Author Archives: Martina

Priorities, Values, and Authenticity

What are your priorities, really?

It’s an honest question, to which we often provide less-than-honest answers. If we were 100% truthful about our actual priorities (the things we actively pursue and attend to), we might not actually like ourselves so much, and fear others might not like us at all. The rub is, of course, the “others” already know your priorities based on your actions, so the only person you’re lying to is yourself.

There are many quotes in the world about being a priority, making something a priority, etc. Here are just a few I dug up:

“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” – Mark Twain

Or Maya Angelou’s less passive version: “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”

Then there’s this, more pointed version by Laura Vanderkam: “Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time,’ try saying ‘It’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.”

My favorite, though, is really simple in its delivery, and profound in its meaning:

“Action expresses priorities.” – Gandhi

Ah, leave it to Gandhi to hit home with the truth, in a profoundly neutral way.

What we do is a direct expression of what we prioritize.

So often I’ve heard people say “I can’t do… x, y, or z,” when what they really mean is they don’t want to. (I know, I’ve done it.) “Can’t” feels somehow more palatable, and hopefully less offensive.

The truth is, though, “I can’t” is what we say to make ourselves feel better, and often only we believe it. The people we are saying that to know we’re lying, but they let us do it because they understand. They do it too. Everyone does it. It’s almost a societal ‘norm’ to be deflective in this way. And that’s okay. (Sort of.)

What’s really not okay is when we start to believe the lie ourselves (ie: “I’m too busy” or “I’m unable to”), because then we are living out of integrity and authenticity – living out of alignment with our core values … and that is a really slippery slope.

So, like Laura suggested above, try saying “I’m sorry, but t’s not a priority for me,” or “Thank you, but I’m not interested.” See how it feels to be honest with yourself and someone else, instead of lying about what you’re able (or unable) to do. You might just be surprised at the outcome.

—–

Post-Note: I did this myself recently, when I received yet another (mis-aligned) solicitation for marketing partnership, and instead of ignoring it, or lying and deflecting with “I can’t right now,” I simply replied: “Thank you, I’m not interested. This isn’t a good fit for me.” The response I received in return was kind and genuine: “Thank you for taking the time to let us know. Best wishes.” I get that not everyone will be like that, but it’s nice to know that some people are. And I’d like to think that the more we respond to life with truth and authenticity, the more we invite others to do the same. xo

Ownership, Obligation, and Love

The question was never “What can be done?”

The question was always “What can you do?”

Or rather, “What can I do?”

When I start a session with a new client, I always start with: “How can I help you?” Because it’s a simple truth that we can only do what we can do. If a client said to me, “I need you to tell my partner that they’re wrong so that they understand how much I’m hurting,” my response would be, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that… I can, however, help you with your hurting.”

‘What can I do?’ is answered by what I can do.

Everybody has unique gifts, and everybody can use their talents to do something and be impactful. Unfortunately, a lot of the time we focus on trying to be like other people by imitating their gifts, or trying to make our own less noticeable. But if everybody did the same thing, there would be no impact. No change. No progress. No understanding. No growth. No empathy. No hope. … No Love.

What matters the most is being who you are, bringing who you are to the table, and then acting from that place. Knowing who you are, what you can do, and doing it is one of the greatest affirmations in the universe. It’s a way of taking ownership for who you are, why you’re here, and what you’re willing to do to contribute… and creating a path to Love.

Just the other day, I was thinking about my own gifts and how I wish to take ownership differently going forward. I had a great conversation with a dear friend (and gifted healer), and realized a lot of my desire for change was mired in conflating ownership with obligation (aka: externalized responsibility). I cannot be responsible for things that aren’t mine to be responsible for. I may think I should do it, but the bottom line will always be about whether I can. If it’s not in my wheelhouse – meaning, it’s not aligned with my own gifts, path, and capabilities – then I really have to let it go. Otherwise, I’ll expend a lot of energy for little or no outcome.

Ownership is different. Taking ownership is about claiming my place in this world, as I am, doing what I can do – not feeling responsible for others’ journeys, but sharing the road together. Ownership is standing unapologetically in my boots, for better or worse, and being. Being the best, most loving version of myself that I can be, in everything I do.

