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Inspirational

The Importance of Letting Go

“Everything you blame, you’re stuck with. Bless it. Wish it well. Wish it its own freedom, and it will be very powerful in the way that it will not come back to you. If you don’t forgive it, if you don’t bless it, if you don’t wish it well, the energy will just be magnetically drawn back to you because it’s looking for resolution. All negative energy that we’ve inherited it’s there because it’s looking for resolution.” —Adyashanti

The following books explore the long-term effects of generational pain, or trauma, and the effects of resisting the healing process and the power of stepping into it.

In her book, One Hundred Years of Exile, Tania Romanov explores the relationship she has with her father by researching her family history back to her grandfather and grandmother.

Her father’s fears and resistance to assimilation leave her with deep resentment toward him and her Russian heritage. Decades later, his unexpected death exposes Tania’s open wounds and a host of unanswered questions about him and his story.

As she travels to Russia and slowly discovers her father’s story, she realizes that it is her father’s pain that she needs to heal from.

Illuminating Quotes

“I adored my father when I was a little girls, but as I grew up in America, I was mostly angry with him. My memory of meals at our house were of raging fighting about everything.

“Finally, I had no more battles left. I gave up the fight and simply stopped communicating with him. It took years for me to forgive him and many more to understand.”

“[As I learned about their history], my compassion for what my grandparents gave up overwhelmed me. They had lived in their home for ten years when their world fell apart. Daria went from being a migrant worker, to a landowner’s wife and partner, then to being a homeless refugee in such a short time.

“For the first time, on that trip, I saw the Campo—where I had been happy as a child through my father’s eyes. I imagined what a successful man in the prime of life had to deal with. Only then did I begin to understand the reasons for his fear. Papa rarely talked about his difficulties in life.

“He fled a homeland twice. First, he and his family escaped to Yugoslavia where he grew up and married. And then, in his early thirties he lost everything again. He was evicted from that country for the simple reason of being Russian by birth.”

“My trip to Russia was gratifying beyond any of my expectations, and I struggled to process all I had learned. I wonder if this is how wisdom finds its way inside us. I have been making peace with my father for some years, and I sense he has forgiven me.

“But now, after researching his and our grandparents’ history, I feel a new, deeper connection with him, a woman ready for redemption and forgiveness, a women ready to be reconciled with her father.”

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John-Roger and Peter McWilliams explore every concept related to overcoming the habit of negative thinking in their book, You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought.

Negative thinking is seen as a debilitating illness that will slowly kill your spirit – and for some people leads to actual physical disease. This book
is packed full of inspirational, funny, and moving quotes.

Illuminating Quotes

“The primary emotions generated by the fight or flight response are 1) anger, the emotional energy to fight, including thoughts of hostility, resentment, guilt (anger at oneself), seething, or depression and 2) fear, the emotional energy to flee, including thoughts of terror, anxiety, withdrawal, or apprehension.

“The repeated and often unnecessary triggering of the fight or flight response puts enormous physiological stress on the body. It opens us to diseases, digestive troubles, poor assimilation, slower recovery from illnesses, reduced production of blood cells, sore muscles, and fatigue. The emergency chemicals, unused, eventually begin breaking down into other, more toxic substances.

“For many, negative thinking becomes a habit, which over time, degenerates into an addition. Negative thinking is addictive to the body, the mind, and the emotions. Negative thinking must be treated like any addiction, with commitment to life, patience, discipline, a well to get better, and forgiveness.

“Why do we use the power of our mind to create a negative reality? The wellspring of negative thinking of unworthiness. It’s a ground of being, a deep-seated belief that ‘I’m just not good enough.’

“To overcome a fear, here’s all you have to do. Realize that the fear is there, and do it anyway. Move—physically—in the direction of what you want. After you do several times the thing your fear is protesting about, the fear will be less. Eventually, it goes away. Fear is something to be moved through, not turned away from.”

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The Choice by Dr. Edith Eva Eger is an inspiringly-written memoir, and a gift: one of those stories that has the potential to leave you forever changed.

Her book is a universal message of hope and possibility to all who are trying to free themselves from pain and suffering.

Whether imprisoned by bad marriages, destructive families, or jobs they hate, or imprisoned within the barbed wire of self-limiting beliefs that trap them in their own minds, readers will learn from this book that they can choose to embrace joy and freedom regardless of their circumstances.

Illuminating Quotes

“Bela and I don’t talk about what we’ve lost. I thought it was a matter of survival. Only after many years did I come to understand that running away doesn’t heal pain. It makes pain worse.

“In America I was farther geographically than I had ever been from my former prison. But here I became more psychologically imprisoned than I was before. In running from the past—from my fear, I didn’t find freedom. I made a cell of my dread and sealed the lock with silence.

“What if telling my story could lighten its grip instead of tightening it? What if speaking about the past could heal it instead of calcify it? What if silence and denial aren’t the only choices to make in the wake of catastrophic loss?

“Each moment is a choice. No matter how frustrating or boring or constraining or painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how we respond. I too, have a choice. This realization will change my life. And no one heals in a straight line.

