Author Archives: Martina

Guarding Against Sadness

In our Western society, we have a tendency to guard against sadness. When we see someone who is down, or struggling, we don’t sit with them in their pain, but rather, we try to encourage them to not be sad. We even tell them that they shouldn’t be sad, and then list a long array of reasons why they need to be happy.

The truth is, though, when we do that, it’s because we are uncomfortable with their sadness, because it reminds us of our own.

Now, I’m not talking about the person who is perpetually negative or complaining (nor about the individual experiencing clinical depression). That’s a different story. I’m talking about the person who just found out that a relationship wasn’t what they thought it was, or who lost a loved one or a pet, or their job. I’m talking about sadness and grief, not negativity.

When we see someone experiencing grief, it reminds us of our own fragility – or our human-ness. And, more often than not, we don’t like it. Nobody likes to be reminded that they have weaknesses, or fragility. But sadness isn’t weakness – it takes courage to be sad, to embrace sadness and allow yourself to truly feel it.

I’ve written about it before, but there’s a piece of me that envies the cultures of the near east that allow (almost expect) wailing at the death of a loved one. The expression of grief through public crying (sobbing, really) is quite impressive. But we don’t do that here. Instead, we focus on a life well-lived and all the blessings and good memories, consistently shoving away the sadness we feel inside.

In the end, though, sadness is a human emotion that is a gift. It’s a gift because it gives us information and allows us to heal something unseen. Our soul’s natural state is that of peace and joy. In order to feel sadness, we must be human. In order for our soul to grow and expand, we must experience the things that it alone cannot – that requires being human. Therefore, it’s a gift to feel sadness, because it gives us more tangible experience than our soul alone can have.

But we guard against it. There are numerous “gurus” out there that teach about the path of bliss – which is another way of saying, “don’t be sad.” It’s dismissive of the human experience, because it focuses only on the soul. Well, if you were only a soul – you wouldn’t be here, and you wouldn’t be learning what you need to be learning for your soul to evolve and progress.

So we use platitudes and spiritual bypassing to deny our very human experience of sadness, and it doesn’t help us. What helps us is learning how to move through our emotions with more grace. Progression is not about being devoid of an emotion (like sadness); progression is about learning how to shorten the amount of time it takes for us to restore equilibrium. Instead of feeling down for 3 days, we feel it for 2 days, then 1 day, then hours, and ultimately minutes and seconds. That’s the path of the human/soul union… the path of learning.

 

Grateful – so much more than a word

Grateful: One word that says so much, yet doesn’t fully convey its own depth.

How could a word be both profound and simple? A feeling and an action? Something that can drop me to my knees with humility and fill me with grace in the same breath? And yet, also be part of daily life at the most genuine small moments?

For me, being grateful isn’t about one day a year, it’s every day. And yet, I’m grateful that we have identified one day to focus on gratitude… to give thanks.

The Gift of All Saints’ Day

On November 1st, with Halloween behind us and the holiday season looming on the horizon, I think All Saints’ Day is the perfect day to pause and reflect. It’s like a reset button for your soul – if you choose to use it.

Recently, I’ve felt a growing urgency to push that button. To reset. To step back. To breathe… To simply hit the ginormous pause button in the sky. (Is there one?)

Pause in the Sky

When we’re on overload – physically, mentally, and emotionally – it also affects us spiritually, whether we’re aware of it or not. And, to me, a day that’s named for all the saints that have come before us is the perfect time to raise our awareness and take a measurement of our wellbeing.

As I was researching All Saints’ Day I came across so many different traditions and celebrations around the world, it lifted my spirit. It’s a testament to the fact that we don’t have to do things in exactly the same way in order to celebrate something universal:connection. We don’t need to believe the same things in order to embrace our faith and spirituality. All Saints’ Day is the perfect example of what it means to remember and connect – and it manifests differently throughout cultures, countries, and communities. How wonderful!

Whether it’s leaving lit candles by the front door in the Philippines or bringing gifts to the graveside for Día de Muertos in Mexico… each tradition has a unique way of reconnecting with their ancestors and remembering those who came before them. It’s this connection, I believe, that gives us the thread we need to live lives outside bubbles of fear and isolation. It’s this thread of connection to the past that allows us to be better creators of our future.

Personally, I found the celebration in Poland to be especially moving. This image I found online (below) truly gave me pause for its glowing beauty – and in that moment of curiosity and reflection, I found myself breathing more deeply again. I found the pause button in the sky from half a world away. Thankfully.

All Saints Day in Gniezno, Poland by Diego Delso; flowers and candles placed to honor deceased relatives (2017)

So, as the season of gratitude and giving is upon us, what better way to welcome it into our lives and hearts than by taking pause and remembering where we come from… who we are in the long line of thread that weaves throughout our individual and collective ancestry.

