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.

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

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.

Our Well-Being

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“Life is an attempt to change a piece of a dream-world into reality.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

British Airways recently released data from two somewhat sad studies, which revealed two of the biggest regrets of 2,000 U.S. baby boomers – that they worked too much and didn’t travel enough. Not much new there!

Some of the study’s findings:

  • 17 percent of male respondents said that working too much was their biggest regret
  • 22 percent of women said not traveling enough was their biggest regret
  • 26 percent of respondents said losing contact with friends was their biggest regret

Regrets. Need they be? Are we able to make choices in the physical, social and emotional areas of our lives that can influence our well-being? Of course we can.

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In another survey of over 2 million Americans, Gallup-Healthways’ found that poor financial management can actually cause obesity (not just a correlation). Ed Diener, author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, says that the key to greater well-being is to have money but not to want it too much. Not surprisingly, there are strategies people of all ages can use to relieve financial stress and thereby lose weight and live longer. (See suggestion at post’s end).

One physical area of our lives that significantly affects our well-being is the workplace and what we do to earn a living. According to Claremont University psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it’s best to find a job that challenges us to an optimal level – one that’s neither so hard that we give up nor so easy that we get bored. Finding a job that engages your natural talents and gives you constant feedback is sure to contribute to your well-being. You know this, right?

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Two years ago I posted (here) about existing or thriving. I suspect you would agree that a thriving life is vital to our well-being.  If you are interested in optimizing (or perhaps, simply adding positively to) your life and thus your well-being, following are three considerations:

  1. Embrace a sense of safety. Research shows the biggest deterrent to physical activity for some people is perceived danger. You want the outside environment to draw you out, not nudge you in.
  2. Make it a lifelong and relentless habit to exercise serious caution when it comes to anyone who or anything that wants to touch your money or your welfare.
  3. Grow a garden. Several studies have shown that gardening lowers stress hormones. Hoeing, planting, weeding, fertilizing and harvesting all include regular, low-intensity, range-of-motion exercise.

And while you’re at it, create time to play. Get a passport or just reintroduce yourself to life’s simple pleasures.

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The Gift of Growth

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“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.” ~ Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Growth happens. Whether we encourage and nurture it or it manifests organically.

It’s an unseasonably warm Sunday. The Christmas tree is still up (shame), I’m listening to soothing Chris Botti music and friends in the blogging community are on my mind. As relaxed as one can be, I realize that even in passive settings, awareness can grow.

Eleven months ago I had short-term clarity about what was next on my personal journey. And I shared some of those images in a post. While there were clearly interests to pursue, what wasn’t factored in was how unanticipated growth would parade her way into my new experiences… and what a lovely complement she became.

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Looking back, some of my growth was simply appreciating the wit, the wisdom and the insights of ordinary people, unplanned destinations and in allowing the intimacy of unfamiliarity to ooze into my being. I became more aware of other people, how they presented, the unique gifts they possess, and their openness to connection.

In a recent interview British actor Tom Hiddleston declared, “I suppose I am fascinated by the private vulnerability and the exterior of people.” “I think that’s an essential truth. I sort of quite like trying to find what makes people tick behind the construction of their identity.”

Similarly, Mr. Hiddleston’s intrigue mirrors what I have been exploring lately, by turning my attention inward as well as outward. For me, both seem meaningful facets of growth… considering personas and influence brought by others.

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Some of you may be interested in knowing how vision, vantage and vigor aligned and gave power to some of my warming experiences, outcomes and chance growth:

  • My speech Compassion as a Verb was well received by audiences throughout the Spring contest season. It earned third place at Toastmasters District finals. More importantly, it touched people, profoundly. That impact alone made the process worthwhile.
  • My book “Awakening to Awareness: Aligning Your Life With What Really Matters” was published in December.
  • I succeeded at regularly scheduling and reveling in solitude and spending more time in/with nature. This has done wonders for growth and grounding.
  • Self-teaching/learning Italian has seen slower than expected progress. Yet it continues, unhurried. La pazienza paga.
  • I have traveled more, both domestically (within the U.S. and overseas). And what a balm each of those trips has been.
  • The goal to find a worthy cause, one that would afford a volunteer opportunity presented. It is a global initiative that couples Professional Coaching (on a pro-bono basis) and not-for-profit organizations with the purpose of making a positive impact and supporting safer, healthier, happier and more productive global citizenry. Put simply, it is work that focuses on the betterment of the human condition and on uplifting the human spirit.

