We All Need Resilience

Resilience was my November word (12 Words for 2018). You won’t find it on the original list. It snuck in there last month. I just got a strong intuition that Resilience had something to say to me and ask of me, so I bumped Whole-Heartedness, November’s original word, into December.

Here is what Merriam-Webster has to say about “Resilience: An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Sign me up!

I would propose that all of us need Resilience, because our lives are in constant flux and change.

And that is what I most learned from a month of focus on Resilience: it isn’t just the big stuff where we need Resilience. We need Resilience in the constant stream of little challenges and changes in our lives.

Perhaps we need Resilience even more for the little stuff than the big stuff in our lives.

I think we all tend to discount the cost of little stresses and challenges and changes in our lives, because we have developed an inner toughness and resourcefulness that has us “toughing it out” and “pushing through it”.

This approach can be useful, of course, but it can also take a toll and wear us down if we are constantly facing little challenges and changes in our lives, and we don’t have a toolkit of strategies with which to nourish and replenish ourselves, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

It doesn’t work if our sole strategy is girding our loins and pushing forward, through it all.

We all experience times in our lives where what is coming our way isn’t expected, or feels disappointing or frustrating.

Here’s an example of what I mean. For me this month, I experienced what felt like one thing after another, all relatively minor, but persistent:

  • I had a series of health challenges that showed up, one after another, that kept me on the bench for a few weeks, and this was compounded by some medical re-schedules and new-schedules.
  • A blizzard dumped over a foot of snow, nixing my husband’s birthday celebration.
  • I needed to postpone a few small work projects that looked, finally, like they could get going in November.
  • I had no energy for my usual art projects, much less the new ones. I had to continually let go of starting those too.

None of these things, especially by themselves, are very challenging. But they happened to come in a continuous flow, and it started to feel a bit relentless.

Also, as a result, I felt like I was keeping up with the absolutely essential work commitments, but nothing much else. At the beginning of the month, it had looked like there was a wide expanse of time and space available to begin a few new creative endeavors.

This was the perfect set-up for Resilience.

Yes, we definitely need Resilience for the big challenges and changes in our lives.

But, the little stuff can really wear us down if we are not paying attention. It is erosion, and it can challenge our good spirits and our energy levels.

For me, Resilience is the feeling that my inner well is replenished and full, so that I can handle what comes my way.

About mid-month, this point about the little stuff and Resilience started to sink in, and I kicked my go-to Resilience strategies into high gear. My favorite replenishing and rebalancing strategies are:

  • Meditation
  • Guided Visualization
  • Walking
  • Journaling
  • Eating Well
  • Hydrating

None of this is rocket science, and I do all of it most of the time. But I made the connection that all of it is crucial to my Resilience, and I began to make it my top priority, and to give myself as much of it as I needed, no matter what. I stopped second guessing myself about whether I was being indulgent. I realized that all of it was essential, not optional.

I realized something else about Resilience, too. If we don’t tend to our Resilience on the small stuff, we certainly won’t have it for the big stuff.

Your favorite Resilience strategies will be different. But, it might be handy to be very conscious of what they are, so that you can pull them out whenever you need them. A sort of Resilience Toolkit, customized specifically to meet your needs.

What is Resilience for you? And what are your top Resilience strategies?

Renewal is Emptying

I’m squeaking in just under the wire, posting about Renewal on the 31st of this month.

Renewal has been my Word for October.

It has taken me all around the bend this month.

At first, I thought that Renewal was a call to greater Self Care. I upped my Self Care game, and that was good.

Then, on further reflection, it seemed like Renewal was an invitation to retreat and reset, a call to regroup.

Before I could schedule a retreat, Renewal morphed into a process, not a point-in-time event. I was exploring: What is the practice of Renewal?

I was getting warmer (remember that game as a kid? “Warmer” “Cooler”). Then, the words came: Renewal as a Lifestyle.

Well, what did that mean?

(This often happens to me. I consciously release my agenda or expectation or assumption about something, and just sit with it, as inscrutable as it may seem. I “be” open to life showing me what it means. Then, something eventually comes to clarify.)

This morning, a clarification came: Renewal as a lifestyle means emptying.

I knew this must be right for me, because it came out of left field, and it felt right.

I have been filling lately. Buying lots of books and learning lots of stuff. Doing more and more art, and squeezing in even more kinds of art. My brain feels like it has been over-stuffed at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

My Emptying/Filling balance has definitely been off.

