Category Archives: acceptance

The Most Powerful Tool in Your Tool Box (No, it’s not a sledgehammer.)

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know I refer to my tool box often. It’s a constantly growing arsenal of lessons learned, experience gained, and skills acquired. During my recent book tour one attendee (who has been with me since 2010) suggest I change it from a “tool box” to a “tool shed” based on its ever-expanding size. She may be right.

However, I think one of the most important things I can do for my clients and readers is to help them create their own growing tool box. The key word being “growing.”

It’s essential for us to always be learning, expanding, and adding to our armory of useful skills and knowledge. However, it’s also important to know the difference between a sledgehammer and a screwdriver in order to best apply each tool to maximum effect. In addressing this practical aspect of our tool box inventory, I think it’s most important to know your most powerful tool, what it is and how to use it.

So, what is the MOST POWERFUL TOOL in your tool box?

It might surprise you, but it’s NEUTRALITY.

I suppose a more obvious answer would be Love or Compassion. Perhaps even Empathy. Certainly, my training and certification in Brené Brown’s work would suggest that Empathy is a very powerful tool. But it’s not the most powerful. Neutrality is.

But to fully understand Neutrality, we have to also understand what it’s not.

Neutrality is not a reaction, nor is it a response. Neutrality is not lack of connection, compassion, love, understanding or empathy. There is no “lack” in Neutrality. It includes all those things.

Conversely, Neutrality is not full of any one characteristic either. It’s not Love, and it’s not Empathy. Nor is it compassion and understanding – but it is a form of connection. In a way.

Neutrality is presence. And through that presence is a connection to your Self. Your inner knowing and your core essence. It’s not passive, rather it’s an incredibly active and deliberate way of being, of relating.

At its core, neutrality is 100% authenticity, wrapped in integrity, and expressed as presence.

Neutrality is a tool that allows you to be present, without giving away or allowing someone to take your power. It can be passionate in its sure-footedness, without being emotionally charged. It allows for the acceptance of “both-and” thinking where two things can be true (i.e.: someone can be behaving like a jerk, and also be a kind person).

For me, a lighthouse is the ultimate symbol of Neutrality. It stands its ground and does what it does really well. A lighthouse knows it can neither change the storm nor navigate the ship. A lighthouse allows for both the storm and the ship to pass as they will, without judgment. This, in turn, allows the lighthouse to keep being a lighthouse, free from the ebbs and flows of emotionality.

Power resides in this freedom, which is why practicing Neutrality is the most powerful tool in your tool box.

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.

Emotional Imprisonment

This week, this quote has shown up repeatedly in my Facebook feed.

“Care about what other people think and
you will always be their prisoner.”
–Lao Tzu

Whenever something appears more than a couple of times, I take note. Whether it’s an important message for me to hear or share is always the question. Often, it’s both.

For me, being a prisoner in this sense implies more than a lack of freedom: It represents a loss of will. I can’t imagine many worse things than losing your free will. It’s one of the few gifts we have been given that allow us to create the life we desire through the choices we make each and every day. Choosing to invest in the approval and acceptance of others is, therefore, akin to handing them the blueprint to your life and saying, “You decide.”

The quote is simple and clear. But while it’s easy to say, it’s much harder to practice. Often we associate “caring” with being a nice person. Therefore, “not caring” might feel mean or insensitive. It’s important to care, but it’s not healthy to care to the point of your own detriment, which leads to emotional imprisonment and the loss of your free will.

A baby step toward freedom might be choosing to ask yourself the same questions you would ask someone else, and listen to your own answers for the approval you seek, instead of outsourcing the job.

Self-Love

What does “self-love’ actually mean?

I received this question after last week’s writing. Here are my thoughts on what self-love actually looks like:

If we all woke up tomorrow with complete self-love and acceptance, there’s this notion that entire industries would tumble. That somehow self-love means the decimation of the multi-billion dollar industries centered around self-improvement.

But I disagree.

Loving myself exactly as I am today, does not mean I don’t want to improve myself for tomorrow.

