Postcards From The Universe: Conversations With A Tree

T:  “Hey Dani.”

D:  “Hi tree.”

T:  “Whatcha doing?”

D: “Thinking about life.”

T:  “What’s life?”

D:  “You know, it’s this thing we’re all doing…all the people, animals and plants, you.”

T: “Oh you mean THRIVING.”

D:  “Well, I would hardly call what most of us are doing THRIVING.”

T:  “Hmmm… That’s too bad. Seems like you have access to so many resources. It’s a shame to not be thriving.”

D:  “You’re right tree. It IS a shame that we’re not thriving. So many have so many needs that go unmet.”

T:  “My essences hurts for your suffering.”

D:  “Thank you tree.” (Standing up to hug it.)

T:  “Whatcha doing?”

D: “Trying to know what you know. I feel a warm hum holding you, as if I am holding on to a generator. It feels so good. I feel peaceful and calm.”

T:  “Well, stepping into my field is always helpful for that.”

D:  “Tree, tell me what you know.”

T:  “You mean what WE know.”

D:  “No I mean what YOU know. I Imagine you know things I don’t know.”

T:  “You have a long way to go grasshopper.”

D:  “Oh I see what you did there.  Yes there’s much I don’t understand tree.”

T:  “No, I was talking to the grasshopper over there on that limb.  He has a long way to go to get back home. I was helping him out.

D:  “Tree!  You speak Grasshopper?”

T:  “Well actually I speak ‘everything.’ I’m speaking to you, so certainly I can speak to a grasshopper.”

D:  “You’re funny tree.”

T:  “I am that I am.”

D:  “So tree, back to my question…what do you know?”

T:  “You mean what do WE know. Well… there’s nothing that I know that you don’t know.”

D:  “Hmmmphf,” I said, resigning myself to not getting an answer.”

T:  “Hold me tighter and I will whisper secret to you….people live in a state of fear and fear is a poison. And when you spend so much time focused on the poison and the cause of poison there’s hardly room to focus on anything else. And you don’t easily recall that which you don’t focus on and reinforce. So, you focus on and reinforce poison and this gets in the way of really knowing what we know.  But it’s there. It’s all there is.”

D:  “Oh, yes. I do know this.”

T:  “You’re too busy doing and thinking and fearing and clinging to your illusions.  It may look like living, but it’s a far cry from thriving.”

D:  “So how do I thrive?”

T:  “Just be. Be still and soak in the sun and the water.  Bend with the breeze, resonate with the hum of the earth, the buzz of the bees and join in the song of the birds. Resist nothing.  Love everything.  Surrender to that which is instead of struggling against that which you do not want and that which is unreal.”

D:  “And thriving will come of that?”

T:  “Yes.”

D:  “Thank you, tree.”

T:  “My pleasure. Please come back and hold me again soon. I am grateful for the reminder that there are beings less evolved them me.”

D:  “You’re cheeky tree.”

T:  “We are that we are.” 

Postcard from the Universe:  The difference between people and nature, is that nature doesn’t have a sense of its own mortality, it’s pure consciousness. Nature is focused on thriving, while we focus on what’s preventing us from thriving.  Nature has a sense of where it came from and trusts where it’s returning to. Nature is in the middle of a process with no beginning and no end. Nature knows that came from the oneness and will return to the oneness.  And it knows that it will return as some other expression of this oneness when it has fully utilized it’s resources to thrive in its current expression.  And it will continue to thrive in that new expression connected to everything.  Thrive, thrive, thrive, transition and thrive some more.  

How lovely to be a tree – to have more faith in the oneness than anything else – to remember that you just are – it’s just you and bliss. To release the illusion that you are the things around you – you are not the things around you.  To release the illusion that you are not what you have or do – you are not what you have or do.  To release the illusion that you are your body and emotions – you are not your body or emotions.  You just are that you are.  Consciousness and bliss.  Wake up to this and the door will close on your suffering and open the door to thriving.  

For The Love of Birds

I love to sit out on my balcony. We have created a lovely little oasis out there of plants and flowers nestled among soft vanilla and citronella scented candles. It’s a peaceful place to sit any time of day but mostly in the afternoon and evening when the Sun has moved to the other side of the building and the soft indirect light eliminates bright green grass and fluffy full trees.

With fewer cars on the road these days, wildlife emerges occasionally – raccoons and dear venture out to reclaim their native landscape. There are so many beautiful birds in this area, and I have gotten accustomed to their many different voices and songs. Whereas those dulcet tones had simply been a part of the BGM of my living experience in the past, I find myself tuning into the subtle communications more than ever before thanks to the diminished distractions.

