Friday, January 25, 2013

Everyday people......really?

I have a confession to make.....every so often (maybe once a month or so) I just go to sleep at night.  What I'm trying to tell you here (and this is so difficult, she says as she bites the middle joint of her index finger in anguish and shame) is that I don't take my make up off, I don't brush my hair and (horror of horrors!) I don't clean my teeth.

Why do I do this and why am I confessing this to the whole world right now?  The answer to the first part is that I think I am a bit of a frustrated rebel.  When I was a teen it was the Sixties.  Rebellion was in the air.  Collectively we were striking out against what we saw as the stuffiness of our World War Two era parents and against the drab and uninspiring Fifties.  Clothes were brighter, music was louder and behavior was more brash and in-your-face.

Like most of my generation I got swept up in it as much as I was able.  I shortened my skirts to the extent that I couldn't bend over if I dropped something and had to sink vertically to the ground while fumbling around blindly with my hand to locate the object.  I outlined my eyes in black, made my lips almost invisibly pale and adopted the let-it-all-hang-out style of dancing.

The trouble with the Sixties was that it left no room for personal rebellion.  Everyone was doing it so why bother on the home front?

So here I am now, fifty years later, and my inner teenage rebel is knocking on the door wanting to come out.  How can I let her have a little revolution?  Why I can flout decent convention and be a bum once in a while.  After all, my husband is the only one who'll know and, if I don't tell him, he probably won't notice.

There is a larger picture however, to all of this which addresses the second part of my question.  Why confess now?  What is the purpose?

The link lies in a realization I had just the other week.  I have been trying to get back into a routine after a couple of months of rehabbing a broken ankle and getting over the flu.  This also coincided with the New Year and the dreaded resolutions.  I told myself I must do some things regularly.  Things like exercising and journaling and meditating and eating well and writing a gratitude list and...and...and.

So I tried.  I really did.  I began with journaling.  Every day for about nine days I wrote religiously in my journal every morning.  I got some good stuff.  This was going to work.  But it didn't.  Around day ten I woke up and something else got my attention.  I went from Very Important Task to Even More Important Task throughout the day.  Journaling was forgotten.  In fact, I didn't remember journaling until around day seventeen.  Uh oh......failed again.

The whole episode got me thinking.  What is this obsession the human race has with being Everyday People?  What is there really that actually needs to be done every single day that nature doesn't take care of all by herself?  The dishes don't have to be washed every day.  They'll still be in the sink on Day 3 and can be taken care of then if we wish or can't stand the smell anymore.  People in most countries in the world do not take a shower every day not only because of water constraints, or the fact that they don't have a shower but because they just don't believe it's necessary.  Growing up in the UK in the fifties we had to light a coal fire in the living room to get hot water so we had a bath once a week whether we needed it or not.  Most days we had what my mother called "an up and a downer" which entailed standing naked in a cold bathroom swabbing oneself down with a wet washcloth and soap, then finishing off with an extra dousing of cold water.  Not quite the enjoyable sensation of a hot shower.

I am now convinced that I am not an Everyday Person.  What a freedom this has been!  I no longer have to chastise myself for not journaling every day or exercising daily or pummeling myself for not reading something spiritual or being grateful on a daily basis.  I am now free to follow my natural rhythm and do what my mind, body and/or spirit dictate.

You might think that this would lead to procrastination at the highest level.  I certainly thought it would.  But here's the I have given myself permission not to beat the everyday drum, I do not need to procrastinate.  I am allowed to do things at my own pace and guess what?  I do.  My Inner Rebel is no longer frustrated and doesn't seem to need to exercise her authority over random issues of personal hygiene.  I am free to be me on another level that I didn't even know existed.

But I still might not take my makeup off at night just once in a while......

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cautious or courageous? Which will you choose?

The key word in my life is communication.  I am a Gemini.....the sign of the communicator.  I still have my grade school reports.  They all say the same thing.  "Gillian has potential but she would go further if she didn't talk so much."  As an adult, I went on to get three college degrees've guessed it.....communication.  I like to talk.  I like to interact.  I like to write.  I love to communicate.

So, last year an idea I had been incubating for some time burst through my consciousness.  The next ideal step for me, the ultimate communicator, would be a radio show!

