This is a Valuable Commodity: Protect Yours
What are you watching? Listening to? Thinking about over and over again? In other words, to what and/or whom are you giving your most valuable attention?
I caught one of Elizabeth Gilbert's Instagram videos last week. While discussing the issues around trying to be creative during this pandemic she quoted her guru from India who said, "My senses are servants to my mind." Not the other way around. You direct and control your senses with your mind. Your senses don't control your mind.It got me thinking about the immense power we have over our own attention. I know I'm dealing with all of this pandemic business the way so many of you are, with divided attention and short attention spans. Attention. What a fibrous word. Attention is a noun meaning "the act or state of applying the mind to something." Or, "consideration with a view to action." Or, "sympathetic consideration of the needs and wants of others."Observation. Notice. Absorption. Concentration. Engrossment. Enthrallment. Immersion.I say attention is a fibrous word because our senses are all connected to our minds by energetic fibers and to our brains by connective tendons and tissues. Our attention, therefore, is ignited by our senses. "For a lack of attention, a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day." – Evelyn Underhill, English writerI recently wrote in a post about Connection, "As human beings, we are receptors in constant connection... 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." "A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention." – Dr. Herbert A. Simon, cognitive psychologist
Because here's the truth: your attention is one of your most valuable commodities.
And, here's another truth: no person, place or thing can possess a piece of your attention unless you give it to them. Your attention is so valuable that people, places and things spend millions, billions, on obtaining it for their purposes or profit.
It kind of makes you stop to think about your attention a little differently, doesn't it? Something of such high value deserves careful, thoughtful and loving consideration.
I know, for me, I'm taking a much closer look, in isolation, where my attention goes and stays. The challenge has been to settle my attention for a sustaining length of time. Which is why I'm paring down. Directing my attention only toward things I consider vital: connecting deeply with my circle, focusing on my purpose work, reaching out in service. Everything else? Not so much.
"The best present a man can give a woman is undivided attention." – Usher
I think that goes for everyone. When you choose to give someone or something your attention, do so intentionally. Undivided. Focused.
Start noticing. What are you watching? What are you listening to? Where is your attention divided?
What are you thinking? Pay attention to the thoughts you give credence to as well. If it's a thought that doesn't serve you or others well, then release your attention to that thought and move on to one that does.
Search for a higher thought to attend to.
"The greatest act of love is to pay attention." – Diane Sawyer
Take time from now on to notice and direct your attention, intentionally. It could be one of the best and most valuable things to come out of all of this.
So, Just What Is Essential to You?
This word essential is getting tossed around a lot. Businesses and people/workers are being categorized as essential or non-essential. There seems, in some cases, to be an ongoing debate as to what and who is to be considered essential. People being sent home after being told they're non-essential and essential workers braving against an invisible foe to show up where they're needed.
Which is why it's the word-of-the-week in my Quick Sunday Read. So, I decided to take a deeper dive into it's larger meaning.
While there are several common and obvious things we all consider to be vital - healthcare facilities, food, the internet, hand sanitizer and masks, to name a few - what's essential to one person may be entirely non-essential to another. Golf? Books? Art? Parks? So, who's to decide?
On a much deeper level than toilet paper, hand sanitizer or coffee (one of my surface necessities!), this got me thinking about how this collective pause - while we have a lot of time on our hands - is providing a golden opportunity to examine what is truly essential for a life of high value. In essence, what is the heart of our existence?
So, what is essential?
Essential. What a loaded word. It's an adjective meaning an act, idea or process that's "absolutely necessary." Or "extremely important." And, it's a noun meaning "a basic, indispensable thing that is a necessity." Vital. Crucial. Key. Needed. Requisite. Fundamental element. A must. Coffee. Kidding.
"What world is there for us where our essential nature - and its right to live free - is one and the same?" – Guy Finley, author
I've been thinking a lot about this question:
What do I consider to be essential, vital, the heart of my existence, the fuel of my momentum, in my life from now on?
It's a big question. And, one that requires some of the stillness that's been bestowed on us by forces outside of our control. It's a good question to pose to the household if you're quarantined with another or with your family. So, so good, not only for your own self-reflection but also for a deep meaningful discussion with loved ones.
"Imagination is as vital to any advance in science as learning and precision are essential for starting points." – Percival Lowell, scientist
Some essentials seem obvious in this time but are still worth their weight, like drinking water, having a home in which to feel safe, good food and exercise to nourish our bodies. Sleep.
