Category Archives: Life

When the world is out of control

Sunday morning I found myself moved into deep silence. The recent events of the world have grown profoundly horrific and unsettling. I found myself without words.

So I went inward. I simply grew silent for most of the day. I visited gardens at a monastery. I went online and watched a talk by Michael Bernard Beckwith – over and over again. That’s because he said something “sticky”.

He said to start each day asking myself: How can I share? How can I give? How can I radiate? This is a “return to sender” universe… everything we send out comes back to us.

I thought about where in life I want to radiate, share and give. And I quickly grew passionate with the discovery of where I wanted to be a greater provider in life.

The next morning, the very first thought in my mind was, “How can I radiate, share and give today?”. I witnessed how it softened my energy. I gave my silence by not telling someone what I REALLY thought about a comment he posted online that I found disturbing. I was reminded of the power of giving silence – especially when speaking up does nothing but stir the pot or poke the bear.

I’m seeing a lot of messages telling people to choose love, not hate. Today, I paused my work and asked myself, “How I can radiate love today? What act of love and kindness can I commit?” Ironically, an opportunity had just presented itself for me to extend help to someone I deeply disliked. I found my energy toward this person softening as I spent some time reconnecting and providing guidance to someone I had never anticipated speaking to again.

I wonder how many people stop at telling others to choose love in an online post, but don’t actually DO anything meaningful to demonstrate the very choice they are promoting.

Instead of telling other people how to live, why not BE the very thing we are trying to promote? Then we can share our story of what happened when we did choose love, so others can be inspired by our action – and not just by the two words we typed.

Although the world is feeling out of control, my world isn’t. And maybe that’s because I’m going inward and taking control. I’m looking at where I can be softer and kinder in my life.

This week, I know I am choosing love because I’m doing something different than I would normally have done. I’m welcoming what I would normally shut out. I’m choosing silence over self-righteous judgement. I’m embracing a greater circle of acceptance. I may not be able to change the global world, but I certainly can change mine.

If I want a more loving world, I have to create it – with my own hands first. 

RelatedMore than Just Changing a Profile Picture

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How will you know when you are choosing love? What will it look like and how will it be different than what you are doing now?

It’s Michael, not “Mike”

Michael had just placed our order at a juice bar. Moments later a girl appears holding our drinks. She calls out “Mike?” – and I shoot a scowl her way. Mike? I know he didn’t give her that name because his name is MICHAEL.

I get why the name change happens at the juice bar. But I don’t get why this happens socially. Michael clearly introduces himself as Michael only to later be called “Mike” – in both professional and social settings. And he despises being called Mike.

When someone introduces themselves, they generally give you the name they want to be called. Calling them something different is like calling them an entirely different name. When you call Michael “Mike”, he doesn’t hear “Mike”, he hears, “Elmer”. And it makes him cringe.

Michael has been written up as “Mike Brown” in newspapers and professional publications distributed to huge audiences. Mike Brown was named as UCI’s newest board member. Mike Brown received plaques of honor that Michael doesn’t display. Mike Brown has done awesome stuff that Michael wanted memorialized under a name he actually uses.

Please don’t assume the standard nicknames are okay (i.e., Becky instead of Rebecca). We don’t give someone a cutesy nickname before we get to know them, because that would be weird…. So don’t do it to Rebecca,  Robert or Elizabeth. The nickname can feel distinctly different and foreign to the person; which might be why they don’t use it.

This is Social Skills 101. Calling someone a different name tells them that you don’t listen or care. Some may not mind, but I know many who feel slighted or disrespected from the very start. I know some who long to be rid of a childhood nickname because it represents them being a child and not an adult. Some nicknames are reserved for one’s “inner circle” of closest friends or family.

“There is no sweeter sound to any person’s ear than the sound of their own name…” – Dale Carnegie

Think these people are over-reacting? Our name is the most important word to us. Nothing is worse than being called a name you hate. How would you feel if people kept calling you Mort or Gertrude after you introduced yourself as Grace or Tyler? For some people, that’s what it feels like.

Some people love the elegance and sophistication of their name exactly as it is… Jonathan, Alexander, Jacqueline, Remington are beautiful names! Charles and Chuck just don’t have the same vibe… so don’t use them interchangeably.

And when you feel close enough to someone to want to call them something else… whether it is Mike or Spunkmeister – please just ask. Ensure someone is ok with whatever name you call them. Which is why I need to remind “Mike” to stop calling me “Bunny Nut Cheerios”.