This reminds me of two quotes:

“Be empty and you will remain full.”  Lao-Tsu (This quote came up in a blog post in March, when my Word was Eagerness.)

“Empty your cup so that it may be filled.” Bruce Lee

To me, emptying occurs at all levels:

  • Spiritual: Surrendering my agenda
  • Mental: Clearing my mind, as in meditation
  • Emotional: Letting go of my expectation, or assumption, or my grasping that something has to be or look a certain way
  • Physical: Releasing stuff

I want to make emptying a lifestyle. The filling will occur naturally and organically. Nature abhors a vacuum.

It still remains to be seen how this plays out from a practical standpoint in my life. Right now, it is a sincere intention, and I am confident that I will be shown the way as I go along.

What is Renewal for you?

P.S. A new word has butted its way into my 12 Words, for November: Resilience. This wasn’t in the original list. That will bump Whole-Heartedness, originally set for November, into December. And perhaps Love (the original December word) will become my word for 2019.

Generosity

I’ve loved exploring Generosity for the month of September (My 12 Words for the Year).

An early discovery and distinction arose in my practice of Generosity this month, and that is the difference between Giving and Generosity.

Like many of us, I was brought up with strong insistence of the virtues of Giving, and that approach gradually morphed into over-giving, and then danced on the border of resentment.

As I meditated on Generosity, it was clear to me that it had something to do with a Generosity of Spirit.

I feel like that is definitely different than Giving. Giving feels like a doing thing, and Generosity feels like a being thing. And, from being Generous of Spirit, the right doing naturally arises from within.

So, it clearly isn’t giving up on Giving. The Giving is just coming from a different place.

Living with a Generosity of Spirit feels wonderful: it feels spacious, and loving, and kind, and devoted to seeing the humanity in myself and in others.

It is living with heart.

What does that mean every day?

It means when I feel any hesitancy to say Yes, or any feeling of constriction, to go inside and explore what feels right in the moment.

It means when a request comes from a dear one, I stop what I’m doing (and the Doing Track that I am on), and ask myself: What would the choice be for Generosity of Spirit? What is Generosity of Spirit in this moment?

It means sensing what Being Generous in Spirit means in my decisions and choices.

Intention has really helped me with Generosity. When I intend to live Generously in Spirit, and I keep that intention alive and in my focus, I am inspired to action that is right for me and everybody.

I discover in each moment what it is like to live with a Generosity of Spirit. No rules.

What is Generosity for you?

 

Let’s Live by Intention

I love Intention.

Why? Because it is a promise to myself, and it is all about how I choose to show up, to anything in my life.

I can’t always control circumstances, outcomes, or situations. Have you noticed that for yourself? 🙂

But I can always choose how to be, and to me, that is everything. Intention is the difference between frustration and meaning.

Intention is my August word (see 12 Words for 2018).

I’m glad it is, because, as much as I love Intention, I don’t give enough attention to it, so I need to be reminded to be conscious of the Intention I am choosing.

I work with my clients on Intention, and I work with my own coach on my Intentions. And I still forget.

When I set an intention, especially before my day begins, I show up to my life consciously and fully engaged, rather than just going through the motions. I show up with a different quality of energy.

You might call this a form of mindfulness, but I think it’s more than that. There is a spirit to Intention, a spirit of Yes! I’m in!

Examples of some of my Intentions from the last week:

  • I want to be open to hearing all points of view.
  • I want to come to my friend’s struggles with love.
  • I want to be extra-focused in my work today.
  • I want to shed all of my expectations about my art and be willing to play.

Intention is a pledge to be. It’s a commitment to me. I love Intention.

So, if you’re game, let’s do more of it.

No Goodbye to Flow

Flow has been a good word for July (My 12 Words for 2018), because July has been a clunky month with lots of unanticipated interruptions and distractions. What better environment is there for exploring and practicing Flow, right? What is Flow, in all the chunks and clunks?

I have always loved the word Flow. To me, it is very appealing. It feels purposeful and full of momentum.

I’m strongly kinesthetic, and Flow is a sensing, feeling, touching kind of a word.

I like to move. I have a standing desk so I can move. I’m challenged most when I’m physically impaired in some way and my movement is limited.

But what is Flow, and how do we “be” Flow, or in Flow?

Mid-month, I knew that I needed to quit trying to define it and begin to experience it (duh!).

