Category Archives: mindfulness

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.

img_9292

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

Something Old – Something New

June is wedding season, so I thought I’d borrow an old adage in keeping with the times: Something Old – Something New.

“Something OLD” refers to a theme or message that I have shared for many years with my readers and my clients. It’s about belief systems and the various forms they can take in our lives. Often, we don’t realize that we are operating under unchecked belief systems as we make decisions or plans, but we are. It’s when we begin to raise our awareness to these ingrained patterns that we start to set ourselves free of the ones that are holding us back, and we align more deliberately with the ones that support who we are authentically.

Belief systems are not inherently bad. However, it’s the unexamined belief system that can be creating obstacles in your path without you realizing it. Last week, I explored one such belief system in a little bit more detail, which brings me to the “something new.”

“Something NEW” refers to a new format I am starting to embrace to help get my work more broadly into the world: video. Some of us learn better from reading, while others learn better from hearing or seeing, and I needed to honor this truth. I recently completed a marketing course, which I have referred to a couple times in recent weeks, in which I practiced the art of making video to share a message, idea, or topic. Trust me, this wasn’t easy for me – even though I was a drama major in college and spent most of my high school years on the stage. There’s something so immediate about video that makes it more intimate. So, it took some work for me to get to where I felt I was ready to show up and be seen in this manner. And I’m glad I did.

The feedback has already been overwhelmingly positive. Most importantly, I heard exactly what I knew to be true: for many people it was “so much easier” to grasp the concept from watching a 3- or 5-minute video, than it was to read a blog or a chapter in my book. Furthermore, several people told me that the teaching sunk in without them realizing it, as they suddenly discovered that they were more aware of their thought and belief patterns over the days following watching my video. This is the best result I could hope for.

So, with that, I share both of these first videos with you now. I will most definitely be making more, so stay tuned. And if you want to remain in the loop, you can catch all my videos on Facebook, with little snippets being posted on Instagram. And, if you click the “see first” option on my Facebook page you’ll know every time something new appears. Soon enough, I suspect I will set up a YouTube channel to manage all of this content. For now, however, I am keeping it simple.

As for the videos themselves, they’re all about the stories we tell ourselves, and how that can either be a cause for positive change, or a source of self-detrimental behavior. You can watch them here:

Stories: Part 1 (What Happens When We Make Up Stories – and we all do)

Stories: Part 2 (The Genesis of Story)

What I learned from Ozzy Osbourne (no, really)

I am rarely ahead of the curve on anything. I still haven’t watched a single episode of Mad Men, I have no clue why Orange Is The New Black, and the only Housewives I know are my friends who are stay-at-home moms.

So, when I started seeing all the posts on social media over the last year about the benefits of coloring as meditation, I smiled quietly inside as I heard a voice in my head say, “yup,” while my wanna-be hipster started jumping up and down like a cheerleader.

Coloring as meditation is something I have been doing for many years. I even offered it as a component of a self-care fair during graduate school. (I even got our Dean to color a mandala!) I offered it because I knew of its benefits. I suggested it because I know it as a path to self-care and inner calm. I know these things, not because of a research study, but because I had been practicing this kind of meditation and self-care for a while, and it was one of the strongest, most-beloved tools in my toolbox. But, I’ll bet you’d be surprised to learn where I originally got the idea.

Years ago – I really don’t remember when, though I imagine somebody could look it up – I watched The Osbournes on TV. It was a favorite pastime for my ex-husband and I to see what Ozzy, Sharon, Kelly and Jack were up to. The episodes always proved entertaining. I loved it. Unlike today when I barely turn the TV on, back then I had my favorite shows, and The Osbournes was one of them.

Much to my surprise, on one episode in particular I watched Ozzy pick up some marvelous looking markers from his kitchen counter and promptly sit down at a bar stool to do what looked like coloring. My brain said this, possibly out loud:

Ozzy Osbourne is sitting in his kitchen, coloring. Ozzy. Osbourne.

Perhaps he was doing original art, the camera never showed us. For me, I saw markers which meant Ozzy was coloring. And as he was coloring, I watched his whole body look calm and peaceful, even as the mayhem swirled in the kitchen around him. In that moment, I remember thinking to myself,

“God, I miss coloring!”

That sentiment was immediately followed by,

“That looks so awesome – to just sit and color.”

Soon after that episode aired I found some markers in a drawer and decided to start doodling. I enjoyed feeling the markers in my hand, watching the surge of color pour onto the page, and seeing the simple little doodles come to life in front of me. It was fun! More than fun, though, it felt good.

