love sweet love

What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love

With all that is happening in the world of politics, in how we relate to each other regarding gender or country of origin, and in the challenges of our personal life, it can be hard to be positive. We want to fight. We want those we think are responsible to pay. We want to hide because we are scared. We are on high alert waiting for the next disaster. We are filled with rage and fear. We feel vulnerable and attacked. What we really need right now is more love.

The idealist in me knows that if we all focused on love, understanding and compassion we can make the world better right now, today. The realist in me knows not everyone is on board with this plan. Some people are too self-focused to think of others. Other people believe they know what is right and try to shame or attack others into following their lead. Some people are too consumed with personal challenges to think past this moment. Since we can’t control everyone else, we need to focus on changing our own experience by focusing on love.

Due to the crazy hormones of peri-menopause or days when I read too much of the rantings on Facebook, sometimes I go out into the world with a chip on my shoulder. Instead of having a pleasant ride, I am judging the driving of others. Instead of being grateful for the abundance of food, I am irritated by the others shopping. I don’t know about you, but when I see the world as hateful and against me, it doesn’t feel good. And I especially don’t like that I am also pushing my negative feelings out on others and spreading this disease of negativity.

Whether I am awake in the middle of the night worrying about something, triggered by divisive “discussions,” or catching myself spewing negativity, I stop. I remember what I want is peace and love. Then I focus on my breathing. On the inhale I imagine I am receiving and accepting love. On the exhale I imagine my love going out to others. In a few minutes I am calm and at peace again. The judgment is gone, and I can go back to objectively moving through my day.

This Valentine’s Day look at the love in your life. Who could use a little more love? Remember to look at your own self-love first. Where are you blocking love from coming in? How are your words and actions creating more separation, misunderstanding, and hate? Who is using attacks to protect themselves from pain?

Start with truly loving yourself. Accept your flaws and irregularities. Give yourself unconditional love. You don’t need anyone or anything else to be happy and content. If you focus on your own self-love, you can feel fulfilled and healthier. And when you do, you can focus on giving love to those around you. Don’t feel you need to receive love directly in return. Don’t expect any result from your gift. Just give. Love is an amazing thing. When we give love to ourselves or others it multiplies. Give a little out and you will feel a lot returning to you from unexpected sources. Explore how you can change your experience and the experience of those around you, by focusing on love.

david allen

I Don’t Mind What Happens

I discovered a quote the other day by J. Krishnamurti about his “secret” to well-being. “You see, I don’t mind what happens.”

What power is there in that simple statement! How much of our pain, anxiety, heartbreak, and stress are the result of putting meaning in what is happening? I often speak about this concept in relation to money. Imagine you have $100 in your bank account. This is a fact and has no emotional meaning. Your bank statement can not cause you pain. But what if you add in the painful thought that you only have $100 in your account? How does that feel? What does that mean about you? What fears does that meaning bring up about your future? When I do my talks, I would invite people to find gratitude instead by perhaps focusing on that they still have $100 in their account after paying all their bills. I am a big fan of gratitude and how it can make us feel secure and happy. But Krishnamurti takes it one level still.

280_give creditIn his quote, he releases any meaning, judgement or expectation – bad or good. It reminds me of the farmer and the horse story that David Allan tells and explains so well here. Both Allan and Krishnamurti make the case of staying calm and non-judgmental in the face of bad – and good – events. How many of us ride the roller coaster of life? When something good happens, we expect something bad to be around the corner? When we are in the bad, we look with longing to other times or other people who seemingly have it so good. We are victims to the ups and downs of life that we create with our meaning. But what if we stop defining good and bad?

If you are in a difficult situation right now or if you feel like a yo-yo flying back and forth from good to bad, try these exercises.

