Monthly Archives: June 2009

The Alligator Closest to Your Boat

Since last week’s posting, I have received a few comments requesting real-life examples of how to actually step off the rug.  “It’s a great theory, but how do I do it?” was the resounding question.  I’m here to say that there is no one method to getting off the rug entirely in one step; however, there is a way to look at your situation that will help you take that first step off whatever rug you’re standing on and begin to regain control over your own life and future.  And it all comes down to one question:

What is the alligator closest to your boat?  

Is it a family situation? Is it work?  Is it financial? Is it health?  If you think about all the factors that are influencing your life on a daily basis, and giving you the feeling that the rug is being pulled out from under you – what is the one that is the most pressing, most immediate?  This is how you go about taking that first step off the rug.  Here’s an example of how this works: 

Alex has been feeling overwhelmed and stressed, because work isn’t what she wants it to be, her financial situation isn’t stable, she isn’t able to work out regularly, and in her personal life she feels she is surrounded by people who love her, but criticize her.  So – what’s the alligator closest to the boat?  For Alex, it’s her health.  For someone else it might be the money, the job, or the friends/family.  The same approach applies, regardless. 

By addressing the most pressing need and concern we are able to diffuse the situation enough to find the space and time to actually look into the water and assess where the other alligators are swimming.  Some might not even be in the water – some might not even exist at all, other than in our minds.  But the one that’s closest to the boat – that threatens our wellness the most – is tangible.  Therefore, it’s the one we address on the first step towards wellness and getting off the rug.

For Alex, it is a matter of making herself a priority and carving out time in her week to get to the gym, or simply get outside for a brisk walk.  Once she makes a commitment to herself in this manner, the follow-up becomes the alligator.  That is to say: How she perceives her fulfillment of this commitment can either be reinforcing or undoing.  If she is only able to get to the gym twice in a week, but promised herself she would go four times – she has a choice: 1) pat herself on the back for going twice (which is more than she was doing), or 2) berate herself for not upholding her commitment.  How she decides to feel about the results of her commitment will propel her forward into greater balance and wellness, or send her back into her spiral of feeling overwhelmed and stressed.  And yes, it is a choice.  It’s not always easy – but it is still a choice.

Furthermore, she wants to make healthier decisions on what she’s eating throughout the day.  Because she’s stressed (and tends to be an emotional eater), she hasn’t made the healthiest decisions, and she feels bad – both physically and emotionally.  So…again, is this a different alligator, or is it part of the one we’ve already addressed?  That’s for her to decide, but the approach remains the same.

When we are able to assess our situation with some clarity and perspective, we empower ourselves to make the next right decision.  The best way to gain that space is to address the most pressing concern, and not overwhelm ourselves with a long list of every concern we are facing.  Nobody would be able to withstand that kind of pressure, stress and emotional chaos for long.  So, in order to reclaim our own power, to feel more in control of our lives, and to make the best decisions for greater health, happiness and success – in order to step off that rug – look at the alligator that’s nearest to where you are, and make a plan to remove that alligator from the river. 

Once you’ve done that – you’ll gain the breathing room you need to move forward into a position of empowerment and fulfillment.  A position where nobody else will have the ability to pull the rug out from under you.  A position where, with perspective, you will be able to make the next right decision for yourself and your future.

In love and light,

Martina

Stepping off the rug

How many times have we heard the phrase: “I got the rug pulled out from under me.” How many times have we said it ourselves, or something similar?  It’s a common phrase because it’s a common feeling – that feeling of being out of control of our own circumstances, a victim of someone or something else’s decision-making or behaviors.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We never have to have that feeling again.  How?  We step off the rug.

Stepping off the rug is easier than it sounds, and yet for something so simple, it can be extremely difficult to actually do.  The first step, of course, is realizing that 1) there is a rug, 2) we are standing on it, and 3) somewhere along the way, we turned over the power to manipulate and move the rug to someone or something else.  Once we realize that truth – how silly is it for us to remain in the same place, a victim of someone else’s whims?

And yet the rug is comfortable, it’s a known entity, and if we step off of it what will happen?  Is it a ‘flying carpet,’ and we fear tumbling down into the unknown?  Or is it a worn, loved and cherished rug because it’s been in the family for generations and abandoning it feels somehow “wrong?”  Only you can know the answers to these questions, but for most of us, it’s some combination of the two.  We fear the unknown of leaving something familiar.

So – how do we go about taking the first step (no pun intended!)?  I think it’s a matter of assessing our situation.  If we step off the rug into the great unknown, and it’s flying high above an abyss, then we’ll likely end up getting lost or hurt.  But what if we take a look around us, and see what is there before we step off?  What do you see?  Is it something you can step into? Or is it more of the same?  Or do you see nothing?  Once you’ve assessed where you are – you can make a decision.  Decision-making is the agent of change. 