At the time, I didn’t explain it as something “healthy,” “meditative” or “peaceful.” Coloring was something to do that felt more productive than just watching TV. In fact, I often did it in front of the TV, which actually allowed me to slowly give up almost all TV in general. Coloring wasn’t an escape though (TV was the escape). Coloring was me moving TOWARD something… toward something fabulous, calming, and expressive. Coloring was a way for me to get in touch with myself again. What started out as a passive hobby soon became a deliberate choice.

A little while later, I found one of my old coloring books from when I was in elementary school or maybe high school. It was barely used, but it was intricate and detailed. It was what I now call an “adult coloring book.” Unfortunately, sometimes the word “adult” has a very different connotation, but there were very few other ways I could think of to explain myself. So, “adult coloring book” it was, and I started searching them out in crafts stores and online. (Thankfully both Google and Amazon understood what I meant!)

Back when I first started coloring, there were very few books available, but there were some. Not as many as today of course, but enough. I found two main resources for coloring books on Amazon and became a loyal customer. I started to build a collection.

coloring books

My collection today

I would spend hours each week, calmly sitting in a chair with my markers, coloring. I also started creating art for other people in my life to share my passion and creativity. I colored and colored, and colored some more. My collection grew, and I found myself with so many options, across so many areas of interest, that I started cataloging my work. I then went shopping for even better markers. I started playing with shading and backgrounds. I found my inner artist come to life through coloring. More importantly, I found great peace and a sense of calm as I sat and quietly filled in the empty space between the lines with deep rich color.

It wasn’t long before I started creating my own designs, mandalas, specifically, that I could color. My coloring had become more than a refuge, it was an outlet, and I loved it. I colored straight through my divorce and graduate school. It provided me with a sense of joy, creativity, and calm whenever I took my markers out. Coloring was good for me. More importantly, coloring was fun.

I could never have known so many years ago that coloring would become what it has today. I only knew that it helped me find peace, quiet, and joy at the end of my busy days. I shared it with those that were interested, and kept seeking out new coloring books that sparked my curiosity.

Turkish Mandala

©martinafaulkner.com

Today, I use coloring very deliberately, and I have clients who do the same (sometimes it’s their homework!). Recently when I noticed my stress levels had gotten unmanageably high, I pulled out my markers, sat down in a comfy chair, and I colored. Within three days of doing this repeatedly, my sleep improved and my mood lifted.

 

 

If you haven’t tried coloring yet – may I suggest you take a page out of Ozzy Osbourne’s book and find a little time in your day for this wonderful creative outlet. It just might bring you calm in the midst of chaos. At the very least, you’ll get to feel like a kid again, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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.

Triggers and Opportunities

I recently had a conversation with a dear friend during which I got triggered. Badly.

You see, we all have this stuff. Stuff that comes up from our past (or past lives) that serve as hot buttons for us and exacerbate our emotions in a way that is inconsistent with the actual stimulus of what’s going on.

The easy way to say that?

Triggers are what happens when we react in a disproportionate manner to whatever just happened, because we’re caught up in our own stuff, emotionally.

So, what happened with me? I was having a fun conversation with someone I care about regarding the changes I am making in my own life for greater health and wellness, and suddenly… Boom! Triggered. I can’t say exactly what did it, but there I was, heading into my reptilian brain (fight, flight, freeze), and losing my grasp on the actual conversation, and that’s ok. It’s what we all do. It’s normal.

Here’s the cool thing though: After I recognized what was going on, rather than continuing on the path of reaction I chose to tell my friend that I was stepping away from the conversation, because it was triggering me.

The simple act of recognizing and owning what was going on gave me enough pause and perspective to choose something else.

Yes, I was still being triggered, and yes, I was still in a semi-emotional state, but I was engaging with it, rather than pushing it away. Then the most awesome thing happened: I said to my friend, “this is a learning moment for me.” And it was! I suddenly realized I could use the trigger to re-engage in a healthy manner with something I had stuffed away. Hooray!

I finally see triggers as a gift. Yup, a gift. They’re an opportunity for us to look at, accept, and let go of something that is keeping us from being our whole selves. They are obstacles on our path of life that we put in place long ago, and often continue to reinforce by fearing them and stuffing them when they show up.

Instead of giving them that level of disconnection, if we look at them as opportunities to learn and move forward they become springboards for us to jump further down our path more easily. We end up leapfrogging in our growth and understanding.

