your spirit… without, as Toltec Wisdom says, the “mitote” clouding your thoughts or your visions? Nurturing our personal wellness, our wholeness, is one of those matters we too often neglect. Until we are forced.

How often have you considered anticipating things rather than having expectations? Might you find value in some alone time where you could avoid over thinking things? What if you were to break away for a bit rather than ‘following the crowd’? How often do you find yourself operating on ‘auto-pilot’ just to keep up in this demanding world?

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The grand voyage given to each human being as a birthright wasn’t intended to be a rat race in which we speed, mindlessly, from one activity to the next. Our birthright is to experience life in all of its euphoria and its challenges. Experience it! But not at a disproportionate cost of overlooking one’s whole self — the physical, emotional and spiritual you.

When you consider your next ‘destination’, maybe visiting your inner landscape of personality and purpose could, as a possibility, become more audible. Maybe some inner healing and restorative work would be appreciated by your mind, body and soul. 🙂

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If you’d like to more deeply explore your inner self, here are three environments in which you can reflect and renew:

  • Sedona, Arizona, USA. Sedona (pictured above) is a geological wonderland with hiking trails, remote lodges and the breathtaking Red Rock State Park. It is also well known as a spiritual and energy vortex.
  • The Camino de Santiago, Spain. Also known as The Way of St. James, hikers walk the route for non-religious reasons: travel, sport, or simply the challenge of weeks of walking in a foreign land. Many consider the experience a spiritual adventure to remove themselves from the bustle of modern life.
  • A Vision Quest is, traditionally, a rite of passage in some Native American cultures. The multi-day vision quest ceremony is one of the most universal and ancient means to find spiritual guidance and purpose. In practicing cultures, a vision quest is said to provide deep understanding of one’s life purpose.

Try It. You Might Embrace It.

“Intuition is perception via the unconscious.” ~ Carl Jung

When it comes to decision-making, are you logical or intuitive? A while back I wrote about emotional intelligence (EQ) and intellectual intelligence (IQ) and how EQ is replacing IQ as a new measure for business and social success. Today I paused, reflecting on the plethora of assessments used to test and measure seemingly every facet of human consciousness, behavior, skills, potential, and preferences.

But let’s bring this back to intuition, which to some is not considered a true science and is often categorized as parapsychology. Whether it is a true science or not, it exists. And those who are intuitive know that they do things differently. Here are three examples:

  1. They practice mindfulness. Meditation and mindfulness practices can be an excellent way to tap into your intuition. Mindfulness (paying attention to one’s current experience in a non-judgmental way) helps one to filter out chatter, weigh options objectively, and ultimately make decisions that you can stand behind completely.
  2. They connect deeply with others. Mind reading or “empathic accuracy” refers to the seemingly magical ability to map someone’s mental terrain from their words, emotions and body language. Tuning into your own emotions, and spending time observing and listening to others can boost one’s powers of empathy.
  3. They mindfully let go of negative emotions. Strong emotions, particularly negative ones, cloud intuition. The evidence isn’t just anecdotal. A 2013 study published in the journal Psychological Science showed that being in a positive mood boosted one’s ability to make intuitive judgments. Your intuition fares better if you’re able to mindfully accept and let go of negative emotions, rather than suppressing or dwelling on them.

It’s that age-old, mind versus gut ‘thing.’ Which do you trust more? With which are you more comfortable? If you’re interested in further exploring or strengthening your intuitive abilities, here are three (of many) ways:

  • Accept that you are not in control. Don’t try to shut down your uncomfortable emotions. You will return to a state of balance as those emotions evolve on their own. Making critical decisions can be gut-wrenching. And you know this. Consider being open to another source of self-knowledge.
  • Be spontaneous. Try new things and go with the flow. Notice how often you find yourself in the right place at the right time. Awareness, when coupled with intuition, can yield expanded insight.
  • Practice. It is important to practice using intuition. Begin with something small that has little impact on your life. For example, try to guess who is calling before you answer the phone. Guess which elevator will come first when you’re standing in front of a bank of elevators. Stay relaxed and focused so as not to be distracted by other mental chatter. As you practice you will gain confidence in using this skill. The greater your confidence about identifying your intuitive voice, the more you will trust it and be able to act on it.

Missed the Connections

“What if the only resolution you make was to love yourself more?”

~ Cheryl Richardson

Having written my last post on March 15th, I had no idea more than two months would pass before I returned to the blogosphere. This was not an intentional hiatus. It was, in hindsight, a valuable break.

I had the good sense to pause and realize I had stretched myself too thinly across several fronts. I found that I had agreed (with myself) to take on too many concurrent activities and commit to too many deliverables. Some were professionally related; others were personal initiatives. Yet each was worthwhile.

It was, however, time well spent. I did some traveling (which I love), rekindled in-person a lifelong friendship, scrambled to fulfill my Awakening to Awareness radio show obligations, and created private time to deeply reflect and in doing so – realign with what really matters to me. I attended professional conferences, met and befriended some fascinating people, came very close to earning the privilege to travel to and speak in Kuala Lumpur and most importantly, regrounded myself. It was and is all good. It just required giving myself permission to revisit priorities and refresh clarity around my purpose.

I genuinely missed my WordPress community and the connections that have grown out of blogging. I missed reading your creative, inspiring and humorous words. Now I look forward to resuming our mutual sharing of amazing ideas and experiences though my contributions will flow more gradually.