Listening to the birds today, I became aware of the nuances of their communication with each other – six chirps in a row followed by a longer vocalization. Three chirps followed by one chirp and then another. I like to imagine the birds are communicating things like “Hey look over here, there’s food” or “Hey watch out, that little black cat is on the road again” or even “There’s a squirrel in my tree, help me” or even “I love you family.” I wonder which of them is sending out communications of love and safety and which are sending requests for love and safety. I guess I believe that all birds speak bird on some level to help eachother meet their needs. Even though their songs sound different, they have an instinctive knowing what those sounds mean and share an intuitive understanding across the species in their neighborhood. The different birds may not be able to decrypt distinctions of other individual bird languages, but I believe they get the gist. This would be very efficient for nature in terms of survival in an ecosystem – to generalize because it’s safer than not.

In the same way, we humans also generalize cross culturally. It’s efficient. It’s safer than not. And in doing so, we get the gist of the “oh no” and the “help me” and we generally know what “I love you” and “please love me” sounds like without being experts in other languages. In generalizing, like those birds, we also likely miss some of the more subtle communications among our own species. But they are there – artful expressions that are actually requests for love or requests for safety; communications of love and gestures of safety. Broadcasts of love toward others, broadcasts of alert for the benefit and safety of others are imbedded in our verbal and physical communications. We miss them because of our filter for how we see ourselves, the world and others. We miss them, because of our need to protect ourselves from hurt and pain. We miss them because we judge the song shrill or loud. We dismiss them because we want, no, expect them to be communicated in our native tongue. But they are there. As clear and resonate as the bird song.

Right now, your family, your friends, the world is reaching out with offers of love and safety while simultaneously crying out for love and safety. Listen, really listen. It is there. The communications of love and gestures of safety are easy to spot. The direct requests may not be as obvious, after all over the years, many requests have been met with resistance or dismissal, so they may now be cleverly cloaked in indirect clever jargon. Yet, now more than ever, when we are enjoying an exclusive opportunity to connect with those closest to us, we have the gift time to study the nuances of the communication. We have been granted the gift of time to observe the unique expressions of love and safety and notice the nuances in the cries for love and safety to help meet needs better than ever before; to appreciate the gestures of love and safety and the cries for love and safety embedded in foreign tongue. The question is, are you listening? Or are you waiting to hear it in your own tongue before you respond?

Chances are, if you are not considering communication from this angle, you are missing this dance we are doing to meet our needs and you will find listening hard. But it’s only hard because it’s new. And new becomes familiar, and then it becomes easy and with repetition, it becomes a habit.

So, in your interactions with others, before you respond or react, breathe and ask in your mind what is this person communicating? What need might they be meeting? To provide for another or to be provided for? Listen and observe. If you had to put someone’s communication with you in one of four buckets, what would you hear?

Is this a request for love?
Is this a request for safety?
Is this an offer of love?
Is this an offer for my safety?

If those were the only choices you had, and you put aside for the moment, the notion that it was an attack, how would you respond? You would likely do what the birds do…call out and rally your resources to help others meet their needs.

Meeting the needs of the world starts with helping those closest to you meet their needs. And appreciating communication in a new way is almost certain to model a new way of being in the ecosystem where you live that circles back to become more of what you too want to see in others and puts you in greater service to the world. And as the saying goes, “put your air mask on before you adjust the masks of those around you.” So too is learning the nuances of your own song. It is not only fair, but necessary. So this week consider:

What are some of the direct and indirect ways I cry out for love?
What are some of the direct and indirect ways I cry out for safety?
What are some of the direct and indirect ways I offer love?
What are some of the direct and indirect ways I offer safety?

You may just find that your song has been just as cryptic to those in your nest as theirs has been to you.

Doing The “Best” We Can With Our Given Resources

In my line of work I’m trained to create awareness of and have understanding for people just doing the best they can with their given resources. It’s not always easy. A lot of us struggle with this especially when we see injustice in the world and in our personal lives and ask “How is this possibly the best someone can do?” Then you remember some people have resources and skills that meet their needs in a way that serve us and some have resources and skills that meet their needs in a way that hurt us. It’s not intentional, and we have to remind ourselves…”they’re just doing the best they can to survive – mentally, emotionally, and physically.” If you take out of the equation your expectations of and judgement around the word “best” you really can see that’s what’s going on.