My friend reminded me of the importance of remembering the power of Love throughout this journey. Love of self, love for others, and capital-L Love. Love supports change and growth more than almost anything else. This means that Love is absolutely necessary in ownership, whereas obligation (especially externalized responsibility) usually involves some measure of fear.

So, in the end, when we look at the question “What can I do?” the answer should always be:

Respond with Love.

And the Universe emphasized that simple, yet important, truth when shortly after my call with my friend I parked next to a car that had this exact bumper sticker. I love how that works, don’t you?

Complaining Doesn’t Create Change

You can either change or stay the same, but you can’t do both. And if you want to create change in your life – if you want something to change – you have to become a participant in making it happen. 

Harsh words? Perhaps. But that doesn’t make them less true. And trust me, it’s not as if I think change is easy. It’s not. Change can feel hard, and very few people are actually good at it across the board. We all have at least one thing that seems harder to change than others. (I’m no exception.)

In reality though, change isn’t actually hard, even though it often feels that way. What makes it hard is when we add emotional weight to the process. This is what happens when we want to “have our cake and eat it too.” In other words, when we want change, but we don’t want to have to work for it.

You can’t create change by simply wanting it and doing nothing to make it happen. It doesn’t work that way. Change requires decision and then action. These are doing words, not being words. You can’t be your way into changing something.

All too often we readily complain (as I’ve done myself) that “nothing is changing,” or “nothing is getting better.” When I hear a client say this, the immediate question I ask is: What have you done to make it happen? (Which is often met with a scowl or grimace.)

The thing is, so many of us want things to change, yet we’re also too tired/angry/resentful/lazy/scared/upset/frustrated/sad (or numerous other emotions) to do anything about it. Either that, or we’re caught up in some form of victimhood and martyrdom that allows us to feel like we’re entitled to complain endlessly without actually engaging in bettering our own lives. Yikes!

The concept is really simple, though: If you want something to change, you have to do something to create that change. 

  • If you’re feeling sad, depressed, pitiable – do something.
  • If you’re feeling angry, scared, frustrated – do something.
  • If you’re feeling resentful, tired, lazy – do something.

No matter what you’re feeling, if you don’t like it – you have to do something to change it. Take a walk, call a friend, eat a different diet. The list of things you can do to create positive change in your life is virtually endless.

On the flip side, there’s only one proven way you can guarantee that nothing changes, and that’s to continue to complain while doing nothing. In fact, not only will things stay the same, they’ll actually get worse. There is no level of “maintenance” that includes complaining and/or inactivity. None.

So, if you are tired, frustrated, or upset about how things are in your life – you absolutely have the power to change it… by making a different choice and doing something that changes your situation. It all begins with you. Even if it feels difficult or challenging (or even overwhelming) it is worth it, because the alternative is doing nothing – which is a guarantee that things will get worse. And who wants that?

Change doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, there’s an easy way to approach change that I’m writing about in my new book (to be published early 2019). In the meantime, just do one thing – one thing – differently. There’s hope in action. Give yourself the gift of possibility, by taking action in your life. 

Legal, Ethical, Moral – They’re Not The Same

My father was a lawyer, and a damn good one, at that. He spent the majority of his career practicing corporate law, which meant he had an opportunity to educate people around him who otherwise wouldn’t have had a lot of access to all things law.

When I was a lot younger, maybe in my early teens, I remember once saying to my dad, “…but it’s totally legal,” about some topic or other. He took the opportunity to teach me what that really means when I’m saying it.

“Legal” is not something to aspire to. It’s not a high bar. In fact, as he said, “It’s the lowest acceptable form of human behavior.” It’s one step away from illegal, which is criminal.

To say you’re “legally compliant” doesn’t actually say much. It’s not a badge of honor to wear or something to be proud of. Because the simple truth is:

“Legal” is not ethical.
“Legal” is not moral.

Acting “within the law” is doing just enough to not be criminal… today. Because laws are subjective and made by people in power, they change with the times. They are a moving bar. Not too long ago, there were a lot of “legal” things that today would seem abhorrent (slavery, child labor, women as property, domestic violence, etc.)

Legal is not the same as ethical.
Legal is not the same as moral.

I thank God every day for my father teaching me that concept at such a young age, because it shifted my perspective. Instead of thinking of being “legally compliant” as the high-water mark, I came to see being ethical and having a moral compass as the high-water marks and the law as the lowest acceptable form of behavior in which I could ever engage.