Now, what if you look around and there’s nothing there?  Well – why not create your surroundings and situation as you wish them to be?  It is entirely possible, if not probable, that when you step off that well-worn and familiar rug, you will be in unknown territory.  That means, however, that it’s a blank canvas onto which you can create your own reality.  What do you want?  How do you want to be treated? Where are you going?  Who do you want to be?  Once you’re off the rug, and no longer being manipulated to be in a perpetual state of reaction – you can actually create your space, and subsequently the time you need to respond to situations and people.  And therein lies the key: responding instead of reacting.

Responses give you the time and space to make decisions in accordance with your inner self, your best self….who you are at your core.  Reactions are simply responses given from a heightened and uninformed emotional state.  They are usually not made with time and space, and are not in-line with your true essence.  Staying on a rug that is being moved about by someone or something else, means you have to react to everything around you.  You don’t have the time or space to respond.  Life is more hurried, hectic and uncomfortable.  And you are often the “victim” of external forces – or at least it feels that way (because we’re rarely ever victims.  Remember, it’s also a choice to stay on the rug, just as it’s a choice to step off.)

So – I ask you….have you ever felt like the rug has been pulled out from under you?  If so, what can you do about it?  What are you going to do about it?  Sometimes the first step is the hardest, but it can also be the most rewarding.  The rug won’t step out from under you.  You have to decide.  Do you want to stay on it, or step off?  In the end, as with everything, it’s all about choice.

In love and light,

Martina

Who is your Sniper?

“Sniper” and “snipe”….some interesting definitions: 

Sni·per  [snī’pər]  n.  1) a skilled military shooter detailed to spot and pick off enemy soldiers from a concealed place; 2) one who shoots at other people from a concealed place.

Snipe [snahyp]  v.  1) to shoot at individuals as opportunity offers from a concealed or distant position; 2) to attack a person or person’s work with petulant or snide criticism, esp. anonymously or from a safe distance.

So…who is your sniper?  We all have them.  They’re the people in our lives that intentionally (or unintentionally) leverage attacks at us to somehow change what we’re doing.  The idea there is that other people can change who we are and what we do.  It isn’t true, of course, but it seems to be a commonly held belief.  The main difference is that snipers in our lives, unlike the snipers in the military, for example, can act deliberately OR unintentionally.

Oftentimes “sniping” is a learned behavior.  We pick it up from our parents, siblings, colleagues, classmates….the list goes on and on.  We take a defensive posture by attacking that which is nearest to us, or threatening us the most.  We’ve all done this, and we’ve all learned it from somewhere.  That is to say, we weren’t born with it.  So, we all have snipers in our lives, and we’ve all been a sniper.  It’s not something to be proud of – it’s just fact.  The sooner you accept it, the sooner you can do something about it.

I’ve been a sniper – with incredible aim, I might add.  I’ve pointed my rifle in directions I never wanted to, and I fired – because I was hurt, or threatened, or sometimes out of habit.  I’m not proud of it, but I’ve accepted it.  And someday I’ll be able to truly own up to it and make amends to those folks I intentionally, or unintentionally, tried to wound, or change.  In the meantime, however, it’s enough to know that I’ve done it and that I’m capable of it.  It will help me to put down that gun.  It’s not a perfect acceptance though – I will take aim and fire again.  It’s a behavior that requires vigilance and time in order to change.  But I’m more willing to make those changes now that I realize the truth of it all.  That’s something that wouldn’t have been possible 2-3 years ago. 

So….where does that leave us?  I think, for the most part, we can all think of someone that we have fired at – whether it came out sideways, or directly in front of us.  But have we thought about how we have been our own sniper?….Taking aim directly at ourselves on a daily basis?  It’s scary, isn’t it?  But the truth is, most of us (me included) are even more highly trained to be snipers on ourselves than we are on the rest of the world.  And usually, when we take aim at ourselves, that’s when our sniping comes out sideways at someone else.  Think of it.  Think back to the last time you were really disappointed in yourself, frustrated or angry.  Did you keep it all aimed at your own head, or did some of it come out at someone else around you?  It’s nothing to be ashamed about.  It’s human nature.  Of course we don’t want to have a gun pointing at our own heads – so the natural defense (and survival method) is to diffuse the situation by releasing some of that sniping emotion onto someone else.   But that doesn’t solve anything.  It only hurts more people and creates a more intense situation.