Michael loves his name. And it means a lot when others love his name exactly the way it is.

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Don’t call her Lizzie.

 

My absolute favorite gift idea

Last year for Michael’s birthday, I found myself really struggling. I didn’t want to impress him with a big gift, I wanted to touch his heart. At the time, I felt that he really needed a reminder of what a phenomenal man he truly is. So this is what I did.

I created a document. The first page was titled, “Things I love about my darling”. And I listed out all the beautiful, amazing things about Michael that I wanted him to be always reminded of. Here’s a brief sample of what I did:

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I ran out of room and still had so much more to say, so I added a second page titled, “More Things I am Grateful for…”. I did my best to be as specific as I could so he knew someone was recognizing all the facets of him that don’t get acknowledged enough.

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 7.58.47 PMMy plan was to frame them (which i did) but Michael travels a lot and always carries a backpack with him, so I wanted him to have something he could carry with him. Sometimes he calls while on the road and I hear him feeling worn out or beat down from a rough day. So I took a copy to Staples and had them laminate it so he could keep it in his backpack all the time… and on the rough days, I hoped he’d stumble upon it and take a few moments to be reminded of just how impressive he truly is.

So if you are struggling to find the right gift for someone you adore, whether a loved one, a dear friend, or even an employee who you want to recognize at retirement, consider touching one’s heart by telling them all the beautiful things you see in them – but haven’t quite said.

 

An Epiphany @ Cafe Gratitude

I’m in San Diego for a dance event, but I feel incredibly sad. These weekends are supposed to be inspirational, energizing and rejuvenating. Sure enough, I find myself profoundly inspired by a tango performance that is the epitome of what I hope to become; it’s magical in every way.

However, my failure to find a skilled, dedicated partner has me feeling especially ungrounded. I’m suddenly feeling the angst of unfulfilled potential. I feel incomplete. I feel unchallenged and bored. I thought I had something unique to build upon; something that would attract an amazing partner who shares my aspirations. But right now, I feel that my “magic” is gone and I’m losing hope. I feel lost in the crowd. It hits me hard today and the confluence of all this has me nearly in tears.

I have time to kill, so I seek a place for lunch. I find myself at Café Gratitude; by the name alone, I know I will be at home here. I order a green drink and a black bean burger. The waitress brings the drink first. “You are complete,” she says as she places it before me with a reassuring, loving smile.

I’m a bit startled until I realize that “Complete” was the name of the drink I had ordered. The irony of this flashes through my mind as I take a sip. I don’t feel remotely “complete”, so I quickly distract myself with my phone until my food arrives.

And then it arrives. I turn from my phone to see a waiter holding my veggie burger before me. “You are magical,” he says with a powerful gaze into my eyes. He says this as if it were an indisputable truth. He says it as though he is commanding it to the universe. He says it like he intuitively knew that I’ve written myself off.

That’s when I got it. I ordered precisely what I needed to hear. I needed to be reminded that I AM complete – even without a partner. Perhaps my magic hasn’t worn off just yet – maybe I still have a shot at being a captivating dancer and living my potential after all. At Gratitude, everything on the menu is named with a word (i.e., worthy, extraordinary, brave) that is then used to present the customer with an affirmation.

I went to Café Gratitude for lunch. Yes, I got fed. But in a most unusual way, I also got validated. I felt that my soul got the hug it needed. I got reassuring whispers from angels and encouraging nudges to keep going. I heard the very things that I felt the greatest doubt about.

They could have just served me lunch and left me with a great impression of an amazing plant-based menu, awesome ambiance and flawless service. But I felt touched by their business model. I felt impacted by the experience. I felt re-centered and grounded by their thoughtfulness. One waiter, Rowan, talked about the company and menu names with such conviction and passion that I teared up.

The little things count so very much. Café Gratitude didn’t just serve me – they impacted me. And I really, truly, deeply needed that today.

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Lunch at Cafe Gratitude was the turning point for my rough day. My experience there totally shifted my energy, which led to an amazing evening of dancing. Thank you ❤

 

 

My January Ritual

While I usually do this ritual on New Years Eve, sometimes I do this in early January to set the stage for the new year. Doing this mid-month gives me a chance to settle down from the new year hoopla.