And, no matter which tradition you embrace, I wish you all a peaceful All Saints’ Day – however you choose to spend it.

 

Where do you belong?

The other day I was thinking about belonging. I had worked with a client who said to me, “I don’t know where I fit in…” To which I replied:

“The question is not where do you fit in… The question is where do you belong.”

It’s so important to feel a sense of belonging. Ideally, we feel like we belong to our families as we are growing up – but I know that’s not true for a lot of people. Then there’s the fellowship of community: neighborhoods, religious institutions, school groups, sports, activities. All of these create opportunities for us to belong to something. To be a part of something. But even then it can be difficult to feel a sense of belonging.

As we go through our adolescent and young adult years, the hope is that we have found a place to belong, at least temporarily, as we figure ourselves out. Unfortunately, I’ve often seen that backfire. Because we don’t figure ourselves out… we figure out where we can fit in, instead.

We take the square peg that we are and over time (or fear) we shave off our corners to try and fit in the round hole. And we’re never whole as long as we do that.

We do our best to “fit in” because we crave belonging. We’re hard-wired to belong to something. It’s in our nature.

Humans are tribal by nature. We have to be – it’s how we survived. We learned to rely on each other and protect the tribe as its own entity. Different members of the tribe learned different skills in order to support the tribe. This is not new to human evolution, nor is it something we grow out of, in my opinion.

Instead, it’s something we’ve worked to overcome, by replacing belonging with “fitting in.” And we’re worse off for it.

So, again, the question is not (and never was): “Where do I fit in?”

The question is (and will always be): “Where do I belong?”

Only when we endeavor to answer that question will we start to heal our trimmed edges and begin to feel at peace within ourselves.

Resiliency and Stability

If you want to know how resilient you truly are… live through a major home renovation.

Ok, I’m kidding… sort of.

I know I’m resilient. I’ve been through a lot worse emotionally, but living at home with no kitchen and no bedroom – my mattress in the floor in another room, and my clothes scattered between a couple drawers, hangers, and bags – has been surprisingly difficult.

Before it all began, I thought “What’s the big deal?” We moved a microwave and refrigerator into the living room and bought a hot plate. I thought it would be easy. Or at least easier. First world problems, I know.

Turns out, it’s not easy for me to live without the stability of routine. And that’s what it all came down to: routine.

Without my bedroom, my entire daily routine has been non-existent. Morning alarms, 3am bathroom runs from drinking too much water too late, and simply where to put my slippers all had to be reconfigured. My routine which allowed me to move through life with some sense of flow was all but obliterated, and I had to create something new – knowing it would be temporary. Yikes!

And then there’s no kitchen. As it turns out, a hot plate is fine, if you have a working sink nearby to clean everything. Otherwise, you run the risk of clogging up the bathroom sink, which is too small and shallow to actually wash dishes. So, there have been a lot of boiled eggs.

I’m not complaining actually, even though I’ve definitely had my moments. It’s more a fascination with just how attached I had become to a certain rhythm to my day. And, interestingly, how important that rhythm is to my life.

I have friends who can pick up and travel at a moments notice with only a backpack. I’ve always admired them and wondered if I could do the same. But, secretly, I knew I could not. While I love to travel, I like to do it with a knowing of how I will be spending my nights, and moving through my days.

When I took my first river cruise a few years ago, I loved it. It’s only now that I truly realize why:

All the basic elements I need were provided for. There was stability that underscored everything. This, in turn, gave me freedom. I enjoyed wandering more, because I knew where and when I’d be returning to “home” – and more importantly, how that “home” would be when I returned.

Perhaps not everyone is like me, but this is why I feel it’s so important to know your own barometers – those measurements in life that are unique to you. For me, it’s clear that I need stability and some bit of routine in order to fly and thrive. For you, that might feel uncomfortable and limiting.

What’s great is that while it may seem easy to say that makes us less resilient, it’s simply not true. Knowing what makes you thrive is empowering, not weakening.

So, in a few weeks (hopefully) I’ll be back in my bedroom with a working kitchen. Which means, in a few weeks I’ll be even more appreciative of the stability I need to soar, and will have an opportunity to be even more deliberate about how I reinforce it.

I’d say that’s worth the sleepless nights and random discomfort. How about you?

Choice is a Superpower

Embracing choice is a superpower. When you realize this, everything changes… for the better.

I’ve been working on my next book, which is all about how to actually create positive change in your life in a tangible, actionable way. But the first step to actually creating change is wanting to… making a choice. In fact, choice is the most important step we take throughout our lives on a daily basis. It’s also something we all do rather reflexively and distractedly – if not, unconsciously.

However, when we make choice conscious and realize that we are engaging in decision-making nearly every minute of every day, we are flexing our real muscles. We develop our superpowers, and the quality of our life changes… for the better.

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.