“Suffering is inevitable and universal. How we respond to suffering differs. We can reframe negative feelings and the self-defeating behaviors that follow from these feelings. The truth is, we will have unpleasant experiences in our lives, we will make mistakes, we won’t always get what we want. This is part of being human.

“The problem—and the foundation of our persistent suffering—is the belief that discomfort, mistakes, disappointment signal something about our worth.

“Anger, however consuming, is never the most important emotion. It is only the very outer edge, the thinly exposed top layer of a much deeper feelings. And the real feeling that’s disguised by the mask of anger is usually fear.

“You can’t feel love and fear at the same time. If I understand anything about the whole of my life, it’s that sometimes the worst moments in our lives, that threaten to unglue us with the sheer impossibility of the pain we must endure, are in fact the moments that bring us to understand our worth.

“It’s as if we become aware of ourselves as a bridge between all that’s been and all that will be. We become aware of all we’ve received and what we can choose—or choose not to perpetuate.

“What will we power with the wheel of our own life? Will we keep pushing the same piston of loss or regret? Will we reengage and reenact all the hurts from the past? Will we make our children pick up the tab for our losses? Or will we take the best of what we know and let a new crop flourish from the field of our life?

“The past isn’t gone. It isn’t transcended or excised. It lives on in me. And, so does the perspective it has afforded me; that I lived to see liberation because I kept hope alive in my heart. That I lived to see freedom because I learned to forgive.

“Forgiveness isn’t easy. It is easier to hold grudges, to seek revenge. When we seek revenge, even nonviolent revenge, we are resolving not evolving. The hardest person to forgive is someone I’ve still to confront: myself. Do I have what it takes to make a difference? Can I pass on my strength instead of my loss? My love instead of my hatred?

“Doing the inner work has set me free—learning to survive and thrive, learning to forgive myself, and help others to do the same. When I do this work, then I am no longer the hostage or the prisoner of anything. I am free.

“Our painful experiences aren’t a liability—they’re a gift. They give us perspective and meaning, an opportunity to find our unique purpose and our strength.

“Time doesn’t heal. It’s what you do with the time. Healing is possible when we choose to take responsibility, when we choose to take risks, and finally, when we choose to release the wound, to let go of the past or the grief. My patients taught me that healing isn’t about recovery; it’s about discovery.”

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Conclusion

Letting go can be challenging and easy to resist. It’s a process of becoming aware of what’s no longer serving us. There is a payoff for staying angry and it’s not good for our bodies. Letting go of our fear, anger, as well as learning to forgive is a healing practice and frees us to live life more abundantly.

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Inspirational

3 of Karen Pool’s Inspirational Favorites

In an earlier blog I highlighted three of my favorite fiction book series. Even though I read many, many of these, I also read as many or more nonfiction books that have been inspiring and expanded my thinking in new ways.

Mind Expanding

Some books expand my mind and open me to new ideas and ways of thinking. This one was suggested to me by one of my brothers. The Art of Possibility by Ben and Rosamond Zander brilliantly captures ideas and reframes concepts that help anyone extend their reach, their influence, and change their paradigm toward endless possibilities. It’s one of the most inspiring and practical books I’ve read.

The chapter titles launch you into an exciting, paradigm-shifting journey: 1 – It’s All Invented, 2 – Stepping into a Universe of Possibility, 3 – Giving an A (awesome for educators), 4 – Being a Contribution, 5 – Leading from Any Chair, 6 – Rule Number 6 (my favorite chapter), 7 – The Way Things Are, and more.

Quotes that Resonate

“When we practice Rule Number 6, we coax our calculating self to lighten up, and by doing so we break its hold on us. We portray the calculating self as a ladder with a downward progress.

“It represents the slippage that occurs when we try to control people and circumstances to give ourselves a boost. We become more hard-headed. Inevitably our relationships spiral downward. As the calculating self tumbles out of control, it intensifies its efforts to climb back up and get in charge.

“When one person peels away layers of opinion, entitlement, pride, and inflated self-description, others instantly feel the connection. As one person has the grace to practice the secret of Rule Number 6, others often follow.

“Now, with the calculating self revealed and humored, the central self shines through. Our central self is the remarkably generative, prolific, open, aware, and creative nature within us.

“Being present to the way things are is not the same as accepting things as they are in the resigned way of the cow. It simply means, being present without resistance.

“Mistakes can be like ice. If we resist them, we may keep on slipping into a posture of defeat. Instead, we can mentally raise our arms and say, “How fascinating!” and reroute our attention to the higher purpose at hand.

“Radiating possibility begins with things as they are and highlights open spaces, the pathways leading our from here. Then the obstacles are simply present conditions. This calls for an expansion of ourselves; we encompass contradictions, painful feelings, fears, and imaginings, and—without fleeing, blaming, or attempting correction—we learn to soar, like the far-seeing hawk, over the whole landscape. This allows us to alight in a place of openness, where “truth” readies us for the next step.”

Attitude Changing

Other books surprise me with insights that change my attitude or my life and help me navigate through life’s ups and downs with more grace. In Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remens suggests that we’ve lost our ability to recount stories around the kitchen table—sharing those experiences that pass on the wisdom of the ages to the next generation.