But, what are equally important as those, are as French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry put it, "The essential is invisible to the eyes." Like intention, love, and prayer. And, our list of essentials is fluid, often changing and evolving based on what is most needed for our wellbeing. So many are dealing with illness right now and that is what is in front of them so that is what drives some of the essentials, for sure. And, is why what we consider essential shifts and evolves.
I've been playing with this all week. Here are some that bubbled to the surface for me as you perhaps consider some of your own:
Routine. After nearly a month of working from home and physically and social distancing, I've simplified my necessities and find that resting into routines gives me ease and comfort. Routines normalize things.
Sleep, 8 hours a night, and rest; meditation and journaling; a good plant-based diet; yoga; coffee and chocolate; lots of water (I need to constantly remind myself); a good skincare regime; making my bed every morning; comfy clothes and great socks. You may ask how chocolate figures in as routine; it just does. A little of the good stuff every day makes me happy.
Connection. When I chose the word Connect as my 2020 word of the year, who knew what an even more profound principle it would become? It's become a saving grace for everyone, and an essential for so many, even as we must resort to virtual connections for now.
Regularly connecting with family members and friends, singularly and as a group, is what is breaking the isolation and truly sustaining so many of us. It is for me. I've set the intention to connect and reconnect with more people I hold dear or want to get to know better.
And, connection to self is front and center in a way that's unexpected and new and for some, unfamiliar.
"Know the true definition of yourself, that is essential. Then, when you know your definition, flee from it." – Rumi
Self-Reflection. I'm finding that my morning meditation and prayers are more deeply connected to my God and to my higher wisdom. And, to my intuition. It is opening up new ways of thinking and expanding channels of perception in my life and community. And, I put pen to paper to stream that new level of consciousness. All kinds of things bubble up.
Self-reflection is key for growth and for integrating the lessons that are presenting themselves right now. I feel like we're on the precipice of an opening, a better way of being, a rebirth for the planet as well as for all of us. We can pave new pathways. My self-reflection is essential for moving forward in a grounded, purposeful way.
My Pet. My little goofy cat Maggie is providing so much love and a needed distraction. We are for each other, actually. For a while she was walking around with a thought bubble over her head, "Is that woman still here?" But, now we're in a groove. I'll probably bring another little feline into the house to join the family soon. I just saw a story yesterday that a shelter somewhere is out of animals for the first time ever because so many people are adopting pets right now. How wonderful is that?
Words. I have a love affair with words and now even more so. While I'm speaking fewer words because I'm spending so much time alone, I'm cognizant of the words I'm thinking, speaking and writing. What's essential about words right now is in using them intentionally and effectively.
I sat down virtually with empowerment coach and teacher, Andrea Quinn, the creator of The Quinn Essentials, a set of applicable tools with which to live your most empowered life. One of the tools is to "Empower Your Word." Andrea says, "All of us are living the life we're talking about. Everything is vibration. Thoughts are vibration. Words are vibration. You create with your words whether you're aware of it or not. The words you say to yourself and to the world manifest the life you have. And, if each of us were more aware and responsible with what we're saying we would understand the power our words have in creating for ourselves and the world around us."
Creativity. It's my phoenix. I have a short attention span right now, often feeling a tad restless with the unknowing and the extended alone time. But, scheduled creativity, writing, brainstorming, it keeps me fresh. Rising. Expanding. Being. Creating. It's my essential essential.
Knowledge. As in reading, learning, discovering. From ancient sources like the stoic philosophers and from the current knowledgable experts and thought leaders. I follow Ryan Holiday, the best selling author of several books, currently "Stillness is the Key." He publishes a reading list of suggested books that will expand your deeper knowledge. I'm very slowly making my way through it. Now's a good time. Support your local bookstores if you can. #SaveIndieBookstores
Intentions. The biggest thing this essential provides is presence of mind. Setting intentions keeps us on course. Keeps meaning front and center. Maintaining a sense of productivity and efficiency. And, sharing our intentions with a trusted group, like an accountability group, helps keep us focused. I'm so grateful for my weekly accountability group.
Kindness. This essential is on all of my lists. I try to instill it in everything I do, even while dealing with those who are frayed, frustrated and really angry right now. I'm frustrated and angry about much of it too. But, you can be kind at the same time. And, kindness is service, checking in with and offering to help those who need it. I'm so encouraged by so many stories of human kindness now.