While walking my dog last night, I became aware that someone had stolen my bike. They clipped the lock right off of it. There was likely some intentionality to it as the cable was still dangling on the bike rack cut clean through with bolt cutters. Ironically there were several other bikes on the rack not locked, and yet my teal beach cruiser was gone. I had to process some hurt and a feeling of violation and tried to default to my training to ease the pain in my heart and the pit in my stomach. It was tough. Thinking “geez…really? Stealing someone’s property is the best you got?” Sigh.

Then the compassion dropped in. How bad it must be for that person to feel that there was nothing else they could do…whether to replace their own transportation or sell it for money to get through this uncertain time. How bad it must be for someone to feel like that was the best and safest choice for them. And how could I be so certain that given the same desperation, I too wouldn’t have been forced to make an equally challenging decision with equally hurtful impact. You never know. You really don’t know how people see the world and how they weigh the choices in their mind and what constitutes an act of survival.

The feelings of hurt and violation gave way to gratitude for my punch buggy still in the parking lot and the little bit of income still coming my way. And the moment gave way to relief that I am not in a situation where I would have to make a choice like that. I felt compassion for that person and my heart and body relaxed.

My body now off the hook, my sadness gave way to chuckle. I felt kind of bad for whoever took my bike because within a few feet they probably realized how wonky the wheels were and how crappy the brakes were and how the handlebars flop down when you go over a bump. Worse, how the back fender doesn’t prevent dirt and mud from doing anything exept create a nice decorative V shaped outline on your back and pants. LOL I am betting right now there is some regret in the decision to take my bike if only over the low quality of the score.

It reminded me of how I felt after someone stole my jewelry armoire from my garage only to find it was filled with costume jewelry, my Disney name tags and a little box full of my daughter’s baby teeth. And worse, the discovery that the bottom drawer was filled to the brim with those special panties you wear during thay certain time of the month. Poor souls. I wouldn’t want to rifle through that drawer either. Absolutely NO GOLD in there.

So I’m good now. No sense punishing my body for someone else’s definition of “best.” So I can now say…

“Here’s to you bike stealer. I send you love today. Here’s hoping my bike helped you get to your job, or the store, or that it became a means to a financial end. I love you for helping me remember to have compassion for other people and the “best” decisions they make in times of desperation and in simple everyday life. Thank you for making me smile and laugh and for reminding me to be grateful for what I have, who I am and how I act toward others and upon the world. And, if you see my new bike out there, and you need it that much, please ask me for it. I will happily give it to you because that’s the “best” I can do with my given resources.” 

Postcards From Quarantineville – Empty The Basin

It’s raining in Celebration today. I love the rain and will often brave the elements (think mosquitos and no-see-ums) to sit out on the patio and tune into the sweet sounds of the gentle tapping on the railing and road. I admire the way the leaves and flowers instinctively turn upward toward the heavens to bathe and soak in this refreshing gift of nature. And how the water intuitively gravitates toward the slopes and valleys in the landscape as “run-off.”

“Run-off” carries such a negative connotation. The rain not absorbed into the land is no more “run-off” than tears are. Tears serve a purpose – confirmation of a cleansing now complete; evidence of a renewal; proof of a process. And our hearts, like those clouds – billowy basins full to the brim with the emotional debris and particles of pain accumulated over weeks, and months, years, and lifetimes – reach a tipping point and eventually succumb to the need to release. It’s normal. It’s natural. It’s part of a process. And upon that release, like those clouds, we are free to return to our elemental ethereal essence; to stretch and expand and morph across the vast expanse of the heavens – no longer just a part of the scenery – a chalky contrast to the blue inverted bowl of the sky, but rather, one with it, where we are once again whole with the atmosphere . . free, boundless, limitless – at least until the next environmental pressure peaks. 

 

To this end, in my work with clients, as I pace them from their pain into their potential, I tell them . . . 

…”there are really only two things I can do for you in this work – help you clear the perceived obstacle in the path of your goal or connect you to inner resources to see that obstacle in a different way, navigate around it, or even better, leverage it to help you get to your goal.”

And, I add, “in that process, you will come face to face with your real and paper tiger obstacles. And that will feel uncomfortable – and there will be pain and there will be tears and it will feel almost as uncomfortable as stepping into your power. After all, they are equivalent unknowns. More important, you can’t face your tigers or step into your power with a heavy full heart. If your resources are tied up in fortifying the basin, your focus will not be on the goal, much less the blue skies that inevitably follow the storm.”

So, be like the sky today in Celebration today. Open up, release, and let go. Breathe and acknowledge the hurt, the fear, and pain and let the tears flow. Create some “run-off.”  Engage in the natural process designed to refresh and renew. Empty the basin. You’ll be amazed at how light and free you will feel and how much more able you will be to press on.

