Monthly Archives: July 2009

Gratitude

We’ve all heard about the power of gratitude. Oprah played a big role in popularizing the idea of a Gratitude Journal – a place where you could review the day and, instead of thinking of what should have been done, we focus on what we are grateful for. It’s a simple act, and yet it can be one of the more difficult tasks we embrace. There have certainly been many evenings when my list has had to include things like: breathing, sunlight, that my dishwasher works, that I even have a dishwasher, etc. etc.

And by no means is this an exercise I perform every evening. Some evenings, it’s more than enough for me to remember to just say “thank you” to the Universe, and whoever else may be listening. But is that enough? I’ve spoken with so many people who see a behavior like keeping a Gratitude Journal as an opportunity for self-criticism. As in: “I want to do that, but I’m so bad at it – it just becomes another thing on my list.” Something that’s meant to give us a moment of peace and serenity as we wind down to sleep has, at times, become a mechanism for shame and guilt. It was never meant to be that way.

I’ve been there. I have purchased so many blank journals of every shape, color and size at every store I can think of in order to keep my Gratitude Journal. And I have failed. Or have I? Being grateful is at the forefront of my mind off and on throughout the day. Even now, as I sit here typing this, I am feeling grateful for the ability to write and for the readers who are interested in what I have to say: you. Does that mean that if I don’t write down five things each and every night that I am some sort of failure? Absolutely not. But it has taken me a while to get to this acceptance and realization. Being aware was the first step. Forgiving myself for being so cruel and critical towards myself was the second step, and accepting my choices and behaviors and being grateful for them is the third step.

So – now I can sit here, looking around at my new office, and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all that I have. I am grateful that I paused long enough to realize and acknowledge my many blessings. And I am grateful for the wisdom I have acquired along the way that has allowed me to forgive myself for my hyper-critical moments. Finally, I am grateful for knowing that this is a journey, and not a destination. And I am grateful for the people in my life who remind me of these things. And if, before I fall asleep at night, I am able to remember to say a simple “thank you” for my life, that’s more than enough – because throughout the day, I am recording entries in my own Gratitude Journal in my mind. And they still have the same effect, even if they’re not written down in a pretty book on a daily basis.

With that said, I extend to you my gratitude for being with me on this journey. I am grateful for you, and I thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts, wisdom and experiences with you.

THree THings

This week, there is only one THing: Being Grateful. Experiencing gratitude permeates all three levels of the mind, body and spirit. So, take a moment to consider starting a Gratitude Journal, knowing that there is no expectation of how often or when you write in it; or just take a moment right now, to breathe and pause – reflecting on any (or all) of the blessings in your life. Sometimes, it’s as simple as being grateful for the wind, air conditioning or even Haagen Dazs! Whatever gives you a moment of peace, think of it and allow the emotions to wash over you. Your breath will slow down and the corners of your mouth might even turn up. Experience it, and simply say “thank you” – to yourself, the Universe, your family, friends, whomever. For a grateful heart is always full.

In love and light,

Martina

Paying Attention

Have you ever gone through the cycle of feeling accomplished, feeling guilty for not doing other things on your list, feeling distracted by something new that came across your desk, and then feeling accomplished again? It’s overwhelming. Perhaps this specific example is unique to me, but it bears sharing.

This week I have been moving into my new office. I am absolutely thrilled to create a space that is my own – inviting, warm, friendly and nurturing. But, in spending all my time focusing on this project I have had to neglect other areas that also needed time and attention. That is to say, actually, that I chose to work on this office project in lieu of working on other areas of the business. Hence, you may have noticed that my weekly blog is a bit late in arriving.

But, here’s the thing: Earlier this week, I felt terribly overwhelmed and guilty about not writing the blog by the deadline in my mind. A deadline that existed solely because I created it. And then I thought about it. I gave myself permission to not feel guilty about focusing on one area while other areas get shelved for a little bit. The office set-up is a one-time occurrence, and I feel really good and accomplished about it, because I know it will enhance everything else that I am and will be doing on a more routine and regular basis. So – if for one week, other things get pushed aside. That’s ok.

It goes back to the alligator analogy – the alligator closest to my boat this week was the office set-up. Next week it will be something else. And in between, there is the slow (sometimes fast) moving river on which I am riding. The bottom-line here is: it’s ok. It’s ok to feel guilty about not doing something when you’re doing something else. It’s where you go with those feelings that matters. If I had spent the rest of my week beating myself up, worrying, and (quite frankly) shaming myself, I would have had a horrible week. Instead, I recognized what I was doing, and chose to give myself permission to focus on this one task, knowing that the other tasks would come back in when I got a little space for them. As a result, I am happy, excited, content and no longer overwhelmed and worried.

