Category Archives: alignment

The Power of… Not Engaging?

Don’t Engage.
Don’t Engage.
Don’t Engage.

This has been my mantra of sorts for a while now. It’s the phrase I hear in my head (always repeated three times) when I am waffling between commenting on something in social media, or jumping into the fray of some in-person drama. Usually, I have the presence of mind to steer clear, but sometimes I make the mistake of chiming in… when chiming in is the worst decision I could have made. Hence, I created a phrase to help remind me of the importance – and power – of not engaging.

Lately, interestingly, I’ve found that I’ve been teaching and sharing this powerful (non)tool more and more often. The problem I see is that people are feeling worn out emotionally, which spills over into our daily lives and diminishes our patience and tolerance for others (aka: our compassion).

Choosing a path of non-engagement preserves our compassion and amplifies our energy.

Let me clarify that “non-engagement” is not the same as disengagement. Disengagement implies a level of not caring, or apathy. It’s a “head-in-the-sand” mentality. Non-engagement is about witnessing. It’s about watching, learning, seeing, reading, and understanding from a neutral perspective so that your emotions (your energy) is not sucked into the mayhem and chaos, thereby depleting you or lowering your vibration.

Non-engagement helps to keep you in alignment with who you are, while also allowing you to have ample amounts of energy to choose where, when, and how to engage. This is key. This means that you can direct your focus and your energy into that which you wish to fuel, and THAT is where the power lies.

When you accept that you can CHOOSE where, how, and to what you wish to give your energy, life becomes infinitely more possible. It’s okay to not engage in the battles. All activism is not necessarily good activism, especially if the activists are constantly feeling depleted. This is why it’s important to know where your heart resides, and pursue that. If it’s animal protection and rescue – do that. If it’s politics – do that. If it’s the environment – do that. If it’s not activism – that’s okay too.

And if someone tells you that you need to be more active in a different arena, it’s okay to tell them that you have already chosen where you are giving your energy and attention. This is what it means to be empowered, to stand in your boots. It’s about knowing that…

…You can choose what you give your energy to;
…You can choose not to engage in the chaos; and
…You can choose to let the trauma-drama train pass you by.

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Engagement is a choice. Non-engagement is a choice, and both are acceptable. In fact, both are necessary if you wish to have the energy, compassion, and presence to engage where your heart leads. If we engage in chaos, we fuel chaos. Because, remember: Where we choose to engage, we fuel.

xoxo,
Martina

Permission to Let Go

I missed writing a blog last week – did you notice? Several of you did and reached out to check that everything is ok (thank you). And if you didn’t notice, that’s totally ok, because I didn’t notice either.

Sometime during the afternoon on Tuesday I had the realization that it WAS Tuesday, and I had totally missed writing for the week. I think it had entered my mind sometime over the weekend prior, but I wasn’t in the mood or in a place to sit down and write, so I didn’t. Then Tuesday morning came and went, and I had no notice of it. I actually thought it was Monday.

When I finally realized that I had missed the weekly blog, I responded rather differently than I would have expected. I said to myself, “Oops. Oh well…” and that was it.

Let me back up though. The reason I would have expected more of a reaction is because many years ago I made a commitment to myself to always write every week, and to do so in a way that would benefit others. This weekly ritual was designed to be both an offering (it is always free), and a habit to reinforce my creative process. There have been very few occasions in which I stopped writing weekly – the main one being my time in graduate school. For the most part, however, I haven’t missed a week in over seven years (barring that graduate school period). So, why didn’t it bother me?

Not only did it not bother me, I saw it as an opportunity to reflect on the reasons for writing and the plan for the future. I started asking whether it was realistic for me to write a weekly blog when I am working on 3-4 books at the same time? Do people really read it or want it? Is it adding value?

All of these things, and more, came streaming in and out of my mind. In the end, however, I returned to the original premise of the blog, which is:

  • To make an offering
  • To maintain a creative flow

Those two things still hold true today, and are more important to me than ever. And yet, I also realized the importance of letting go of any judgment or self-criticism that would have had me reacting a differently than I did. I’m very happy with my response, because it shows that I have developed a level of self-compassion and patience that I didn’t have previously. It’s evidence of the fact that I am living more form a flow-state than a struggle-state (even though it often feels like struggle on the outside). My response shows me that my inner seas are calm and smooth sailing, and that is worth more than anything.

