During the process of coming up with my word for 2020, I toyed with the idea of having two. An inner word, like alignment as in making decisions and choices that are in alignment with purpose… And an outer word, like visibility as in meeting more ...

The Word for 2020 Connects Everything

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During the process of coming up with my word for 2020, I toyed with the idea of having two. An inner word, like alignment as in making decisions and choices that are in alignment with purpose… And an outer word, like visibility as in meeting more people and putting myself in experiences that will help elevate my relationships and work.

A dear friend and I were discussing what our words might be; she said something to the effect that she wants to not isolate, to be out more with people. She suggested Connect or Connection as her word. I said, "Great word. Maybe it's my word too." I laughed, because, of course, it is. Connect is all things inner and outer! 

We connect. It’s what we do. Until we don’t.

Several months ago I hit a wall of overwhelm. I didn’t know what was wrong. I felt cloudy and unfocused. And, not a little bit sad and I didn’t know why. I was on the phone with my sister when I started to cry. She felt so far away (she’s in Austin I’m in LA) and that’s when it bubbled up, what was wrong. I felt disconnected, from everything, my family, my writing, my relationships, my work. So, I did what I do when I’m stressed and in an unsettled mind. I got quiet. Interestingly, my word last year was Mindfulness. So, I got mindful. I meditated, prayed, journaled and counseled.

The answer that came was: You need to disconnect to connect.

So, I did. I did a 30-day digital detox where I disconnected from all things media - online and off - unless it had to with work, my writing or something that would lift my soul. I wrote about it at the time, but the upshot is I reconnected to myself and connected to what I value. It was a powerful shift. It got me thinking about how our connection, or disconnection, drives our lives. 

Connection is a personal power

As human beings we are receptors in constant connection. Our bodies tell us when something’s wrong or when we feel good.

Our eyes and ears connect us to our world. The attention economy is all about grabbing our eyes and ears, our attention. And, then engaging that attention until we fully connect. That’s the end goal. To win and own our connection by holding our minds and hearts. It’s one thing to capture your attention, but to make a connection that leads you to click, to watch or read, to share a post, to make a decision, to purchase, to change a belief, to vote… that’s everything today.

Cal Newport is his book "Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World" says: “Outsourcing your autonomy to an attention economy conglomerate—as you do when you mindlessly sign up for whatever new hot service emerges from the Silicon Valley venture capitalist class—is the opposite of freedom, and will likely degrade your individuality.”

It’s your power to choose if, when and how you connect. That’s pretty massive personal power. And one that it’s easy to forget.  

It’s your choice if, when, where or how you connect your attention. Your connection is more valuable than a Wall Street commodity.

Be finicky with your connection

As human beings we are fully equipped with input and output channels. But, our bandwidth is only so wide. Be selective about what you allow to connect to that personal real estate. Be selfish with it, and discernible.

On the other hand, you can choose to be generous with your connection when it serves the greater good, a higher purpose, whether it’s your own or another’s, a worthy cause and relationships worth fostering.

To Connect is a primitive human need. I mean if the human race was designed to evolve and expand, we kinda have to connect with one another. I’m just sayin'.

Here are some ways to deeply Connect in 2020:

Connect to the body symphony. It’s the tissues in-between, the veins and joints and body scaffolding that keep us strong and healthy. Make a loving connection to your body with the right foods, moving the body and getting a solid 8-hours of sleep per night. 

Connect to mind/heart/spirit. Meditate to get quiet, to receive your highest wisdom. Pray to receive God’s guidance. Learn from the ancient Stoics and philosophers by reading them. Practice self-love.

"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength." Marcus Aurelius

Connect to the present moment. The easiest way to do that is to connect to your breathing. Often. 

Connect to community. I’m focusing on my Kindness Community: those people who are part of my Mobius where we lift each other up, promote each other’s goodwill, always, and never gossip about one another. This is a requirement for an inner circle’s true connection. I saw a quote recently that said, “I will only sit at a table where I won’t be the topic of ill-will conversation after I leave it.” Amen. That really spoke to me. Part of loving, consistent, kind, safe, boosting connection is fostering that promise.