Breathe, release, and let go. Remember, you can handle any weather.

Let me know if you need help with this. I can hold space for you remotely as easily as I can in person. Privately, safely let go in the comfort of your own home. Visit www.HypnosisAnywhere.com for details. 

WANT TO DOs and HAVE TO DOs and Tigers in Disguise

Right now, when most of us are deep within the retreat to our homes, we may be inclined to look at all we have going on around us and do the things we WANT TO DO, before we do the things we HAVE TO DO. Those wants and haves are different for everyone and they are categorized in the mind in different ways and of course, also influenced by the context. For example, where someone may put “researching something on the internet” in the WANT TO DO category, another may put it in the HAVE TO DO category. Where someone may put “going outside for some exercise” in the WANT TO DO category, another may put it in the HAVE TO DO category.
You’ve probably observed this now that home and work life have blended contexts.

Yet, what you might not have observed is how some of your WANT TO DOs are designed to avoid the HAVE TO DOs because they generally feel better. Your subconscious mind actually preferences the things that make you feel better and in doing so hijacks your body to FEEL something about them, hijacks your mind with THOUGHTS and IMAGES to draw you toward them, and hijacks your internal chatter to TELL you certain things about them to influence your movement toward them. This hijack of the feelings, thoughts, images and chatter creates desire to move toward it.

Desire is a powerful motivator. Think about some of the things that we desire – sex, food, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, sleep, a shower, scrolling our devices, TV / Movies, music, a hug and even sometimes exercise (that’s not me, I wish it was. LOL). It’s a very subtle process and designed not to be observable. In fact, if you have mindlessly moved toward a WANT TO DO without giving any thought to why, you are actually training your subconscious mind to make that move quickly and more efficiently. It might even become so speedy and efficient that it wires to it, the context where you usually do it. Now you have a habit – an automatic response triggered by a context cue.

Unless you have stopped to give any thought to why you are moving toward a WANT TO DO, then you are missing something very important about the moment – your discomfort. And if you have chalked this up to a habit, and run that automatic behavior without observation you will further train your subconscious mind to be more and more efficient at preferencing the WANT TO DO over the HAVE TO DO in that context. Good news is, that a habit is just subconscious efficiency. It’s compressed time. It’s wired neurons that you can actually unwire. It starts with mindfulness and it can be accomplished in a few easy steps.

1. BECOME AWARE and BREATHE: of the ping of desire – it might be an image, thought, a felt sense in your body, or internal chatter. Breathe and acknowledge it and before doing anything else…

2. ASK YOURSELF: “Why am I not okay in this moment without it?”

3. OBSERVE: your first reaction to this question. It will likely be some iteration of “because it will make me feel good” or “because it will make me feel better” or “I deserve it” or even “it’s my reward.”

4. REMIND YOURSELF: If you are moving toward something that would make you feel good or better, you do not, by definition feel okay. Something is off.

5. REFLECT: Take that moment and look for something that you may be avoiding – something that has associated with it a perception of discomfort in the process or the outcome. This something may be a task that is uncomfortable in and of itself, or action you need to take that produces an uncomfortable outcome. It may also be simple avoidance of a thought, feeling, or belief about yourself, other people and the world.

6. NOTICE: your feelings about that thing. Notice your beliefs about yourself when you think about that thing.

7. Lean into it and DO THAT THING ANYWAY: Anything less trains your subconscious to 2 things – 1) to become more efficient in avoiding it and 2) to attach increased desire to whatever moves you away from it.

8. PRACTICE and CELEBRATE when you do it: If you are not practicing this, you are practicing something else. And practice makes performance. And to really lock it in, when you catch yourself doing it, celebrate it with a little “yeah me!” Give your system a shot of dopamine – dopamine is a hormone which among other things facilitates learning and memory. So, tell your system this new habit something to remember by getting excited about it. The more kinesthetic your celebration the better. So move your body while you are celebrating!

This is a very subtle process and it’s the same mechanism that would turn you safely back toward your village before venturing into the jungle where the tiger lives. So, we are grateful for it. But in this day and age we are avoiding paper tigers, not real tigers. So, the skill is being misapplied and we have become so riddled with habits that we feel we have no choice and control over.

As a hypnotherapist, this is the kind of thing I unravel for folks every day. Most of the time, I use hypnotherapy and NLP to reframe the awareness that come up in #2, #5 and #6 above. In our work, we clear those things and the avoidance behavior drops off. And, at the risk of engineering myself out of a job, I teach them this and it produces incredible behavior change.