We’ve lost our ability to savor time; we’re too busy moving into the next event or project, and we’re nervous if we’re not busy to the max. We rush through meals, checking our smart phones, instead of listening for, and cataloging what we’re learning. I reread this book when I was working on slowing down and recording what I was learning in life.

Quotes that Resonate

“Wholeness lies beyond perfection. The pursuit of perfection has become a major addiction of our time. Fortunately, perfectionism is learned. No one is born a perfectionist, which is why it is possible to recover. I am a recovering perfectionist. Before I began recovering, I experienced that I and everyone else was always falling short, that who we were and what we did was never quite good enough. Perfectionism is the belief that life is broken

“Sometimes perfectionists have had a parent who is a perfectionist, someone who awarded approval on the basis of performance and achievement. Children can learn early that they are loved for what they do and not simply for who they are. The life of such children can become a constant striving to earn love. Of course, love is never earned. It is a grace we give one another. Anything we need to earn is only approval.

‘Inner peace is more a question of cultivating perspective, meaning, and wisdom even as life touches you with pain. It is more a spiritual quality than a mental ability. We are here for a single purpose: to grow in wisdom and learn to love better.”

Increase Creative Abilities

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

Creativity and imagination have been the two favorite topics that I have explored, studied, and taught, especially to students and adults who somehow sealed in their hearts and minds that they were not creative or imaginative.

Penny Peirce, author of The Intuitive Way, wrote: “In your imagination anything is possible. It’s easy to access information from any level, rearrange a configuration of ideas and belief, plant seeds of intention that will later grow into manifested reality, or even dissolve a reality that’s interfering with the birth of a new experience.

Quotes that Resonate

“Imagination fulfilled a bridging function in your mind by helping to link your lower and upper brains. Right before an insight or message pops into the highest part of your brain, it becomes visual. So symbols are the universal language of intuition, served up to us via our imagination. Imagination determines the quality of our lives since what we can imagine is as far as we’ll let ourselves go.

“We rarely pursue something unless we can imagine it first and get a ‘felt sense’ of how it might unfold. Vivid imagination with its rich sensory input and endless variety of emotional tones, makes ideas more real for us, and thus realizable. Imagination is your friend and can flesh out your life, bringing messages from your soul about how to increase creativity, self-expression, and possibilities.”

Reading inspirational nonfiction books has given me many of my greatest aha’s—mind expanding concepts to practice, finding quotes that resonate, and discovering ideas that increase my creative abilities—these kinds of books are delightful, and keep me learning and growing.

 

Categories
Inspirational

The Mental Game in Everything

Do you want to improve or grow a new business venture? Do you want to become a better parent or life partner? Do you want to improve an aspect or area in your life?

It’s the mental discipline that will have the greatest impact in your life. And it’s your unconscious thinking patterns that sabotage your progress.

In the movie, “The Last Samurai,” Tom Cruise’s character learns the concept of “too many minds” which keeps him from succeeding during a practice fight. This is so often what happens in life.

When we’re overwhelmed with all we want to do and have to do, all the while juggling family and work responsibilities, we’re habitually mindless. As we go throughout our days, our minds are fractured, full of worry, self-doubt, and self-judgment.

These three books I’m showcasing include ideas to help improve mental performance in any activity or aspect of life.

The Inner Game of Tennis

Every game, even the game of life, is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game. There are many books offering instructions about the outer aspects of living. Timothy Gallwey, in his book, The Inner Game of Tennis, suggests, “that neither mastery nor satisfaction can be found in the playing of any game without giving attention to the relatively neglected skills of the inner game.”

Illuminating Quotes

“This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt, and self-condemnation. It is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance.

“The player in [the game of life] comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills. The secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard. An individual aims at the kind of spontaneous performance which occurs only when the mind is calm and seems at one with the body, which finds its own surprising ways to surpass its own limits again and again.

“Moreover, while overcoming these common habits of mind, the player of the inner game uncovers a will to win which unlocks all his energy and which is never discouraged by losing.

“The best athletes in most sports know that their peak performance never comes when they’re thinking about it. Clearly to play unconsciously does not mean to play without consciousness.

“He is not aware of giving himself a lot of instructions. He is conscious, but not thinking, not over-trying. The unconscious or automatic functions are working without interference from thoughts.

“Perhaps a better way to describe the player who is “unconscious” is by saying that his mind is so concentrated, so focused, that it is still. As soon as we reflect, deliberate, and conceptualize, the original unconsciousness is lost and a thought interferes.

“Quieting the mind [whether in a game or in life] means less thinking, calculating, judging, worrying, fearing, hoping, trying, regretting, or controlling.

“The mind is still when it is totally here and now in perfect oneness with the action and the actor. It is the purpose of the Inner Game to increase the frequency and the duration of these moments, quieting the mind by degrees and realizing thereby a continual expansion of our capacity to learn and perform.

“The first inner skill to be developed is that of nonjudgmental awareness. Judgmental labels usually lead to emotional reactions, and then to tightness, trying too hard, and self-condemnation.

“When we ‘unlearn’ judgment we discover that we may simply need to be more aware. There is a more natural process of learning waiting to be discovered.”

