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.

A2A Book Cover

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.

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.

Tapping Into Your Wisdom

“Those who know are wise. Those who know themselves are enlightened.”       ~ Laozi (Lao-tzu)

One of my sisters is a ‘go to’ person. She is an impartial sounding board, grounded in integrity, and she serves as a lens through which I can see matters differently. She is intellectually and emotionally wise and she possesses a solid sense of self.

Throughout our lives, we encounter people who presume to know what is best for us. The insights they offer cannot compare, however, with the powers of awareness and discernment that already exist within us. Even my sister.

Like most people, I have spent much of my lifetime looking for answers, direction, and solutions. This meant always looking to change something or acquire something to improve my life. Society conditioned me to focus on improvement, getting more, and fixing what kept me from getting more and better. Does this sound familiar? Over time I have learned that I always knew what was best and right for me. The answers, direction, and solutions were always inside, while I was often looking outside.

When you couple your innate knowledge with every experience, sensation, and process in your life, you accumulate wisdom. The longer you live theoretically, the more wisdom you possess. So when the tables were turned and this sister asked for my thoughts on a matter, I suggested she find quiet, listen to her inner wisdom, and reflect on:

  • Imagination – This is the imagination of what you desire and what you want to feel. For example, you may want calm instead of stress. Imagine what calm would feel like and your wisdom will guide you to the thoughts, words, and choices that bring calm.

  • Inspiration – You are inspired a lot, but probably ignore it or misname it. The wisdom that comes through inspiration can be accessed through a focus on possibilities. If you want something to happen, ask yourself what you can do to create what you want and the guidance will come. Simply ask, then listen.
  • Intention – We create everything through intention. So intending an experience, relationship, or object is done by thinking about it and feeling it already present. The wisdom of intention will then be verified in the form of possible choices, something you hear someone say, or an opportunity presented to you.

Keep in mind that accessing wisdom is more than just wanting to or hoping to, especially if you have ignored or resisted it. This is a journey of exploring, discovering, and experiencing, one day or one moment at a time. When you are unsure of whom to trust, how to respond, or what you require, the guidance, direction, and knowing you need will be available when you tap into your own wisdom.

Eight Worth a Listen

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” ~ Shel Silverstein

During my recent absence, I continued to host the weekly radio show, Awakening to Awareness, where an abundance of valuable information was covered on each show. I would be doing my guests a disservice if I didn’t highlight for those who follow this blog, who they were and what they shared. Their full bios are available on the show’s web site. If you are interested in listening to the podcast from any of these (and other) shows, simply click here.

            Rhonda Vigeant

Rhonda Vigeant

Rhonda Vigeant shared nuggets about “Home Movies – Unearthing the “REEL TRUTH” About Your Family.”

                     Ricky Powell

Ricky Powell

Ricky Powell shared insights into and a blueprint for “Creating Lifelong Happiness.”

                    Jim Breen

Jim Breen

Jim Breen, a veteran first responder, opened up about “Saving and Reinventing Lives.”

                    Audra Erwin

Audra Erwin

Audra Erwin, the High on Life Coach, and her soul sister Tamara Montana dove deep to explore the tenets of “Every Master Was Once a Disaster.”

                      Chris Teunissen

Chris Teunissen

Chris Teunissen, a Dutch national who has lived and worked in the Far East for 23 years enlightened listeners about “Home is Where You Make It.”

                      Nellie Williams, EA

Nellie Williams, EA

Nellie Williams, educated listeners about the IRS (for whom she used to work) and how to “Bullet Proof Your Taxes.”

                      Barbara Allisen

Barbara Allisen

As business women, Barbara Allisen and guest Renee Shupe shared knowledge and experience about “Reinventing Ourselves as Entrepreneurs.”

                      Rebecca Keller, Ph.D.

Rebecca Keller, Ph.D.

Rebecca Keller, a Mom, a Scientist, a Publisher and an Entrepreneur awakened us to perspectives about life and science education in “Life Unfolding and Interrupted.”

A little something for everyone. Enjoy listening if interest strikes and time avails.

