Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Move that bus!

There’s a reality show on television where a family who are in dire need of a new home but can’t afford it are sent to Disneyland or some other fun location for a couple of weeks while a whole massive crew of people tear down their old house and build them a new one.  When they return a huge bus is parked in front of the new house when they drive up.  Then, to the shouts of “Move that bus!” from the crowd of helpers, the bus slowly drives away leaving the family shocked and delighted at their first view of their brand new home.  Corny but effective!

Just lately I’ve been concerned with an issue in my life.  Yes, let’s call it like it is…..I had a problem.  I had tried every way I knew to fix this problem and in between my unsuccessful efforts, I felt overwhelmed and defeated.

The more I tried to fix the problem, the bigger it seemed to get.  Pretty soon it was huge and was taking up so much space in my brain and so much of my time it seemed to be the only thing my life was about.

Then one day, that phrase came into my mind……”Move that bus!”……and I realized that it wasn’t my problem that was my problem.  It was the fact that I was staring at the problem day in and day out.  I was staring at the bus instead of moving it.  I wasn’t seeing the solution because I was focusing on the problem.  I had no idea what might be hiding behind my problem.

I needed to “Move that bus!”

When I came to this conclusion, I knew what I had to do but I had no idea what would happen if I did.  I needed to let the problem itself move out of my focus leaving room for whatever solution presented itself or whatever action I needed to take.

I sat quietly and closed my eyes.  I visualized my huge “bus” and on the side I saw in big letters, my problem spelled out.  Then I silently chanted to myself “Move that bus!” and I climbed into the driver’s seat. 

When the bus was moved out of the way, I climbed down and went back to my original place.  I looked to see what was there.  It wasn’t a new house!  But it was a beautiful view of mountains and blue sky and sunshine.  I felt lighter.  I felt less anxious.  I felt happier.

In time, a workable solution did present itself for the issue but I know that just getting my focus off the problem made enough space to allow that solution to eventually appear.  The problem shrank to its true size and I was able to resume my life even without an immediate result.  I felt less anxious and even had a sense of peace.

If you have a problem that seems to be getting bigger and bigger and taking up all of your thinking and your time, try seeing it as a big bus.  Write the problem on the side, then drive it out of your awareness.  Enjoy the feeling of peace and relief you get and trust that the solution will show up.  If nature abhors a vacuum then the space left by the bus must be filled.  Be open to the light and understanding that will flow in after you…..

 “Move that bus!”

Friday, August 22, 2014

Struggling not to struggle.........

I always pay close attention to what both myself and others are saying…..the actual words and phrases we are emitting…..for I believe strongly that they are clues not only to what is going on with us but also what to do about it.

Just lately both I and my fellow planetmates seems to be talking a lot about “struggles” and “struggling.”  It is an old familiar line for me.  For much of my life struggling was my default state.  I was always struggling with something or someone or some situation.  It was exhausting and frustrating.

Eventually through a sequence of many small and large events I came to understand that, when I heard the word “struggle” come out of my mouth, it was a huge red flag and a signal that there was something I needed to examine about my own attitude and something I needed to change in my own behavior.

What are you struggling with today?  Is it a situation that isn’t the way you want it to be?  Is it a person who isn’t doing what you think they should be doing?  Is it some fear about something that hasn’t happened yet?  Is it some event in the past that can never change (nothing in the past ever can) but still haunts you?  Do you feel as if there is no solution and no way out of this struggle you are engaged in?

When I examined what was happening to me in my struggles, I discovered some things that have helped me enormously ever since.  I pass them on to you.  Maybe you can add some of your own…..

First, if I am struggling I am engaging with someone or some situation.  Engaging is an action that I am taking.  It may feel as if I am drawn into the issue as if by a magnet but in fact, this is not so.  At some point, I made a decision to engage even if I did it almost automatically because it is what I have always done in similar situations.