  • It means I’m doing it from a place of love instead of fear or lack.
  • It means I’m doing it because I know I’m worth it, not because I feel unworthy or require external approval to feel valid in the world.
  • It means improving myself is defined by me, and not some imposed measurement of my value.

Self-love is not about acceptance through defiant resignation or surrender. Self-love is about standing up for yourself and who you are inside, and making decisions in alignment with that inner knowing. It’s about being accountable to yourself, on every level. If you want to be more fit, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself. If you want to dye your hair, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself. If you like to wear make-up, have body piercings, or only wear designer duds, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself.

Today I could have fruit and yogurt for breakfast and tomorrow I could have sausages and pancakes. I could weigh less in a year, or I could weigh more. I could be stronger and healthier or I could be more flexible. Or I could be exactly as I am today.

Self-love is all of that, because if my actions are in alignment with who I am, then I am practicing self-love. The variable is the answer to the question: Why? As in, why am I doing what I’m doing?

The only time it means you don’t love yourself is when you’re doing all of that (or more) in order to be somebody you’re not inside: If your actions are out of alignment with your inner self.

If you’re trying to gain approval or you’re seeking acceptance by others, then perhaps the decision to work out 7 times a week is not loving. Similarly, cookies every day because you don’t care anymore and/or you’re defying the Madison Avenue propaganda, is not loving.

But, if you enjoy a cheeseburger with friends, or you like to do yoga daily, and the decisions you make are from a place within, then that, my friends, is self-love. Even when it includes a desire for self-improvement, however you define that. Perhaps especially when it includes a desire for self-improvement.

It’s time we re-labeled what it means to practice self-love. It’s not about defying anything; rather, it’s about embracing everything from a place of alignment with who you are inside. And that makes all the difference.

Comparison and Self-Love

I was chatting with a friend recently about comparison and life satisfaction. If you’ve been following my writing for a while, you know how I feel about comparison.

There are no winners in the comparison game.

In this age of social media, it almost seems inevitable that we will be mired in a cycle of comparing ourselves to others. Furthermore, when others are predominantly sharing their highlight reel instead of their fumbles, it also seems inevitable that we will begin to feel worse about ourselves and our lives. When we compare our insides with other people’s outsides, we will never win.

Upon reflection, however, there IS one way I can see that we can become winners in the comparison game. So, I am modifying my former statement ever-so-slightly.

We win at comparison when we learn how to use it as a tool and not a weapon.

What do I mean by that?

When we compare ourselves to others and feel worse about our lives, it’s like we are using comparison as a weapon against ourselves. No armor could withstand it.

However, if we can use comparison as a tool to gather information then we are gifting ourselves with the means by which we can change our lives.

How?

We mine the data. If we raise our awareness to our thoughts of comparison, and instead of holding them to be true we question them and mine the data, we end up with a cache of information we didn’t have before. A cache of information that can help us create meaningful change in our lives. The key element to this process is remaining emotionally neutral and becoming a witness to your thoughts.

What does this look like? Let me give you a concrete example:

The other day I saw a friend’s Facebook post about her spring vacation, complete with amazing pictures of family and friends in a beautiful locale. Whereas my spring break was non-existent. I don’t have one. Even if I had one, I don’t currently have the funds to take the sort of vacation she took. I started to compare my life to hers, and it felt bad.

The natural inclination (which is a much bigger topic for another day) is to feel lesser-than. When we compare, we’re typically looking “up” at those who have it “better” than us, rather than looking “down” at those who have it “worse” than us. This is actually a good thing, in some ways, because it allows us to pinpoint much more easily the areas in which we desire change.

So, back to the Spring Break story. After I took a pause to redirect myself, I deliberately asked myself why I was reacting to her pictures on Facebook. The answer was simple: I wanted what she had.

Which leads to question #2: What do I believe she has? (Notice the use of the word “believe” in there.)

In that moment I opened up the doors to neutrality. I went from feeling lesser-than to engaging my analytical mind from a neutral place. I could identify the story I made up about my friend’s life and how “amazing” it is, and I could identify my own inner desire to obtain what she was showing. But… I didn’t tell myself that my own life wasn’t “amazing.” And that’s the key difference.

