Monthly Archives: February 2016

A Desert Sojourn

Last week I donned my old retailing hat and went to Vegas to help my friend set up trade show booths for his clients. Before I helped people change their lives, I used to be a Buyer and Fashion Stylist. While I’ve left the retail job behind, twice a year I get to be a stylist again by helping my friend. It’s nice to use a different skill set now and then. Refreshing, even.

What’s more refreshing, however, is taking a break from our daily lives in order to do/see/experience something totally new and extraordinary. On this recent trip, we had just such an opportunity.

We found ourselves with a day off in the midst of the chaos, and so we went out of the city and explored the high desert and mountains surrounding the electrified valley. The juxtaposition was somewhat difficult to comprehend. In hindsight, however, I see it as much more symbolic of our lives than not.

On the one hand, we all seem to live busy outward lives, filled with work, family, friends, technology, physical exertion, and mental exhaustion/ (I know I do.) On the other hand, and in almost the same space, we seek out opportunities for calm, ease, and grace, such as walks in nature, meditation, a massage, long talks with old friends, and breathing. (I definitely do.)

This juxtaposition of inner peace and external stress has become almost common in our culture. It’s a balance that is not always easily maintained, however, because there are no firm lines. Whereas, in the desert, the lines are very clear. You know exactly when you are leaving the external chaos behind and entering the calm of nature, and vice versa.

But, because the line is so firmly drawn, it made it even harder for me to transition between the two last week. Going from a heartbreakingly beautiful landscape devoid of noise or human presence directly into the lines at an In-N-Out Burger was overwhelming, at best. As you can imagine, I didn’t last long, and we moved outside to eat, which was somewhat quieter and easier.

So, I guess the bottom line is this: We all live busy externally-focused lives in one way or another, and we all have an internal longing for or knowing of peace and calm. How we transition between the two is where we find opportunities for change, growth, and understanding. And ultimately, it’s where we will find the answers in how to merge the two into one presence, that softens the inherent juxtaposition.

All this from a trip to the desert followed by a burger. 😉

And now…here are some of my favorite pics from our excursion. Truly, if you ever go to Vegas, it’s worth it to spend a little time outside the city limits. You may feel lost in the vast expanse, but I think you’ll find more than you could ever imagine.

How Non-Attachment Enhanced My Birthday

Last week was my birthday, and it was one of the best I’ve celebrated in a long time for many reasons, but especially this:

I practiced non-attachment.

Everything throughout the day was a gift. The text from an old friend? A gift. The call from across the pond? A gift. Three small celebrations with family and friends? All gifts.

Absolutely everything in my day was filled with joy, because I wasn’t attached to any of it. I was in a space of non-attachment, and non-attachment allows you to move through life with more grace and ease than practically anything else. 

So what is non-attachment?

To begin with, let’s identify what it’s not. It’s not detachment. Detachment still requires there to be something else to detach from. Non-attachment has no such requirement. Detachment is a response to something, non-attachment just is.

Non-attachment isn’t the same as not caring, however. Non-attachment is about not having an investment in the outcome. It’s a process of divestment, in which the object is not just no longer a focus to be for or against, but there is no object. Non-attachment is about transcending expectations to arrive at a place with no suffering, because there’s nothing to react to or push against or for.

Everything just is. 

If I had not been practicing non-attachment, like in years past, I would have wondered where certain texts, calls, or cards were and why I had or had not received them by now. I would have been mired in the story my brain made up about the situation, rather than simply not creating a situation to begin with. In making up stories about why, I would have been stuck in a cycle of expectation and suffering.

Instead of creating stories and situations, I chose not to invest my time or energy into these questions or anything related. I went through my day and saw every incoming birthday wish as a bonus. There was nothing to push against, there was only the open arms of receptivity to what is. And as a result, I had one of the best birthdays I’ve had in a while, filled with love and celebration.

I’m not saying non-attachment is easy (there were one or two “why haven’t I heard from x yet?” thoughts that popped up). But I am saying that a practice of non-attachment makes life easier. It also opens us up to greater possibility for joy, creativity, and innovation, because we have freed up significant mental and emotional real estate in our minds and in our time… and those are probably the best gifts of all.

Your Way, My Way, and Any Which Way

My friend and fellow author, Brian E. Miller, had this meme posted on his Facebook wall over the weekend.

Nietzsche-Way

I had heard this Nietzsche quote before, but had not remembered it. So, seeing it again was both refreshing and inspirational. As someone who helps other people for a living, either through my coaching or my writing, this simple truth can’t be stated enough:

There is no one way.

I’ve seen it time and again with my clients, as well as in my personal life. What works for me may not work for you, and what works for you may not work for me

In fact, research is basically based on this principal. Only when something works for a statistical majority, is it considered evidence-based. But even in those cases there are always outliers.

So, how do we figure out what works best for each of us as we meander through on this journey of life?

I would suggest that there are three basic criteria that you can use to assess the “thing” that you are trying out to see if it’s in alignment.