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But back to growth… and not so much mine as yours! If you are interested in heightening your awareness around growth, consider these simple actions:

  1. Have a truly deep conversation with someone. Listen! Appreciate what makes other people tick. And learn from them.
  2. Ask questions that encourage others to reveal who they are and where they want to go. They may inspire new growth in you.
  3. Create space where silence is honored. Be comfortable there, whether alone or together. Appreciate the inner stillness and the possibilities that emanate there.

Adieu

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“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

I thought about titling this post Bigger Fish to Fry but realized the idiom inferred more important matters to address. And in some respects this is true. But I didn’t want readers (you) to think yourselves unimportant in my eyes because you genuinely matter to me.

However, it is time to bid you farewell; to move on. Not long ago I shared a post in which I asked if any of you had been (or perhaps, are) On a Verge. Its premise was simply to honor your intuition when you know there are other opportunities calling. To those possibilities, I have listened and am aware of ‘what’s next’ and why.

Watercolor by Abby Diamond

Watercolor by Abby Diamond

For me, it’s always been about following my heart… helping, healing and sharing. To continue contributing in these and other ways, I am choosing to pair my ‘next set of priorities’ with abundant time, renewed energy and unbridled inspiration.

Many of you know, sustaining a blog and actively interacting with many writers can be time-consuming. And the experience has been thoroughly enjoyable! I’ve acknowledged this once before, but it bears repeating… I have gotten more out of what’s been shared in your posts and comments than with my written offerings.

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I’m excited about this next life chapter. I’ve been looking forward to continuing to realign with what really matters to me. And I suspect some of you are leaning in, whispering, what is it you’re going to be doing, Eric? 🙂 Well, I hope this doesn’t disappoint but there’s little noble on the radar screen. There are some nearer-term and some longer-term activities that will receive due attention. Once they’re completed, time will avail to do more — yet to be determined, good things.

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For those interested, here is what’s on the forward leaning plate:

  • I will be committing a hefty chunk of time to rehearsing for and competing in the (my now, fourth) Toastmasters International Speech Contest. While still untitled, my speech this year is about compassion creating connections.
  • I will finally, finish and publish my first book which will reflect much of what I have shared in this blog.
  • I will be creating more time to be in and with nature. Solitude rejuvenates and is immensely healing for our mind, body and spirit.
  • I am going to learn to speak/read Italian. This ought not surprise many given my professed fondness for nearly all things Italian.
  • I am going to travel. A lot. 🙂 I keep encouraging my Mom to do whatever she wants while she is of sound mind and body. An advocate for ‘walking our talk,’ I will practice what I encourage others to consider doing.
  • I intend to find a cause or organization that will welcome my time and services – in a volunteer capacity. I have mentored and been in service to others for decades, just not at the level I can now. It’s time for me to augment my contributions.
  • And perhaps most important, I will be spending much more time creating and rekindling connections with people. Live, in-person, connections which for me, are the most authentic and fulfilling.

I may someday return to this amazing WordPress Community; time and passion will tell. Know that I will cherish this mutual adventure and you… many of you more than you will know. I am privileged to have shared our connections.

With appreciation, respect and love,

Eric

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Search On

“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Hope
  • To be inspired
  • Discoveries

These were three of the most frequently searched words/terms in 2014, according to Google. Personally, I am encouraged by this news.

Permit me then, if you will, a somewhat disjointed post; one which makes sense to me though it may not be entirely clear to you.

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What else might people be searching for beyond these three foci? Could it be around:

  • Forcing breaks or sealing cracks?
  • Being a puppet or pulling the strings?
  • How to act on one’s dreams?
  • Possibilities
  • Swimming with or against tides?
  • Being part of a cure or part of an ongoing disease?
  • How to be more open to exploring?
  • Calling
  • Could it be worse… or better?
  • How to summon strength you already have?
  • If I had wings, where could I fly?
  • Significance
  • What you want people to know about you
  • What lights will guide you home?
  • How to be a greater contributor?