  • Burning Bowl: This is about letting things go. I write down everything I want to let go of from the previous year. Experiences, people, feelings, regrets, memories, attachments… I throw all that energy on paper and then I burn it. Sometimes I write it as a final venting session for the year. Sometimes I write it lovingly as I bid the things farewell. I don’t want to carry any of that energy forward, so I always do this part first.
  • Gratitude Challenge: Now that my head is clear, I write down 100 things in my life that I am grateful for. Finding 100 things stretches me to look deeper into my world and reminds me not to take anything for granted. It also puts my mind in the right place; energized, open and receptive to more!
  • Accomplishments: Next I list out what I want to accomplish. I’m very specific with the accomplishments; i.e., “I will take ten private golf lessons” or “I will publish 2 blogs every month”. I try to hit all areas of my life, finances, career, hobbies, spiritual practice, health. I’m working on adding in some big, “scary” accomplishments to keep stretching me as well.
  • Experiences: Next I consider what I want to experience. I list out where I want to focus my time, resources and energy. This year I included things like stand up paddleboarding, private lessons, and cooking at home.
  • Manifestation Letter: This is my favorite part! I write a letter as if I were writing it on December 31st, reflecting back on all the amazing things that happened in my life over the last year. I write it as if it had happened exactly as I desire. And I write it with glorious emotion and vibrant gratitude. Every year, I write a manifestation letter and on December 31st, I read what I wrote 12 months earlier. It’s stunning how much of it reflects what actually happened in my life – even when I wrote about things I didn’t think were quite possible for me.

Another favorite part is keeping track of what actually happens during the year.

  • I keep track of what I actually accomplished and experienced throughout the year. At the end of the year, it’s interesting to see the things I anticipated and sought after… and then the surprise gifts that fell into my lap along the way.
  • Perhaps the most valuable part of the process…. “What I learned in 2016”. This is a file I keep on my desktop because I add to it throughout the year. Anytime I have a good “learning experience”, epiphany, or insight that’s worth remembering, I add it to the list. All my wisdom in one place. 🙂

Although I’ve been somewhat sporadic and inconsistent over the years, this year I realized I’m coming into a time when some of my richest and most valuable experiences are starting to occur. If I do this every year until I’m 90, I’ll have some damn good reading to reflect back on in my old age. Happy New Year.

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A new year… Letting things go and opening myself up new wonders.

More Than Changing a Profile Photo

I’m not changing my Facebook profile picture this week. I decided that the recent tragedies are a call for me to do more than just show support. This is a call for change. But I didn’t want changing a Facebook photo to be the only change I made. I want the change in my life to be significant.

This week, I will commit an act of kindness – and it will be for someone I don’t like. I will find someone who elicits ugly emotions in me (anger, hatred, envy, self righteousness). I’ll take a moment to find something in them that is beautiful. And then, I’ll extend an act of love to them – something meaningful and touching to them. An act that actually demonstrates that YES, #LoveRules isn’t just a hashtag – it’s a guiding principle for how I live.

I invite you to join me in committing an act of kindness for someone you dislike. 

It’s time to look at my world to see where I’m letting darkness survive in my life. I’m notoriously slow to forgive and forget; perhaps this week, I can change that by letting love rule instead of my ego.

Perhaps this is my week to get to know someone who appears to be everything I can’t stand. I might be surprised by how beautiful they truly are in their soul.

I can’t change the profoundly hateful acts occurring every day throughout the world. But I can definitely change how hate and darkness lives in mine.

(related: Being Less Horrible to Others)

Inspired by: Why I’m Not Turning My Facebook Photo Blue White and Red. 

The Unchosen Man

It was the first night of Whole Being Weekend, a spiritual retreat of hugging, eye gazing, singing, dancing and connecting with other beautiful souls. A band was on stage, some were lost in ecstatic, playful dance; others deep in mediation. This first night was about getting people relaxed and connected. The music shifted to an upbeat tempo and an announcer asked us to find a partner. The room burst into a flurry of people rushing to pair up.

As people swarmed around me snatching up their partners, I followed their lead and happily grabbed the first person I could. We playfully danced with that person for a moment and then were told to “find a new partner!”. Again, the room exploded with a frantic scramble of people delighted to find their next match.

But I was slow to part with my first partner because we shared a warm hug upon parting. As I scanned the room, most people were paired up. But one man was lingering on the fringe… clearly available to be chosen, but was awkwardly waiting. Maybe he was shy, or simply hesitant. Perhaps he felt like the new kid on the first day of school in a new country. He seemed painfully aware that he had yet paired up.

I made a mad dash to him, darting around pairs and jumping over cushions before landing before him with delightful eyes. I didn’t say anything, but everything in how I arrived conveyed the intended message. I CHOOSE YOU.