Once I was able to become neutral, it wasn’t about being “less than” what I desired, it was about adding something I desired to my goals and dreams, without deflating myself in the process.

This is what I mean about mining the data from comparison. If you use it as a tool, it can help you identify areas that you wish to change. From there, it’s up to you to make a plan and get to work.

So much of this comes back to self-love and acceptance. But, self-love is not an easily obtained construct. It’s too theoretical for too many people. Self-love requires us to find deliberate, action-oriented beliefs and behaviors in order to become manifest in our lives.

Furthermore, self-love does not mean you can’t want to change something about yourself. It means you love who you are at every step along the path of change, and accept your “as is” in addition to your desire to create change, as well as your process of change. Loving yourself along the way is comprised of those actions and beliefs that you choose in each moment.

For me, going back to the example, I chose to question my thoughts and the story I was telling myself. That simple act of choosing something different is what opened me up to the possibility of something different… and it allowed me to choose a loving response instead of a shaming reaction. Self-love in action, as a result of comparison.

Acceptance Made Easy(er)

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about “acceptance” and how important it is for living a balanced and happy life. And I agree. Acceptance is one of the cornerstones of living well.

Where I have a teensy-weensy problem, however, is the connotation that has developed around the idea of acceptance.

To address this, let’s first look at what acceptance is not.

Acceptance is not:

  • Settling
  • Surrender
  • Giving up
  • A consolation prize
  • Relinquishing responsibility

Nor is it blind faith and/or an abandonment of free will. Rather, acceptance is a calm embrace of what is. It’s a knowing.

Acceptance is peace through wisdom.

Acceptance doesn’t require abandonment of understanding and/or exploration. Rather, it requires questioning. Questioning that moves us through to acceptance from a place of strength, courage, and presence.

Acceptance asks us to question everything so that we arrive at the knowing underneath, the knowing that was always there. There’s a quiet grace in true acceptance that transcends chaos and fear.

In other words, if it feels like settling or giving up, it’s not acceptance. Acceptance is an embrace, not a letting go.

Where the Grass is Greener

This week I struggled with something to write about. Call it Mercury Retrograde, or call it fatigue, either way I came up with nothing. It happens. Then I saw this quote on a friend’s FB page:

The grass is greener where you water it.

It wasn’t attributed to any one person directly, and I feel like I’ve heard it before, though I’m not sure where. Then I was reminded of something I read from an interview with Isla Fisher in the American Way magazine. She said:

“…I’m super happy with my life the way it is. The grass doesn’t look greener.”
(I have loved that idea ever since I first read it.)

So, what is this obsession we have with “the grass is greener” concept? Is it greener? Ever? Or is it that we have learned to live life from a basis of comparison? Which, in turn means, we will never be satisfied?

I’ve explored this idea of “never enough” off and on for years, both formally and informally. The bottom line truth that I know for certain is that nobody ever wins in the comparison game.

Whether you are comparing misery (ie: my loss is greater than yours) or wealth and acquisitions (there is ALWAYS somebody who has more than you, or something you don’t have) or bodies (body satisfaction underlies many of our self-esteem challenges and issues of self-worth), nobody wins in the comparison game. Nobody.

In fact, the only way to WIN the game is to choose to not play at all. So, what does that look like?

Well, in some ways, it looks like the two quotes I shared above. Many thought leaders and spiritual teachers talk about acceptance, gratitude, and mindfulness. (Heck, I’m one of them!) But those words can be idealistic and amorphous, and can also create opportunities for the comparison habit to edge it’s way back in (ie: I must not be grateful enough, because s/he looks so much happier than I am). So, even though they are helpful to understand, they’re not always active or directive behaviors you can engage in and put into practice. So, what can you actually do?