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Jim Rohr

Connect more live and in-person. With people, rather than online. Which, for me means getting my butt out of the house more. Walk. Take in more life experiences. Explore great places around town. Make more dates. Gather friends for write-ins and discussion. Create a list of people you want to connect more with this year.

"Great communication begins with connection." Oprah Winfrey 

Connect to purposeful work. For me that’s creativity. And, connect in a deeper way. A new way, every day, in a rich, advancing-the-story manner. Look for fresh avenues to progress your work in pure, authentic connection. Meeting people from that place, the projects and partnerships that are in alignment will flourish. The rest will fall away.

Connect deeply with current projects and the people involved, nourishing those rich collaborations. 

Connect with other creators who are living their creativity. What can we give to and receive from one another? Read great writing and storytelling by reading several books each month. This one would for you be whatever is your purposeful work. Connect with others who are living it. 

Connect with nature more. Animals. Trees. Explore unexplored territories. Be in service to the earth. 

Connect with family in meaningful, memorable ways. Be of service.

Connect with money and finances on a regular basis. Examine and reexamine goals to create and protect your future. It’s never too late to get serious about it. Connecting regularly keeps it on track.

Connect daily with your goals. Get clear about them and commit. By connecting with them daily they become a part of your vernacular.

Connect to your attention. It's a fast life, but what I found when I disconnected to connect, the more I was in touch with where I placed my attention, the slower life became, the moments in-between held more air and space to breathe. To create.

Connect the dots. When you start to realize that we really are all connected with all that is, things make sense. 

"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow man." Herman Melville

Want more meaning in your life? Connect to what you value.

Want to be healthier? Connect to your body, mind and spirit. 

Success? Connect to your goals and your collaborative relationships

Peace of mind? Connect to your spirit.

Want love? Connect to yourself first. Connect to others from a place of self-love. It levels the field and you'll receive the most committed relationships when you're solid on your own worth. It becomes a powerful connection.

"Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued - when they can give and receive without judgment." Brené Brown

Connect. Connect. Connect. 

 

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

       
 

Lessons from the Formative Teen Years

A decade in review...

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I remember thinking 2020 seemed so far away when I was a kid. What would I be doing? What would the world be like? Where would I be living then? Such were the ruminations of a dreamer teen still forming her ideas about life.

Even ten years ago, 2020 seemed like an eternity away. And, what a decade it’s been. The teen years. It got me thinking about how the last decade has also been, in so many ways, the formative teen years in my adulthood.

My adult coming-of-age.

Usually this time of year I review the past 12 months – the highs and lows, lessons learned or taught, relationships that shaped and grew or phased on because the contract was complete, projects culminated, new ideas birthed and coddled, loved ones getting married, passing on, babies arriving, blessed pets lost, health experiments, new words learned and used, books read, transformative thoughts conversed… Gotta say, I love the review and recap.

However, this moment, which only happens a handful of times in a person’s life, we get to glance into the rearview at a decade before the digits roll over onto the new one. It’s a collective step, leap or roar forward. In this case into the new roaring 20's. 

Although it’s a huge span of time with numerous milestones, events, highs and lows, that were met, seen and experienced, I’ve found that it’s the heart, mind and spirit stuff that has bubbled to the surface. The lessons life has presented along the way.

My coming-of-age has definitely been from the inside out. I took a gander at my blog posts on Thought Changer over the last ten years and they showed the GPS for my adult teen-years path.

