Peace and Joy

When you’ve seen beyond yourself, then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there.” ~ George Harrison

Shopping today, I finally acknowledged the background music which was, predictably, Christmas themed. I know it has been playing for weeks yet I simply heard it as premature holiday noise, given my elsewhere focus. I’m unsure what triggered my ‘tuning in’ today but it was an anticipated and welcome shift.

One of my favorite vocalist groups is Pentatonix. Their medleys are amazingly creative and soothing. And since I’m now, officially, in the seasonal spirit, I am sharing one of their holiday harmonies. Their words and thoughts of cherishing, candles glowing, the joy of family, and love that the holiday season brings, are special to many of us. I hope you appreciate the piece.

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We’re heading into a bustling time of year; a time when peace can (and does) reign in our hearts and minds. While a bit early, yet with heartfelt warmth, I want to wish each of you a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, a Happy Kwanzaa or whatever you choose to celebrate. May your time with family and friends be filled with overflowing joy.

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What to Give

5824862885_0e7c2dd835_m“Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” ~ Sarah Bernhardt

As a child growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I fondly recall my Dad taking us to the REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) store in downtown Seattle. With its warped wooden plank floors, it was located on the upper levels of an old warehouse. A co-op for all things outdoors (and more), it remains my favorite place in which to lose myself and spend considerable moolah.

My siblings and I were introduced to hiking, backpacking and camping at early ages. And we loved it! Now living in the desert Southwest, I pine for the pines, the mountain trails, crystal clear lakes and rivers, and nature’s majestic tranquility — well, unless one is white water rafting.

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So where did I find myself today? At a local REI outlet. I was browsing for Christmas gift ideas because I rarely give a gift unless it jazz’s me first. I left the store empty-handed, returning to my car. And it was in that parking lot that I had an insight: I am a giver. I always have been. Of myself and the material/tangible. I enjoy benevolence and I know many have appreciated being on the receiving side of gifting.

But I’m done with what has, for decades, been tradition; unless there is a pressing/genuine need for something perceptible. This year my Christmas gifts are going to be different. I’ve got some ideas but I am committed to identifying creative alternatives. At my cost, my objective is to invite family and friends to be part of creating joy and significance for people who may have little or receive nothing. Something substantive yet beautiful in its simplicity.

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This is where you can help and in doing so, share ideas for we of like mind. I would love to read/learn what you have heard about or done in this vein. I’m inviting your input. I’ve already had someone suggest gifting through Heifer International, an established, reputable organization that empowers sustainability efforts around the world with/for poor people in developing countries.

If you’re inclined to think ‘outside of the box,’ please do. I am encouraging all suggestions. In advance, thank you for taking a few moments to enlighten me with your thoughts. I’m navigating a new path and I’m excited for how this will be a win-win for, perhaps, you too. 🙂

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Significance Personified

images“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that some (many?) of my posts are not “on the light side.” Lest you think that Eric is always deliberate and doesn’t write about “joyful” matters, I am sharing what follows. It was sent by a reader who understood yesterday’s post, yet thought this saying was a light-hearted way to ‘bring it home.’

In the spirit of small acts and making contributions, I invite you (in comments) to share something you’ve recently done that you consider significant (all random acts count!) and that brought a smile to your and someone else’s face. 🙂

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Being in “The Zone”

“Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” ~ Chuang Tzu

I intentionally chose this photo. It is the one place, a single activity, in which I can find myself in “the zone.”  According to Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, being in the zone or in “flow” is a single-minded immersion and represents the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. It is when emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand.

Many of us have been in the zone. And describing how it feels there is unique to each individual. Some people can get ‘there’ easily; they have conditioned themselves and know what it takes to experience a feeling of spontaneous joy while performing a task, although being in the zone is also described as a deep focus on nothing but the activity, not even oneself or one’s emotions.

Being in the zone is often associated with peak performance, commonly practiced by serious athletes, writers, and musicians. But it can align with gardening and painting just as easily. In this state of completely focused motivation, one can side step the chaos, the busyness, the rat race of everyday life. And simply be, accepting whatever you are doing.

People find themselves in the zone when in the presence of nature, meditating, or at willful solitude. We often think we need a structured vacation or a getaway to be able to focus on one task. Not so.