I quickly realized that I may not be able to define Flow, but I knew when I was “in Flow” and when I wasn’t in Flow.

I’m in Flow when I’m “firing on all cylinders,” mind, body, and spirit.

When I am in Flow:

  • My mind is sharp, clear, and focused
  • My body is flowing and flexible
  • I’m in tune with my deepest self and the spirit of inspiration is flowing

When I’m not in Flow, one or more of those three things is not in sync; mind, body and spirit are not in tune or in synergy.

Flow is that simple. Flow happens when I am in tune with mind, body, and spirit, and each of them is supporting the other.

So, how to sustain Flow?

I’ve been paying attention to Self Care, and to balancing the well-being of my mind, body and spirit. I’ve been making good Self Care essential, not optional. If you want to check in on your own Self Care, here’s a checklist to give you some ideas.

Sustaining Flow, for me, is a matter of keeping mind, body and spirit fine-tuned and in sync with each other.

That is easy to say, but actually living it, practicing it,  dare I say “rigorously,” is the next frontier.

I guess that Flow isn’t going to be neatly wrapped up in July. Flow is going to spill into the next month, and probably the next, and maybe the one after that, co-existing with the words for those months.

I certainly don’t want Flow to fall off the radar, because there is one thing that I do know about Flow: Living in Flow is essential to my highest well-being.

 

Flow Has Me Flummoxed

Flow is my July word (see the original 12 Words blog post, if you are just tuning in).

Flow has me flummoxed.

What is Flow?

We hear “Go with the Flow,” or “Tune into the Flow,” or “Align with the Flow.” But what is Flow?

When I look back at my whole life (what I can remember, anyway!), there is a discernible order in what, at the time, felt like chaos and uncertainty. There seems to be an organic unfolding. Sometimes I went with it easily, sometimes more reluctantly, and sometimes kicking and screaming.

I guess I have lived enough life at this point to believe that there is a creative flow or force operating in my life, one that underlies all the individual circumstances and situations. All the things that I thought at the time were bumps, roadblocks, stumbles, and wanderings, now make sense in the larger picture of my life.

Maybe that is Flow.

But in the daily moments, my life still often feels anything but Flow-y. It feels twisty and turn-y and at times inscrutable.

Maybe Flow just isn’t always to be known in the moment.

Yet, I still trust that there is an order, and a creative flow, and maybe that is what is important.

Maybe Flow is right here, and I am just not feeling it all the time.

You can see that I still have several crossed wires about Flow.

However, I trust that even as I write this, my understanding of Flow is sorting itself out, and all will be revealed in good time, and in right order.

In the meantime, What is Flow?

 

Expansion Happens

Expansion happens.

Life causes me to expand. Life gives me what I need to expand.

My Expansion (any of ours) is unfolding and emerging organically.

I want to engage with it, and not resist it. It is going to have its way with me anyway. 🙂

But, and it’s a Big But, how do I know it when I see it? How do I know what is authentic Expansion (coming from my inner essence, or True Self), and what are the Shoulds, Coulds, Oughtas, or the Next Shiny Thing?

For me, it is a kinesthetic sense. Expansion that originates from my True Self feels like a deep grounding of This-Feels-Right-ness within me.

I’ve practiced tuning into this inner essence long enough that I know when something feels right/is right.

But it is a continual dance with life, checking in, pausing, and resetting my course to align with what is calling me from my deep sense.

What is “mine to do”? What is it time for now?

These questions are beginning to be a more unconscious feeling and response now, but in the beginning I needed to stop and pause and go within, many times during a day, in order to stay aligned with the true course that I want to be on.

And, this process and practice applies to everything for me, right down to the mundane and minute as well as the “big questions” of life.

It has become a path of sensing the “inner impulse of knowing”.

Many times, I don’t know the answers to all of my questions. This way of being in the world doesn’t guarantee that every answer comes to me just because I want it to, and when I want it to.

I’ve had to learn that in order to respect true Expansion, I must respect true Expansion’s timing. So I spend a lot of time in the Land of Not Knowing. But I have found that if I hold my questions gently and curiously, without attachment, the answers come right when I need them.

Expansion has been a wise teacher this month. I’ve re-learned some things that I already knew but had been neglecting, and I learned some new things. This seems to be the way that it has been going with the 12 Words this year.