Here’s one idea:

When the words should, could, would, enough, more, better, and/or worse (as well as “when” and “if”) enter your thoughts or statements – take pause. Take pause long enough to assess whether you are making a statement of comparison. Are you comparing yourself or your situation to someone else’s or some societal standard? Are you comparing someone else’s behavior to your own? If so, stop. Stop right there, because you won’t win. Not winning looks like: frustration, anger, jealousy, envy, sadness, despair, and desperation, to name a few. And nobody wants that.

Stopping is the first step. The second step is engaging in a positive practice to replace the habit of comparison. This involves identifying what brings you joy, such as: I love my house. Or if that’s too big: I love my bed. Or my garden. Or my feet. Or my nose. Or my dog. Or my brain. Or my….life. You get the idea.

So, the next time you think the ‘grass is greener’ somewhere else, take pause, double-check your words, and then look around you. Then perhaps you can see whether or not the grass you’re standing on is green, because it probably is. Green is green, and comparison is a game of shades that turns something lovely into something invisible, and sometimes harmful.

Knock knock…..who’s there?

Opportunity.

What do you do if you’re awakened by your mind at roughly 3am for 3 nights in a row? Well, if you’re me, for the first two nights, you roll over, say “not now,” and go back to sleep – rather uncomfortably. By the third night, however, you sit up and take notice and accept the fact that inspiration has come to visit. It would be rude (and rather stupid) to keep ignoring the call.

Some say that the ‘veil’ between the physical world and the spiritual world is thinnest around 3 or 4 am. That if there are messages to receive, they will most readily and easily be ‘heard’ during that time frame. Heck, Dr. Wayne Dyer makes it a practice to be up and meditating during the thinned veil time, and look at what he’s accomplished! But I like my sleep. I need my sleep, so

it took three nights for me to heed the call!  …….And I’m ever so glad I did!

Not only do I have the idea and design completely mapped out for an entirely new workshop on authenticity that will be fantastic! (I can’t wait to share it with you!)  I am also writing this piece on opportunity. Knock knock, indeed.

What strikes me about opportunity lately is the realization that it knocks many many different ways. Sometimes we recognize it, sometimes we don’t. Here’s the bit that fascinates me however:

even when we recognize it, we often don’t know what to do!

It’s true! Suddenly, that open door that we’ve been praying and hoping for is before us, and we find ourselves speechless and motionless, seemingly unable to walk through it. Why? Is it fear of what’s on the other side? Fear of losing what’s known (and comfortable) on this side? Or is it something else combined with fear? Something like: lack of acceptance and preparation.

You see, if you’re at all like me (which if you’re human you probably are), then all the hoping and dreaming in the world doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the day the dreams have the potential to become reality. Why? Because the energy has been in the desire, not the acceptance. Wait. What?

The energy has been in the desire, not the acceptance.

Desiring something keeps it at arm’s length. It keeps it external to your reality. Accepting something makes it real…allows it to be received

So, there’s a reason manifesting incorporates receiving. Because asking is only half of the process. Receiving is the next step. The energy shifts and what was once desired is now possible.

As for opportunities. They can be tricky little buggers. The beauty is that if something is meant to be, the Universe conspires to make it happen and will provide numerous opportunities for you to walk through that door. They’ll range from the quiet subtle hints (like hearing something on the radio that ‘happens’ to be just what you were thinking about – coincidence?), to the blatant slaps upside the head, such as receiving a message in your inbox from someone reaching out to connect with you, be it for a job, a conversation or a relationship.

Opportunities are all around us. They abound. The Universe conspires to give us the best life imaginable from where we are today: a life of love, joy, wellness, prosperity and connection. What we have to do is learn to recognize them better, and accept them when they show up, by walking through that door. After all, anything is possible. Whether it’s probable, however, depends on what we do when opportunity shows up.

To live life as a dog.

For dogs there is no yesterday and there is no tomorrow.
There is only now, and there is only love.

Evening watch
Love of food.
Love of sleep.
Love of play.
Love of walks.
Love of their owner.