I got really excited about the idea.  I even had a title for the show, a theme and a list of possible guests.  I investigated the logistics, the internet host I would use and a suitable time to reach several continents.  It was going to be awesome.  I just knew it.  And then.....I did nothing.

What?  What happened to all that enthusiasm, that planning?  Why did I baulk at the final hurdle.  All I had to do was sign up and sign in but I didn't do it.  What was I afraid of or, was it even fear that stopped me?

The start of a new year always has me wondering what I will do this year that I didn't do before, so when I approached this new year, I was faced with the dilemma of my failed radio show attempt.  Would I try it again?  If so, how would I get past whatever blocked me last year?  Did I even know what it was?

My journal musings led me to realize that there were two more "c" words at play here besides my desire to communicate.....caution and courage.  The latter had urged me to allow myself to play with the idea of a radio show but it was the former, not exactly fear, that had stopped me at the post.  Caution said "Wait a minute, what could go wrong here?  Are you sure you want to commit to doing something once a week at a regular time?  What if you can't get guests?  What if it is boring?  What if no one listens?" and on and on and on.

Now I'm not saying that caution is a bad thing.  Not in the least.  Caution stops us from stepping off the curb in front of a bus or eating three week old food from the back of the refrigerator or going out in subzero weather without a coat.  Sometimes, however, we let it have too much control.  Yes, I needed to address some of the issues it raised around the show but this wasn't a situation where I had to hand it the keys to my life.  Caution may have made me pause but I didn't have to let it stop me.  So why did I allow it to?

I believe that I let this happen because I didn't take the next step.  I forgot to summon courage.  Courage is something that is available to us all but it needs to be called forth.  Summon is a good verb for addressing courage.  Sometimes I think that I not only have no courage but that I actually have no access to it.  I forget that it must be summoned.

Have you tried summoning some courage lately?  Does this sound like a strange question?  Perhaps the notion of summoning something doesn't sit well with you?  I had to get over this too.  Summoning sounds demanding.  Well, it is that always a bad thing?  Most of us, especially women, have been raised to be polite little things.  We were told if we just asked nicely we might get what we wanted but that demanding anything, from possessions to attention, was always a bad thing.  So we ask nicely and then sit back and wait.  And nothing happens.

Don't get me wrong.  There is a place for politeness and political correctness but when it comes to managing our own lives and moving along our chosen path, demanding assistance has a place.  It is not a mistake that we talk about "summoning courage."  Courage needs to be called forth with determination.  This was what I forgot to do when it came time to launch the radio show.  I became my meek little self again and decided that it wasn't meant to be because after I put forth the idea, nothing happened.

Maybe you can join me in a little experiment.  Is there something in your life that you want to do but  have either talked yourself out of or have stopped at the last hurdle and abandoned the idea?  Let's try together to summon courage into our lives and get beyond those barriers.

If it works, and I suspect it will, I'll be launching my radio show soon (watch this space).  What will you do?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Rest of My Life Is Now: Happy New Year....It's Resolution Time!

The Rest of My Life Is Now: Happy New Year....It's Resolution Time!: Happy New Year to all! It's that time of year when many of us begin to think about the habits and behaviors we want to ch...

Happy New Year....It's Resolution Time!

Happy New Year to all!

It's that time of year when many of us begin to think about the habits and behaviors we want to change for the future. Mostly they are things that we know are not good for us. Such things as quitting smoking, losing weight, eating unhealthy foods etc. We rationalize that we must stop doing these things because...... (fill in the blank). We know these reasons make sense. We know there is really no argument against them and yet......we often fail to stick to our well intentioned resolutions.

As humans we are such anomalies. On the one hand we know that evolution has programmed us to be continually changing and adapting to our current circumstances but, at the same time we resist change with the determination of a new puppy refusing to budge at the tug of the leash. Like Fido we want to dig in our heels, sit down on the sidewalk and not move!

Major change usually only comes for most of us when it is absolutely necessary and unavoidable, when life or the people around us start tapping us on the shoulder or when circumstances give us no other choice. Then we go kicking and screaming into the vortex of change.

