Monthly Archives: November 2015

Gratitude and Abundance

This week it’s Thanksgiving here in America. It’s a time to gather with friends and family and share food, laughter, and companionship. It’s a time to make new memories while reminiscing about old favorites. It’s a time to give thanks for all that we have. 

Gratitude, as a concept, is not new. In addition to Thanksgiving – a day set aside for giving thanks – we’ve been hearing about the practice of gratitude for years. However, gratitude seems to have gone mainstream when Oprah created a national endeavor to bring gratitude into our everyday lives through the gratitude journal.

But what does gratitude do? Why do we practice giving thanks? What does it mean to be grateful?

Somewhere early in my journey I learned a phrase: “Fear can’t live in a grateful heart.” When there was fear, the antidote was gratitude.

If you read my post last week, you’ll know that I believe the antidote to fear is Hope, actually. So, where does gratitude come in? Well, Gratitude, in my opinion, is the action that represents Hope. It’s something active that we can do, that keeps fear at bay and invites Hope back into our lives, ultimately leading us back to Love.

It seems to me, therefore, that Gratitude invites Abundance.

gratitude-pumpkns

Through the practice of expressing and truly feeling grateful for what we have, we are opening our hearts and our lives to more. More joy, more love, more peace, more hope…more abundance.

So, this week especially, as we share our joy and give thanks for each other, for what we have, and for who we are, we invite gratitude into our hearts. In giving thanks, we are enacting Hope. Hope for the future. Hope for each other. Hope for the globe.

Which leads me to ask: What if..? What if we practiced gratitude every day of the year?

For my part, I am grateful for so many things, every single day, one of which is you. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Thank you for reading my words and sharing them. Thank you for showing up, being here, and for being you.

xoxo,
Martina

 

Best Laid Plans

We all have them: Best laid plans. Then something unexpected happens and suddenly our plans have to change. Sometimes it’s for the better, sometimes less so.

Last week I told you all that I was taking a mini-break from writing InspireBytes™ organically, on a weekly basis. I had several weeks of writing all planned out, prepared, and scheduled to carry us through Thanksgiving and beyond, which would allow me this hiatus.

Then Paris happened.

And Beirut.

And Baghdad.

My plans changed.

I’ve spent the better part of the last few days like most everyone else I know, waffling between anger, disbelief, frustration, and helplessness, with a thought cloud of question marks swirling above my head.

What can I/we do?
Why is this happening?
How can it be stopped?
What is the root cause?
What about all the survivors?
And the loved ones?
What about those who died?

and
What next?

Actually, it’s that last question that I felt like I could answer, because I know in my heart the only way forward is through hope.

Even in the darkest of times, hope is what restores us to light. When Love has disappeared, it’s hope that keeps people moving forward. It’s hope that keeps a crack in the door to let Love back in.

It seems to be a universally accepted truth that Love is the most powerful force in the universe, because it’s the source of all things. A couple months ago I even wrote about the 4 types of love, and I absolutely believe that Love is source. However, I don’t believe that Love is the most powerful force in the universe, because it shares that title… with hope.

Hope is equally as powerful as Love for one main reason: Hope is the ever-present path back to love. It’s the grain of sand in the dark that reminds you that something else is possible.

Think about it for a second: when things are at their worst, what keeps people going? What moves people forward through tragedy and trauma? Is it Love? Sometimes it’s love for family or others, but that’s not always the case – there’s something more. Even when someone is completely alone, trapped and isolated from everything, hope is present. When darkness, fear, and hatred are present and all feels lost and numb, it’s hope that restores Love.

That’s why I can answer that last question: What next?

Hope.

Hope for the future. Hope for possibility. Hope for knowing that this era of terror will end. Hope for all that I believe and know to be true to come pouring forth and shift the energy around the trauma.

Hope is an invitation. Without it, there’s little point in dreaming or praying. In fact, one of my favorite lines from a movie is from ‘The Preacher’s Wife’ in which the preacher tells the teenager, “Hope… is all a prayer is.”

Hope is the key that ignites possibility. And possibility is the first step toward change.

In placing our energy in hope, we are taking a step toward defeating fear and terror by allowing for the possibility of Love to return. Hope restores Love.

So, when we sit with question marks swirling over our heads and ask ourselves: What next? Look for the grain of sand in the dark – that pinhole of light we know as Hope – and focus on it. Pour your energy into it, whatever that means for you, and allow Love to return, edging fear out.