If I have made a decision to engage, I can also make a decision not to engage.  Simple huh?  Simple but not easy.  However, awareness is the first step to changed behavior so just by becoming aware that we have done it again and engaged with something that results in a struggle, we have taken the first step towards changing our response next time.

Second, a struggle can only ensue if there are at least two parties taking part in it.  In fact, both sides have to agree to struggle or there cannot be a tussle.  By entering into this contract with the other person or situation we are agreeing to struggle and voila!.......struggle ensues. 

What if we were to not agree to the struggle?  What if we were to see this as a contract to be signed and decide not to sign it, not to be a party to the struggle?  There would be no struggle.

Third, I have noticed that at least for me, struggle comes with a physical manifestation.  When I am struggling, I tend to hold my breath and restrict my breathing.  Struggling take energy and I get breathless when I am struggling, even if it is only in my head. 

If we focus on our breath and take deep breaths, regulating and slowing down our respiratory  and heart rates struggle cannot continue.  Slow, deep breathing relates to peace and calm, not anxiety and struggle.  Using our breathing to detach from the struggle is a practical way to stay out of the storm.

Lastly, struggling can be addictive.  Some folks just seem to have to be always struggling with something.  Do you tend to resolve one struggle only to pick up another one?  How do you feel when you don’t have anything or anyone to struggle with?  Do you feel lost or useless or don’t know what to do?

Any habitual behavior can become an addiction.  We know we have crossed this line when we feel panic or anxiety when the particular thing is not in our lives and we reach instinctively for more.  We cope with addictions by recognizing that we have a problem and replacing the behavior with more healthy actions.

It is not necessary to struggle through life.  Of course we will have challenges and issues to be resolved but engaging them in a wrestling match that ends up with us exhausted and drained is not the way to deal with them.

I’d love to hear how you avoid struggle in your life and how you disengage with issues that are out of your control or may just take time to be resolved.

Let’s all quit engaging and vow to move through life refusing those invitations to struggle.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Aim high and land softly.......a formula for success

I hope I won’t lose some of you right off the bat when I say this but…….I love cats.  No I’m not one of those crazy cat ladies who can’t say no to just one more kitty.  I just have one.  His name is Mocha and he is a beautiful, long hair Himalayan whose colors are reflected in his name.  Mocha pretty much runs the show at our house, sleeping wherever he wants whether it is on our bed or the dog’s, the couch or the coffee table.   He loves to go outside and roll in the dust although he spends most of his time indoors enjoying the good life we provide for him.

For most of my life, I’ve had a cat so I’ve had a lot of time to observe how they live and do what they do…..or not as the case may be.

Cats know how to take life as it comes, when and how to relax and when to be alert.  They are great at prioritizing both their time and their energy.  They know both what and whom they like and what and whom they do not.  The former they reward with purring, leg rubbing and head butting.  The latter they avoid like the plague.  Cats have good boundaries.

There is one other thing however that cats do that can teach us a lesson about how to approach not only life but success. 

One of the most successful things cats do is to jump up on things.  Yes, I know, they aren’t 100% successful as many YouTube videos show, but their rate of success at both jumping and landing where they want to is far greater than any human I’ve ever seen.

So how do they do it?

I watch my cat jump up a lot, mostly on to places he’s not supposed to be but we’ll leave that issue for another blog…..  What I know from my observations is that when he jumps he doesn’t aim for the height he needs.  He aims higher!

For example, if the kitchen counter is three feet off the ground, Mocha jumps to a height of about 38 inches.  Then he descends on to the spot he has earmarked as the landing zone, landing softly and without any jolt to his body.

What a lesson for success!

As humans we tend to approach the attainment of our goals as a climb up a ladder or a mountain, or maybe as a long journey.  We fix a goal into our future and fight or struggle our way to it.  We rarely think about taking a leap and almost never about aiming higher so we can land softly right on our target.

What would it take to turn this metaphor around and apply it in our lives?  How would it look?  How easy or difficult would it be?

I don’t have the answers to these questions but I think that just in asking them of ourselves we could begin to make changes in how we approach our goals, wants and desires in all areas of our lives.