If the prospect of getting into the zone appeals to you, here are four steps that can help to pave the way:

  1. Choose a singular task. To get the most out of your mind you need to concentrate all your attention on exactly one thing and one thing only. It ought to be something that you are truly interested in, your most important task at the moment.
  2. It’s important to have energy. If you’re barely maintaining consciousness due to a late night of cocktails or a restless night of sleep, getting into the zone is going to be difficult.
  3. Find the right environment. Figure out the setting(s) that facilitate your flow, be it a crowded coffee shop or a quiet library, and work in them whenever possible. An uncrowded swimming pool works well. 🙂
  4. Emotions are key. Being in the zone requires finding the feelings that allow your subconscious to take over. Music can help activate these emotions. Find songs or artists that put you in the right mood and block out distractions.

 

Images and Feelings

Image credit: Louie Favorite Terri Gurrola is reunited with her daughter after having served in Iraq for seven months.

Image credit: Louie Favorite
Terri Gurrola is reunited with her daughter after having served in Iraq for seven months.

“Feelings are not supposed to be logical. Dangerous is the man who has rationalized his emotions.” ~ David Borenstein

Though we differ in the way we look at things and what we believe in, there is something we share: emotion. Human emotion is innate in all of us; it is something we are born with and something we die with. Happiness, sadness, love, hatred, worries and indifference – these are things that constantly occur in our daily lives.

As human beings we are all born with awareness. We can be aware of our environment, aware of our thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Yet self-awareness cannot be taken for granted. It can easily be lost. When emotions overwhelm, we can lose touch with our conscious awareness. So it’s important to recognize and manage our feelings. Most of us know that acknowledging our feelings is both healthy and a necessary step toward regaining our composure and clarifying our perspectives.

Image credit: Mark Pardew / Reuters A firefighter givrs water to a koala during the devastating Black Saturday brush fires that burned across Victoria, Australia, in 2009.

Image credit: Mark Pardew / Reuters
A firefighter gives water to a koala during the devastating Black Saturday brush fires that burned across Victoria, Australia, in 2009.

We frequently say a “picture is worth a thousand words”, but sometimes they are worth even more. A photographers lens can capture scenes that take us into deep emotional journeys, evoking feelings that range from uplifting joy to utter sadness. The thought-provoking power of images often starts us on a journey of feelings that exceed “a thousand words” with ease. Images capture moments filled with raw emotion and powerful stories and they frequently raise questions about how we feel and what we can do. This, in turn, can prompt compassion and action, but that’s for another post.

Internationally acclaimed photographer Sandro Miller said, “If you don’t look at photography and begin to think and wonder, and be able to start an intelligent dialogue with someone about the work, then I guess I haven’t done my job. I want people to really be able to go deep in their hearts and begin to feel things.”

Photo credit: Getty Images Helen Fisher kisses the hearse carrying the body of her 20-yar-old cousin Private Douglas Halliday, as he and six other fallen soldiers are brought through the town of Wootton Bassett in England.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Helen Fisher kisses the hearse carrying the body of her 20-year-old cousin Private Douglas Halliday, as he and six other fallen soldiers are brought through the town of Wootton Bassett in England.

Perhaps it is a photograph or a traumatic experience that triggers your emotions. Self-awareness and reflection yield feelings, too. People who have good emotional health are aware of their thoughts and feelings. And they have learned healthy ways to cope with the stress and problems that are a normal part of life.

For you consideration, here are some thought-provoking questions. When answered, think about how they make you feel:

  • Why do you matter?
  • What will you not tolerate?
  • How have you been a role model to someone?
  • What makes you likable?
  • What are three life lessons you learned the hard way?
  • What makes you uncomfortable?
  • What fulfills you more than anything else?
Image credit: via hfcsd.org Jewish prisoners at the moment of their liberation from an internment camp "death train" near the Elbe in 1945.

Image credit: via hfcsd.org
Jewish prisoners at the moment of their liberation from an internment camp “death train” near the Elbe in 1945.

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.

Social Media for Boomers

“Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.” ~ Brian Sollis

Put away that cozy image of the little old lady knitting a sweater for the grandkids, or the distinguished gentlemen playing chess in the park, because the newest elder generation is not going to sit quietly in a rocking chair. This according to Brian Profitt in his ReadWriteWeb article, “Why Boomers Won’t Release Their Grip on Technology.”

In August, 2013 the Pew Research Center on Retirement released a report with some fascinating statistics on social media among Americans 50 and older:

  • 60% of people in the 50-64 year age group, which is most of the boomer population, are now on at least one social media site.
  • Facebook is by far the most popular social media site for this age group.
  • Baby boomers spend 27 hours per week online, which is two hours more per week than those who are between 16 and 34.