It’s not theory. It’s the real deal. It’s how I broke up with a 30+ year relationship with Bulimia by facing head on the tiger I was trying to avoid.

So, take the HAVE TO DOs head on. Do it so often that your subconscious mind learns they are not a tiger to fear. The WANT TO DOs will still be there. They will still bring you pleasure, yet you might find you gain even greater joy and satisfaction from realizing how much choice and control you actually have over your behavior.

Now THAT’s something worth making a habit of. And tiny habits add up to BIG change!

#tinyhabits (Read more about Tiny Habits here.) I am a certified Tiny Habits Coach, so when you are ready to leverage this too to create your BIG change I am here to help you make confetti out of your paper tigers.

Compassion Ripple – Stories of Loving Kindness and Expanding Compassion

I paid for a lady’s limes today. You read that right…limes. I was 3 shoppers deep when I finally made my way up to the cashier. The woman had just checked out before me with an overflowing cart of items and had neglected to ring up the limes wedged in the back of the cart. She realized as she was halfway out the door that she hadn’t paid for them and turned back in despair to see the long line of carts behind me – also overflowing, as well as nearly every other lane and customer service several carts deep as well. She sighed considering the prospect of getting back in line. I felt so bad for her so I told the cashier to put them on my bill. The woman was overjoyed (and I was thinking…lady, it’s just a few limes. No big deal. I got you.) She then went into a story about how she was making a special dinner for some older folks who were afraid to leave their home and that she had a lot of prep work to do tonight. She thanked me profusely with tears in her eyes and scurried out the door. “That was very kind,” said the cashier. I smiled, still thinking it was no big deal.

As I was leaving the store, I realized that I too had left a smaller, yet more expensive, item in the bottom of my cart, and without missing a beat, the woman behind me said, “I got you,” and motioned for the clerk to put it on her bill. I smiled with gratitude, thanked her and walked toward my car. “That was very nice,” I thought.

Almost immediately, this juicy little nugget of universal wisdom dropped in…

“Instead of waiting for the opportunity to be compassionate to reveal itself to you, seek it out. You never know how far the ripple will expand and the lives it will affect…and one of those lives, just may be your own.

And when it expands, it will double back upon you, not because you intended it to do so, but because you led with loving kindness and leading with loving kindness cultivates a loving and kind world.”

Boom…and the Universe drops the mic.

I like to imagine that older homebound couple now, enjoying their lime cilantro chicken and the joy they are experiencing knowing they are so cherished by their neighbor, and me and the lady behind me in Publix checkout lane 4.

And I like to imagine the women’s children watching her joyfully cooking in preparation for that special meal.

And I like to imagine how those children see the model of compassion their mother is and the way in which they will apply that skill themselves.

And I like to imagine how there are thousands upon thousands of compassionate acts happening simultaneously around the globe creating little “compassion ripples.” And that these ripples are changing the world in ways we can not yet see with our physical eyes but in ways we can feel in our hearts. And these ripples are expanding and intersecting in powerful exponential ways to create a more loving world today and tomorrow and the next day in the lives of people we will never meet. Such that, some day very soon, this will be the visible world we live in. All we need to do is seek the opportunity to extend loving kindness. Expand the “Compassion Ripple.”

I’ve started a website called “CompassionRipple.com” to capture stories like this. I would love to see how many stories we can collect and share. Give me a day or two to get it up and running or share your story on your FB using #CompassionRipple and I will transfer it to the site when it goes live.

In the meantime….you know what to do.

#compassionripple

Postcards from Quarantineville – Dani, Dot and Alli

I ran into Dot and Alli today on my way back from a supply run. The three of us met at an intersection under a bright blue technicolor sky peppered with white fleecy clouds that resembled cotton candy stretched across the heavens. A curious intersection where a dirt path met bright golden bricks and black tar pavement.

Alli looked as if she’d just crawled out of a rabbit hole – white pinafore smudged with mud – twigs and leaves sticking out of her long blond hair. Dot appearing as if she’d just awoken from a dream having slid down a rainbow, neatly dressed in blue gingham, red shoes sparkling as they reflected the light of the mid-day sun. Her little dog tucked safely in the basket nestled in the crook of her arm. And me in my favorite quarantine uniform – yoga pants, t-shirt and hair in a messy bun.

“Pardon me, but did you see a rabbit? He’s wearing a waistcoat and carrying a pocket watch” Alli inquired in her sweet refined accent. “I followed him this way, and I desperately need to find him.”

“Not me.” Dot replied pointing back down the swirling winding path from which she appeared. “Nothing that way but a village of charming little people and a man entirely made of straw and man of tin and a lion and they could all sing and dance. But no rabbit.”