Regardless of what you may be searching for — finding it, being it, and appreciating it, comes easier when you are inspired; whether through self-inspiration or by others. Would you agree?

92646099_cc9d599dee_mThere are countless ways in which to become inspired. You’ve read about them, you’ve practiced them, and you’ve seen others successfully embrace them. If you’re searching for or open to a couple of ideas, here are three on inspiring yourself or others:

  1. Create space. Be clear about your position on changes you believe you or another individual can take. But don’t force the change. Instead, give time and space to stay the same; to consider choices. Allow awareness and self-determination to make clear that impending change can bring about desired results.
  2. Consider non-conformity. Falling in step for the sake of business or social conformity makes hypocrites of most. It requires you to replace the real you with a fake you. Expecting that everyone follows rules made and imposed by others is a ploy that creates conformity, establishes control, and drains inspiration. People aren’t made with cookie cutters. You need to be you!
  3. Tell yourself a different story. The stories we tell ourselves inspire us or bring us to our knees. Invoke your inner story-teller and tell yourself better stories. Tell yourself stories about hope, inspiration, and strength; confidence, competence and compassion. Write and tell a new chapter, a new ending, a new story forward.

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Walking Your Talk

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“Well done is better than well said.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“There is no magic wand, my dear. In this world if you want to accomplish more, you need to do more.” Wise counsel from a mentor some 20 years ago. Her advice was good across the board, whether starting up a business, changing jobs or simply checking a few things off your bucket list.

I was somewhat of a talker then. Reasonably accomplished, I talked a lot about what I wanted to do. Yet, I found myself challenged when it came to fulfilling personal chores, completing deliverables, and planning for what I wanted to do. I was bluffing myself and others. And at some point I acknowledged I wasn’t a doer.

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These days I’m on the other side of that fence. I collaborate with people who choose to plan for their personal development; people who have specific, realistic, small, and manageable goals. In hindsight, what I now see clearly is that an individual’s success is often attributable to designing a living (meaning: breathing/flexible) working plan versus simply thinking and talking about their goals.

Early on I figured out that plans and outcomes are not built on good intentions alone. Positive perspectives help yet intentions lapse when the distractions and demands of the real world present. What I remind people about is that the real work is in making things happen. And for plans and intentions to bear fruit, they require diligence, hard work, vision, application, self-belief, energy and consistency. Plain and simple. Perseverance is essential even if you lapse or come up short on your plan.

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If being successful is an outcome to which you aspire, fairy dust and wishful thinking might make you feel good, but they’re not going to deliver results. I used be a great thinker. A dreamer, too. I am, still. What has changed though, is now seeing these matters through a time, experience and knowledge lens. And we all have this vantage! We simply need to recognize what is practical and applicable in our own frame.

Walking your talk is undeniably doable. In doing so consider these three foci, each which can strengthen and empower your walk:

  1. Banish distractions. Getting past distractions is one of the biggest obstacles to taking more action. It may not be challenging for people with enough willpower but for many, stopping procrastination and focusing requires a lot more effort. Turn off things like your TV and phone more regularly and scale back your usage of social media sites and Netflix. I know I am far more productive absent distractions. Perhaps you, too?
  2. Be a doer. Practice doing things rather than thinking about them. The longer an idea rests without being acted upon, the weaker it becomes. After a few days, details get hazy. After a week, ideas get relegated to a back burner. As a doer you get more done while stimulating new ideas in the process.
  3. Visualize success. This is a tried and true technique. People know the benefits of visualizing their goals. Elite athletes do this all the time. In a similar way, create an image of the outcomes you want and use that for inspiration.

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Inspiring Others

“Have you ever been stopped in your tracks? By a stranger who affected you profoundly?” ~ Eric Tonningsen

Months ago, I briefly mentioned a woman named Rose. I committed to writing about her in a later post. Now I am. Rose served as the inspiration for a story I shared over a three-month series of progressive speech contests. This video was the last time I told the story in May.