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Boys in the Boat

A second surprising book about the mental game in everything is Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. This is an exciting, richly-detailed, and beautifully-crafted true story about the nine Americans from the University of Washington’s rowing crew that was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, let alone win an opportunity to row in the Olympics of 1936 held in Berlin where Hitler concealed his true intentions behind well-orchestrated propaganda.

The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his self-regard, but also to find a real place for himself in the world.

This book is about teamwork, and the boat builder, George Pocock’s wisdom is worthy of reading about if you’re interested in improving the mental game in your life.

Illuminating Quotes

“To defeat an adversary who was your equal, maybe even your superior, it wasn’t necessarily enough just to give your all from start to finish. You had to master your opponent mentally.

“When the critical moment in a close race was upon you, you had to know something [your opponent] did not—that down in your core you still had something in reserve, something you had not  yet shown, something that once revealed would make him doubt himself, make him falter just when it counted the most.

“There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define. It’s called ‘swing’—that fourth dimension of rowing It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others.

“It’s not just that the oars enter and leave the water at the same time. Each minute action—each subtle turning of the wrists—must be mirrored exactly by each oarsman from the one end of the boat to the other.

“At the gun they got off slowly, falling behind all three other boats. Then something kicked in. Somehow determination conquered despair. They began to pull in long, sweet, precisely synchronized strokes.

“By the end of the first mile, they had found their swing and surged into the lead. For the remaining mile and a half, the sophomores settled in and rowed gorgeously—a long, sleek line of perfection, finishing a comfortable two lengths ahead.

“When you were done and walked aware from the boat, you had to feel that you had left a piece of yourself behind in it forever, a bit of your heart. Rowing is like that. And a lot of life is like that, too, the parts that really matter anyway.”

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The Energy of Money

The third book that explores the mental game in everything is The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth. She teaches about two realities: the physical with form, density, and size, and the metaphysical with information, ideas, inspiration, and intentions. With focused consciousness, we bring the metaphysical into the physical every day.

Illuminating Quotes

“When we bring ideas from the metaphysical into the physical, we bump into trouble at the border, an invisible line where old unresolved issues come up. What comes up are your fears and unfinished business.

“It takes energy to move the boulders away–clear away any barriers that would keep you focused so that you are able to take an idea or inspiration or dream past that trouble at the border fully and completely into physical reality.

“People who succeed have the same doubts and fears and worries as anyone else. They don’t spend time analyzing. They see that those doubts and fears aren’t relevant to who they are or their goals. They just keep going.

“Success is doing what you do with ease—a sense of fun, even if you’re working hard, versus doing what you want with struggle.

“Something else: your basic assumption is a decision you made many, many years ago about yourself or life–a reaction to threat. It occurs at a deep & cellular level: Fight (people are awful, you can’t make me), run away (I can’t; life is hard; I’m dumb), or freeze (I don’t know; I’m not sure).

“There are four steps to help you move past the trouble at the border: 1. Be willing to look—direct your attention towards your money issues, 2. Be willing to see—discern something that was there, perhaps in the background, 3. Allow yourself to tell the truth, and 4. Find the opportunity to take authentic action.

“To be financially successful is doing what you said you would do with money with ease. Make a promise about money using the four steps. Telling the truth gives you some breathing room.

“Monkey mind becomes very loud at the border, and tries to protect us. Say “thanks for sharing,” when monkey mind says this is stupid.

“To say probably, try, hope to be willing, or maybe is the language of fear. Yoda: there is no try—only do or do not. Yes or no is more conscious and brings clarity and ease. You are no longer able to fool yourself.

“Once you are conscious about your relationship with money (or anything else, for that matter), you can no longer pretend that you don’t know what you’re doing.”

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Each of these books illuminates the mental game in everything—whether in sports, about money, or the game of life. You are making choices every day—decisions that show how you are using your mind.

Either you’re making yourself crazy by consciously or unconsciously filling your mind with worry, doubts, and fears—feeding monkey mind, or you trust yourself and practice the empowering art of mindfulness.

You can find your peaceful center, the ability to stay in relaxed concentration; you can find your swing.

Categories
Inspirational

Tips for Writing Your Personal Life Story

“Look forward. Turn what has been done into a better path.
Think about the impact of your decision on seven generations into the future.” —Wilma Mankiller, Chief of the Cherokee

This quote has stayed with me ever since I heard it at a workshop in Rapid City, South Dakota in 1996. I had not considered the legacy I would leave for generations to come. This Native American concept emphasizes the interconnectedness of all life, respect for previous generations, and nurturance of future ones.

Have you felt a nudge or impression to write some of your thoughts and impressions?

Have you lived through a trial or trauma and felt it was important to record your experience?

Have you learned some important life lessons that would benefit younger generations?

We stand at a pivotal point—as each generation does—a place where we can look backward and forward. We may view our own contribution as insignificant and justify our reasons for not illuminating it, or we can truthfully acknowledge that we were born into this earth-life experience at a critical time that allows us to have a lasting influence on generations to come.

Begin Writing

Julia Cameron’s book, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, is an excellent resource of activities aimed at those transitioning into the second act of life—leaving one life behind, and heading into one yet to be created. It’s also a course for anyone who wishes to expand his or her creativity.