“Me neither,” I replied. “He wasn’t in Publix. They only allow service animals. I could have missed him altogether in the Easter Section. They’re still trying to get rid of all that stuff. And I could only move one way down the aisles.” I grinned, seeing the opportunity to lighten Alli’s intensity.

“Oh, but I really must find him. He led me here, so he most certainly knows the way home.”

“Home!” Dot exclaimed. “Well, that’s where I’m trying to get back to! You must come with me. I was instructed that there’s a man in that city who knows the way!” Dot pointed across the field of poppies toward a skyline of Emerald green.

“I live on Celebration Boulevard. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump away – quicker than you can click your heels.” I said. “But neither of you look like you are from ‘round here. Want me to call you an Uber?”

“Oh my!” replied Alli nervously to Dot. “But you can’t go that way. I hear there is a Queen there who decapitates anyone that comes near. And you’re likely to encounter a very cynical cat and a cryptic caterpillar who won’t give you any direction at all. He’ll just drone on and on and on asking ‘who are you?’ No help at all. That’s most certainly not the way home.” Alli insisted.

“Well, you can’t go back from where YOU came Alli,” Dot implored. I’ve seen a witch with a squadron of flying monkeys come from that direction. Green and haggard and flying on a broom. She is very, very angry. She even wrote in smoke across the sky that wants to kill me, and my little dog too. That most certainly is NOT the way home.”

“Well, you all could go that way,” I replied gesturing toward my idyllic little town. “But you’ll need to wear masks and be indoors by 11pm. An invisible curse has been cast upon the land that has made people retreat to their homes indefinitely. Businesses have been shuttered and everyone is living in fear clinging to their TVs, phones, and tablets for signs that the curse has been lifted.”

The pause was palpable. I was certain that laughter would soon break the silence.

“Oh my, that’s terrible.” Cried Alli, mouth agape and hands pressed to her face in horror. “How curious. Those poor people!”

“Yes, well that’s certainly not the way to go” declared Dot. Alli nodded in agreement.

“Nope, not going there. A witch and a homicidal queen,” Dot reasoned, “I can absolutely handle that.” She curtsied politely as she quickly excused herself, skipping – no running down the yellow pavers, dog in tow, continuing down her path to the bright green city.

“Don’t drink the water or lay down in the poppies” she exclaimed as she disappeared around the bend.

Turning back to Alli, I could see she was already making her mad exit. “Goodbye! And good luck with your invisible curse thing” she offered very cordially. “And if you see the rabbit, tell him NOT to go that way. Go anyway, but NOT that way.”

“And don’t eat the cookies. They’re full of sugar and they mess with your digestion.” And with that, Alli dashed down the dusty road toward a quaint little tea party already in progress.

“Um. . . keep calm and wash your hands.” I shouted. “And remember, you can always make masks out of your aprons.” I didn’t have much too add considering both were willing to face what I perceived to be, bigger fears than my own.

Moral of the story: Everyone is trying to make their way home, facing the fears that are relevant to their stories. Change your story – change your fear. Get home safely.

#postcardsfromquarantineville
#changeyourstorychangeyourfear

Postcards from Quarantineville – Keep Smiling

Walking into Publix today, I was greeted by an older gentleman handing out gloves. This was a relief, considering I had become accustomed to the familiar routine of walking in, heading straight for the floral department to guiltily slide my arm into a plastic flower sleeve that extended well up over my elbow before nestling my little green basket safely in the crook of my arm.

“Oh, this is a nice surprise. Thank you.” He replied “I like your mask. It looks like I heart.” “Thank you,” I chuckled, adjusting my bright red dinner napkin improvised mask securely behind my ears with hair doodles. It hid my cheeky grin but not the twinkle in my eyes to be so acknowledged for my makeshift effort to comply with Osceola County Ordinance. As I efficiently made my way through the produce section, as expertly as an Instacart Shopper, I passed people I’m sure I’ve seen before, now cloaked in anonymity behind their own attempts to adhere to common sense and the law – bandana secured with a banana clip, and a painter’s mask and an extra small t-shirt half covering the head and nose. I applauded people’s creativity. I couldn’t help but smile as we passed each other in the aisles.