Where I see a problem lurking in today’s world is that a lot of people and companies do the reverse. They give themselves gold stars and accolades for simply doing the minimum: acting in accordance with the law. (Just one step lower and they would all be criminals.) And they set ethics and morality as something up in the stars, nice to look at but impossible to reach, so they rarely try. *sigh*

Those stars, however, are not very far away. They’re within reach of everybody, because to me, being ethical means being human and having compassion, making decisions from a place of empathy, equity, and understanding. And a moral compass is about making the deliberate decision to behave ethically.

So, the next time someone tells you they were “acting legally” or “in accordance with the law” – it might be worth it to dig a little deeper and find out what they really mean, because they’re not saying very much if they use those words.

How to BE a Writer

Being creative is a gift we all have. Finding out what that means is part of the journey. Writer, artist, chef, painter, designer, teacher, engineer… there is a bit of creativity in everything we do. Even doctors have to be creative sometimes, in order to get to positive outcomes.

Typically, though, we think of “being creative” in association with artists. Artists run the gamut from visual arts to music to writing, with a whole lot in between. Recently, I was speaking with a client who loves to write, but was getting hung up on her writing. It’s not her day job, but it’s part of her work, and she had a specific story to tell that simply wasn’t going anywhere.

Sigh… I can relate.

It was then that it occurred to me that she wasn’t hung up on the writing, she was hung up on “being a writer.” Because when we claim something that feels big, we also have a tendency to put it on a pedestal. Subsequently, it is no longer a passion-fueled hobby or daily endeavor, but something that is now just-out-of-reach. It’s something to either a) strive for, or b) uphold. Yikes! Where’s the fun and creativity in that?

Alas, our creativity then has a tendency to go by the wayside, because we’re striving to be a label instead of simple being creative.

In my own experience, the best words I’ve ever written came when I wasn’t trying to write. They were simply there, and I captured them, much like catching fireflies on a summer evening. However, when I’ve forced myself to sit down and “be a writer” – boy is that sometimes a struggle. More often than not, it results in my stepping away and abandoning whatever it is that I started.

You see, I’ve learned that being creative – being an artist – is more about being yourself, than anything else. Just being.

Being present.
Being open.
Being honest.
Being raw.
Being real.
Being free.
Being true.
Being.

What I’ve learned is that when I try to be something, I’m actually limiting myself.

So, as I said to my client the other day:

When you’re trying to be a “writer,” you limit your writing. Storytelling is not about being something; storytelling is about being.

It’s All About You (even when it isn’t)

If you think something you read online is about you, it probably is – even if it isn’t.

Let me explain.

Over the weekend, I posted some words about truth and wisdom. Then this morning, I shared how incongruent it is to preach light (or truth) and spread anything fear-based. And then I got some push back. A few people were courageous enough (I truly respect their courage for actually asking) to reach out and ask me if what I had written was about them.

The short answer was “no.”

But the long answer is… “probably.”

Because if you read something online that someone else wrote, and you get a twinge in your gut or mind that it might be about you, even if it’s not… then it probably is – because you are feeling something. You are feeling the message in the words, and it’s prompting you to call your own actions into question. So, even if it wasn’t written with you in mind – if you’re feeling it, then yes, it’s about you. 

More importantly, it’s within you, and has nothing to do with the other person (like me, or anyone else writing and sharing stuff). They’re simply the mirror or message that you need in that moment. For both the positive empowering stuff, and the twinge-y kind of stuff that gives us pause and makes us angry, resentful, or curious to ask the question.

The bottom line is simple: We’re all on a journey of our own making, and yet, we’re also walking this path together. It’s a duality of truth that feels contradictory, and is anything but. So, if someone shares something that prompts something in you, it’s an opportunity… a gift. It’s a chance for you to modify your path slightly, as we journey together. Cool, huh?

The Personalization of Truth

I have had some interesting conversations recently that gave me pause. You see, I have friends on both sides of the proverbial “aisle” with others who choose not to engage in a system of duality. In other words, I know a lot of people with differing perspectives… and they all believe they’re right. But they can’t all be right, can they? No. And yes.

It’s an age-old conundrum proven time and time again in various experiments: show two people the same thing and you’ll get two different explanations of what they saw.