If you watch the video, you’ll better understand where this post is going. And yes, it has to do with how we inspire… and how people like you, inspire me.

Fifteen months ago I launched this blogging journey. Truthfully, I get more out of reading and viewing your posts, than I do crafting and sharing mine. I’ve (virtually) met an amazing, creative cadre; people who take time to share what’s on their minds, in their hearts, seen through their lenses, and created on their unique easels.  To each of you, for enriching my life, a respectful hat tip.

We don’t all follow one another’s blogs. Ergo, I want to acknowledge four bloggers whose work has inspired me and in doing so, invite you to visit their site. You may find yourself comparably inspired. Yes, there are countless more than these four people who move, motivate, and inspire me to think, act, laugh, and cry. I appreciate how each of you chooses to contribute to our community.

In my predictable format, here are three ways in which to consider inspiring others, if so inclined:

  1. Untether people. Don’t simply give people your advice. Give them the freedom to figure it out themselves. No one likes a micro-manager or a know-it-all. If you’re asked for help, share a rough outline to help the person move in the right direction, but leave something to their imagination so they’ll have the freedom to fill in the blanks. Self-discovery will show them that they’re fully capable and more powerful that they ever thought possible.
  2. Empathize with people’s judgments and how you’d like to see their life differently. You can often find presence in the feelings and needs that lie behind their world view. Maybe they aren’t changing, but you can create space in which to transform your own judgments and expectations. You have the capacity to shift opinions of others and relationships by simply focusing on yourself.
  3. Acknowledge contributions of others. You’re just one person yet you’ve contributed to your own life successes. What about others who have added meaning and value to your life? It’s not always your idea. 🙂 Acknowledge other’s contributions publicly, if possible, to show people you’re humble and appreciative enough to give them credit for how they’ve affected you.

Like a Shag on a Rock

“I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind” ~ Albert Einstein

Australian slang can be a complete mystery to people not from there; as with this title. When “shag” is used as a noun, the expression simply means that one is lonely or exposed, seeing as the regular behavior of a shag is to stand on a rock with its wings outstretched to dry off after diving for fish.

In the past week I read two articles that had me rethink the topics of solitude and being alone. In the Northern Hemisphere it’s vacation time. What could be better than an ice-cold beverage and being alone with your thoughts. As it turns out, just about anything. According to research from psychologists at the University of Virginia and Harvard, people would rather do something – even engage in a little masochistic distraction – than do nothing. On average, most respondents said they didn’t enjoy having nothing to do. The study can be found here.

In a Bloomberg article, doctoral student David Reinhard at the University of Virginia stated, “It seems that the mind may want to engage with the external world, even if that engagement involves pain.” He added, “We may seek out technology because entertaining ourselves with only our thoughts is difficult and technology is an easily available alternative.” “But because we often seek out external stimulation from technology we may then lose practice with entertaining ourselves with our thoughts and that in turn makes it more difficult and less enjoyable.”

Although loneliness and solitude are often thought to be the same experience, little could be further the truth. Loneliness manifests itself as a sense of emptiness and isolation while solitude creates a sense of communion within the self. In loneliness we ache. In solitude we feast. In loneliness we have no one. In solitude we are one with the self.

Personally, I’m comfortable being a shag on a rock. I use that space to ask: What’s really important to me? What do I really want? If you are looking for ways to clear out the clutter or the noise and celebrate who you are, here are three simple ideas:

  1. Start a morning ritual. Wake up little earlier and squeeze in some alone time before you start your day. You can meditate, pray, journal, draw. This process can also give you time to focus yourself before the day.
  2. Be your own muse. When you’re alone, you are the only one stopping yourself from doing something. Discover new foods, people, places, cultures. When you’re alone you have more time to create something meaningful. Get inspiration from your alone time!
  3. Hole yourself up. You can do this in your office or at home. Close the door or find quiet space or use headphones with calming music. Let others know to not disturb you. The key is to find a way to shut out the outside world. Then, be at peace with your thoughts.