Aiming higher doesn’t mean going over the top!  And yes, I’ve seen Mocha do that too…..aim too high and miss completely only to fall over the other side.  As I said, cats aren’t complete masters of the system either.

Aiming higher means that after we have put what we feel is the required amount of effort into something, adding just a little bit more.

Aiming higher means that when we have set a standard for ourselves, notching it up just a fraction more.

Aiming higher means that when we hold up our heads to be seen, we stretch just that little bit further and “grow” that extra half inch.

Aiming higher means that when we think we have held on enough, we hold on just that little bit longer.

Aiming higher means that when we have given or forgiven, we do both just a smidgen more.

And then………we can land softly.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Simple Tools are the best.....

After I cut my hair really short and quit coloring it some years ago, I found that these moves simplified my life a great deal.  I no longer had to spend time with messy tints.  I didn’t need a drawer full of pins, clips and hair decorations.  I retired my hair dryer except for special occasions and I saved a great deal of time.

There was however, one problem.  I have a serious cowlick on one side of the top of my head.  The result?  Every morning the hair on that side of my head stood straight up as if I had stuck my finger in the light socket.  As my hair tends to be on the dry side I didn’t want to wash it every single morning and was hoping to be able to skip a day without paying much attention to it except to run a brush over it, smile at myself in the mirror and go.

And now here I was looking like Dennis the Menace.  What to do?

The answer turned out to be very simple.  I found a small spray bottle with some body spray still lurking in the bottom.  I emptied it, washed it and filled it with water.  A couple of quick squirts of water on the offending locks, a run through with the brush and bingo!  I was ready to go.

Now my little spray bottle is an essential part of my daily routine and always goes with me (empty of course as per TSA) on trips.  It is my savior.

This experience brought home to me how useful the most simple of tools are.  It is not by mistake that the hammer, the wrench, the pliers, the saw and the screwdriver have been around for hundreds of years and are an essential part of any homeowners tool kit.  We may spend money on fancy electrical gadgets to help with home maintenance but without the basic simple tools, our kit is useless.

The basic design of the sewing machine for example, hasn’t changed much in a hundred and fifty years except that we have stuck an electric motor on it and added a bunch of fancy features.  The simple elegance of the original idea has sufficed to produce clothing, furnishing, sails for ships and many other necessary cloth products for many generations.

In life too, the simple tools are most often the best.  We may, for example, go on fancy diets or follow regimented exercise routines to maximize our health and minimize our weight but for many of us, in the long run, eating fresh foods in appropriate portions and staying active with all kinds of enjoyable activities are the simple way to reach our health goals.

Similarly, regular sleep, time to reflect or meditate and purposeful deep breathing also support our bodies and minds to stay healthy and on track.  We may buy ourselves high tech sneakers and attractive outfits to wear as we jog or walk but they aren’t necessarily going to make us any more fit.  Moving those leg muscles and challenging the heart and lungs is what is going to make the difference. 

Although I have no desire to sell all my belongings and move into a tent, I also acknowledge that simplifying the trappings of my life helps me to feel more relaxed and less overwhelmed by what is around me. 

We recently moved.  To facilitate the process, we gave away, threw away or sold a huge amount of stuff.  What I discovered in the process was that I could survive with a lot less than I owned.  Even after we moved as I unpacked I found myself saying to myself, “Now why did I bring this?  I really don’t need it after all”  and out went a lot more to the thrift store in my new neighborhood.

Simple tools, simple surroundings, simple solutions.  All of these combine to make for a calmer, more manageable life.  The world outside of ourselves is complicated enough.  Why make our personal and inner lives more cluttered than they need to be.

I love my simple spray bottle of water.  It does the job without the need for buying a brand new one or filling it with fancy fluid.  Because of it, I feel better first thing in the morning when I look in the mirror and I can carry that feeling throughout the day.

Yes, the simple tools are the best…….and so is the simple life.