I hope you who read this blog are well and thriving. It’s good to be returning. 🙂

Extraordinary Places

                Deborah "Atianne" Wilson

Deborah “Atianne” Wilson

“Your wealth is a measure of your service to others.” ~ Jewish Proverb

Significant in the coaching profession and in life is the word “shift.” I’ll refrain from defining shift as we each have our own meaning for it. We’ve all experienced shifts – directly or indirectly, voluntarily or involuntarily. My friend, Deborah, having faced abuse, abandonment, rejection, divorce, dis-ease, infertility and financial fears was invited to shift from a place of depression, physical pain and ego misunderstandings to extraordinary places of peace, empowerment, joy, authenticity and love.

Deborah “Atianne” Wilson is known as The Intuitive and Spiritual Wealth Coach. Everything that has shifted, healed and transformed in Deborah’s life has come from the fundamental knowledge that it all matters – we all matter. I know Deborah personally and she is not a ‘woo-woo’ person. She is a grounded woman with uniquely gifted intuitive abilities and thoughtful perspectives. She shared some of her story and her wisdom on this week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show (podcast here).

I invited Deborah to talk about her new book: It’s OK to be Spiritual and Wealthy: 19 Essential Keys for Living a Joyful, Prosperous & Abundant Life… something to which I believe we all aspire. During the show Deborah spoke about important life lessons including: practicing true forgiveness (challenging for many people); the value of expressing and living our life of freedom; divine connection (though not necessarily in a religious sense) and; giving and being in service to others from a joyful place in our hearts.

If the concepts of prosperity, joy, serving others, inner work, and personal responsibility resonate with you, consider listening to the podcast. If you are interested in learning more about Deborah, here’s a link to her website.

Acting Too Quickly

“A man who sees action in inaction and inaction in action has understanding among men and discipline in all action he performs.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

On occasion, I have been known to take a contrarian viewpoint. I will challenge the status quo and frequently seek uniquely different ways of accomplishing and achieving. Credit my innate curiosity and exploratory nature. It’s simply part of how I process. 🙂

Such is the case with me and action, the latter a meaningful part of existence. Action clearly serves a purpose and can gently inspire, as well as actively incite us. Generally, people are encouraged to take decisive action. And often, too quickly. It’s people less inclined to impulsive action who keep a comfortable grip on the action reins.

Acting too quickly can be the cause of many problems. Having been impatient for a good chunk of my life, I know this well. A lot of personal mistakes result from a combination of exuberance and an eagerness to please – to get the job done. Many of us have experienced moving too quickly without taking time for adequate, even thorough, consideration. And then wondered about the outcome.

I have been surprised to find how many times situations will resolve themselves if they are allowed to. I have also been discouraged at how complex some situations have become when I took action quickly to bring something to a resolution before truly understanding what the problem or goal was in the first place.

And then there are those people who will choose inaction simply because it allows them to stay in their comfort zone, to do only what they’re familiar with, even if it oddly yields desired results. But the comfort zone is equivalent to a safe, relatively unproductive state.

We know that a clear vision, flexible plan, and realistic schedule will take you a long way towards successful achievement. But without action, visions are unlikely to materialize. Thoughtful action is prudent. And while some people may argue ‘time is money,’ it is important to assess the need for expedited action.

“Measure twice, cut once” is an old craftsman’s saying. It’s a good idea for life in general. Restated for action, we could say “think twice, act once.” Because premature action can be much more damaging than a measured approach to most any situation.

Consider your actions as carefully as you do your valuables.

Present Moment Mind-set

“But non-doing doesn’t have to be threatening to people who feel they always have to get things done. They might find they get even more ‘done,’ and done better, by practicing non-doing. Non-doing simply means letting things be and allowing them to unfold in their own way. Enormous effort can be involved, but it is a graceful, knowledgeable, effortless effort, a ‘doerless doing,’ cultivated over a lifetime.”  ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

Yes this is the longest quote with which I’ve opened a post. Consider reading it again.

Recently, I wrote about patience. And no sooner did I share thoughts about the art of patience, then mine was tested. 🙂 I am rarely one to become angry with an individual who is lost or confused. My inclination is to understand and help, if possible. But if we have a driving experience in which we find ourselves feeling impatient, we can become agitated. The flip side is that by experiencing these feelings, we have an opportunity to see ourselves and monitor/change our reaction(s). So what did I do?

Here is something to ponder: As we age, chronologically, do we become more thoughtful and accepting of others’ behavior or do we become impatient and increasingly opinionated? My take is that whatever is showing up in our current experience is meant to be there or it wouldn’t be. This helps me put things into perspective. And even if you do not believe in fate, what happens in the present moment helps us to consider that everything has a useful meaning or purpose.

Put simply, being in the present moment (similar to flow), with any given situation, is about losing yourself in whatever you are doing – forgetting about the outside world and choosing to instead, focus your perspective. In my driving example and from a place of awareness, I can then choose to feel compassion for those who are banging their steering wheels and honking their horns at a confused driver, rather than join in (which I did not).

If mindfulness and being in the present moment seem an attractive ‘space,’ these three acts may help:

  1. When you eat, just eat. (Note to self:) When you are eating, do not think or read about something else or type a blog post. Just eat. Pay attention to what you are eating. Experience it – the taste, the texture. Savor the moment. Just do what you are doing now, and nothing else.
  2. Accept things. Acceptance of an unpleasant state does not mean you do not have goals for the future. It just means that certain things are beyond your control. Sadness, stress and/or pain is there whether you like it or not. Better to embrace the feeling as it is.
  3. Do one thing at a time. Quite often when we multi-task, our attention is never 100% where it ought to be. Not all multi-tasking is negative, but we can focus on being in the present moment for the task at hand. If you try to do one thing at a time, your goal for mindfulness would be easier and you would likely feel less stressed, yet still productive.