“Here are several basic principles for Creativity Recovery:
• Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.
• When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.
• Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward out dreams, we move toward our divinity.

“The Basic Tools section in each chapter includes a Memoir section. A weekly guided process of triggering memories and revisiting your life and answering questions in several-year increments: ages 1-6, 7-12, 13-18, 19-24, 25-32, etc. By answering a short list of questions each week, you will trigger vivid memories, discover lost dreams, and find unexpected healing and clarity.

Inspiring Quotes

“Every life is fascinating. And when we are willing to look at, and thus honor, the life we have led, we inevitably bring ourselves to a place of both power and appreciation. As you become open to revisiting your life, your life will become open to revisiting you.

“As you delve into early childhood memories, you will reconnect with the wonder of a familiar—and perhaps long-ignored—sense of possibility. You will start to examine and discard old ideas that may be stopping you from exploring new horizons: the inner blocks of skepticism and self-censorship, even the idea that it’s “too late” to begin something new.

“You will begin to look at yourself—and your story—with more compassion. With wonder, you will begin to recognize yourself as a unique being with much to contribute to the world.”

“Once you begin writing about your life, your Inner Censor shows up. In dealing with the Censor, it helps to know that its negative voice is not the voice of reason. Rather, it is a caricature villain who will always be on the attack until we stand up to it and say, “Oh—that’s my Censor.

Afraid of feeling foolish, we often back down from our dreams. In reality, it is the Censor’s voice that is foolish, talking us out of our joys and future rewards. When the Censor shows up and tells you that your idea is crazy, respond with, “Thanks for sharing,” and move forward.”

Create First, Edit and Refine Later

In Celebrating Women’s Voices, I introduce the concept of first-thought writing. We forget to create first, and evaluate later. We can’t drive a car in first gear and reverse at the same time. Likewise, when we mix different types of thinking, we strip our mental gears.

Most of us highjack our writing attempts and other creative endeavors because we evaluate and edit too soon and too often, and therefore create less. In order to create more and better ideas, you must separate creation from evaluation, coming up with lots of ideas first, then judging their worth later.

For instance, write or brainstorm, even for a short amount of time, say 10 or 15 minutes without stopping. Then let what you’ve written rest, even for a day or so. Write, then get away in your hammock or other favorite place and let your mind rest. Then another time separate from creating, work on the editing and refining process. Celebrating Women’s Voices includes a variety of topics to get started writing.

One More Idea

As I converse with individuals about writing their personal life story, I hear expressions of both enjoyment and exasperation. Some follow a timeline, compiling dates and events as they occurred from birth to the present, highlighting the important memories and experiences in sequence.

You can add depth and flavor into your writing by asking different questions as you review your life’s experiences. Consider these:

• What were 5-6 transformational or defining moments in your life?
• Where did your given name come from, and why is it important to you?
• What are some of your favorites: color, flower, book, author, type of meal, dessert, game, candy, vacation spot, season, fruit, veggie, flavor, quote, song, hobby, sport, movie, etc?
• Who are the five most influential people in your life?
• What are 3 lessons you learned from your father/mother?
• What legacy do you hope to leave your children and posterity?
• What has been your life’s purpose?
• What are 4-5 things that have contributed to your life in a deep and abiding way?

It’s easy to wonder if you’re coming up with the kind of answers others are expecting, or you may feel inadequate as a writer. Create ease by remembering that there is no one right way to record the events of your life, and critical feedback closes the door to this type of insightful writing.

Record new questions as they arise and come to your attention. These are precious, personalized, and will draw you into a deeper understanding of yourself. Record them for future writing.

In the conclusion of Celebrating Women’s Voices, I wrote: “Our thoughts about our lives and learning—the things we ponder and notice, what is interesting to us, the depth of wisdom that comes from our experiences—all this and the story of our lives, contribute to the record of this world.

“Our life’s star didn’t blink momentarily and then die—we were here, alive, and visible. We worked, entertained, suffered, learned, laughed, loved, rejoiced, and wrote about it. We need to tell our stories and share the deep feelings of our heart voices, not so that younger ones can necessarily follow the same pattern, but so that they can see that we value our lives, our voices, and our thoughts enough to record them.”

The tips in this blog post can help you start the process of writing your life story, one sentence, one paragraph at a time. Julia Cameron suggests, “Writing by hand is essential. When we write by hand, we go slowly enough to record our thoughts with accuracy. On a computer we whiz along, dashing our thoughts to the page; our perceptions are fleeting. Many of us feel we can write faster on the computer. Fast is not what we are after.” Instead, we are writing for clarity, to release/let go, to create, to forgive, and to tell the truth about our lives. Start with a notebook. Later, you can use the computer. Once you begin, you will receive nudges and inspiration about how to proceed further in your story-telling.

Categories
Inspirational

Five Trends of the Creativity Age

In the mid-1980s, John Naisbitt named 10 trends that identified the transition from the Industrial Age—to the Information Age. This dramatic shift beginning in the 1950s brought with it what Naisbitt identified as the “collapse of the information float,” making data instantaneously available around the world, and the impact of a global economy, among others. (Megatrends, 1982.)

Now, decades into the Information Age, we are transitioning even more rapidly than before into the Creativity Age—the period in which ordinary people from every economic strata are waking up to their creative potential.