My guest on this week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show was Carol McManus, America’s LinkedIn Lady. A self-described ‘recovering corporate executive,’ Carol left the comfort of the corporate cocoon (in 2007) after 26 years and reinvented herself as a coach, consultant and leadership trainer. In a few short years, her speaking and consulting requests shifted to social media because everyone wanted to know how she did what she did and how they could replicate her success for their own business.

                            Carol McManus

Carol McManus

On the show, Carol made it clear that this generational cohort was not heading “out to pasture” and that they are increasingly making use of social media for multiple purposes. She highlighted Facebook and LinkedIn as the two platforms most likely used by boomers and told listeners why. Not surprisingly, Facebook is the account of choice for those interested in connecting or reconnecting and rekindling relationships. And LinkedIn for business connections. Carol talked about online privacy, managing your own social media, stepping into one’s technology fears and why to avoid Twitter.

It was an enlightening and informative interview. You can listen to the podcast on iTunes here or on the Awakening to Awareness show page by clicking here.

Does Misery Love Company?

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” ~ Winston Churchill

I enjoy people watching. What I find equally fascinating, is tuning in to what people are saying when they don’t think others are listening. Not secretly eavesdropping but in public or with passing conversations. Comedian Bill Cosby brought to light “Kids say the darndest things.” Well, adults do too.

It amazes me how often people, when communicating, complain and criticize. It is as if they choose negativity because it is familiar to them or makes them feel safe. Fortunately, we have the option not to participate in negativity and to shift those conversations in other directions. You can always set an example and in doing so, create a positive environment.

In a November 2013 online article (alternet.org), Cloe Madanes wrote about habits of highly miserable people. Madanes, a psychotherapist and author, is a teacher in family therapy and the strategic intervention field. She asserts that some people act as if they want to be miserable, and they succeed remarkably at inviting misery into their lives. You likely know one or two of these people.

Regular readers of this blog know that it almost always focuses on choice, ‘things positive,’ possibilities, and significance. And I intend to stick with those themes. But every now and then it helps to remind, when opportunity is taken to the opposite extreme. So I have chosen three of Madanes’ tongue-in-cheek habits to, hopefully, keep you focused on what really matters. 🙂

  • Practice sustained boredom. Cultivate the feeling that everything is predictable, that life holds no excitement, no possibility for adventure, that an inherently fascinating person like yourself has been deposited into a completely tedious and pointless life through no fault of your own. Complain about how bored you are. Consider provoking a crisis to relieve your boredom. Exercise: Force yourself to watch hours of mindless reality TV programs every day that leave you feeling soulless. Avoid literature, art, and keeping up with current affairs.
  • Whatever you do, do it only for personal gain. Sometimes you’ll be tempted to help someone, contribute to a charity, or participate in a community activity. Don’t do it, unless there’s something in it for you, like the opportunity to seem like a good person or to get to know somebody you can borrow money from some day. Never fall into the trap of doing something purely because you want to help people. Exercise: Think of all the things you’ve done for others in the past that haven’t been reciprocated. Now list three things you could do that would make you appear altruistic while bringing personal, social, or professional gain.
  • Don’t enjoy life’s pleasures. Taking pleasure in things like food, wine, music, and beauty is for flighty, shallow people. Tell yourself that. The same applies to nature. If you accidentally find yourself enjoying a beautiful view, a walk on the beach, or a stroll through the forest, stop! Remind yourself that the world is full of poverty, illness, and devastation. The beauty of nature is a deception. Exercise: Once a week, engage in an activity that’s supposed to be enjoyable, but do so while thinking about how pointless it is. In others words, concentrate on removing all sense of pleasure from the pleasurable activity.

If you periodically drift into that space of misery loving company, remember that awareness is the first step to change.

Tres Mas

“True morality consists not in following the beaten track, but in finding the true path for ourselves, and fearlessly following it.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Continuing yesterday’s focus, here are three more clues to validate that you’re on your chosen path, as well as some hints that you may be deviating from it and working against both flow and forward progress.

Clue #4
You play, have fun and see the humor in everything. You find delight in everything that crosses your path. You are passionate about how you cross the paths of others while honoring how you can share your unique message, mission and gifts with them. You look forward to your work and how you are contributing to the betterment of others. When the unexpected happens, you are curious and in awe of the mystery it presents.