So, those obstacles that looked like boulders are now trampolines that we can use to propel ourselves further along with less effort and more flow. How cool is that?

Triggers as opportunities. I’m liking it. :)

Finding Your Five

This past week I had several conversations with people, from clients to strangers to family and friends, all about how to find your five, and why it’s so important to do so, regularly.

What is “Finding your five?”

It’s about identifying what you can do and what works for you to find pause in only five minutes, thereby restoring some balance to your day. When I worked in corporate America, I stumbled upon this idea and quickly adopted it into my life and adapted it to other situations. Here’s what happened:

I worked at a high-stress luxury retailer for a number of years. Before that I was a fundraiser for a major medical school. Both of these jobs required a lot of management, interaction, and attention. And there were a lot of personalities moving about, mine included. At the fundraising job, I had an office with a door, so it became easy (i.e. not mindful) for me to close the door for 5-10 minutes, listen to a song or just read something not work-related. It was a mindless balm in the middle of a busy day.

At the retailer, I was in an office with two other women, so privacy was not an option. I learned quickly how to create my own privacy by going to the restroom. Specifically, I went to the restroom on a different floor. Whether or not I had to use the facilities, I went when I needed 5 minutes. I didn’t have a smartphone, so there was no email, music or internet to go through and busy myself, which was better for me. I would go to the restroom, go into a stall, close the door and sit on the edge of the toilet, and simply breathe. I’d think of things that made me happy, and quietly breathe until I felt a bit of balance and stress-alleviation return to my body. It usually took 5 minutes, sometimes less.

I have since taught clients, friends and family this little trick, and it works in every situation. Why? Because nobody can (or will) stop you from going to the bathroom. It’s almost an uncomfortable subject, so people just nod in acknowledgement when you say you have to go, and you leave. It’s always an option, and it’s the easiest way I know of to take five, without conflict.

Furthermore, the truth is there is really very little that can prevent you from taking five. If you’re a surgeon, perhaps it’s not the best idea to take a potty break in the middle of your work. Then again, if I’m ever being operated on (and it’s not life-threatening), if my surgeon really needs a 5-minute break for physical and/or emotional reasons, I’d much rather he/she take their 5 than push through it while working on me.

So, the question is: What’s your 5?

Here are some examples for you to consider that focus on the five senses:

  • Taste: food, specifically dark chocolate.If you like chocolate, test this out. Grab a piece, put it in your mouth, and set a stopwatch. Without chewing, see how long it takes to dissolve completely. Experience it melting, focusing on nothing else. My guess is it will be more than 5 minutes and you’ll feel quite relaxed afterward.
  • Listening: Music or a podcast, depending on what works for you, are a great way to take 5. Choose something uplifting that gets your head and heart moving. Pick a favorite song (or songs) that last about 5 minutes and keep them with you at the ready. Or do the same with a podcast or something from YouTube.
  • Seeing: Visual beauty, however you define it, inspires and brings us joy. If that’s a walk among flowers and trees, great! If it’s looking at a favorite painting or item, also wonderful. The key is to keep it readily available and easily accessible. It’s a visual cue you create to signal to your body that it’s time to pause, breathe and relax. (A caution here: if you choose an image with people you know in it, it may not have the same calming effect as it could stir up emotions. For example, a picture of your kids might make you smile, but then it might make you think of the errands you need to run for their school supplies, which may not be relaxing.)
  • Seeing, part 2: Reading is a great way to take 5. Anything supportive, inspirational, or uplifting can recharge you. Exploring positive words on a page enriches both your mind and your heart.
  • Smelling: Aromatherapy has been around for millennia, because it works. Whether or not it works for you is a matter of trial and error with different scents. For calming and stress-release, try lavender, sandalwood, ylang-ylang or chamomile. Invest in a small bottle of essential oil and carry it with you. When you take 5, open the bottle take a sniff and see how your body responds. You may be surprised.
  • Feeling: This is my favorite! Why? Because, for me, it encompasses all the others. When I touch or feel something that uplifts me, such as a favorite blanket or even item of clothing, it brings back memories of sounds, images, smells, and/or tastes from experiences in the past. A simple item can trigger some of the happiest most joy-filled memories, which enhances any mini-break. Petting my dog is similar. There’s a reason having pets in a nursing home helps to improve the morale of the residents.
  • Feeling, part 2: The best feeling I’ve found, however, is the sensation of breath. Breathing with attention is about feeling everything going on inside you. It’s not touch, per se, but it’s still feeling. With each breath, your skin becomes more alive and responsive to slight breezes, for example. Breathing consciously for 5 minutes is the best way I know to find my five.