Love. An extension of kindness. And, it's everywhere. We are resolute, kind and loving beings at our core. It's an innate essential and likely on everyone's list.
Adaptability. It's been so inspiring to see how people and so many companies are adapting to our current circumstances. we are indeed adaptable creatures.
Play. Humor and laughter are so healing and are true equalizers. I'm on several text streams where we send hilarious memes that bring levity and laughter to all of us. Schedule Zoom parties. Play family games. Watch comedies. Take time for play. It's essential for wellbeing.
Nature. I took a socially distanced walk with a friend and we both remarked at the color of the sky. A bluer blue than we've seen in Los Angeles, ever. What's beautiful about nature, when we take time to be in it, is that it's so nourishing. It's oxygen. It's life's continuing all around us. It's birth and rebirth. It's hope.
So, those are some of the essentials for my wellbeing.
What do you find essential in your life? It's a good question and now's a good time to sit with the question and ponder the answers. Toss some in the comments if you feel like it.
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
What Will Give Me Ease Right Now?
Turns out I've not been handling all of this as well as I first thought. All of this, being the worldwide hurricane known as COVID-19. I'm stressed. And, it's in my body.
While giving flowery words to being positive and optimistic, staying present and healthy and upbeat as I try and boost up my family and friends along with myself, I'm realizing something. I've been in denial. Denying the stress, fear and anxiety that I've truly been feeling. So, now it's in my body and made me sick this week. Headache, vertigo, tight chest, cough. So, then my mind got messy - OMG do I have IT? I don't, but I went there.
I don't think I'm alone in this denial thing. While out on a socially-distanced walk yesterday I came upon a woman. As we made eye contact and shifted to make sure there was appropriate distance between us, she said, "I think this is ridiculous and not real. Just stupid." But, as I got closer to her she had a flash of panic in her face and backed away from me. So, maybe she doesn't really think it's so ridiculous after all, somewhere down deep. Denial?
It got me thinking about this thing that's grabbed hold of me and so many others. I may not have the disease, but I have most certainly have dis-ease.
Dis-ease. Dis-ease is a way of being, one filled with worry, doubt, and anticipation of the worst outcome. Sound familiar?
In other words, fear.
Just what does dis-ease do to our bodies? There are a plethora of effects that take hold in a state of anxiety or dis-ease, but importantly, for this time, it can "weaken your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to viral infections."
And, there's science behind why we worry and suffer from dis-ease. As a Time article termed it, we are in pandemic anxiety. Dis-ease happens whenever the fear creeps in.
So, that begged the question as I sat with my journal, what do I fear?
For the next several moments I took off all masks and laid to bare. And, made a list of all that I'm in fear of. And, they all came out. Of being alone. Of getting IT. Of death. Of losing work and healthcare. Of not finding true love. Of not thriving as a writer. Of not having money for retirement. Of being alone. Okay said that one twice. Of losing my passion, my drive, my creativity. Of this being the new normal. Of running out of time. Of. Of. Of.
I felt like I'd run a marathon after spewing them onto the page. Interestingly, seeing them in black and white, on a flat surface, letters and words, thoughts on paper, made them less huge. Less... real.
Next questions: Are these fears real? And, so what if they are? And, if they're not, what is the truth? So, I went back over each one again and asked myself the truth in and under each.
Are they happening right now? No. In truth, most are future projections based on a series of self-created expectations and unknown circumstances that have nothing to do with me or with me, right now. They do not reflect my present, now. Then, when examining them, one by one, the truth was often the exact opposite of the fear.
And, what's the opposite of dis-ease?
Ease. Just uttering the word is calming. It happened to be my word-of-the-week this week in my Quick Sunday Read.
The word means "absence of difficulty or effort." Or to "make something unpleasant, or intense, less serious or severe." And, "move carefully, gradually, or gently." Or "to give freedom or relief."
Alleviation, comfort, release, relief.
It's the state of being comfortable.
"Verily, with every hardship comes ease." – Quran, 94:6
Certainly, no one is truly in a state of comfortable right now. And, much of it is due to the unknown.
"Being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you." – Eckhart Tolle
There's a lot of talk about immune systems right now, I mean a lot of talk, and rightfully so. But the act of acquiring ease is something we can do all day long to keep our systems steady and healthy.
So, how to get there? To ease?
Some of my friends and I are trying this simple technique...
When dis-ease or anxiety happens, ask yourself this question at the moment:
What will give me ease right now?