I wanted him to feel integrated, to feel valued, to feel like he belonged here. I didn’t pair up with him because he was the last man standing; I grabbed him because I saw a man who deeply needed to be reminded that he mattered. That he was worth choosing.

For the rest of the weekend, I made a point to make a mad dash towards the person standing at the fringe, the ones who looked like they weren’t sure they would ever be chosen. And during our minute together, whether it was dancing, singing, or eye gazing, I sought to embrace each person with complete gratitude, delight and unconditional love.

The ones who get chosen last might just be shy. But there might be something broken within them that makes them hesitant to connect. They might question their desirability, their appeal, their worthiness. I know the pain and awkwardness of being unchosen; the last one standing, the new girl, the only one raising their hand when asked, “Who doesn’t have a partner?”.

In Being Less Horrible to Others, I challenged myself to find something beautiful in everyone who passed by me – and it tremendously changed how I see people – and what I see in them.

It is so incredibly easy to pass over people as we seek out those who we deem most desirable. But the ones we want may not be the best ones for us. Sometimes the very thing you don’t want is your greatest teacher. 

That weekend, the man who had yet to be chosen became an invaluable teacher for me. He reminded me of the tremendous power we hold in how we interact with others through small acts.

Choosing him with such delight may seem like a small act. But sometimes small acts have huge impacts (positive or negative!). Which is exactly why I’m learning that doing the small things with kindness and warmth matter so very much.

Photo credit: iStock photo

Photo credit: iStock photo

When Your Art Gets Ruined

Many years ago, I took a class from Dee Wallace, the actress who played the mom in E.T. At the time, she had been “blackballed” in Hollywood and consequently, was holding acting classes and life coaching seminars, one of which I stumbled upon.

Those weekend seminars fascinated me, but one particular experience stuck with me all these years. It was a rather jarring watercoloring exercise.

At the news of doing an art project, I immediately grew anxious. Definitely not my forte. Dee got everyone settled in with the proper acoutrements and told us to paint whatever we desired.

A miracle happened that day in July because somehow, I created something worthy for a lobby in a Marriott hotel. Sure it was an 8×10 watercolor on paper done in 15 minutes crouched on the floor, but I remember being extremely proud of what I had created. I was ecstatic.

Then Dee tells us to take our watercolor and hand it to the person next to us.

The guy next to me was a sketchy, struggling actor who looked hyper-paranoid and super emotional. I had zero interest in handing my precious artwork to someone who was probably going to be on the 6:00 news before he got cast as an extra.

Dee then instructed the group to use our watercolors to destroy the piece of work we just got. Paint all over it! Make it as ugly as you can! Do whatever you want! The Emo-guy holding my opus lit up – he slashed brown and green all over it before she stopped talking.

I’m horrified. My heart breaks. For the first time in my life, I did something artistic that I loved, that I was proud of and I had to watch it get destroyed by some emotionally unstable hipster?

The moment Emo-guy stoically handed my piece back, I felt broken. Dee tells us to really look at that piece. And then she calmly tells us to take our watercolors and to “fix it”.

How do you fix something that seems hopeless? Those first few moments felt tedious as I struggled out of paralysis into action. But my brush somehow found a color and a place on the paper… and then another color and another place… and ten minutes later, I looked at my watercolor and froze.

What I did the first time was good. But what I ended with that day – after fixing it from the brutal artistic trauma it endured – was actually FAR BETTER.

When Dee got blackballed in Hollywood, someone “ruined” her art. But it was only because of that incident that she got into doing the life work that brought her to her true purpose in life. She wanted to impact people on a spiritual level. Being an actress was fine, but being a coach, speaker and writer was a far greater contribution to humanity.

Recently, my “art” has been getting ruined. My plans for life changes keep getting hijacked. I’ve been stuck in “fix it” mode. So tonight, I pulled out my watercolors and I painted. And I remembered that session with Dee. I remembered that a ruined plan is simply the layer beneath something beautiful that I haven’t created yet. From destruction comes inspired greatness.

The ruins and broken pieces are what generates inspiration, creativity and brilliant new paths. Every broken situation is simply a call for us to dig into our creativity. A nudge toward something better.

Perhaps the ruined art, the fiasco at home, the loss of a job, or the mishap on the dance floor is simply an invitation to be greater…. to become more than what we ever thought we could be. We might just surprise ourselves.