Through awareness and experimentation, we are beginning a transformational process in our own lives and reaching out to the larger community to effect change.

The human mind, though, and its potential for ideas and insight can remain a largely untapped resource in the workplace. Unrecognized in the midst of “right answers,” expert advice, well-used linear thinking, and lock-step employee performance, is the Creativity Quotient or “CQ.”

In contrast to IQ—a number used to express the apparent relative intelligence of a person—the CQ represents each individual’s capacity for creativity and inventiveness.

Adding the dimension of creativity to our thoughts and actions allows us to cross a threshold into a world of unlimited learning and thinking potential.

And so, in the midst of great change, a massive upheaval of all systems— economic, political, cultural, demographic, and social, these five trends—or attitude strengths—indicate a shift toward this Creativity Age as we have moved into the 3rd decade of the 21st century:

A Visible Attitude of Optimism and Thriving

Perceptibly improved attitudes during times of change are evident as more individuals experiment and adapt, moving consciously into uncertainty and new pathways. Regardless of dire predictions from the media, many of us are thinking outside the box.

Authors of The Cultural Creatives, Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson coined this name for those creative individuals and suggest that they are 50 million strong within the United States. This group is neither nostalgic or cynical.

In addition, they have a capacity for self-reflection, and “carry forward a positive vision of the future. They are comfortable with not knowing as they venture onto new life paths.

Their life stance is ‘leaning forward’ to embrace new values and worldviews, rather than ‘leaning back’ to the past or ‘standing pat’ in the present. Leaning forward means stepping outside the old story and discovering a new one.”

And with each imaginative thought, each consideration of possibility, comes an additional source of energy—even if that energy is only a fresh perspective.

A Shift Toward Internal Accountability

This larger group is beginning to transition from external to internal accountability. This requires an awareness of our thinking. This mindfulness fosters a willingness to assume total responsibility for our choices and for the consequences of our decisions.

Such people recognize that accountability is a catalyst to empowerment and resiliency. Becoming more internally accountable, they can step into potentially upsetting circumstances with an attitude of curiosity, identifying what can be done rather than fearing the unknown.

As a result, these individuals are able to ride out the bumps of life and deal more constructively with ambiguity and transition. Their lives become an expression of initiative and contribution.

One of the observable benchmarks of this directional shift is that we become compassionate and less judgmental of ourselves and others.

Acceptance of Diversity and Partnership

Embracing diversity and partnership,  is not only acceptable, it is fundamental to our success in the 21st Century. We have a global awareness of the effects of war, hunger, poverty, and illiteracy, or condone violence.

Jennifer James, author of Thinking in the Future Tense, suggests: “We need to make ourselves global citizens: able to move easily among countries, currencies, languages, and customs. When we use terms that indicate respect for people rather than dehumanizing them, it alters our perception of how to treat them.

Companies especially are paying attention to this fact. They cannot hope to manage a diverse workforce or develop a diverse clientele in a global market if they fail to speak of people with respect.”

Shedding the Myths Surrounding Creative Abilities

Next, we are becoming clearer about our creative abilities. Nudged by John Briggs and David Peat, authors of The Seven Life Lessons of Chaos, among others, we now question our limited views of creative abilities and are expanding our definition of creativity to include what we bring to an assignment, problem, or relationship that is uniquely ours—what comes when we tap into our original thoughts, rather than blindly accessing the known or controllable.

Instead of assuming that creativity is the gift of a few, we are realizing that creativity is available to everyone.

“Creativity is not just about what takes place in traditionally recognized fields. It’s what happens in our small and large moments of empathy and transformation.

“The key to creative activity lies in the self-organization of available materials. For humans this means we must literally create with our lives.”

An Expanded View of Thinking, Potential, and Creativity

Finally, our expanding awareness of thinking, potential and creativity is changing how we view others. We are beginning to assume that people have intellectual and creative potential.

We realize that using only linear and dualistic (either/or) thinking restricts us from imagining additional possibilities. The world is too complex for linear analytic thinking alone.

And Jennifer James declares: “The old blueprint for intelligence—storing information that could be called up on demand now limits our thinking and suffocates fresh perceptions and treats new information as just more data to be fed into well-established formulas of thought.

“Our brain has almost infinite capacity, yet too often we close down the system rather than learning to use our minds in new ways. The widely used Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), does measure literacy, memory, vocabulary, general comprehension, pattern identification, spatial ability, reasoning, and math.

But it does not measure many other forms of intelligence— perceptive ability, verbal communication skills, teamwork or relationship abilities, ingenuity, intuition, creativity, flexibility, mental health, multicultural awareness, varieties of experience, sensitivity toward ethical codes, or what is now being called emotional intelligence.

In addition, Adam Grant, author of Think Again, suggests that there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter even more:

The ability to rethink and unlearn.

He invites us to let go of views that are no longer serving us well and prize mental flexibility, humility, and curiosity over foolish consistency. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.

Conclusion

What’s the “so what” about identifying these trends? For one thing, naming allows us to measure how we are progressing individually, and in our communities, our families, and our businesses.