1. It makes you feel better/alive/happier/aligned, effortlessly. By answering the question: “How does it make you feel?” you get to identify a tangible result. If something you’re trying doesn’t positively impact your life in some noticeable way, perhaps it’s not the best fit right now.

2. You feel drawn to it. This is about intuitive knowing. some people are drawn to meditation, others are drawn to yoga, still others are drawn to boxing or running. These are all examples of a physical nature, but you get the idea. There’s a voice inside you that says, “Yes! That!” whenever you think about this thing. (Similarly, the voice feels repelled by other things. It’s good to be aware of both sides of this coin.)

3. You want to make time for it. It’s one thing to feel good about something, and even more so if you feel compelled in some way, but actively pursuing something is a HUGE statement of alignment. Making time for something or someone is like highlighting, underlining, and putting an exclamation point on the statement. It’s your body and soul’s way of signing up and showing up.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind everyone (myself included) that if rationalization or justification are involved, we’re not actually in alignment. In other words, I love cake (yellow cake with fudge frosting, to be exact. Yum!), but if I were to use the criteria and say that

a) it makes me feel good (it does, cake makes me happy),

b) I desire it (see previous statement about happiness), and

c) I actively seek it out (well, in grad school I did),

I could then rationalize that it must be in alignment and therefore, good for me… and have it every day. Or I could justify having it more often than I should, based on these criteria. And that would simply be wrong. (Furthermore, if I had it that often, I probably wouldn’t feel good or desire it after a while, so it would ultimately fail the criteria test.)

You can see what I’m saying, right? To better understand the concept, let’s look at it in a more concrete way, using two examplesYoga and hot water with lemon and honey.

– Both yoga and my morning hot water with lemon and honey make me feel good. (criteria 1)

– I wake up and actually want to have my hot water with lemon and honey every morning. My body desires it. Yoga, less so. (Criteria 2)

– Every morning, I make my hot water with lemon and honey and enjoy it before I do anything else. I haven’t been to a yoga class in almost 6 months. (Criteria 3)

From this example, I am nurturing my body with hot water, lemon, and honey daily, because it’s what it needs at this time, which is very clear. In fact, just last year I tried to do this same thing with no success. At that time, this wasn’t what I needed. Today it is.

This is why there is no one way – there is only the way that is right for you, right now. 

Many people would probably tell me to “just go to the yoga class” because “you’ll feel better.” Thankfully, I don’t listen to those people anymore, and I surround myself with friends and wellness experts who get it and support the innate wisdom of my body and my soul as it expresses itself over time.

That being said, I’m also always open to new things that will enhance my life, which actually might be Criteria #4:

Once you have something that is working for you, don’t do it to the exclusion of trying other things that might also work. 

You just might love kick-boxing, guitar, or Paleo, but you’ll never know unless you try and then ask yourself those three questions after you have given it a go.

At the end of the day, the most important question to ask yourself, though, is simply:

Why?

Why am I doing this thing or that thing? Is it for myself or for someone else? Is it because I’m basing my self-worth on it, or because I enjoy it? Is it something I want to do, or something I feel I “should” do?

We all have things we need to do to live. I’m not talking about those things. I’m talking about the things that invite us to thrive. What are they? And how are you going to choose to bring more of them into your life?

Bridging the Gap

Relationships can be tricky. Whether it’s a work relationship, a romantic relationship, a friendship, or family, they can all be fraught with ups and downs. At their best they are sustenance for our souls, bringing joy, love, and possibility into our daily existence. At their worst they can be wholly debilitating and create opportunities for pain, doubt, and fear. And yet, living without relationships is virtually impossible, unless you are a hermit or recluse.

So, how do we manage the ups and downs of the relationships in our lives with grace and ease, optimizing them for success and possibility?

By minding the gap.

mind_the_gap-logo

I admit I’m an Anglophile, so the mere fact that I can use this phrase in an InspireBytes™ blog makes me giddy, but it’s also very very true.

Why does the British rail system employ such a simple phrase for such a potentially devastating problem? In my opinion, it’s because it’s not about changing the gap, or changing the rail system, or changing the person waiting for the train – it’s about changing the awareness and interaction with the existing situation.

Mind the Gap.

This means that you are being asked to take note of the distance between the two items in relation to each other: the platform and the train. If you don’t raise your awareness to the gap, you could fall in and get seriously hurt (the worst of relationships), or you could successfully navigate the chasm and find yourself on your way to your destination (the best of relationships). It’s all up to you and your sense of awareness.

Now let’s apply this to our interpersonal relationships.

In every relationship there is always more than one truth. Each person has their own truth, and all are valid just like the platform and the train are both valid in their existence. Neither is “more right” or “more wrong” than the other. Both are valid. It’s the distance between them, or the gap, that creates the divide.

Therefore, the key to addressing conflict in relationships is to identify the distance between the truths, and focus on how best to bridge the gap.

Gaps in relationships, between two or more truths, are bridged by taking deliberate steps involving honest and open communication in a mutually respectful environment. Gaps are not bridged by trying to change the nature (thoughts, beliefs, actions) of the other party.

Action is necessary, but it all starts with recognizing there is a gap… and minding it.