What would happen if we, instead, learned to put the gun down?  It’s a HUGE step, I know – I’m living it.  But it’s a step worth taking. Sometimes, you even have to start by simply taking the bullets out of the gun.  That can be hard enough.  But once you take that first bullet out of the stock, there is a real sense of freedom and peace.  Living life with a gun pointed at your head, by your own hand, is not free.  Living life with other people’s guns pointed at you, because of their own sniping behavior is difficult, but it doesn’t impact your freedom.  Here’s why…

When others are pointing their guns at you – you have a choice.  You can 1) wear a bullet-proof vest, 2) lie down and play dead, 3) take all the bullets and live life like a martyr or victim, 4) fire back, or 5) behave like Neo in ‘The Matrix” and simply not accept the bullets as part of your reality.  A tall order?  Maybe, but a choice nonetheless.  It’s when the gun pointed at us is held by our own hands that our freedom is impacted.  You can’t be free to be who you are and do what you want or need to do, with one hand holding a gun pointed at your own head.  It’s that simple.  There is no freedom in constantly monitoring ourselves from a threatening position.  There is only disbelief and fear.  We end up creating other “stories” or realities in order to justify the gun being there.  We have to – otherwise the truth would hurt too much.  Just knowing that we are capable of hurting ourselves in this way, hurts.

What is sniping at ourselves?  Self-criticism, self-hate, self-destruction, self-fear, self-loathing….and on and on.  It’s even something as simple as looking in the mirror in the morning and having a negative thought about yourself, or choosing unhealthy food options, when you know it’s going to make you sick.  It’s damaging and hurtful, and we do it to ourselves.  But here’s the best part…..While we know we can’t change others, we can change ourselves.  Again, we have choice: put the gun down, take out the bullets, or continue with the status quo.

So, the next time you’re criticizing yourself, or feeling like you “should” have done something more, or something better….think of those words and thoughts as bullets, in your own gun, pointed at your own head.  What would you choose to do or say about it?  And here’s another way to look at it, if you feel stuck: If it were your best friend – what would you choose? 

In love and light,

Martina

Soil is good for the Soul

It goes without saying that digging in the dirt can be restorative – even playful.  It brings us back to a time of “mud pies” and imaginary play.  Opening our minds and our hearts by doing something so child-like is, without question, good for the soul.  But as an adult, sometimes digging in the dirt becomes a chore.

Weeding: A contemplative, repetitive, mind-freeing task?  Or a backbreaking, frustrating, time-consuming chore?  I was faced with this question this weekend.  I had allowed the weeds to take over all of my flowerbeds, by simply not getting out into the soil often enough this Spring.  As a result, I was growing my own little plot of land perfect for Round-Up experiments.  The weeds were everywhere.  Some of them were just starting to poke through the soil, and others were fully-grown and flowering a mere foot above dry land!  Ugh – what a chore.  At least, that’s how I ended up looking at it.

When I first went into the garden, I was full of promise and hope.  “Soil is good for the Soul,” I told myself.  I was taking time out, without cell phones, TVs and other electronic devices, to return to nature and literally dig in the dirt.  I was looking forward to my hours of contemplation and repetitive action – knowing that it would give my spirit time to pause and reflect, without conscious thought or ego-mind entering into the equation.  I was actually excited about weeding.  And then as the fifth hour started, and I realized I had barely made a dent…..my perspective changed.

My soul-enhancing task had turned into a nightmare chore.  I had simply let it go too long.  The weeds were too well established, and the process had become backbreaking.  Soil was no longer good for my soul – it was challenging and depleting.  It was annoying and frustrating.  It was also, in a word, boring.  Even with the best of intentions, I found myself smack-dab in the middle of a human experience with all the ego and emotions that go along with it.  I was mad (that I didn’t have a lawn service this year), annoyed (at myself for letting it go too long), tired (it had already been 5 hours, with no end in sight), and frustrated (why the heck do weeds grow SO much faster than everything else?).  I was bargaining with myself: “if I do 2 more feet, I can go out and get an ice cream cone.” Or “if I finish this area, I can take a break.”  I was doing all the things you do to keep moving forward when all you want to do is stop.  So, how did my contemplative mind turn into such a raw bed of emotions?

I think it’s possible (probable?) that I expected too much of myself and my soulful approach to weeding.  There are times when it seems easy to forget that I am human as well as a soul.  That although I can meditate, or read, or journal, or pause, or pray, or reflect, or…or….or, although I can do everything possible to find balance, peace and harmony in my daily life – I’m still human.  And I will still find and experience my humanity in my daily existence.  To try to push it aside and ignore or deny it (silencing it through all of the above methods) is not honoring myself.  It is still a part of me – every day.  So, yes, weeding for 5 hours is going to frustrate me.  Doing anything for 5 hours, repetitively, will probably frustrate me.  But it had to be done.  And it’s ok to be frustrated, and it’s ok to feel annoyed and tired.