Build Proof: Look at your own life. What “bad” things actually led to the good you have now?  What challenge had to be experienced to allow you to grow into who you were meant to be? What difficulty helped you change things for yourself and others? Martha Beck teaches the Backward Life Story to help us see the power of the bad. Look at one of the wonderful things you have right now in your life. Then look at what happened just before the good thing. And then look at what happened just before that and then before that. Keep going until you hit the bad experience behind it all. Nine times out of ten (if not more) you will be able to trace the joy you have in your life right now, to a painful incident. Without that incident, you would not have the joy. If you have trouble seeing this in your own life, look at the real world examples David Allen shares. Build an understanding of how life’s downs lead to life’s ups. Trust that what you are going through now is only leading you to something better.

Just the Facts: Review your current situation. Identify where you are feeling pain – or joy. Now remove the feeling and just look at the facts. Notice how it is your interpretation of the situation that causes the feeling. Nothing has meaning that we don’t bring to it. Focus on the tangible reality of the situation, not your self-imposed meaning.

Go with the Flow: As you go through your week, be an observer, not a participant in your life. Watch what happens as you would watch a movie. Do not invest meaning. Do not create expectation. Do not judge. Simply move from experience to experience. Get off the good-bad roller coaster.

Focus on Gratitude: Even in the most difficult situation, find the silver lining. When my father went through cancer it was difficult on us all. But even in that I found the gift in having a reason to spend more time with him than I would have had he not been ill. Look at your current pain and find the blessing hiding in the background.

hope despair

Meaning and Expectations

As for many of you, 2017 has been a challenging year for me. Through these challenging experiences, I learned about how meaning and expectations affect stress.

Much of the stress I experienced was increased because I put meaning into results I could not affect. If an expected outcome didn’t happen, I was devastated. I believed that if X happened it meant a negative Y about me or my life and I was distressed. I tied my happiness to my definition, my meaning, of certain results and also to my expectations of things I could not affect.

Our home search was one example. If we didn’t find a place by a certain date, I was upset. If the house I wanted to make happen didn’t come through, then the world ended. If our closing date was extended and extended, then we were fated to a horrible life. The only reason these bumps in the road hurt me is that I put meaning into them which was bigger than they really were. Any deadline date I had was self-imposed, meaningless. I was the one calling a certain house “the one”; I created that meaning. I created the fable that if a specific step didn’t happen in the time I defined, we were doomed.

hope despairNothing has meaning until we give it meaning. We choose Cubs or White Sox. We choose these beliefs or those. Everything in life is a choice and we can choose what is significant and what is not. When we create a meaning which doesn’t serve us, then we only create more stress.

Likewise, if we create expectations for things we can not control, we are also creating more stress. I couldn’t affect which houses went on the market and when. I couldn’t make an owner accept an offer. I couldn’t affect the slow bureaucracy processing our paperwork. Focusing on results I could not affect, only added to my stress.

Once I realized how my self-imposed meanings and expectations were affecting my joy, I got back into the moment. I released my meaning of events. I relaxed my expectations and instead embraced the flow of life. I trusted what was happening to me was for my benefit – I may not be able to see it in the moment, but I knew I would eventually see the growth the event was providing. I stopped looking at things as horrible and insurmountable, and instead made them fun. It still amazes me how things shift and fall into place the second I release my fear, anger, and disappointment and instead pretend the event is fun or at least safe. Trusting things will be OK, helps things be ok.

When you are feeling stressed, look the meaning and expectations you have defined. What value and meaning are you putting on things? Is this meaning undeniably, provably true? Is the meaning truly, absolutely important to you, or is it a belief you accepted over time? Is the meaning bringing you joy or stress? Same goes for your expectations. Are they realistic? Are they within your control? Is the expectation you are holding on to worth the stress it is causing?

Share with us your current stress and how a change in meaning or expectations could alleviate that stress.

sisyphus

A Break From Routine

Monotony. Dealing with the same challenges, the same tasks, the same routine day after day, week after week, can increase our stress levels.  We are Sisyphus trapped, more likely doomed, to experience the same thing again and again and again without finding success or relief. Redundancy without resolution in our daily work can dull our minds sending us into depression.

Can you relate?

I can.

sisyphusI had been in a bit of that negative groove this past August. Days were the same. The side work I do became monotonous and not challenging. Some personal situations were trying. Every day seemed like the last day. I was in a funk. Lidia helped me out of it.