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Two random watercolors I did over the years just for fun. 
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I Was Naked on Stage

Last night I was cast last minute to pose as a nude statue at Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, CA, where classic works of art are recreated using live models. When I arrived, they showed me my costume. It was a g-string and a wrist cuff that was used to tether my wrist to the stand I was posed against. The remainder of my costume was a bucket of bronze paint.

My job for the evening was simple. I was to hold a pose for 90 seconds on stage. But this isn’t a typical show. An audience of 3000 people would have all eyes on me; and most of them would have binoculars so they could study me closely in my pose. I’m 41. What 40 year old woman wants 3000 people studying her naked body with binoculars?

Well, I did. This has been a dream of mine for several years and I finally got called. I wanted to do it because it was such a unique experience. Especially at my age. The other nude models are usually in their 20s. But I got to do this at a point in my life when most women would say, “Oh hell no” and hang up.

But certain things had to happen in order for me to have this experience.

Obviously, I had to fit the part. Nude statues typically have to be lean models. Here a strict diet and exercise paid off for me. It awarded me an opportunity I wouldn’t otherwise have had. As we age, we get tempted to “let ourselves go”. Letting ourself go can mean letting go of opportunities. I’m trying to stay youthful, strong and adventurous enough so I can live life fully – whether it means doing crazy acroyoga poses, hiking Machu Picchu, or shamelessly dance-walking.

When I heard they needed someone to fill in, I jumped on it. I called them and offered to sub. Opportunities oftentimes have very small windows. You gotta act fast when the window opens (or inspiration hits).

Lastly, I didn’t care what others thought. I didn’t care about my body being judged through binoculars. I didn’t care what others thought about me flaunting my little naked body on stage – because it doesn’t matter to me. I’m in charge of my life; your opinions and judgements don’t derail me from doing what feels good to me. I don’t give others that much power over me.

Therefore, when I got the call back asking me to perform as Bubble Dancer, I said yes. I said yes to checking a box on my bucket list. I could have said no due to fear, insecurity or judgement, but that would have been letting ego control me.

When I stood posed naked behind the curtain, waiting for it to open, I remember being struck by how perfectly calm and and solid I felt in my skin. In that moment, I understood what it felt like to be vulnerable, and yet free of ego and fear. And THAT was the truly phenomenal, unique experience of my evening.

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Bubble Dancer by Harriet Frishmuth

Why I took down my rainbow picture

I was among the first to update my Facebook profile with a rainbow tinted picture. But I removed it this week for good reason.

Originally, I did it to show support and express my personal joy in this evolution. I wanted to show that I was separate from the masses who disagreed. But then I read posts from friends who were struggling with this ruling. I read them out of curiosity… to see if I could understand why they didn’t see it the same way I did.

One thing in those posts struck me quite deeply… I saw their pain and anguish.

I was reminded of the pain I felt each time gay marriage was ruled down. They were experiencing the same thing I felt when elections went against what I felt was the best for humanity. But I didn’t have to see a visual reminder all over Facebook shouting, “Yay! Gay rights loses again!”. It would have hurt my soul to have seen that blasted everywhere, especially since it went so solidly against what I felt was right. And right now, there are a lot of people feeling that exact pain.

Pain is pain – regardless of whether we judge it as being deserved, rightful or justified.

This wasn’t people celebrating a Super Bowl win; this is about a belief that touches the very fabric of our souls.

When Michael saw that I changed my picture, he asked me why I did it. I thought that was a really stupid question… but then I started thinking about it. What purpose did it serve?

What I started noticing is that it created an overt separation. These friends clearly supported gay rights. Other friends didn’t change theirs, which left a question mark… did they or didn’t they? It was hard to tell. And in some cases, people got unfriended over these profile changes. These profile pictures quickly unmasked many people.

In a world where we struggle to find connection, oneness and common ground with others, I felt like the rainbow pictures were putting a spotlight on our differences. In every community I am part of, I saw this sudden separation.

I would love to live in a world of like-minded people. But I don’t have the luxury of hand selecting the people in my world. I get to live in a blended community with people of all kinds of beliefs, religions, practices and experiences.

I realized that I didn’t want to be separate from those who disagree. It’s okay with me if they do – it doesn’t threaten me nor what I know to be true for myself. I’m finally solid in my beliefs and I respect those who are as well.

My beliefs about equality, freedom and spirituality deserve the same respect as my friends beliefs about God and the Bible. I cannot let ego delude me otherwise.

I believe in equality for all. And it’s taken me a long time to embrace respect for all – despite the differences. And this is one way I feel that I can practice that.

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