It goes without saying that when we apply our attention to the task at hand, we live a more fulfilled life. When we split our attention between what we are doing, and what we think we SHOULD be doing – that’s when the discord happens, and we start to feel out of balance, guilty, overwhelmed and worried. So, it’s your choice. Just like it was my choice. The feelings are there – you don’t have to change them. It’s what you do with them that matters.

In love and light,

Martina

THree THings

This week is about paying attention and being in the moment. Here are THree THings for you to consider:

Body – Are you drinking enough water? It’s summer, and temperatures are rising – dehydration can cause a general malaise that is not necessarily explained by anything else. Increasing your water intake can help tremendously.

Mind – What are you reading? Are you taking the time to read something? Devoting your attention to something pleasurable like reading for half an hour a day, can really help to quiet your mind.

Spirit – Is there a park nearby? Have you visited it recently? Being in nature is one of the greatest gifts we can give our souls. Reconnecting by simply walking in the grass or among the trees can center your spirit.

Choose Your Own Ending

Choose your own ending – do you remember those books?  The ones where you could read up to a certain point, and then choose how the story would continue? Or end?  What a pleasure they were.  I remember trying to figure out how many different combinations I could make – and then trying to figure out from that which one was the perfect story, in my opinion.  I also remember having a distinct feeling of wishing that life could be like these ingenious storybooks: full of adventure, and choices.

Now, many years later, I think longingly of those books – with one major difference: I now understand that life IS like the books.  We can choose our own adventures and our own endings.  So much of what we experience on a daily basis is a direct result of our choices.  It may have been from an immediate decision, or it may have been from a long-ago decision made in a different place and time.  The thing is – everything happens because of choices we make.  And every choice we make, has a different “ending” attached to it.

When looked at from this perspective, it can be a little scary; and, in fact, it may invite indecision and inactivity – because of fear.  Fear of making the “wrong” decision.  But, what if there were no “wrong” choices?  What if we could accept that all of our choices have led us to another decision? Another option? Another ending?  Just like the books, we could be the masters of our own destiny – manifesting our futures, and truly experiencing our present.  The one thing that’s different is that in the books, if we didn’t like the way something was going, we could stop, turn back to the previous section, and choose another path.  In life, that’s not as easy.  But I’m here to say: it’s also not impossible.

I remember reading one of the books, choosing an ending, and when I turned the page – it was, quite literally, an ending.  The story ended.  There was one or two paragraphs, and that was it.  Well – I wasn’t about to let it end there, so I went backwards, and moved forwards again.  I made a decision to not accept the ending I had originally chosen, and instead I paused, took a few steps backward, and made a new choice.  And the story continued.  I wasn’t ready to put the book down – I wanted the path I was on to keep going.

In looking at this example – we can see the choice I originally made as an obstacle.  I chose something that put an obstacle directly in my path – a path I was enjoying.  I could have stopped, frustrated, angry and sad – or I could pause, re-assess and move forward once more.  This was a choice.  Just as the first decision was a choice.  There was no shame in stopping and reevaluating and choosing something else.  There was just the action of doing so, because it was more consistent with where I was, what I was doing AND what I wanted.

What if we could do the same in life?  What if we were able to pause, without judgment or shame, reevaluate, and move forward in a different direction?  What if we allowed ourselves the freedom to choose our own ending?  And what if we woke up to the realization and truth that our life, and all its events, are the result of our choices along the way?  How would that affect us going forward?  Would we be more deliberate in choosing our words? Our actions? Our relationships? Our careers?  Would we, in fact, take more time to make decisions that are consistent with WHO we are, instead of WHAT we are?  And what would the result be?

These are all questions I ask of myself every day – and the best part is, there is no “wrong” (or “right”) answer.  There are just answers. And thought.  And just as today I am in this one position on my path – a week from now I may be in a different space entirely, and the answers to those questions might also be different.  And that’s ok.  Because it’s the awareness that matters.  It’s the awareness and acceptance of the role choices play in our lives on a daily basis that allows us the freedom to create our own future.  It’s choice that empowers us to be who we are, and realize our goals and dreams.

So – how do you make your decisions?  What plays a role in your choices?  Are you even aware of the choices you make?  This week I am introducing something new:

THree THings to THink about (from SynTHesis)

Body: What did you choose to eat this week, or today?  Are you nurturing your body?  Providing fuel for the body to be supportive and strong?

Mind: What thought patterns or beliefs do you have running over and over in your head that impact your decisions?  Name one. Identify it, and acknowledge it.  (and don’t judge yourself for having it!) 😉

Spirit: Did you choose to skip meditating today?  If not meditation, how about just listening to music for half an hour?  What choice could you make that would allow your spirit time to pause and reconnect with your mind and body?