So, I have made the decision to continue to write weekly – though I will allow myself the flexibility of posting on a different day, sometime between Monday and Friday in any given week. Flexibility is a key component of flow, and will allow me to adjust my sails a bit and see what happens.

And I think that’s the most important thing we can learn in life, isn’t it? How to respond to ourselves with kindness, compassion and flexibility, so that we can raise our awareness and assess whether changes need to be made from a place of inner calm. Well, at least that’s where it is for me, today. And for that, I am grateful that I missed writing last week. it gave me the perfect opportunity to pause, take a step back, and move forward with more compassion, awareness, and alignment.

xoxo,
Martina

Acceptance Is The Key

This past week I’ve been soul-searching a bit, as I meandered through the last few days of the online workshop I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It’s been an interesting process, to say the least.

On the one hand, I was prompted – quite literally – to explore certain topics, approaches, and ideas behind what it means to be authentic and show up in your marketing. And on the other hand, I was unknowingly moved into a space of mental and emotional decluttering during the process. Needless to say, both were rather exhausting.

Now that I’m on the back-end of it all, I can see the benefits of having done the exercise. Not only do I have a better understanding of just how much real estate I was giving to things that didn’t necessarily deserve it, I also got to explore some of my own internal belief systems and cross-check them against my values and inner alignment, which is something I talk about in my book, What if..?

In my opinion it’s critically important that we take this sort of inventory every so often in our lives. Like cleaning out your closet or your pantry, you never know what’s lurking in the corner that is past its “use by” date if you don’t take a good look. This workshop required me to take a good look and it resulted in some A-ha! moments as well as some visibility hangovers and shame spirals.

The upside is that I am now much better equipped to deal with all of these things, because of all the work I have done. Whereas a few short years ago I could have found any of these things to be somewhat debilitating, now they are a blessing. It’s a reminder that there is more freedom at the end of the process – and that is always a good thing.

So, what happens next? Well, as in all things, I am taking the time to integrate what I learned, what I let go of, and what it means for how I move forward. Interestingly, I have been listening to a Katy Perry song of late (somewhat obsessively, on repeat) and there’s this line that keeps jumping out at me and replaying in my head:

Acceptance is the key

I’ve been reminded, once again, that acceptance is key to moving forward. This is not an acceptance of outdated items shoved into the dark recesses of our internal cupboard, which allows us to continue to ignore them – that’s resignation, or even complacency. Rather, it’s an acceptance of the need to regularly undergo experiences that compel us to explore the cupboard, to choose change, growth, and sometimes discomfort, in pursuit of freedom.

Leading or Paving the Way Forward

Isn’t so much of life about reacting to something, rather than creating something anew?

They say there are no more original ideas. I don’t think that’s entirely true, but I think it’s mostly true. I read the words of poets that are hundreds of years old, and I hear their words echo through the ages in more contemporary authors. Several years ago, in a very vulnerable moment riddled with self-doubt, I once shared with someone who I consider to be part friend, part teacher, and part counselor that I didn’t think I had any hope of a future in writing or inspiring others. I told him I had nothing to contribute to the conversation about self-help that hadn’t already been said.

My friend wisely listened, and then told me this:

“It’s not what you’re saying that’s new – it’s how you’re saying it that’s unique to you.”

He went on to explain that someone out there needed to hear what I had to say in my words, my voice, in order to understand it and hear it for the first time, after not hearing it so many other ways.

I know this to be true, because every week I receive feedback from my readers reiterating what my friend had said so many years ago: They needed to hear what I wrote, and often felt it was written just for them.

This is why I do what I do – this is why I will always do what I do and honor who I am, my path, and my gifts, as they unfold and present themselves more boldly.

But what happens when I sit down to type and the words simply don’t flow?

Last week I wrote about my hope to live more fully aligned with all I am, including my spiritual gifts. I wrote about how easy (and deceptive) it was to play small, without realizing I was doing it. Then I sat down to write for this week, and I stared at a blank screen and an endlessly flashing cursor.