Here were the 23 biggest ones I will take with me into my (our) 20’s:

  1. Slow down inside of a fast-moving life – the in-between moments are what life is all about.
  2. Own your words and use them wisely. And, kindly.
  3. Trust yourself. It’s the simplest way to find your voice and stay on your path.
  4. Listen to your own cues. With discernment and curiosity.
  5. Pay attention to life’s metaphors. They speak to us everywhere. Life is pretty magical in that way.
  6. Life is a laboratory. Live the questions and be open for the answers that come.
    And, in that way life is also a river when you learn to go with the flow and to ride and navigate the currents.
  7. Gratitude, compassion, kindness and understanding are our connective tissues. They connect us to ourselves as well as others and the world. They are the keys to unlock meaning and purpose.
  8. We really are all connected. To each other. To the seasons. To nature. To the universe. It’s a comforting reminder, always.
  9. Everything is a choice. We have permission to make our own. It is our greatest freedom and it starts with our thoughts.
  10. What we think about, is. Change your thoughts, change your life. It's oft said and there's a good reason for it. It's so, so true.
  11. Let go of perfection. Surrender instead into being a work in progress.
  12. Declutter often. Recalibrate often. Refuel often. Get quiet often. Learn from your own thoughts often. Learn from the ancient masters often. Repeat.
  13. Stop apologizing.
  14. Listen to your body – it tells us everything we need to know. Allow the heart to lead.
  15. What you believe creates your reality.
  16. Take regular strolls outside your comfort zone.
  17. Lean into what’s working and do more of that.
  18. Know your own resilience, your own phoenix that rises from the ashes of disappointment or setback. Mine is creativity. It’s what I turn to over and over again.
  19. Be available for what’s in front of you. Just saying “I’m available for…” puts you there.
  20. Relish the feeling of legacy when it taps you on the shoulder. Listen to your soul calling. When you get quiet enough every day, you’ll hear it. Feel it. Look at #12 again. 
  21. Don’t waste too much time looking at the horizon. Focus on what’s next. Just the next step. Then, you’re ready for the leap when it shows up.
  22. Integrate. Know that contraction is a part of every life expansion. When you know that, you take the time to fully integrate big transformation.
  23. Hone the skill of perspicacity with will manifest in a life guided in insight, intuition and intellect.

I also asked myself these three questions, to aid in the review:

What feels like a lead weight, or a chained shackle I want to cut free? Things I want to leave behind in the teens. Like the need to please, or the need to apologize, or fear of completion, or of asking for help…

What feels light, like a hot air balloon, or a cloud on the atmosphere? Things I want to guide me forward. Like the desire to learn. Also, the tenets of understanding, gratitude and love.

What feels like connective tissue? The mind-body fabric that becomes ingrained. Like self-trust, confidence, certainty, inner wisdom, curiosity.

What I know in my bones now, after trudging, crawling, strolling, running and soaring through my formative adult teen years, is these are all part of becoming seasoned, gathering the stones that will pave and smooth the next part of my path.

What might yours be? I'll be thinking more this week about plans for 2020. But, for now... 

Happy New Year!

Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

       
 

It's All About Coming Home

An Answer to An Eternal Question. 

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Birthdays are a favorite time for reflection, so today, I’m once again assessing where I am and what I’ve learned and if there are any nuggets to share. This year, rather than compiling a list of lessons and isms, it’s one of the eternal questions on my mind and an answer that’s been percolating for quite some time.

Why am I here?

As I was walking to get coffee one morning, I saw a man across the street, out for his morning stroll. I paused to watch him because there was something magnetizing about his carriage. He was elegant, wearing a cappuccino-colored suede jacket over jeans. I’m guessing he was early 60’s, had shoulder-length silver hair pulled back into a loose yet neat ponytail and wore large sunglasses, as he was walking toward the bright, rising sun.

What captivated me was his gait. He had a long, confident stride as he walked with a cane. But the cane wasn’t there to help him walk;  it was a prop, a walking companion, a dance partner as he swung it in front of him and struck the sidewalk in a steady rhythm.

A few months later, while in France with friends, I saw a woman who, although very different, reminded me of that man. We were in Saumur, in the Loire valley. It was a perfect afternoon; after buying chocolate and strolling the charming cobblestone streets that seemed to meander forever, we stopped for lunch at a sidewalk cafe. It was mid-afternoon when I noticed the woman.