For another, it illuminates our capacity to create our lives and our work in a way that sustains us and heals all that is harmful in our society, environment, and world—and not just for a select few.

These attitudes increase resiliency to stress, especially in times of transition. They help companies retain intellectual talent, reduce turnover and revitalize employees who feel they have been thrown into the thrashing machine of change and ejected, unsure of the rules and expectations in a tumultuous world.

Our ability to thrive in times of rapid change and to be resilient—adaptable and able to handle the multiple, unavoidable complexities of work and family—is enhanced by our willingness to embrace ambiguity. It depends on our ability to rethink assumptions and to champion others as they engage their creative energies.

These, in turn, are impacted by individual efforts—and each effort is the essence of what Briggs and Peat call “butterfly power.”

“Butterfly power identifies just how deeply influential ordinary individuals can be in society, powerfully so when [that influence] is exerted in a positive way. When we act with honest, sincerity, and sensitivity, we subtly influence the feedback of change within the entire system.”

“Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve. We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy surrounds us, yes. Problems are everywhere, yes. Yet, we can’t, we don’t, build out of pessimism or cynicism. Look with optimism, work with conviction, and things happen.” —Gordon B. Hinckley

A willingness to contribute—to step forward and to see innovative means of doing so—is the pathway through uncertainty that is propelling us into the Creativity Age.

Categories
Inspirational

How to Thrive During Transitions

It isn’t the changes that do us in, it’s the transitions.

What is the difference?

In his best-selling book, Transitions, William Bridges explains, “Change is external, transition is internal. There can be any number of changes, but unless there are transitions, nothing will be different when the dust settles.”


Ignoring the Space

The biggest misstep people make in transition is ignoring the space between endings and beginnings.

Organically, a transition needs a space between the end of one thing and the start of another, but we crowd it out with anxiety—the pressure that we need to hurry ahead. We’re told stopping for a minute is being lazy.

David Whyte laments this in his book, The Heart Aroused, “The hurried child becomes the pressured student, and finally the harassed manager. This process [of hurrying through life] is begun very young, and the inability to pay real attention to our world may be difficult to recognize.”

These transitions can be: family-related, career-related, unexpected, or we may experience adult developmental stage transitions—where deep questions of the soul arise and our perspective must change, requiring a more inward shift.


Facing a Transition

When facing a transition of any kind, we come to a crossroad and the opportunity to face our fears about the path ahead. Our next calling pushes us to develop and grow ourselves in new ways, and most often requires us to think in new ways also.

When we’re not mindful and sometimes unclear about the next step, in her book, Elegant Choices, Healing Choices, Marsha Sinetar reminds us that, “in unconscious regions of our souls, we fear our own goodness and talent and strength, which when developed fully, make us more responsible to take on the things we now avoid.”

There are times when we’re wanting to move forward and the only place we can go for ideas is the creative, unique, and nonconforming territory of the true self; a place we can reach only when we are still and unhurried.

What transitions am I facing currently?

What do I want to have happen?

Explore the space between endings and beginnings

William Bridges continues, “That many individuals ignore this space in between and jump from the end of something in their lives directly into the next endeavor.

For example, someone loses their spouse or partner and immediately jumps into another relationship. Or, they lose their job and feel pressured to move immediately into something else so they can pay their bills. Then, a few weeks or months later, they realize this job isn’t a good fit.

There is a middle in the transition process—the nowhere between two somewheres. In transition there is an ending, then a neutral, and only then a new beginning. But those phases are not separate stages with clear boundaries.

The three phases of transition are more like overlapping, slanting strata in any situation. This is a space between the old reality and the new. It is a time when the old way is gone and the new doesn’t feel comfortable yet.

Common responses to the neutral zone:

1) If you don’t expect it and understand why it is there, you’re likely to rush through it and to be discouraged when you cannot do so. You may mistakenly conclude that the confusion you feel is a sign that there’s something wrong with you.

2) You may be frightened and try to escape, or

3) You will realize that the neutral zone is the individual’s best chance for creativity, renewal, and development. This is a time to step back and take stock, a time to question the “usual,” a time for creative thinking, for experimenting, a chance to embrace losses as entry points for new solutions, a time for brainstorming.

Sometimes you feel empty or flat. You have to keep going, but your fantasies seem to involve quitting and getting away from it all. You’re surrounded by conflicting signals and contradictory demands.

One day things seem to be moving forward; the next day backward. Nothing makes sense. You’re busy, even overwhelmed by your life—and, at the same time, you feel apart from the world where everyone else acts comfortable.

Occasionally in this state you have moments of clarity in which you suddenly see everything in a new and meaningful light. But then a moment or a day later, the clarity is gone.

Strategies that allow you to thrive during transitions

This involves stepping into uncertainty rather than stepping away. Everyone’s experience in the neutral zone is personal, and so it’s easy to assume that ours are not normal. The fact to remember is that they are normal. So,

• Take time outs—quiet times and solitary places as a retreat from the chaos of the nowhere.

• Examine priorities. The “middle” may be a time between one set of purposes in your life and another. It’s a time to look at how you’re doing in relation to your priorities and ask if they still make sense to you.

• Look at yourself creatively: what you desire, what your real abilities are, what resources you have and what your temperament suggests.