Where do I go from here?

I’m not sure. And that’s the simple truth of it all. There’s this thing called a “visibility hangover” that happens after you’ve put yourself more “out there.” As I’ve learned from my dear friend, Sarah, in her marketing course, after every expansion comes a natural contraction.

Frankly, I think that’s what’s happening this week for myriad reasons. I’m contracting, going within, to regroup, clarify, and clear out some mental and emotional clutter to make a bolder, more structured path forward.

So, I guess, for me, the answer to the blinking cursor is simply: write. Write anything. Just write. See what comes out. See where it leads you.

Sometimes you have to let the path lead you, rather than trying to pave it yourself.

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And that’s pretty much it for this week. Last week several of you were kind enough to tell me you were looking forward to watching, learning, and understanding how this “roadmap of greatness” I mentioned last week would unfold. I thank you. I am, too.

I think, in general, I’ve been hesitant to share too much of my journey as it is unfolding. I often write once I’ve understood, vetted, and embodied something for a while, desiring only to impart the knowledge I’ve gained along the way in the hope that it will help others.

And yet, here we are. Everything you’ve read in this blog post has been a complete surprise to me. It’s raw, real, and very much not vetted.

That being said, I think it’s ok, even good, to not always have understanding. Sometimes it’s important to share the process by which the understanding was obtained. Sometimes it’s important to let the path lead you forward, trusting that it will unfold as it’s meant to. I am doing just that.

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?

Finding Your Reason Makes ALL the Difference

Toward the end of last year, I received the same advice (inspired message) from various sources, so I decided to take note. Sometimes, when the Universe is trying to tell you something and you aren’t hearing it, it wisely makes the decision to be repetitive until you take note.

Such was the case for me throughout much of November and December. What was the message?

Routine.

I needed to create routine in my life in order to be more in the flow, to be more inspired, and to accomplish all I have set out to do. And yet… routine? Really?

Previously I had subscribed to Paulo Coelho’s statement on routine:

“ If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s lethal.”

Coelho-routine quoteAnd yet.

And yet… here was this repeated message, being shared with me from various trusted sources (think: colleagues, friends, mentors, doctors). There was truth in what they were saying, and I knew it. Routine, for me, wouldn’t be lethal, but the lack of routine certainly was proving otherwise.

It was lethal to my productivity, my ideas, my stability, and hence my innovation and creativity. A lack of routine made it harder for me to achieve my personal wellness goals as well.

So, as the new year approached, I muddled through the holidays trying to establish the baby steps of a routine. After about 2-3 weeks of trying and not exactly succeeding, I took stock. What was I missing? That’s when it occurred to me:

I had never been taught how to design, create, and establish a routine.

Now, for those of you who seem to know how to do this, this may seem like a weird conundrum, but it’s true. Not knowing the basics of establishing routines makes it actually quite difficult to get started.

Of course, the Type A side of me had an internal dialogue akin to the Nike slogan “Just do it,” but that wasn’t enough. My reply, invariably went something like this:

Honestly, if you think I could “just do it,” don’t you think I would have DONE it, by now?

So, I had to start from scratch through trial and error.

As it turns out, and as I’m learning (it’s an ongoing process), it’s really hard to establish a routine if you’re not actually invested in the reasons why or the activities themselves.

Duh.

I can look back on decades of schooling and say with 100% certainty that if I wasn’t interested in the topic, it was like pulling taffy to get me to do any work (I did the minimum). This is how I am. I know it, I work with it, and I embrace it. Because the reverse is also true: When I’m invested in something, you can be sure I will be all in. I just needed to find the right reason.

So, how do I get invested in something that I don’t fully understand, that I was never taught how to do, and that felt daunting and overwhelming from the word “go?”

I want to say: “Here’s how! Here’s the magic answer. Now, go forth and change your lives with this magic wand I created and/or stumbled upon.”

But it’s simply not the truth.

The truth is, I don’t have the answer. However, I do know what not to do, and that’s actually proving to be more than enough.