Whatever your 5 is, find it, name it, and use it. Regularly and often. Not only will you become more adept at self-care and knowing yourself, but you’ll feel a lot better too!

[And remember: small changes, over time, lead to big results. Five minutes is perfectly sized to create something great!]

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.

Inspiring and Embracing Change

I’m big into change. It’s in my top 5 list of topics and issues that I discuss, write about, and teach. My professional mission is:

Inspiring Change, one person, one moment, one word at a time.

Whereas my personal mantra is:

Instilling Hope, Inspiring Change.
(It’s on my business card!)

So, what happens when the Life Coach/Writer is undergoing a period of change herself? Well, she writes about it, of course! Partially to inspire others, and partially to share authentically and allowing herself to be inspired by others.

That being said, here’s an excerpt from a book I’m currently working on, on change:

“…if you desire change, it’s not enough to pray for it, or meditate on it, or even yoga yourself or chant into it. You have to incorporate all four aspects of health in a singular approach that makes the Universe stand up and take notice. You have to actively pursue change with every aspect of your being, simultaneously, harmoniously, and deliberately. And you have to do it, bit by bit, every day. Because that’s what creates lasting change: small movements accumulated over time to create big steps.

It goes without saying that change can be hard. In my experience, I’ve known it to fall anywhere on the spectrum from ‘effortless’ to ‘near impossible.’ Last week I read something about focus that put a different perspective on it.

IMG_0238I then wrote this:

Ignoring is a form of escapism; focusing means change is possible.

It may be the hard part or it may be effortless. The guarantee is that it falls somewhere on the spectrum. The further guarantee is that it will almost always result in something better. Because the simple truth is:

If a desire for change is in your heart, it means something in your present isn’t working; which means that change opens up the possibility for something better.

In my experience, whether I’ve gone about it reluctantly, willingly, or passively, making a change has always resulted in “something better” – even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. Which is why I’ve learned to create and embrace change (however it shows up), and help others to do the same.

With that, I’ll leave you with one more quote from one of my favorite musicals, Jekyll & Hyde:

“The only thing constant is Change.”

Just Be Yourself

The best and most supportive advice I’ve ever received has also been the hardest for me to achieve. Why? Because it was so simple and paradoxically complex.

Just be yourself.

What does that even mean?!?

Well, for me, it meant being open to the process. A process that is ongoing and has taken several years to get “jump-started.” Much like so many in show business that are classified as “overnight successes” – all the years of hard work and dedication that led up to that point don’t show once the spotlight (finally and luminously) hits them. So it is with authenticity, or being yourself.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. (Unless it’s a gestalt shift, which is possible, but a blog for another day.) Rather, it’s a process of slow, deliberate, and conscious awareness-raising and decision-making.

Recently, though, a dear friend said that awesomely supportive phrase to me again, and I heard it anew. I was asking him what he needed from me in terms of support. (This is common amongst mental health professionals – we’re somehow trained to ask about needs and clarify, clarify, clarify. It’s good for relationships, though sometimes can come across as clinical and/or sterile – or, gasp!, even annoying. But I digress.)

Anyhow, this friend was facing a challenge, and I asked, “What do you need from me? How can I best support you?”

His response?

“Just be yourself.”

At first, I balked, recoiled and tried to rephrase my question to get an answer I wanted. Repeatedly. And then it dawned on me:

Being myself is all I’m ever capable of, and all I’ll ever need to be.
And that’s more than enough, whatever “myself” is.

And I think that, right there, is my spotlight of “overnight success.” It was like finding that last puzzle piece that had fallen under the table. You knew it was there, and the puzzle was basically finished, but the nagging feeling from that missing piece doesn’t leave until it’s put in place.

Years of searching for the absent piece (processing, learning, remembering, unlearning, reading, listening, talking, sharing, growing, crying, changing, fearing, laughing, sorting, and every other “ing” you can think of) have resulted in my finally being able to receive the best advice I’ve ever been given…and embody it! Woo-hoo!

So, my friends, it really is that simple, and it really was that deliciously complicated. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The best paths are the ones we’ve worked for, the ones we carve ourselves – for they are the most lasting, treasured walkways. (Plus, we know them so well it’s easier to find our way back if when we get lost again.)