Now…drum roll please…it is on to July’s word: Flow. Maybe I will just let Expansion flow, and then be done for the month. 🙂 I am sure Flow has more in store for me than just that. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Expansion Does Not Equal Productivity

As I have been playing with Expansion this month, I’ve realized that periods of rest and restoration are an essential aspect of Expansion.

This is, in a way, counterintuitive to me.

However, if you look at nature, there are cycles of renewal and expansion. Tulips owe their blooms of brilliant color to the restoration process that the bulbs go through during the off season.

I believe that Expansion for us is similar. There are periods of regeneration that support our Expansion. And, those cycles of renewal are a necessary aspect of our Expansion.

So, Expansion does not equal productivity.

This may be obvious, but it wasn’t to me. For some reason, I had been thinking that if I am growing and expanding, it means that I am producing at a steady and energetic pace. And, that the reverse was also true: if I am producing at a steady and energetic pace, I am expanding.

I now believe that we are still expanding during quieter cycles of renewal and reflection, but that it just looks different. These are times of inner expansion, and in these times of quiet and inner connection, we are deepening the foundation that is also part of expansion. We are expanding in an inner sense. This Expansion may not be visible on the outside.

I learned this through my experience in the Direct Watercolor Challenge that I mentioned in this blog post. I’ve been expanding in many ways through producing a painting and sharing it every day. The Challenge has pushed my skills and tested my commitment.

But during the month, I have needed to have several cycles of contemplation and “step-back”, to renew my faith in myself and my courage to keep going, and to understand the nature of my commitment to the process. I needed to keep asking myself what was inspiring my continued engagement and commitment. I needed to refocus my intentions for the project several times during the month. I needed to keep digging deep for the courage to post the “failures” as well as the “successes”. (Turns out they were all successes from the standpoint of the process, as opposed to the outcome, of course.)

In the process of this exploration of Expansion, a question arose in me, which I will share with you, because it is still an open question for me, and I’m very curious about it. If restoration time is an essential part of Expansion, how do you know the difference between a restoration cycle, and inner resistance to Expansion?

What Does Discernment Have to Do With Expansion?

Everything.

I am realizing that we can be open to expansion, receptive to change, ready for a shift, but if we are full-up and full-on, there is no room, and no possibility for expansion.

There’s a common question in life coaching: In order to say “Yes” to this (new opportunity), what do you need to say “No” to?

When I first heard that question, it was revolutionary for me.

But now, I no longer believe that it’s a simple zero sum game. That’s an “outer” way of looking at it.

There’s a difference between expansion and taking more on.

For any true and lasting expansion to occur, an inner shift must happen first.

We will only have the energy, excitement, and vitality necessary for expansion if the expansion is “our’s” to do, and if it is right timing.

I ask:

  • What is mine to do?
  • What is it time for?

These are my doors in to discernment.

I sit with those questions until they inspire and inform me, with a clarity of direction, and an understanding of rhythm and timing.

Maybe this discernment process is what it means to be actively engaged in our own expansion.

How do you actively engage in your expansion?

Expansion

Our June word (see 12 Words) is Expansion.

I have a core belief that as humans we naturally expand through our life experiences.

But what is different as we engage consciously with our own expansion process?

How do we do that?

What is required of us, to do that?

How do we invite expansion and open ourselves to new or greater possibilities?

How much do we choose to engage in experiences that will stretch us?

These are the questions that are currently active in me about expansion, and I don’t have many answers yet.

This month, I’m participating in an art challenge called 30 X 30 Direct Watercolor. I’ve committed to create and post a new watercolor painting every day for 30 days, without using any pencil or ink lines.

I’ve participated in a number of art challenges, most of which involve a commitment to do a specific kind of art every day, and then to share it on social media with the other participants in the challenge. I always learn and grow from these challenges. My art, and I, always seem to expand from the experience, often in ways that I cannot anticipate.

This challenge is kicking my butt because it is a much bigger challenge, for me, than its predecessors. It is also giving me seemingly endless opportunities to expand my focus and my skill as an artist, and it seems to be doing the same for the other participating artists. I am having a lot of fun with it, along with some frustrating growing pains.

It has made me think about the nature of expansion, and about our role in it.

Sometimes expansion just happens to us, as a result of our life circumstances, and we react to it.

Sometimes we make something happen, by our sheer will and determination, and we expand.

And then there are those times in life when expansion feels like pure magic: Life unfolds naturally and we respond with joy, and it all feels like a seamless and fluid dance. To me, that’s the best kind of expansion.

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