Being Flexible With Change

“In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” ~ Warren Buffett

The noun transition, defined: “movement, passage, or change from one position, state, subject, concept, etc., to another change.” Transitions can be periods of considerable personal and psychological growth. They can be exciting, creative, and freeing. They can also be confusing or frightening. Whatever the case, they are necessary and natural stages of our personal development.

Sometimes transitions quietly emerge, almost stealth-like. Other times you see or sense them coming. Still others strike out of the clear blue. They can be random and they can be predictable. And they happen to us at every life stage. Here are a few…

  • betrayal by someone you trust
  • puberty
  • a shocking event (fire, theft, natural disaster, etc.)
  • lifestyle choices
  • an affair
  • spiritual growth
  • a serious illness
  • midlife
  • job loss
  • empty-nesting

We all need to manage a host of events during our lives. And we need to look at how change impacts our roles, routines, and relationships to understand how a transition is affecting your life and the lives of those around you. Moving through transitions often requires focused effort to address, understand, cope with, and embrace the change.

Whether you are 30, 50, or 70, there are ways to smooth the transitions you experience. Here are five to consider:

  1. When a change feels most stressful, relief can often be found in finding the good that it brings. An illness, financial loss, or a broken relationship can seem like the end of the world (and yes, I’ve experienced all three), yet they also can be blessings in disguise.
  2. Remember that all change involves a degree of learning. If you find change particularly stressful, try to keep in mind that after this period of transformation has passed, you will be a wiser person for it.
  3. Remember that upheaval and confusion are not often natural parts of change. While we can anticipate certain elements that a change might bring, it is impossible to know everything that will happen in advance. Be prepared for unexpected surprises.
  4. Don’t feel like you have to cope with changing circumstances or the stress of making a change on your own. Talk about what’s going on for you with a friend. Sharing your feelings can give you a sense of relief while helping you find the strength to carry on.
  5. No matter how large or difficult a change is, you will eventually adapt to these new circumstances. Remember that regardless of how great the change, all the new that it brings will eventually weave itself into the right places in your life.

It doesn’t always need to look or feel like this. 🙂

Appreciating Your Age

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” ~ Douglas MacArthur

On my radio show this week, my guest spoke about Encore Careers and Lifelong Learning. As a University Professor who teaches graduate and doctoral students, as well as Baby Boomers and emerging seniors, he reinforced that aging is relative and often subject to one’s own limiting beliefs and feelings. While we are all aging, it doesn’t have the same meaning for each of us.

There are valuable insights to absorb and wonderful experiences to savor at each life stage. Every new decade and every new year brings with it wisdom, transformation, and growth, as well as ends and beginnings. Many people, though, believe that there is one age that eclipses the others. They expend energy trying to reach it and, once it has passed, trying to retain it.

But wishing to be younger or older is a denial of the joys that have been and the joys yet to be, as well as the beauty of your life in the present. Holding on to one age can make it difficult to appreciate each new milestone you reach. Taking pleasure in the delights of your age, whether you are in your 20s, 40s, 60s, or 80s, can help you see the magnificence and usefulness of the complex seasons of life.

Think about it… each new year brings the potential for exciting and unfamiliar experiences. In our 20s we can embrace the energy of youth and the learning process, knowing it’s okay to not have all the answers. As we move through our third decade, we grow more self-assured as the confusion of our young adulthood melts away. We can honor these years by putting aside our fears of aging and concentrating instead on solidifying our values and enjoying our growing emotional maturity.

In our 40s, we become conscious of the wisdom we have attained through life experience and are blessed with the ability to put it to good use. We are not afraid to explore unfamiliar territory or to change. In our 50s, we tend to have successfully navigated our midlife re-evaluations and have prioritized our lives. In the decades beyond, we discover a greater sense of freedom than we have ever known and can truly enjoy the memory of all we have seen and done.

Aging, however, is about much more than staying physically healthy – it’s about maintaining your sense of purpose and your zest for life. Healthy aging means continually reinventing yourself, finding new things you enjoy, learning to adapt to change, staying socially active, and feeling connected to your community.