7 Lessons for Living (or what I learned on my book tour)

I just finished my last public event of Book Tour 2015 on Sunday night. We had a wonderful evening, with really thoughtful questions from attendees and a courageous volunteer. It was a great experience, and I’m now going to take some time off until the end of the year so I can rest, restore, and write. (Don’t worry, I’ve pre-loaded my blogs, so that you don’t miss a week of inspiration.) :)

Over the past seven weeks, I have learned a lot about marketing, events, and engagement. I actually think these lessons apply to life in general, not just book tours and public speaking, so I thought I’d share some of what I learned along the way.

1. Follow Your Heart. It sounds so cliché, but it’s true. This is a simple piece of advice that I have heard over and over again that seems to be difficult to employ. Here’s what happened when I did: I found peace. Peace, for me, is comprised of calm, joy, and confidence. Following my heart meant that I wasn’t attached to specific outcomes, and I was allowing myself to be guided by what I knew to be true in my heart, rather than what I was told to expect or desire. It’s a way of moving through life more intentionally, letting go of the “shoulda-coulda-woulda” dialogue that keeps us stuck.

2. Live Deliberately, not by Default. This was not something “new” that I learned on tour, but was reinforced for me repeatedly. It is something I have learned, practice, and teach my clients. Living deliberately requires strength and vulnerability. It’s the difference between choosing to show up or just being somewhere. It would be easy to dismiss it as an attitude, but it’s more than that, it’s an action. It’s active choice. During my tour, when I chose to deliberately show up as all of who I am, from my heart, everything seemed to work and flow better. When I chose to simply be responsive to life around me I felt stifled, which created opportunities for the Doubt-Monkeys to come frolic in my mind.

3. Doubt-Monkeys are My Friends. This was new for me, and may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Doubt is a natural component of being human, especially when you’re choosing to be more visible. Interestingly, I have learned that doubt can be a great motivator to go deeper. I used to feel despair when the Doubt-Monkeys showed up, as if I would never get to a place of zero-doubt, which would be an indicator of authentic alignment. It’s simply not the case. I’ve come to learn that when the Doubt-Monkeys come knocking, they’re actually bringing a hand-delivered invitation to stand taller and recommit to my purpose. The Doubt-Monkeys will only run rampant, if I see them as uninvited guests. When I look for the messages they’re offering (which show up as triggers), I am able to embrace their arrival and learn something I needed, which often leads to their swift departure.

4. Investigate All Assumptions. We all know the pithy phrase, right? To “assume” makes an “ass” of “u” and “me.” Well, it works both ways when you assume. Assumptions need to be verified. Whether or not I assume anything, positive or negative, it needs to be checked out. If I assumed someone was doing something for me, I ran the risk of being let down. Conversely, if I assume that nothing is being done then I am taking on too much (by believing “I have to do it all”), and subsequently overwhelming my system. The bottom line here is: ask. I know we sometimes fear asking questions, but it costs nothing to ask, and there is so much to be gained.

5. Expectations Create Obstacles. This is, again, something I think we all know, but don’t necessarily have at the forefront in practice. It goes along with assumptions. Expectations create assumptions, and thereby create obstacles. Expectations need to be vetted. They need to be explored, understood and then communicated. If not, they can become giant hurdles in your path that either make you overextend yourself or actually have to turn around and repeat your steps in a different way. U-turns and obstacles are the result of unexpressed expectations, both of which can lead to compromised health, time, or purpose.

6. Make Room for Your Favorite Things. Since I was traveling for an extended period, I chose to pack some items that would aid me in my down time. That means I had a mini coloring book and markers, my favorite teas, my greens drink powder, a couple books, and my favorite music. These are the items that I reach for when I need to decompress, restore, and reconnect to myself. They fuel my body, spirit, and mind and have become trusted tools in my toolbox, so I made room for them in my luggage and my days. Making room is about honoring your Self and choosing to be a priority in your own life.

7. Joy Is Important. This was perhaps the most important reminder along the way. It’s important to have fun, to instill your practice with joy. Whether you are a teacher, a lawyer, or a janitor, no matter what you do for a living, it’s important to infuse it with some joy. It will go a long way to creating a healthier environment in which to spend your 8-10 hours/day, and it will help those around you do the same. Even if you have a serious job, such as being a trauma surgeon or EMT, it’s important to layer elements into your life and work that make your heart smile. Joy is important.