Hints:
You are stressed by the unexpected and fearful of what you don’t know. You don’t trust other people and especially their intentions. You feel protective and defensive of your reality for your experiences and your life. You seek control, understanding, and act to get what you want, even if it’s taken from others.

Clue #5
You allow each day and situation to flow. You are confident that all that is wanted for you will flow to you if you are open to receiving it. You know that elaborate plans and myriad goals interfere with flow and move you into an “efforting” agenda. You trust yourself and who you are being to join the flow and allow your life to unfold to be adventurous and inspiring.

Hints:
You believe the more you plan and the more you do, the more you can get. You are intense and easily disappointed when what you want doesn’t show up as you wanted and when. You blame yourself, others, and the world for denying you or causing your issues and problems. Complaining, criticizing, and judging keep you feeling justified for how you feel.

Clue #6
You have strong boundaries to protect your time, space, energy, money and joy. You know to whom, what, and how much of each of these areas you will share. You also give time, space, and energy each day to caring for your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Hints:
Your body shows evidence of chronic stress. You worry about your health and fear what could happen to you and your health. You are resentful that people don’t respect your boundaries and demand and take your time, space, energy, money and joy. You feel overwhelmed and drained by it all and guilty that you can’t give or don’t want to give more.

When you’re on your intended path, these and the previously shared clues keep reminding you that your life is on track. The hints are like road signs that say not this way, get back on the path. Beacons or signs exist in every moment. Which ones are you seeing right now?

Delight in Discovery

“I do not seek. I find” ~ Pablo Picasso

There is something magical about discovery. Receiving or naming a precious find; that gush of sensory glee – these are part of what makes discovery exciting.

Yet if I were to ask you what your passion is, could you name it? If you are like many people you would answer, “I’m not sure.” So many of us are busy with our day-to-day responsibilities that we have become strangers to our passion. We may catch brief moments of joy and inspiration, but rarely do we benefit from prolonged periods of passion. Our lives simply do not consistently reflect what’s at our core.

Then, you have a life-changing experience that creates a sudden epiphany of an underlying passion. The experience is unexpected and its effect is powerful. With abrupt clarity, you are left with awareness of who you must be. It can come anytime, anywhere – while on a quiet walk, reading a book, taking a shower or performing daily tasks. Whatever its context, it’s an explicit wake-up call from your heart.

So how do you discover what lights your fire and will keep it burning for a long time? How do you know if something is truly your passion? Well, for starters, you get that constant yearning; you’re willing to take risks for it; and even when people tell you you’ve lost your mind, your pursuits remain unwavering.

Most of us uncover our passion gradually as a result of daily experiences. There are sneak previews, courtesy of your intuition but few understand the significance. Yet the messages are there. And unless you heed them, you are likely to dispel them. The challenge is learning to listen to and interpret the signals…the whispers, and translate them into action.

But what if you don’t know what your passion(s) is (are)? What if you’re still searching? Here are four (of many) ways to help find your passion:

  1. Play – If the process confuses or bothers you, just play with it. Don’t force a purpose until you can define one. Amuse yourself with the process.
  2. Become Curious – Curiosity is the basis for passion. Let go of your current understandings and begin from a point where you are almost completely ignorant on the subject. Then look for creative, unusual ways to boost your interest.
  3. Encourage Enthusiasm – Energy is contagious. Spend time with someone who exudes passion about something. Seek out people who have the energy you want. Ask them to describe their motivation. These may yield information you had no idea could be so intriguing.
  4. Be Humble – This is necessary for passion but arrogance can destroy it. Grow this confidence where you believe in your abilities to handle the unknown while retaining respect for it.

And listen. Really listen. Shut out the daily noise, stress and confusion. Seek perspective on your life. Answer these questions: Where am I today? Where do I want to be tomorrow? What do I want to do with my life?

If you still cannot identify your passions, try a different discovery path. Seek out new experiences, people and activities. Look for fresh in the stale, the new in the old. If you sense a bolder move is necessary, step out of your comfort zone and take some risks. If you usually stand on the sidelines as an observer, jump in as an active participant. The point is to side step what could be preventing you from finding things you are exceptional at and that you enjoy.

Discovering your passion takes a fair amount of soul-searching. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t discover it right away – you will find it. And it will probably come to you when you least expect it.