• Brainstorm a list of possibilities—15 or 20 of them, ridiculous as well as plausible, trivial as well as serious.

• Look for little ways to experiment with new behaviors.

• Design a new learning adventure.

• Make a plan to change your life.

Remember that even the changes you want to make put you in transition. When this happens, follow these rules: show up, be present, tell the truth, and let go of outcomes.

Conclusion

The times when we are empty of ideas, adrift in a sea of ambiguity and nothingness are part of transitions.

In our linear culture, any episodes of disruption, time out, feeling lost, or time off are viewed suspiciously. Yet life is a series of cycles and was never meant to roll out on a straight line.

Thriving during transitions (in the neutral zone) demands a range of skills: being willing to let go, staying in the dark long enough, nurturing your visions and dreams, following the clues as they present themselves, remaining true to yourself, and having the belief that something will appear.

What has been my life pattern of change and transition?

What helps me to manage the void?

What have been the important catalysts that moved me into a new stage?

What encourages me in the face of uncertainty, transition, and unexpected challenges?

As I’ve looked back at the trials and life changes I’ve experienced, there has always been a learning experience that builds confidence and resilience as I move from one stage to the next.

When I’ve used the space between to carefully ponder my next step, I’ve made the best transitions. It’s as if I’ve hung windchimes that remind me there is music in the air—even in the middle of a storm.

Categories
Inspirational

The Value of Reading & Writing a Memoir

We all have stories to tell, and times in our lives when we feel strongly impressed or inspired to document what happened. This is the description of a memoir. It’s a nonfiction narrative where the writer focuses on a snapshot from a specific time period or reflects on a string of related themed events.

This differs from an autobiography, which is a historical account of a person’s entire life. A memoir is not a self-help book; yet those I have read carry the reader into insights and meaningful bits of wisdom gathered from the writer’s experience. There are many variations as there are individuals.

Why Read a Memoir?

The fact is, reading memoirs is a beneficial way to learn how to write one. It is a beneficial way to explore an insightful, traumatic, or life-changing experience. Brian Clark states, “The better you read, the better you write.”


My Favorite Memoir

In my favorite,  First You Have to Row a Little Boat, Richard Bode relates his experiences with sailing and sailing terms he learned as a young boy to a number of truths he discovered about life: zagline, in irons, becalmed, and fogbound among others.

He writes, “At times, I found myself moving toward my goals backwards, like a boy in a row boat guiding myself by an inner sense of direction which tells me I’m on course.” This is an insightful, thoughtful read.


A Memoir About Autism

In, The Electricity in Every Living Thing, Katherine May tells of her walk along the 630 Mile South West Coast Path in England, during which she processes the realization that she may be autistic.

She shares some illuminating discoveries about herself that help her make sense of who she is.

It’s an especially helpful book for anyone to read who has dealings with or is raising an autistic child or grandchild. Katherine May is able to describe to the lay person exactly what an autistic person is experiencing in the world around her.


Memoir on Overcoming Prejudice

In Pat Conroy’s memoir, The Water is Wide, he chronicles his prejudices learned while living in the South.

His aha about that inspires him to take a year-long teaching assignment in 1968 on Yamacraw Island off the coast of South Carolina.

His experience shows the impact of illiteracy and ignorance perpetuated by the school system there, and the many creative techniques he used to bring his students into the twentieth century.


A Summer of Transition

I wrote Awakening from the Midlife Chrysalis during a time of transition between full-time work and an uncertain and unidentifiable future. I knew it wasn’t a midlife crisis as we are socialized to call it, rather an awakening to the invention of a differently-paced life.

“I’ve been a student of life’s transitions. This latest shift into midlife surprised me more than I expected because it seemed to require more of a step inward than forward. As I studied what others had written about the subject of midlife, I felt impressed to document my own journey.”

“This time of reflection for me began with the image of a caterpillar unravelling in a chrysalis. When I tore apart my first draft to start over again—immediately the ideas for new chapter titles came into my mind. It was as if I stood at the entrance to an interior metaphorical structure. Writing this book provided a way for me to order and share the perplexities, insights, and discoveries of my journey.”

4 Writing Tips for Memoirs

Whether you’re interested in writing a memoir, or writing a story as part of your autobiography, there are a few tips to follow:

  • Write in first person, establishing yourself as the main character.
  • Identify the central theme, and create a structure or scaffolding: plan on a compelling introduction, middle, and end of the story.
  • Keep your focus narrow, rather than moving off into tangent experiences, like the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings that you think your story can’t do without that instead confuse the reader.
  • Even though you’re writing for yourself, remember that you may also want to have an audience, even if it’s only your immediate family.

How to Start Your Memoir

If you’re not sure where to start, order my book, How to Make Writing Easier, for an easy step-by-step guide.

Here’s what one reader said, “After college, it is fun not to get a letter grade for my writing, rather to get thoughtful and helpful ideas and encouragement. And doing it at my own pace. Super fun!”

Conclusion

Practicing your writing will provide information and clarity so you can move your project forward.

The content, questions, and writing activities will help you experiment with the process of first-thought writing, learn how your mind works; what gets in the way, and practice with a set of tools that will improve your writing skills.

 

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