I know not to use the four diversionary tools I mentioned in my book to rationalize, justify, generalize, or explain/judge my way into excuses. I know that if I’m making excuses to NOT engage in a new behavior (one that I actually want to do), it’s because I believe (wrongly) that I’m more comfortable in my current state than I will be if I try to do something else. And that’s the basis of all change, isn’t it?

The argument between the seeming comfort of the status quo and the unknown discomfort of doing something different often creates a cycle of inactivity. The problem is, both are subjective and unknown. And when something is unknown it often leads to feelings of fear. And fear, I know for certain, is NOT how I choose to live my life, nor is it an energy with which I wish to align. Boom! I had my reason.

Just as I teach my clients, when you drill down past the surface level of any problem, you can usually arrive at a baseline of energy or emotion. Typically, the choice is fear or hope (many say love, but at that deep baseline, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s actually hope). When we get down to that level, to the underlying energy behind our choices, we get to decide which energy is in alignment with who we are and our values. And, as it turns out, that awareness is often enough to propel ourselves forward into the unknown. In my case that meant doing something I was never taught, didn’t understand the value of, and had no investment in… until I did.

Finding Compassion Through Fatigue, Frustration, and Fear

(Or how to survive the holidays with your Self intact)

Last week was Thanksgiving – the official start of the holiday season. My social media feeds were flooded with musings on gratitude and pictures of family gatherings. It was, for the most part, a week of blessings and joy. But it didn’t start out that way, not for me.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving I got sick. Really sick. It was a 48-hour stomach bug that took me down for the count for the better part of the week. (Fatigue) It was not an ideal start to a week typically highlighted by food and festivities.

Two days later, on Tuesday, I started dog sitting for a friend who was going out of town with her family for five days. Her dog, Brutus, is almost 17-years old, and is totally deaf and partially blind. He’s lively and perky most of the time, which is great, and the plan was for me to stay at her house with my dog. Unfortunately, things don’t always go to plan.

On Tuesday night it became clear that my dog and Brutus weren’t exactly keen on sharing space. I had to send my dog home and work out a new plan with my friend, which resulted in my coming and going throughout the next 5 days to take care of Brutus and keep him company, while also being home enough to take care of my dog and life. (Frustration and Fatigue)

That would be enough to make me feel overextended during a holiday week that started out with illness, but it didn’t end there.

Brutus started coughing the day before my friend left town, but it seemed fairly benign…nothing to worry about. By Wednesday night, I was concerned. By Thursday morning, it seemed clear to me that there was a problem. (Fear)

Brutus was hacking stuff up, and it seemed like it was getting worse. By Friday we were at the vet so they could watch him and give him antibiotics. Brutus had the beginning of pneumonia, but we caught it early. He seemed better that evening, but got worse overnight when he vomited the little food he managed on Friday, including his antibiotic. So, on Saturday morning we went back to the vet, and my friend flew home a day early… just in case.

Throughout the six days from Sunday to Saturday, I struggled to find compassion. I was frustrated, fearful, and fatigued. My mind was on overdrive:

What if my dog got sick from that one night with Brutus? (Frustration)
What if Brutus died on my watch? (Fear)
What if I am making myself worse, having started the week out so sick? (Fatigue)

Did you see all the “what if” statements in there? Yeah, that’s where I was. My head was wreaking havoc with my emotions, exactly because I was so tired and overextended. I joked with my friend that my parasympathetic nervous system was overwhelmed, but it was no joke. I had no more bandwidth for anything, physical or emotional, to be added to my plate. My frustration levels had peaked, my fatigue had maxed out, and I was living with fear.

Somewhere in the process, though, I had a thought as I looked at the helpless little dog in front of me:

Where has my compassion gone?

I knew that all my buttons had been pushed and that compassion was clearly absent, for myself and for Brutus. I knew it. And I knew I had to do something about it, but what?

As I cycled in and out of conscious thought on the subject, alternating my presence with my overwrought absence, I allowed ideas to percolate to the surface. It was then that I asked myself the question: How would I want my dog to be treated?

Breakthrough!

I stepped outside myself and thought of another, someone I love dearly, and asked a simple question. I took perspective.

I pulled Brutus next to me, covered him with a blanket and rubbed his back. When he coughed, I gently patted his back and pet his head softly so that he knew I was there. When he curled up on his bed, I sat next to him on the cold floor. I even hand-fed him some food so he could take his medicine.