I think that’s a piece that is often missed: It’s ok to have feelings.  It’s always ok to have feelings.  We don’t need to meditate (or medicate) them away.  Embrace them, honor them, validate them – and they will co-exist peacefully.  Ignore them or deny them, and that’s when they turn into unhealthy behaviors and emotional reactions.  That’s when we say things like, “I ran away with my feelings…” and that’s usually not good, or healthy.

In the end, it turned out that the soil was good for my soul – just not in the way I intended or expected.  It taught me that sometimes freeing the mind can actually bring me more in touch with my human experience, which in turn allows for deeper understanding and connectedness.  I also learned that weeding doesn’t have to be perfect, and that it was easier to grab a hoe and simply turn the soil, than it was to pluck each and every plant out from the root.  In the end, I decided that feelings, and a few weeds, are ok. 

The Thru-Line

Do you have a specific problem you’ve been working on, but don’t have a solution for, yet?  Are you stuck just trying to figure out how or where to get started?  Is there something on your “back-burner” that’s been there for a while, and you’re not sure how to address it?  In Coaching, we help people who have become “stuck” at a certain point in their lives, whether by a problem, a situation, or a thought pattern (to name a few examples).  We help you clear the channels, and become un-stuck, so that you are able to move forward into progress and success.

There are many tools available to help you do this….but what I like to look at most is the “Thru-Line.”  I developed this technique and have been using it long before I started coaching.  It’s a way to objectively, and intelligently, look at a situation, assess where you are, and move forward into action.  Here’s an example:

A client recently asked me about changing jobs (careers) and/or her location.  I said, “There are two ways to look at this: 1) what do you want to do, and 2) where do you want to do it?…..which one, for you, is more important?”  In the end, the location seems to be the driving force behind her upcoming decision.  She knows enough to know she just doesn’t want to be where she is anymore. But she doesn’t know enough to know where she wants to go.  Enter the “thru-line.”

To figure out the answers to big, life-changing questions like these, some coaches use a magic wand technique, and I do, too.  It’s often helpful.  But if you’re stuck in not knowing….being given a magic wand to conjure up whatever you want isn’t necessarily helpful.  Instead, it’s helpful to look at the lowest common denominators of what you DO want.  Back to our example…

My client said, “I don’t know where I want to go – I just know that I don’t want it to be like it is here.”  Ok.  That’s enough to get started.  My suggestion was that she list 10 places where she thinks she’d like to live.  I didn’t ask her to analyze why, or how – but rather, I asked her to organically and spontaneously think about 10 places where she might want to live, and then write them down.  Being spontaneous is key.  From there, we can apply the “thru-line” by looking for the patterns among the locations.  Are they all near water? Are they secondary cities? Are they suburbs?  Are they college towns?  What are the patterns associated with her list?  What is the “thru-line?”

When we spontaneously do something, without analysis or introspection, we allow for the opportunity for our intuition to have a voice.  It might show up in only 4 or 5 of the 10 locations she’s writing about, but it will show up.  It’s when we allow our minds to get too involved that we start to overshadow our intuition.  Then nothing becomes clear, and all the information is inauthentic.

My client’s next concern was that her list would be “reactionary.”  She was afraid that she would think of 10 places that were the opposite of where she currently was, and that in being reactionary she was being inauthentic and dishonest with herself.  My response?  I suggested that at this point in her life, moving somewhere different is a reaction to where she is – so why wouldn’t all of the 10 places be the opposite of that?  And furthermore, what’s wrong with that?  As long as we are being authentic with ourselves in the present moment – there’s no false step to be made.  Of course the 10 locations would be different than her current situation – that’s logical.  She’s not happy where she is – so wanting something different is the natural choice.  And, here’s the best part….if you move once, you can move again.  Five years from now, or 10 years from now – she may no longer want to be in this new place either.  Or she may want to live there for the rest of her life.  Nobody knows.  All we have to work with is right now.  And all our best decisions can be made from that place.

So, what’s the result?  When we apply the “thru-line” to any situation, and we do so honestly and spontaneously, we find that our intuition (our inner wisdom) has the chance to be heard.  Patterns develop for a reason, and for those of us who have trouble hearing that inner voice, sometimes going about it in a different way can achieve exactly the same results.  By approaching a situation or problem with this kind of technique, you allow for the possibility of change.  Once the possibility is given space, change and growth are inevitable.

The next time you have a problem you’re facing – even if it’s as simple as picking an outfit for an interview, or painting a room – apply the “thru-line” technique.  It will always point you in the direction of your intuition and your own inner wisdom.  Once you’re in touch with that, you will feel more empowered and less “stuck.”  From there on out – it’s your choice whether to do something about it and take action, or to accept the status quo.  There’s always a choice….but that’s a topic for another day.

In love and light,

Martina