If you know me, you know I have trouble NOT smiling especially when coming face to face with people. I smile at strangers, babies and cashiers. I smile at dogs and pretty flowers. I smile when I see the neatly maintained rows of toilet paper and the fully stocked end cap of pork rinds and when they have my favorite flavor of ice cream. I smile when it’s my turn at the cash register. And when I smile, it radiates up to my eyes and throughout my body. And that smile, is never more broad than when someone returns the smile. It’s electric and invigorating and it reminds me of how we are all connected in kindness at our core. Even today, fully masked, I was smiling underneath last night’s dinner accessory, and no one knew. It was like my own little secret. And it caused me to imagine others having their own little secret smiles, hidden from the world. Weaving up and down the aisles I was surprised to make more eye contact with others than ever before and I quickly became a study of the many other ways people smile – in their bodies, with their heads, with their arms and gestures. Yes, I had to look deeper and longer for the smile in others. But it was there around every turn if I watched for it and expected it. And what would have been an otherwise ordinary supply run for my family turned into the most joyous pleasurable experience to be in a horde of ear to ear grins – to be surrounded by kindness and love, if only in my imagination.

My challenge to you. . in a time when our simplest expression of kindness is shielded for the sake of the general welfare of our community, look for the smile in others. It’s still there. Under the mask. Behind the bandana. And share YOUR smile. Show it in your eyes. Show it in a simple head nod – a body tilt. A gesture with your hands or arms or body. Smile with your whole being. Neuroscience confirms that smiling creates a positive feedback loop in the mindbody. As smile muscles contract they stimulate our brain’s reward center and in turn amplify endorphins which makes us feel even happier. So, keep sharing your smiles and keep looking for smiles. Smiles fuel hope and spread love within yourself and others.

And when this is all over, and we transition from the masks we don for the sake of public safety to the ones we wear for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual safety, keep smiling and keep looking for it, and expecting it. As you expect, so too will you realize. In the words of Louis Armstrong “When you’re smilin’ keep on smilin’ The whole world smiles with you.”

#postcardsfromquarantineville

#keepsmiling

The ABC’s of Staying Mindful in These Curious Times

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

Right now, it may feel impossible to believe that there is hope and that “this too shall pass.”  In these curious times, when so much around us seems uncertain and bewildering, like Alice, we have but only our inner world and imagination to cling to – to see us through to a time and place when we are happy, healthy, stable, whole and complete again.

And in times like these, we may feel drawn to focus on the negative aspects of our experiences.  Unfortunately, doing so puts the body in a state of distress which among other things, compromises our immune systems and worse, trains our automatic responses to hypervigilance and overreaction.  This not only decreases our ability to stay healthy but also depresses our outlook, which in turn decreases our mental and emotional resilience to future stressors.

Mindfulness is a simple means to turn that train around.  Mindfulness creates inner resilience, while reducing stress and connecting to healthier positive emotions through any season of our lives.  The happy bi-product of engaging in this way of being is a calm healthy body, more flexible responses to our experiences and more wisdom during challenging times.

Easier than meditating and a little more involved than simple breathing, mindfulness is “paying attention on purpose in the present moment without judgement”. [Jon Kabot-Zinn, (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life.]  The simple practice allows us to bring our focus back to where we can remember one simple truth – we can actually handle what’s going in this present moment.  And engaging your mindful moment is as easy as A, B, C.

A.  Pay ATTENTION and AKNOWLEDGE: Emotions and their accompanying body felt sense exist for a reason.  They are like punctuation on our perception and they help us make decisions and react to our world.  Emotions such as hurt, sadness, fear, worry, anger, guilt and shame hijack the body’s fight ,flight or freeze mechanism and shut down your insight and creativity.  And when these emotions appear, (which they will) pay attention.  This is the moment when you need wisdom most.  Instead of rolling into an automatic reaction, acknowledge what’s coming up ie “this is hurt,” “this is sadness,” “this is fear.”  The simple act of naming it will calm the body.  Then give some awareness of the thought that is creating that emotion.  Once you have awareness of the source, simply….

B.  BREATHE and BALANCE the body: When the fight flight or freeze switch is flicked and your heart rate and respiration are hijacked along with your wisdom.  And, this process will not shut off until your body perceives you are safe again.  So breathe as soon as you have awareness of your body being pinged.  Breathe as if you are safe – long and slow through the nose and long and slow out of the mouth 6 to 8 rounds.  It only takes between 60 – 90 seconds of breathing for your body to receive the message “Calm down.  This is NOT an emergency.” Don’t worry when you feel a little woozy or light headed.  That’s just oxygen returning to your brain where you need it most.  This simple act will allow the body to return to balance and invite wisdom and insight to return where you can. . .