I did all of this, even though I was tired, scared, and annoyed at how the week unfolded, because it was the compassionate thing to do. It was the kind thing to do. I did all of this, because I was tired, scared, and annoyed.

I talk a lot about being in authentic alignment with who we are as a path to wholeness, peace, and joy. Fear has no place in my authentic alignment, nor do frustration and fatigue. They simply are not expressions of who I am at my core, but kindness is. Compassion is. And yet, I’m human.

When fear, frustration, and fatigue took over it was very easy for me to lose connection to myself, to who I am at my core.

Taking perspective allowed me to find compassion through these challenges. It may seem like compassion is all about someone else, but compassion is also a guaranteed path back to your heart, to yourself. It returned me to me.

The important lesson I received last week was not in being “good enough” while managing a stressful situation, but in knowing that even when I am pushed beyond my capacity, barely managing, and overextended to the point of feeling wholly out of alignment, there is always a path back. What mattered most was that I was willing to acknowledge it and, subsequently, do something about it. For me, that meant asking a perspective-taking question. And I think that’s true for most of us, actually.

Brutus was just a dog, and the situation was certainly not extraordinary, but what if…

What if you took the same idea and applied it to family gatherings this holiday season? Or work situations?

Or… What if we applied the same premise to the refugee crisis? To homelessness? etc.

Fear, Frustration, and Fatigue are guaranteed to take us away from our best Self, from who we know ourselves to be at our core, in our hearts. When we pause and allow ourselves to take a different perspective – to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, if you will – we swing open the door to compassion and kindness. Compassion is the first step to returning to alignment when we’ve lost our way, both personally and globally.

Brutus

Brutus – happily resting by my side :)

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.

I’m not procrastinating… I’m moving energy!

I’m not procrastinating, I’m moving energy around!”

That was me last week after being away for 24 days, having an epiphany about my own manifesting snafu (you can read about it here), realigning to a deeper more centered power, and then standing in my bedroom feeling a little “off” as I looked around.

Immediately, I decided to completely rearrange my space. I moved everything, relocated artwork and rugs, furniture and decorations. I spent the better part of the day undoing and then redoing a space in which I spend less than 10 hours a day. Why?

Because after shifting the energy within me and realigning myself to the immensity of the Universe, my room felt stagnant. It, too, needed a shift. Everything had to feel new and vibrant again, just as I was feeling. Simply put: the energy needed to move. So I moved it!

It wasn’t until a friend emailed me in the midst of my endeavor and suggested I take a nice rest after my travels that I impulsively answered with this:

“Lol. I will. Starting tomorrow. In typical Martina fashion, I am rearranging my room today!!”

‘Typical Martina fashion’ is an acknowledgment of how moving furniture around is a trend in my life. But it’s only now, looking back, that I can see why I do this every so often, and why I need to:

I have to move things around to shift the energies in my environment and keep them flowing more and more. It’s like hitting a reset button every so often. The change it creates in the space is palpable, and I always feel better afterward.

Over the years though, I developed a negative self-talk about it. I had come to identify the exercise as a means of avoidance and procrastination. I usually moved the furniture around when I had something else going on that I didn’t want to pay attention to.

Now, all of a sudden hindsight and awareness afforded me the perspective to realize that all those times I had rearranged furniture in the past, I was probably doing so intuitively, to create more flow. To make what was old, new again. I was shifting the physical energy in my environment, to better support the shifting energies inside of me. 

So, even though I labeled it differently when I was 16, I wasn’t procrastinating, I was moving energy! (Well, perhaps except on the evenings before an exam. Lol!)

Anyhow, the bottom line is this: when manifesting or inviting something new or more possibility into your life, it’s important to look at all the places where you can create opportunities for more flow, or more vibrant flow. This includes your environment. Sometimes that means changing out a throw pillow for a new color. Sometimes it means moving every item within a room into a new layout. You get to decide.

For me, the night I shifted everything around was the best night of sleep I’ve had in a while. And with my bed in a new position, I now get to wake up looking at the trees out my window, which is possibly the best visual alarm clock in the world!

Happy shifting!

morning view