The same goes for when a friend or loved one is in dis-ease. Ask them to consider what might give them ease, right then.
It could be as simple as taking a deep breath, remembering to exhale. We often hold our breath without realizing it.
It could be turning off the news that causes dis-ease. It's one thing to be informed, it's quite another thing to overload on the same fear-inducing info over and over.
It could be calling your doctor if you're feeling ill.
It could be reaching out to a friend. So often, once we say it out loud and release it, the ease comes.
It could be taking a specific action. It could be getting quiet.
"I am restless but deeply at ease. Branches tremble; the roots are still." – Rumi
And, so what if any of those fearful circumstances become my/our reality? Then, I'll find a new pathway.
Another truth is, my heart's desires are ingrained. What's not ingrained are the hows and the ways to get and be there.
Another truth is, the world will open up, widely, in new ways. Exciting ways. Ways we haven't thought of yet.
So, I'm surrendering to this. This time, this place, this pace. And, to the new portals that have yet to present themselves.
What brings me ease right now? That does.
"Never lose hope, my dear heart. Miracles dwell in the invisible." Rumi
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash
Need Reassurance? Lean on This
Expanding a little on this week's word-of-the-week from my Sunday Read: Resilience.
Words, thoughts and ideas have more power than ever during a time of uncertainty. This is one of those most powerful words that I'm leaning on right now. Resilience in mind, body and spirit. I'm finding it has far-reaching significance.
Resilience. What an empowering word.
Resilience is a noun meaning "ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like." And "the ability of a substance to return to its usual shape after being bent, stretched, or pressed." And, "the ability to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened."
Buoyancy. Elasticity. Flexibility. Pliancy. Adaptability.
First used in 1620–30. From Latin resili(ēns), resilīre meaning to spring back, to rebound.
Psychologists believe everyone has the capacity for resilience and the ability to learn how to build it. The American Psychological Association says: "Like building a muscle, increasing your resilience takes time and intentionality. Focusing on four core components — connection, wellness, healthy thinking and meaning — can empower you to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences. To increase your capacity for resilience to weather — and grow from — the difficulties, use these strategies."
"People rise out of the ashes because, at some point, they are invested with a belief in the possibility of triumph over seemingly impossible odds." – Robert Downey Jr.
Resilience is not ignoring the adversity or dilemma.
Resilience is being in high-conscious awareness about the adversity or dilemma - or virus - and digging into inner strength, healthy habits and higher wisdom (from real resources) to rise above it or ride through it, whatever is required.
It begins in the mind. Being resilient of mind is about calmness, equanimity and compassion. And, temperance.
"Although the world is full of suffering; it is also full of the overcoming of it." – Helen Keller
The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Massachusetts has been on my list of wish visits for a while now. They suggest this meditation to build Resilience.
It's a Metta loving-kindness meditation or LKM. And, it only takes 7 minutes to "kick in" and to feel the effects. It's very calming.
Begin by getting comfortable in an alert position. I sit cross-legged on the couch. "Take a few minutes to become present with your body, allow your breath to be calm and steady, and connect with your heart." Then silently repeat these phrases, focusing them toward yourself:
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I skillfully ride the waves of my life.
May I know peace no matter what life circumstances
Focus on yourself for a few moments. Then, replace "I" with "you" [May you be happy, etc.]. Then, "they" [May they be healthy, etc] for each. You can focus on someone(s) in particular.
And, I like to complete the cycle by saying "we" for the collective us. All of us.
May we be happy.
May we be healthy.
May we skillfully ride the waves of my life.
May we know peace no matter what life circumstances
"After offering to all living beings, let go of the wishes and, for a few moments, simply breathe, relax, and observe the effects of the meditation."
It just takes a few moments and not only feels peaceful and loving, but also expansive as in being one with the world. Thank you, Kripalu!
I am resilient. Even the power of stating it - to yourself and to others - will instill the energy of resiliency in and around you. Try it...
It's not living in fear. It's living in strength.
Fear bounces off of resiliency because no matter what comes our way, we can get through it. There's power in that. Being resilient is not absorbing the fear of this virus, but by listening to the medical experts and making the healthiest choices for yourself, your family and the community.
And, then living your life with positive conviction. Learning new skills. Finding new ways to build momentum. Forging ahead with current passions.
"With the new day comes new strengths and new thoughts." — Eleanor Roosevelt
That. Is. Resilience.
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
The Word for 2020 Connects Everything
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