(This is my favorite illustration of this concept. I don’t know who created it, but it’s genius!)

I remember seeing a video on this concept when I was in school. They had 9 “witnesses” to a crime on a street corner. They told all 9 people that they would be witnessing something before it ever happened. Then they asked all 9 people to share what they saw. Big surprise: there were 9 different versions, with a hint of overlap. But who was wrong and who was right? Was anyone a liar? The short answer is: they were all “right” and nobody was lying.

We all – all – have our own versions of the truth. Truth and fact are not the same. Fact is objective and verifiable or quantifiable. Truth can be subjective. Ask two people why they broke up or ended their relationship, and you’ll get two different answers – both correct. The “fact” would be that the relationship ended. The “truth” is dependent on who you’re asking.

So, what does this mean? Should we trust liars? Or… is nobody actually a liar? No, that’s not how it works. There are facts, and facts are verifiable. If someone lies about a fact, it’s not their “version of the truth,” but a lie. This is clear, and everyone can make up their own minds on who they want to trust and why.

What the personalization of truth means is that we are each responsible for understanding what’s true for ourselves, and listening to what’s true for others, and then seeking out the facts. The problem arises when we put forth our own “truth” as “the” Truth. Yikes!

If we have an agenda, or a “side,” then we are in our own personal truth, not a higher truth. And that’s okay; in fact, I see it daily. Everybody’s truth matters… as long as it’s not espoused as “the” truth or being imposed on others.

If, however, we want to go beyond facts to wisdom or a higher truth, then we need to be incredibly clear. Because Truth and Wisdom are found only when we are free from judgment, free from invested belief. The Truth carries no subjectivity, only neutrality, and always exists… usually just beyond our belief systems and comfort zone. And yet, it’s one of the most comfortable places you can ever find yourself, because it wants nothing from you – it’s neutral. And, subsequently, empowering.

Shifting Perspective

A bit of inspiration on a Friday morning. “It’s just up to how you see things.”

100% true. About practically everything. This isn’t some trite platitude about the glass being half empty or half full. This is about perspective, and ultimately about the things anyone can do to shift their perspective, for the better (or for worse).

This is why not everybody with a camera is a professional photographer. This is why not everybody with a pen is an author. This is why not everybody with a kitchen and some pans is a chef.

It’s all about how you see things. And, perhaps more importantly, how you choose to see things and whether you’re open to changing that. 🙏🏻

What I Learned Watching Ants

Today, during my fitness session the coaching assistant said to me, “You’re really stressed. Your body is tensing in random places, while you’re trying to isolate other areas. I think you need to figure out how to get everything to just… be.” Followed repeatedly by: “Relax, relax, relax,” as she jiggled my thigh muscles.

She isn’t wrong. There are, of course, many reasons why this is true, not the least of which is the significant gait change I had over the last 3-4 years from a hiking injury (more on that another time, but did you know how INCREDIBLY impactful something as small as a gait change can be on the rest of your body? I do now! But I digress…)

Where was I? Oh yes, she isn’t wrong. I carry stress throughout my physical body, and my major muscles (quads, especially) work to compensate for everybody else. They’re the superheroes of my muscular system, always stepping in to save the day – which also means that they rarely allow any other muscle groups to get in on the action anymore. At least not properly. Compensating muscles are the worst enablers of the human body. 

So, here I am with significantly weak muscle systems and overly built-up other muscles, and working to bridge the gap in between. As it turns out, it’s not easy. Just trying to get my foot muscles to do basic moves on their own proved to be an exercise in simultaneous multiple-firing synapses in my brain, causing chaos and confusion. It was weird!

I have to give it time. And, perhaps more importantly, I have to give my system some downtime. I’m not the best at that. I use Yoga Nidra meditations – especially at night – when I need some external help. They work well, but it’s not the same as figuring out how to allow my body to take space and time to rebalance on its own. Admittedly, I’ve figured it out for my spirit and my brain (for the most part), but the physical stumps me. I’ve always just “pushed through” when I needed to, and laid back when I didn’t. Not very balanced. Also leads to a lot of injury. Unfortunately.