Perhaps the phenomenon of New Year's resolutions gives us the illusion of choice around change. If I get in first and decide to change, it won't be so traumatic or difficult. I will be more in control of it than if I leave it up to forces outside of myself.

Whatever the reason, it seems that the problem is not in making the decision but in the execution of our intentions.

This issue has come up both for me personally and with clients lately. We are great at the decision making part but the action is sorely wanting. So I have been asking why is this?

I believe that misinformation about the nature of self-change is to blame here. In our culture we have been led to believe that the most important thing we can do is to make decisions. We admire decisive people. We say that they are good leaders, that they are competent, responsible and in charge. Although it might not be articulated out loud, we are led to believe that, once we have made a decision, we have solved the problem.


The truth is that making a decision is only the beginning. An important place to start of course, but not the whole picture. Decision making is a left brained activity. It involves our powers of logic and organization. It involves rational thinking, judgment and evaluation but it says nothing about action. We have a wonderful brain that does amazing things not all of which can scientists understand. It has two sides, a left side that is mostly logical and does for us all of the incredible things I have already described but we also have a right side which houses our amazing imagination. When we make a decision we engage only our logical thinking process on the left side but, in order to complete the change in our behavior, we need to engage our imagination.

You might wonder why this is so. Isn't it enough just to make up your mind to do something different and then use willpower to carry out the actions? Oh, how wonderful if that were so but no, it is not enough.

When we are engaged in a certain behavior that we have done for years, we have created a certain energy around those actions. That energy is familiar and easy to slip into. In order to change the behavior we need to shift that energy. Although it is hard to describe what this feels like, we might see it as like changing key in music. It is similar and yet sounds and feels different. This shift in the energy is the missing piece. The decision to change sets us up for a change; the shift in energy makes it happen.

What then can cause this shift to occur? The answer lies with the right brain and its tremendous capacity to imagine. It has been shown for example, that visualizing different circumstances in our "mind's eye" i.e. the imagination, can help those circumstances to occur. Athletes do this all the time, visualizing improved performance and winning situations. Unhealthy cells respond to mind pictures of healthy ones replacing them. Visualizing a relaxing scene causes the body to relax and de-stress.  Stream of consciousness writing can lead us to a creative solution to a problem.

Although we may be familiar with this evidence, we may not readily bring it to mind when making those darned resolutions but, this is where our answer lies, the answer to our struggles with making the transition from decision to action.

Here then, in practical terms are some things I am going to try in 2013 when making an effort to follow through with a resolution or making any kind of change in our behavior.  Perhaps you'd like to try them too?  I'd love to hear your experiences.....

- Sit quietly, take some deep breaths, relax and conjure up a picture in the mind of yourself doing the new behavior. Hold this image for as long as you can up to a minute at first and longer as you practice.

- Write affirmations around the new behavior on sticky notes and put them on your bathroom mirror or other places around your home where you will see them e.g. if you are quitting smoking, write "I am a nonsmoker," or if you are wanting to exercise more write "My body loves to exercise."

- If you like to draw or paint, make an artistic rendering of what the new behavior looks like to you. It can be realistic or abstract. Or if you are a writer, write about it. Make sure you write positive things about the way it looks rather than focusing on your struggles to get there.

- If you neither draw nor write you can make a vision board around the issue. Get a piece of large or small as you like....and find pictures in magazines that illustrate to you the change you want to make. As long as it is meaningful to you, cut it out and stick it on the card. Add words or phrases that are helpful. It doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you.

- If you believe in angels (and most people do!) ask your angels to help and support you. Ask them to love you through this change and to help you love yourself especially if you "slip" or go back to old behavior. As well as your personal guardian angels, you can call upon Archangel Michael who is strong, powerful, protective and supportive and also Archangel Raphael who is a gentle healer.

- Instead of seeing change as a challenge to be conquered, see it as a gentle transition. If it helps you can visualize change as a gently flowing stream rather than a raging torrent. See yourself floating down the stream in a boat, going at the pace of the current and not having to work hard to get where you want to go.

Remember, change only comes about when a shift occurs in the energy around an issue or behavior. That shift can only occur if two basic things happen.....first there must be a decision and then the imagination takes over. Change comes about when we engage our whole brain, left and right sides, in the process.

Here's to positive changes in 2013!