She caught my eye when she was about a block away. She was also late 50’s, early 60’s, with a smart chin-length bob; she had an easy swing to her stride, her casual, denim shirtdress swayed gently with each step. As she sat at the table next to us, we exchanged greetings, “Bonjour, Madame.” Her voice was low in timber and strong in expression. She settled back with her espresso and cigarette, lost in her own reverie. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.

What was it that struck me about this man and this woman? They were both comfortable in their skin. But, it was more than that. They each had a deep sense of home about them, of personal ownership that preceded and walked alongside them.

What is home?

I've been thinking a lot about home lately. It has different meanings to people, at different times in their lives. For me, it started as a journey from the outside in.

I've lived in 21 homes during my life. That seems like a lot. Looking back, each home signified a theme and a progression of some kind. I remember feeling safe and loved in the family homes in which I grew up, where I never questioned where or what home was, it was with family. 

As a young adult, home meant striking out on my own, being able to make my own decisions about how I furnished it and lived there. Responsibility was the theme.

The first home I owned, a small bungalow in Royal Oak, Michigan, was a big mark of adulthood. Even though the bank was the true owner, I had a real sense of independence and ownership for the first time in my life. It was the first time I heard the phrase, "The house has good bones." I could make it a home and it was glorious to make it my own.

The house I owned with my ex-husband was new construction and we shared all of the decisions as to what went into that house to make it our own. Adventure, conflict, and compromise were rotating themes. It was an adventure for a while until we grew apart, realizing that things didn’t fit. I never felt like I fit in there and I kind of lost myself for a bit. So, that home represented coupling, a loss of personal ownership, then un-coupling.

Shortly after divorcing I transferred to Los Angeles with the company I was with and I bought a sweet little condo that felt like being a part of something grand, after which upgraded to a house with a big yard. I loved that house which was filled with so much happiness. Then, something else happened to rock my world.

I got laid off from the corporate job with the corner office. I was in the bubble that millions found themselves in at that time. There I was, without a job and with a big mortgage payment. I blew through savings over the next several months, and I got a tenant. I went through all of the processes made available during that time of crisis and tried to save my house. The American Dream became a nightmare.

It was in that house that it began to sink in, deep, that a house is not the home. The house is brick and mortar, slats and beams. I sold the house, downsized and moved on, as my career and life moved on too.

My idea of home started to change. I began some soul-searching spiritual work and the external signals became louder. 

“I need harmony in my home.”

I was in a brief living situation that was difficult and at times combative. I didn't feel at home. I said, “I need harmony in my home.” It started an ongoing conversation between the housemates about what that meant and might look like. That house represented a major shift in my definition of being home.

One morning I woke to up to find a spectacular spider web, the most intricate I’d ever seen, outside my door. It was a huge expansive mansion with its orb weaver and homeowner posing in the center. When I returned at the end of the day, the web and the spider were gone.

The next morning, the same spider built another web in the exact same spot. Fascinated, I learned this particular spider actually eats her web after the laborious task of building it, only to build it again the next day, and the next, and the next. She had a very specific intention while building it and also while tearing it down and taking it with her.

It got me thinking about was how this wise spider was never homeless because she carried her home with her. Inside of her. It was always with her, even as it was displayed for the world to see, she was connected to it, it was a part of her and represented who she was.

Well, that changed my entire perspective. It was empowering.

Home is an inside job.

When I shared living space, whether, with an ex-husband, tenants or a variety of roommates over the years, I appreciated the lessons of community and relationship. Many of those people I consider some of my greatest teachers.

There’s a reason some axioms are evergreen. They are true: Home is where the heart is. There’s no place like home.

There’s no searching for home when you have it with you always. The cane-walking man, French woman, and spider taught me that. I settled into my own sense of home, more contained, more within.

I have good bones. I can make a home here, where true harmony resides.

Rumi said, “Remember, the entrance to the door of the sanctuary is inside you.”

The seeking really does start inside. Often we find ourselves searching outside of us, looking for happiness, purpose, validation, which is why so often we can come up empty, constantly searching for something that feels elusive.

So, as I ponder on this day, beginning my next year around the sun, the answer to this question is crystallized.

Why am I here?