Lidia is, of course, Tropical Storm Lidia who blew in to wake me up. After moving past the anxiety of the storm, what I noticed is that Lidia forced me out of my routine. Work stopped due to lack of internet. The personal squabbles that seemed important fell to the wayside. And most importantly I learned that doing physical labor, taking care of necessities, and helping others is, was, and ever will be what life is really about. In returning to the basics of survival – ensuring food, keeping clean, and repairing shelter – I returned to myself and who I truly am. Breaking out of routine, turning off the computer, and doing some honest physical labor switched off the negativity and brought me back to life.

You don’t need an extreme weather situation to get you out of your funk. Adding these few things to your week can help you break from routine and break free from the negativity of monotony.

Change It Up: Much of our life we are on autopilot. Do things a bit differently to break up the monotony. Take a different route home. Try a new food. Change the order of your daily tasks. See how the change of pace releases you.

Get Physical: So much of our current lifestyle is sedentary and cerebral. Get out of your head and away from the computer. Put your hands in the dirt. Take a walk. Cook. Create. In doing physical actions with your whole body, find relief from the negativity in your head.

Make It About Others: When we spend our days replaying our own challenges, we create a groove of negativity which is hard to break. By supporting others, we stop playing our sad story, breaking us free from its hold. Compassion towards others minimizes our own challenges.

Back to Basics: Much of our days are filled with worries we have created. – Why aren’t people “liking” my Facebook post? I can’t believe it has taken more than 48 hours for Amazon to deliver my iPhone. Why has Starbucks stopped service pumpkin lattes? – Stop. Take a moment to look at the core things that are really important in life. You have family and friends, a roof over your head, and nourishment. Being grateful for the small things can make a big difference.

Laugh and Love: When it comes down to it, laughing and loving are the most important aspects of life. Be sure you are getting – and giving – daily doses.

When your days feel heavy, boring, and redundant, try out these tips. By returning to what is real about life, you will find that the old boring routine holding you down has been reinvigorated.

The crown

Being Impartial

Netflix has many terrific shows lately. One of them is “The Crown” which is about Queen Elizabeth. A scene in the first season really struck me. It is a dialogue between Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. Here is a condensed version:

Queen Elizabeth (QE): “It doesn’t feel right as head of state to do nothing.”  . . .

Queen Mary (QM): “To do nothing is the hardest job of all. . . to be impartial is not natural, not human. People will always want you to smile or agree or frown and the minute you do you will have declared a position. A point of view and that is the one thing as sovereign that you are not entitled to do. The less you do, the less you say, or agree or smile”

QE: “or think or feel or breathe or exist”

QM: “the better.”

QE: “Well that is fine for the sovereign, but where does that leave me?”

The crownThis scene, and much of the first two seasons, shows the conflict between a young woman learning who she is and to use her voice, versus the rules, regulations, and restrictions of her role. When I first saw this scene, my passion for empowerment came out and my reaction was that Queen Elizabeth has a right to her emotions. She has a right to her thoughts. She has a right to express herself. And she does. But I think there is another message in here.

This fictional conversation is also about the public’s desire to have her mirror their emotions and how difficult it is to be the impartial adult who does not get caught up in the unbridled emotions of the public. If you turn on the news or open Facebook, it is hard not to be consumed by the public’s desire to have you mirror their emotions, to agree with their point of view. Daily we are inundated by posts, memes, and commentaries designed, consciously or unconsciously, to inspire us to take a side. But is that the best choice?

I hardly post anything about politics or “like” others’ posts because my comments and reactions are often misunderstood. I tend to see the gray, but people want me to choose a black or white stance on issues. Recently I had this happen on a personal not political topic. Two individuals I know are having a major conflict. I spoke to one individual with the hope of possibly deflating the issue. I thought we were making progress but at the end of the call he said, “I am glad you and my other friends agree with me.” I had not stated support for either “side” but he needed me to choose sides, specifically his side. When I did not, he stopped speaking to me. Being in the impartial gray is difficult for people to accept. In this case impartiality was the best choice, as neither side was 100% right and the negative energy around this conflict was something I did not want or need to take on.