 

And seemingly, all of these things bring joy. Yes, I think dogs “worry” when they sense their owner is sick or anxious. Yes, they sense fear… but they don’t seem to carry it forward. What happened yesterday isn’t true for today, and won’t be true for tomorrow. “This morning” doesn’t necessarily exist when it’s dinnertime.

So, how can we live life more like a dog? Well, I think the greatest gifts the dog can teach us are these: joy, loyalty and rest – all of which are unrestrained. Unconditional.

When you watch a dog at play – it seems joyful. They’re not concerned about whether their stomach is sucked in, or their tail is long enough or what breed they are. There is a ball and there is someone throwing it for them. Joy.

Watching a service dog stand by its owner in the midst of complete chaos, and only have eyes for its owner’s needs, is the purest example of loyalty I’ve ever seen. It transcends the animal nature that lies within and demonstrates a capacity of service and loyalty beyond measure.

And rest. Dogs know how to rest. They know how to seek their own space in the middle of a family event when they are tired. No apologies, no guilt, simply rest. Their bodies need it, so they do it.

Of course, all these things are encompassed in an animal that knows how to give and receive unconditional love. They don’t keep a running tally in their mind of when you last gave them a treat and whether or not you deserve a lick or two. They simply love, without strings and without expectations.

So, although our colloquial language isn’t there yet, I think it would be quite an honor to be referred to as a “dog.” Instead of being derogatory, I’d allow it to mean I had achieved some measure of peace and greatness, that I was a good friend and companion. And above all, that I knew how to live and love with a joyful heart, unconditionally. Woof!

On Forgiveness

“Lucy…you have some ‘splaining to do!”  Who doesn’t remember that famous line from “I Love Lucy” – it’s a classic!

Well, friends, borrowing from Ricky, I have to say that I have some forgivin’ to do. Or I did. I felt stuck in some ways, and wasn’t sure why. I move forward deliberately in life, and I continually make progress – but recently I noticed recurrent thoughts playing out in the background of my soundtrack, like another story line. I’d be driving, and suddenly think of something that caused feelings of resentment or regret and the needle would get stuck on the record playing the same song over and over again – never loud enough to just turn it off, but just softly enough to raise my awareness to something that was stuck. On repeat. Annoying me. Time to take a look!

What I found was that I was harboring negative emotions toward others (ok, and myself) because of some past actions and events. These were things that no longer played an active role in my life, things I had moved on from, and things I no longer considered on a conscious level. But there they were, like white noise, stirring up old emotions I thought I had dealt with. Nope. Time to forgive.

So, here’s the thing…forgiveness is about us. Ourselves. Not the other person. It’s a simple truth: Forgiveness is a gift one gives to oneself. I know this. But then I wondered – Does forgiveness need to be face to face? Or, is it possible that the energy of forgiveness itself is enough to release us from the shackles that bind us to resentment, anger, hurt, and frustration? I believe it is. Here’s why:

Forgiveness is an offering. Therefore, it can be shared with another anonymously and be equally as effective. Its power lies not in whether it’s accepted by someone else, whether that person embraces or validates the forgiveness. Its power lies in the act itself. The decision to release ourselves from the imprisonment of the limiting negative emotions is powerful. To acknowledge the hurt and suffering we experienced as a result of something typically outside our control is powerful. It’s not about denying the event or transgression, rather it’s making a statement that what happened no longer fits our lives and then choosing to step out of it like an old and tired piece of clothing that has dropped to the floor.

Forgiveness, then, is a solitary act that does not require reciprocity, validation or acceptance by another to be effective. It asks only that our intentions be clear and our heart be true.

So, back to my own forgiveness. What did I do? I wrote letters. I wrote letters to each person or group that was holding me back because they had hurt me in some way, and I forgave. From my heart I forgave them and embraced myself. Did I send the letters? No. I folded them up and plan to burn them on the next full moon, releasing all of their energy. I did keep one, though. The one to myself. Because after writing the others, I realized I needed to forgive myself the most for choosing to hold on to the negative emotions (and giving them space in my brain and heart) when they weren’t serving my greater good. That letter is in my God box where it can contribute energetically to my ongoing growth in love and compassion. Cool.