Of course, there’s always more to be learned and remembered, and this was certainly not the entire list from my tour, but I like the number 7. It feels good, balanced. Even if you choose to focus on only one of the items on the list, your life will change for the better. In fact, that’s often what I recommend: choose one thing, focus on it and allow yourself to witness the changes it creates. Then, once it feels good, choose another.

That might be lesson #8, though I think it’s the basis of all lessons, really: Choice. Choice is possibly the most powerful tool in your toolbox. It empowers and emboldens us to live more fully, with more meaning and more joy… and what can be better than that?

Resilience, Faith, and Self-love

As part of my book tour for What if..?, in September I spent a week in New York for media meetings. I love New York, and I grew up in the area. Since leaving in 1990, I have gone back to visit every so often. Fourteen years ago, almost exactly, I flew to New York for a friend’s engagement party. My presence was to be a surprise, so my then-husband and I decided to spend a few days in the city before heading out to the suburbs for the event. We made our travel plans about six weeks before, or early August 2001.

We never could have known what would transpire two weeks before our trip on that fateful day – September 11th. The world could never have known. And we never could have planned for how it would impact and change us as a global society.

But, on that weekend 14 years ago, after the unimaginable had happened, we had to make a choice:

Live in fear, or
Live in love.

We chose love, and went to my friend’s engagement party. Nobody expected us to keep our plans. People weren’t traveling, least of all to New York. But my ex-husband and I knew it was the right thing to do. So, we boarded our almost empty plane in Chicago and headed to the Big Apple less than two weeks after the towers came down.

After being in town for a day or possibly two, we decided to head down to Ground Zero. It was not fully roped off yet, and we were able to stand within feet of the bent and collapsed ribs of steel. When I looked up, I saw the thick layer of dust encapsulating every building – it looked like a layer of spray foam insulation. We bought American flag bandannas from a vendor, partially out of national pride, but mainly to cover our faces and protect our lungs.

We walked among the resilient, the curious, the fatigued, the torn. We listened to stories as we shared in the national after shock of tremendous tragedy.

As I stared at the remains of my beloved buildings, decades of my life flashed before my eyes. “I’ll never get to enjoy a meal at Windows on the World again,” was one of the thoughts that flew into my brain as I remembered my 11th birthday. I was lucky enough to have experienced it once.

My New York was changed forever. I knew it at the time, but I had no idea how far-reaching that sentiment would be.

During our walk so long ago, as things became overwhelming, we stepped inside Trinity Church. I had never been in it before, but it felt like a fitting time to stop in, take pause, and simply breathe.IMG_6898

Now, 14 years later, I had the same idea as I meandered the streets of Ground Zero. In the midst of media meetings promoting my new book, a quiet pause seemed fitting – and needed.

One World Trade Center is a sight to behold – it’s a marvel. The surrounding area is busy, chaotic, vibrant, and alive – the New York we all know, with a slight edge to it. An awareness of tragedy, rather than the former insulation provided by a sense of invincibility. So much has changed, and yet, it felt oddly familiar.

Walking into Trinity Church 14 years later, I still felt the gratitude, calm, and refuge the church provided so long ago. The miracle that it survived such an event unharmed is evident in the grain of the wood in the pews. IMG_6897Serenity and peace filled the air as I sat quietly staring up at the stained glass in between writing these words:

Fourteen years have passed and it feels like I have lived many lifetimes. Fourteen years have passed and it feels like both forever and yesterday. Fourteen years have passed and I know more gratitude, love, and joy today than I ever could have imagined then. I’m not the same person I once was, and yet, I’m exactly who I have always been.

With some time in between meetings, sitting in Trinity Church, I allowed myself to sit, reflect, breathe, pray… connect. Or rather, re-connect to what I know to be true: I am who I have always been. Gratefully, I am finally living my life in alignment with that statement. Gone are the struggles to conform, seek approval, bargain for acceptance. It’s not 100% all the time, but it’s getting closer every day. And when old habits or patterns are triggered, I have the resilience, understanding, and faith to return to self-love – to return to myself: Who I am… who I have always been.

Perhaps that’s what faith, resilience, and self-love are all about. Like the Trinity Church, they help us to survive. They stand strong through the chaos as a safe haven in the midst of struggles and challenges, just waiting for us to return, to re-connect. Regardless of what’s going on outside, we know that the familiar stability of a strong internal alignment, however that manifests, is the home in which we can always find comfort, draw resilience, and feel peace.