The other reason I try to stay impartial is because once I state my opinion many people then label me as this or that.  It is sad how many times people I know or meet assume my political affiliation and because of this, I “must” believe this or that. Once impartiality is removed, we can become labeled – and therefore restricted and powerless. We become a hostage of the expectations of a specific label. Our opinions, or assumptions about our opinions, make us the other. Suddenly there is an us-versus-them conflict that can lead to larger problems. We lose our voice to the assumed beliefs of a specific group.

Throughout your day, notice the conversations you have. Whether politics or the drive into work, do people expect you to choose and state an opinion? What happens if you do? Do you feel trapped or labeled afterwards? If you stay impartial and objective, how do others react? What does being objective and impartial give you? You have a right to your thoughts, opinions, and emotions, but explore how staying in the impartial gray can provide you with power and peace.

truck buried in mudslides

Weathering the Storm

Many parts of the world are going through major natural disasters right now. Cabo San Lucas, my home and my heart, is no exception. On a Thursday morning, it started raining and it did not stop until late Friday dumping up to twenty-seven inches of rain in this dry desert climate. Not since 1933 has this amount of rain hit the city. As usually happens, the poorest in the town were hit the hardest as the only homes they could afford were in the flood plain. In retrospect, my husband and I fared extremely well in comparison, but in the moment, it was hard to see.

truck buried in mudslides
Cabo San Lucas Tropical Storm Lidia aftermath

The rain from Tropical Storm Lidia seeped through windows, walls, outlets, and floors for hours. I experienced firsthand the fate of Sisyphus as I constantly mopped up water. By the time I made it across the room, the other end of the room was already filling again. The rain would lesson and we would receive a brief break, but then it would start again and so did our work. It was overwhelming. It was frustrating because there was no seeming end. It was terrifying because the leaking cracks constantly increased in number and size. After battling this for over ten hours, the weather won. A rush of water sped down our street. My husband and I waded through almost two feet of strong, fast-moving water. My tiny Honda was being buried by this newly formed river. Amazingly my husband drove the car to high ground and safety before the engine flooded. After moving the cars, we pulled our things out of the flooding first floor to the relative dryness of the second floor. With two inches of water filling the first floor and the other leaks still leaking, we threw in the towel and gratefully moved to our friends’ house for the night.

After some clean up the next day, things started to return to relative normality. We checked in with friends and helped those we could. As we talked to others about their experience, I noticed there were two reactions to the storm. The first was hysterical. These people were understandably stressed because of what they went through plus they were anxious with worry about the possibility of losing electricity and fresh water. The other reaction was humorful perseverance. These were the people who said they were fine after the storm, but when asked further I learned they went through the same trials we did. Their attitude was they were alive. Their family was safe. They still had what they had. And they were grateful.

These reactions stemmed from the individuals’ outlook, not their previous experience. Many people I spoke to had also gone through Hurricane Odile three years ago. That storm was all Tropical Storm Lidia was plus enormous damaging winds. Some hurricane survivors appeared to have PTSD and were anxious that they would again have to experience weeks without water and electricity. Others looked at this storm and said, “I survived Odile. I can handle this.” As I have written time and again, it is not what happens to us but how we handle what happens to us. We have a choice in how we experience life.

Honestly, at the beginning, I was part of the first group. I had never experienced a storm like this before. Battling the leaks was tiring mentally and physically. Then when the river ran down the street and into the house I lost it. Stress over took me. My mind was cloudy. Fear and anxiety began to surface. I was out of my element and didn’t know what was going to happen next. As things began to normalize, I worked on relieving my stress. By using stress hacks, I reclaimed a centered mind, improved my attitude, and had the power to move forward.

My heart goes out to all those affected by hurricanes, fires, floods, and earthquakes.  If you are able, please think about helping financially or physically. If you would like to help my end of the world, donations are being taken here to help out those most affected. Or, a more fun way to help, is to come visit our little spot of paradise. Cabo San Lucas is open and ready for your visit!