To come home. Everything starts and ends there. 

What has become clear, in order to discover your purpose, you must first come home to yourself. When you launch from solid inner homeownership, your purpose becomes your way of being. And, when you share your purpose with the world in a way that helps and serves others, it’s a beacon that shines from the center of your soul, the hearth of your home. You no longer feel the angst of searching for something outside yourself.

And, it's when you are safe and self-loved in your inner home that you are truly ready to invite someone else in, someone who will reflect his or her own safe and loved self within. How magical is that?

It takes courage to unlock the door to your inner home. For me, it’s been through deep meditation, prayer, plant medicine work, writing, sharing and being in community with others who are seeking as well. Curious conversations are illuminating.

What are some keys to unlock your inner home?

Carve out committed quiet time where you’re just being with you. Commit to it every day. Get up a half-hour earlier than the rest of your household. Or shut everything down an hour before bedtime as the house quiets down for the night.

Meditate to get in touch with your breath and your body. Find a guided mindfulness meditation that will ease you through it. When my mind wanders, I focus silently on this mantra: “I am home.” On the inhale: “I am.” On the exhale: “Home.” It’s incredibly grounding and simple.

Breathwork is extremely powerful to open your energetic pathways and to get in touch with yourself.

Journal to communicate with your inner voice, the homeowner. Your inner voice, your higher wisdom, the God inside of you, is the one that says “welcome home.” 

And, hey, I still love and enjoy a beautiful home to live in. I’m a Libra, what can I say? I’m comforted by nature and aesthetics and my surroundings and enjoy spending time and energy creating my living sanctuary. But, now I enjoy my environment even more because I’m not seeking the satisfaction out there.

So, why am I here?

I am here to come home and to live my purpose from here. To transcend basic human struggles by knowing I’ll find most answers inside my own wisdom and by integrating that knowledge into my daily life. It’s not the only answer to why I am here. But, to me, everything starts and comes from that sense of home.

 

Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

       
 

The Magic is in the Details

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On a recent episode of "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" Jerry Seinfeld had coffee with his greatest comedy influence, Jerry Lewis. Seinfeld wanted to discuss some of his favorite iconic bits where Lewis was in his genius. 

One such scene from "The Bellhop" Lewis appears to simply be walking through an empty ballroom. Seinfeld said, "You were playing like eight different characters there." To which Lewis responded, "Yeah, most people don't notice the details..." What they notice is that it's funny. And, the reason it's funny is that it wasn't general; instead was filled with specificity. And it's why it felt real, even in its silliness. 

The best actors spend a vast amount of time and dedication to being so specific in their scenes - What's their intention? What's behind the dialogue and actions? What's between the lines? - So that they embody the truth of the life they're portraying. They notice everything. 

The magic is in the details.

In a recent fiction writing class, the teacher talked repetitively about following the character moment to moment, with curiosity and great attention to detail. There's such discovery in the most minute instances. And, that's when the surprises happen, when, as the creator, you allow yourself to just be with that moment, inside the life of the person, as new moments, directions and discoveries present themselves. And, those are the moments that feel most true.

The magic is in the details. 

It got me thinking about how specificity can be a vital component to living a fully present life; a mindful, moment to moment aliveness. 

It's noticing what's right in front of you, the textures, feelings, sounds, colors, the unique details and nuances that keep you present.

It's noticing that the barrister at the coffee shop has a smattering of freckles on his nose.

Or that the brass has worn off the elevator button.

Or that your child holds her cup with her thumb and middle finger, just like you do.

Or that your dog uses his paw as a pillow.

Or a tree branch barely touches the top of the table on the patio, gently scratching it as the wind blows. 

Or that the person next to you in line has stepped aside so you can go first. 

What's magic about the details is how you allow them to surprise and delight. In what's next. In what's underneath. In what's there when you look closer. 

Just a little something to ponder as you head into your weekend. Get specific. Pay attention. Notice everything.

Look for the magic. It's in the details. 

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

       
 

This Is Not on You

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Sometimes we need a little reminder. And, then other times we need more than that. We need a meaningful punch to snap out of it. To snap back to paying attention, paying attention to ourselves. 