Here are three tips to keep in mind as you age:

  1.  Don’t fall for the myth that aging automatically means you’re not going to feel good anymore. It is true that aging involves physical changes, but it doesn’t have to mean discomfort or disability. While not all illness and pain is avoidable, many of the physical challenges associated with aging can be overcome or significantly mitigated by eating right, exercising, and taking care of yourself.
  2. Many aging adults don’t exercise. Yet exercise is vital for healthy aging. It helps you maintain your strength and agility, gives your mental health a boost, and can even diminish chronic pain. Regular exercise will help you stay physically and mentally healthy and improve your confidence.
  3. As you age, your life will change and you will lose things that previously occupied your time and gave your life purpose. But this is not a time to stop moving forward. Later life can be a time of exciting new adventures if you let it. If you’re not sure where to get started, try these suggestions: go on a weekend trip to a place you’ve never visited; pick up a long-neglected hobby; take a class or join a club or; learn something new (an instrument, a foreign language, etc.).

Try to enjoy the age you are at now, for each age presents its own unique wisdom to enjoy. Today is my niece and god-daughter’s birthday. Happy 21st, Grace!

Are You Wise?

“We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can take for us, and effort which no one can spare us.” ~ Marcel Proust

As with art, pornography or unforgettable destinations, people generally recognize “it” when they encounter it. Unique experiences are filtered through personal bias, taste and interpretation. The same might be said of power.

The usual definition of power is to control or force something or someone. When it comes to our lives this definition is troublesome and even dangerous. Our true power is not what we can do outside or even what can be done to us from the outside. Our greatest power is within us. It is the power of our own thoughts and our wisdom.

It is generally accepted that our thoughts create our experiences through our perception, expectations, assessment situations, other people, and happenings. Reality is the one we create and we are quite good at doing this. We give a lot of power to what we think is happening or could happen. We then use our power to make choices, think, and feel to continue the reality we have created. For example, the more afraid someone is of what they believe is happening or could happen, the more they react to protect themselves or act to find safety and security. All this because of what they feared, which was nothing more than a thought in anticipation of an event.

Wow. Long paragraph.

Wisdom comes from what our experiences reveal about our possibilities and our self-imposed limitations. Experiences are our teachers, not our jailers with the value in what is learned.

While wisdom is practical, useful and abundantly available, wisdom is measurably about what matters and what we do about it.

The most powerful aspect of our wisdom is our access to universal wisdom. This wisdom is available to everyone at anytime. It’s not dependent on our being good or worthy. It has no limitation or restriction. To access this wise guidance we need only open our hearts and minds to hear its whispers. It speaks to us as an insight, intuition, or an answer to a question. It also quietly nudges us with an inspiration or the illumination of a situation’s possibility for resolution.

We are powerful and how we use our power determines the quality of our experiences and our lives. We can rely on the power of our limiting thoughts and especially fears to guide our choices. Or, we can rely on our personal wisdom to show us what is best in us, others, and our possibilities.

The greatest power we have is the power to choose.

Choose between the illusion of outside power or the truth of the power within.

I am relatively smart. I possess a decent intellect. But I often wonder… Am I wise? Do I always use the power of my own truth? And allow it to prevail?

What about you?

The Third Age

“Experience is not what happens to a man, it’s what a man does with what happens to him.” ~Aldous Huxley

There exists an oft-overlooked developmental life stage. Yet, few acknowledge and plan for it. When people are putting children through college, still pursuing their career, and paying bills – retirement isn’t usually on their radar screen.

The Third Age, lest you be unfamiliar with the (European) term, represents a huge chunk of active adulthood. According to a Harris poll, 80% of U.S. Boomers desire and expect to work for pay well into traditional retirement age. They also expect to contribute their time and energy to address economic, social and political needs at home and abroad.

The Third Age brings exciting developmental changes and a greater understanding of ‘what really matters.’ It is frequently characterized by:

  • A search for purpose;
  • An increase in individuality and authenticity;
  • A new imperative to pass on values and wisdom.