In love and light,

Martina

In

Taking Time

I have a sign next to my bed: “Joy – Love – Peace.”  It’s three words, each on their own chain, hanging down from my nightstand lamp.  I bought them at Pottery Barn after the holidays – they’re meant to hang around the necks of wine bottles, I think.  But I liked them and repurposed them to hang next to my bed as a reminder of the important things in life: joy, love and peace.

Unfortunately, even with a sign staring me straight in the face every night and every morning, it’s too easy to forget these three little words.  Running to the dry cleaners, stopping to get a tea or bottle of water, writing a blog, calling clients, visiting with family and friends – these are all daily things that I get caught up doing and forget my little sign.  Worse are the big things that I get caught up in, that I should instead let go of: taking other people’s inventory, trying to control situations that aren’t my own, trying to fix others, making decisions for others, doing anything FOR others.  It’s these kinds of actions that not only allow me to forget my little sign, but they actually make me blind to it.

I don’t see it, I don’t remember it — and I don’t experience it. 

It’s the last one that affects me the most, I think.  Not seeing the sign: even though I see it, it doesn’t register with me as something to look at.  So, I bought it to bring joy, peace and love into my space, and to serve as a reminder of the importance of those three things – but in seeing it every day, I no longer actually receive the reminder.  So, I don’t remember it.  When I don’t remember it – it escapes my every day existence.  I find myself searching once more for those three little things that make everything seem so much better – but I’ve forgotten what they are, because my reminder doesn’t work anymore, and I have trouble remembering it on my own in the course of my daily life.  Which leads me to not experiencing it.

By not seeing and not remembering my three words of joy, love and peace – I create a gap in my daily experience that is incongruent with who I am, and who I hope to be.  I have had days, weeks even, when I have experienced joy, love and peace on a regular basis – and my life seemed endlessly “right.”  And then I grew blind again and forgot, and I lost the experience; and life became somewhat harder and more distant.  And it became more of an effort to find joy in everyday things, see love in a family member’s eyes, and experience peace in my own mind.

So – what does this all mean?  In my opinion, it’s about slowing down.  Taking a deep breath, and allowing yourself the time and space to remember what you’ve forgotten.  It’s about pausing.  If you look at almost everything in life where you have felt more peaceful, happier or healthier – there was almost certainly a pause that preceded the event.  The pause is what allows us to remember.  The pause creates the space for the reminders to float to the surface of our minds.  There’s a reason the phrase: “take time to smell the flowers along the way,” exists.  In fact, I used to have such a sign in my bedroom growing up – it was a coat rack, with pegs for hanging my childhood belongings, and it was perfect.  Interestingly, I didn’t need the sign back then – I need it now.  If only I could have remembered its lessons, rather than just hanging my leotard and ballet shoes on it.

So, as an adult – what does it take to stop and smell the flowers?  What does it take to pause?  It takes reminders.  It takes awareness, and sometimes it takes crises, forcing us to pause.  The Universe isn’t stupid – it knows what it’s doing.  And if we don’t take the time to pause ourselves, we will, inevitably, get sick, get hurt, etc.  I just experienced this last week.  I forgot to read my sign, and I forgot to pause, and things were getting more and more hectic in my life, and I felt out of balance, out of control, and overwhelmed by all the little details.  And I didn’t pause.  Instead, I plowed through thinking everything would be alright if I could just….then wham! My back went out – from the silliest thing in the world: I was removing brownies from the oven that I had baked for the holiday weekend.

All of a sudden, I was in bed for three days, forced to pause, slow down and breathe.  It wasn’t as if I could have even done work on the computer, because of the pain.  So, when the Universe decided I needed a wake-up call…they gave me one!  And now, three days later, I am feeling better, more focused, more grounded, and more grateful.  I see the wisdom in slowing down a bit, and not worrying or obsessing about every last little detail, and carrying those emotions in my body (specifically, my back).  Everything will still be there tomorrow, and if it’s not –then it wasn’t meant to be.

I paused.  And in pausing, I saw my little sign.  And in seeing my little sign, I remembered.  And in remembering, I began to experience joy, love and peace.  And in experiencing joy, love and peace, I was able to pause again, and feel them even more deeply.  In feeling them more deeply, I was able to share them; and in sharing them, I am able to affect change around me – which is what I was trying to do in the first place, with no success, because it was coming from a place of blind incongruent behaviors, instead of who I am at my core.

So – this week, I challenge you to pause.  If you need to set an alarm on your cell phone, or if you have another contraption that you can use – set it to go off at a random time each day.  And when it goes off, see if you can pause.  Just pause.  You don’t have to do anything like breathe deeply, or meditate, or journal, or think, or speak.  You simply have to pause.  And in pausing – see what floats to the surface.  You may just find something you were looking for without realizing you had lost it.

In love and light,

Martina