I was fretting over a couple of situations recently where I had myself in knots about what to do, what to say, how to be. Enough so that it took a meaningful punch from a good friend, who said, "This is not your responsibility. You're acting like it is." And, when I say meaningful punch, I mean it's a welcome jolt of reality, something I often count on from this friend. 

It got me thinking about how subtle it is sometimes, the ways in which we can take on too much, diminish our sense of personal power, our self-worth. And, it can build until the little forms of self-betrayal become a way of being. It stops us from being truthful and effective. And, real. 

How do we stop from robbing our own personal banks of self worth or power? These two ways are vital to replenish and revive.   

Stop Taking Responsibility for Other People's Stuff

You know those times. If not, let me remind you. Those times when you want to help so badly that you, energetically, take on the problem. When you feel like you need to fix things, to get in the middle; to help or give advice, often unbidden. And, all because you care, at least it starts out that way.

Then, if things get complicated or don't go the way you hoped or envisioned, or the person or people come back at you, then you - wait for it - take it on. You become responsible for that person's or group's actions or feelings. 

But, here's the thing. This is self-inflicted responsibility, misplaced ownership of that which doesn't belong to you. And, most of the time the other person or persons have no idea because they're focusing on themselves. They may sense of push-pull type of energy or they may not. Because it's in you, this self-inflicted responsibility, you're the one who is suffering.

The work, your work, is to know and understand the difference between support and responsibility. They dance next to each other but to very different tunes. Big aha for me! 

This is not on you.

A dear friend used to say, "One, two, three; not about me." It's a good mantra in those moments. Another friend says, "How is this my problem?" It helps put things in their proper place. 

Stop Apologizing for Yourself

This is the other debilitating way we betray ourselves. And, it's rampant, particularly with women.

You know those moments. If not, let me remind you. Those times you apologize when someone else gets in your way. Or you say I'm sorry for someone else's mistake or misgiving because you don't know what else to say or you somehow feel it's partially your fault, even when it isn't. Or you apologize for a situation that is clearly out of your control, outside of your jurisdiction, just because you extended the invitation to an event that goes awry or you brought to someone's attention something in the ether that ended up being offensive. Something you had nothing to do with. Or when you apologize for taking up space, for breathing. 

The last one may seem far fetched, but that's the impression it leaves. I've been trying to be mindful of when I do this. And, when I see or hear another woman do it, sometimes it's a reflex to say, 'stop apologizing.' Primarily because it's a reminder or a call for all of us to stop it. 

"I'm sorry." 

"Stop apologizing."

"Oh okay... Sorry."  

Apologizing for yourself is another way of taking responsibility for something or someone that has nothing to do with you. Yikes.

The first step is awareness. Start noticing, listening, as others do it, apologizing for things that don't require an apology from them, and then notice how it disempowers them instantly.

At the same time, shine the spotlight on yourself. Pay attention to how and when you do the same. Don't judge yourself for it. That's not what this is about at all. It's about reclaiming your inner strength and worth, your life, instead of continually giving your power away, one I'm Sorry at a time. 

Perhaps find another word. Remove I'm Sorry from your vocabulary. It so easily slips off the tongue, for everything. So, if you stop yourself from saying those words, then it allows you a moment to consider what's really happening and if the situation calls for you to say anything at all. If so, then find another way to engage, empathize, support, respond. 

This is not about when something occurs that does require a heartfelt apology, something that you are a part of. This is about not diminishing yourself and your life. It's also about not putting what you perceive to be other people's opinions about you or your actions above your own self worth. 

In her book, "Girl, Stop Apologizing," Rachel Hollis says, "If you actively take steps and intentionally begin to live without obsessing over what other people think of you, it will be the most freeing decision of your life." 

So, stop apologizing for yourself. And, stop taking responsibility for another's stuff.

Instead, be in full ownership of your own life, your own power. Now, that's on you. How awesome is that?

 

Photo by FuYong Hua on Unsplash