In an (at least I think) interesting study, researchers have coined five stages that people experience before and during the Third Age:

  1. Imagination (15 to six years before retirement day): Retirement isn’t necessarily top of mind. People are focused on previously mentioned activities. As “the day” gets closer, they pay more attention to and define goals for their next life chapter. When a clearer vision emerges of what is next wanted, a sense of enthusiasm and excitement develops.
  2. Anticipation (up to five years pre-retirement): This is a time of hopefulness. Emotions intensify and requisite financial resources are aligned. People spend more time planning for their “new” careers and lifestyle.
  3. Liberation (“The” day and the first year thereafter): The honeymoon phase. People feel a sense of relief from worries and responsibilities. They miss their work connections but reconnect with significant others, families, traveling and (yes!) beginning new businesses. 89% of study respondents indicated they were “very busy” during this time.
  4. Reorientation (two to 15 years post-retirement): This is a significant stage, one I’ll elaborate on in a later post. This is a transition period, a time during which there can be a “let-down.” People will gradually reorient their priorities, activities and relationships.
  5. Reconciliation (16 or more years into Third Age): Many retirees shift into greater contentment, and acceptance. They begin to set their sights on moving into a new home, confront end-of-life issues with family and friends and find resting and relaxing more appealing.

Why do I choose to highlight this? In my collaborations, I encounter Third Agers who have given this major stage little more than passing consideration. And they wonder why they’re at a loss for an answer to the question “what’s next?”

In our First Age, life is pretty much determined for us by others. We’re along for a wild ride. In our Second Age, we plan, choose and are directly responsible for many of our desired outcomes. We develop goals and focus our experience and energy on their achievement.

By sharing the potential in and importance of planning for our Third Age, perhaps people will muster greater clarity about “what’s next,” they’ll seek out and accumulate more information, and they’ll better position themselves for living a fulfilling next chapter. Their Third Age.

And you?

Sounds of Silence

“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.” ~William S. Burroughs

As a loud, crowded world bangs its pots and pans and demands relentless attention, managing the noise can be difficult. After all, the world does not care about interrupting someone else’s silence. The world (and just about everyone in it) believes that she or he has something to say. And often, so do you and I.

Despite this, silence remains a vital part of healthy living and silence by choice can be beneficial.

All sounds, from a whisper to a classical symphony, arise out of silence and disappear into silence. Think about that for a moment. Yet silence is always there beneath sound and is the space where sound can exist. We tend to think of silence as the absence of sound, but silence has its own weight and quality. Taking time to experience silence calms the mind and rejuvenates the body.

One way to experience silence is to wake up before the rest of the world has come alive. Try not to move into activity, and leave off the lights, radio and your mobile device. Sit still and simply listen. Your may hear your heartbeat or your breath, but keep your attention tuned to the silence that surrounds you. Allow the silence to penetrate your body until it moves into your core.

Five minutes of communing with silence can leave you feeling vibrant and reconnected.

Why appreciate silence? Because it’s restorative. Silence:

  • Gives us time to think. Thinking shapes or reshapes feelings. And feelings feed actions.
  • Enables us to gain or regain control of ideas, concepts, changes, viewpoints or opinions that belong or don’t belong in our minds. The crowded mind can become disorderly. Quiet can restore the order.
  • Allows us to think carefully through both sides of a lens tied to a tough problem or difficult decision: the potential upside or risky downside, the pros and cons. It tempers our tendency to be impulsive. Noise is distracting and lures us to rush. Quiet time lets us carefully study both sides of an important issue and frees us to sell it to ourselves from two, disparate points of view. Simple concept, right?
  • By design, enables us to relax, read and concentrate. Silence opens a door to accumulating wisdom; distractions are wisdom’s barrier.

So, what to can you do? At night, choose a moment after everyone around you has retired and tune into silence. Yes, you’ll likely be tired but try it anyway. You can also experience silence throughout the day. Even in the midst of activity, moments of silence are always present. Often, we ignore or feel nervous around silence and try to fill these moments with sound. Try not to.

Silence is always there – vast, potent, and available for us to step into any time we choose.