Then today, when I got home from my appointment, the skies had cleared, there was a gentle breeze, and the temps had dropped to just around 70º – in other words, it was perfect. My kind of weather. So, I took my water, went outside with the dogs, and sat in the lounge chair for a bit. As I was sitting there, I noticed the ants on the patio going about their business. One, in particular was carrying something two times bigger than itself, and I watched as it maneuvered around obstacles and climbed over others. It was impressive.

My body started to relax and quiet. I began to notice other things, like the iridescence of a fly that came to land nearby.

Then I saw the other ants moving around the patio floor, and they were all different sizes. I learned about ants in school and knew that they each had different roles in the colony, and that their size would relate to that, but it was different to see it in action. Eventually, I decided to just lie down and watch the ants. For about half an hour. Thirty minutes of doing nothing but watching ants go about their day.

Perhaps some would see this as wasteful, or lazy, but it was one of the more self-healing things I have done in a while. My heart rate slowed, my breathing grew deeper, and the best part: my muscles relaxed. All of them. I didn’t have to do anything, or think about anything to get them to relax, they simply did. It’s their natural state. 

Now, as I’m typing this only thirty minutes later, I can feel the sense of calm that I acquired outside wash over me. It’s quite profound, actually. It’s a physical peace that is starting to come close to the inner peace I have already cultivated.

Nature is one of the greatest gifts we have. I’ve taught almost all my clients to use nature to restore their inner nature, and it works. Today, I got to listen to my own advice and use it to restore my outward – or physical – nature, and it’s wonderful. 

I’ll definitely be watching ants again. Along with the birds, bees, butterflies, and any other small creatures that allow me to witness their comings and goings. Of course, the ants are wonderful because they’re so small and you can get lost in their world in only a few inches of space. I think that helps, actually.

The symbolism of the ants and their hierarchy isn’t lost on me either. Each member has their job to do, and if just one ant starts taking over someone else’s job, the system will fall apart. My compensating muscles need to re-learn their roles (and stick to them, like these industrious ants tending to the colony’s front door), while my weaker muscles need to remember how great they are at what they do. All in good time…

Ants moving grass

The Law of Karma and Wishing Harm on Others

When is it ok to wish ill on someone?

Well, the short answer is: never.

And the long answer is: never.

It’s never ok to wish harm on anyone else. If you do, you’re actually inviting that bad energy back into your life tenfold. Karma doesn’t discriminate in that regard – what you reap, you will (eventually) sow. Always.

I actually know of several “spiritual” teachers who have given clients invocations of harm toward another person. Every time I hear of it – I shudder. (Seriously, yikes!) Thankfully, my first brush with understanding this simple truth came from my Reiki grandfather who taught me a very simple lesson: You never impose your will on anyone else. Ever. To do so is to practice black magic, and it will always rebound onto you. Always.

I learned this within the first week of studying Reiki and beginning to uncover my own gifts, but millennia of history in other traditions teach the same message, most commonly:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If you don’t want someone wishing harm on you, don’t wish it on others. It’s really that simple. We only choose to make it more complicated by employing the three most dysfunctional attributes of the mind: justification, generalization, and rationalization.

Perhaps, though, rather than getting mired in the teachings of the past, or the simple truths that echo through their wisdom, it might be more practical today to think of it this way:

You can’t cast a negative net and expect to catch anything positive.

Nothing good comes from sowing or spewing venom or toxicity in the world. Even though it might “feel” good in the moment, it will ultimately cause more problems in the long run. Of course, the long run could be your next lifetime, but that still doesn’t make it right.

In this age of instant gratification and guarded consequences, it’s increasingly more important for us to remember the simple truths and the wisdom of the ages. They’ve lasted as long as they have because they’re as pure as it gets. Time can’t tarnish them.

As for what to do when you feel wronged by someone? It’s 100% natural to vent, cry, get angry and experience all of the emotions running through your body… stopping just short of desiring harm on the other party. Not only will you be properly managing your karma, you’ll also actually feel better for not having created more toxicity in the situation. That’s a win-win if ever there was one.

Or, as another great teacher once taught: turn the other cheek. Which can either translate as 1) allow yourself to be hit again, or 2) (as I prefer) turn and walk away, removing yourself from the drama of the other person, and staying true to who you are.

There’s no shame in disengaging. The only real loss is when you choose to engage in something destructive and negative from a place of hurt or fear, because it perpetuates the cycle of harm – a cycle you’re standing squarely in the middle of. Yikes!