C.  CREATE DISTANCE and CULTIVATE CURIOUSITY: A thought isn’t a permanent thing, it’s a transient thing.  And thoughts are also like trains in a train station.  Many come in, yet not all of them are taking you to where you need to go in the moment.  So, don’t hop on every thought train that comes through your station.  Step back, create some distance and let it pass with the same detachment you would have for the train not going to your destination.  Thoughts bother us because we give them meaning.  The more meaning, the more distress.  When you step back from them, you step back from the meaning, you step back from the stress.  Be still and let it pass.  Don’t try to hug or hold onto it as it is leaving your mental station.  Instead, invite curiosity. Elisha Goldstein, author of The Now Effect, advises “Curiosity leads the mindful person to get back in touch with the wonders and possibilities of life.” Let your natural curiosity help you explore new ways of interpreting what’s going on. Change the meaning, change the stress.   

Eyes open.  Eyes closed.  It doesn’t matter.  Special place or sitting in your car.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you practice.  Practice makes performance.  As with any new habit, this skill becomes easier and more automatic with practice.  Yet, if you are not practicing this, you are practicing something else. You are training your mind and body to some other process of being in the world that is likely not going to serve you well in crisis.  So, starting your daily mindfulness practice now is the best way to ensure this automatic response will engage when you need it most.

Mindfulness will undoubtedly allow for miracles of transformation in our bodies and in our lives, as well as in the lives of those you love and who love you, and in the world.  And it just might help make the impossible possible and the unimaginable real.

May you only know perfect peace and the wellness that follows. . .now and always.  It’s possible. . .”if only you believe it!”

Growing Your Child’s Brain During Social Distancing

Tips for growing wise and empathetic kids

Perhaps you are already aware that the brain is under construction for a good portion of adolescence and well into the 20’s (and some even report into the 30’s.) And the part under construction most during this time is the Pre-Frontal Cortex. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just say this part of the brain is home to wisdom and empathy. And this area grows in response to how it is used – what is reinforced and wired together. So, follow me. . . .if we want more wise and empathetic kids, we have to grow a more wise and empathic brain. Makes sense, right?

During this time, with 90% of us on mandatory sabbatical, it’s so easy to plop little ones in front of a screen or let the older ones hang out on their devices all day especially if the input is “educational.” This will certainly grow the brain in important ways. This is not a bid to stop use of electronics. Rather, it is an opportunity to leverage that experience (or any experience) to grow wisdom and empathy. Bottom line – whatever the source of data input, wisdom and empathy won’t happen without engagement – without your help.

So, here’s my suggestion….

1. ENGAGE – At some point, engage in some aspect of what they are doing or observing. It’s not reasonable to expect that you could be sitting there all day with them, just a few times a day. Share in the experience and if you can’t share, simply be beside them while they do their thing. Keep in mind, when children are fully engaged in an activity that does not involve critical thinking, they are in a state similar to hypnosis – an active learning state where direct and indirect suggestions come right into the subconsious without question. This is a wonderful place for a child to be, and at the same time, a potentially dangerous place without integration of the data input. So, stay engaged and available to help integrate the content they are exposed to.

2. BE PRESENT WITHOUT JUDGMENT – When we react to content, we project our world view upon it, and children wanting to stay safe and accepted will often embrace what we project. Instead of commenting, simply let them have their own experience without the filter of your content. As long as they are engaging in something safely, you can sit and watch with them without coloring their experience with yours.

3. INVITE REFLECTION – At some point during the experience, when there is a natural pause (or potty break), ask some of the following:

  • What was the main character thinking there?
  • How do you think they were feeling?
  • What would they have had to believe about themselves to respond or react that way?
  • What do you think they needed?
  • What kind of things (backstory) might that character been experiencing to do what they did?
  • What kind of things might this character do differently in the future because of what happened?
  • How would you have felt if this was you?
  • What would you have done? And what would have come of that?

These questions invite identification with others and allow the brain to create important solution scenarios. The questions cause the child to switch perceptual positions with another as if floating out of themselves and stepping behind the eyes of another – seeing the world from their perspective – thinking their thoughts and feeling their feelings solving their problems. This grows empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another (Webster) while creating a mind body machine that can strategize, anticipate, predict and experience positive outcomes. The happy biproduct of that? Less stress and anxiousness.

4. STAY PRESENT AND LISTEN WITHOUT JUDGEMENT – Ask the question and then listen. . . really listen. Be present. Don’t drop the question bomb and then walk away and get engaged in something else. Turn your eyes and body to your child. Communicate through body language “This is important to me. You are important to me.” When they speak, listen. Do not interrupt or comment on their responses expect with loving interested eyes. Your verbal input turns their attention away from their inner experience and vocabulary. Remember, it’s really important to let this processing happen without your judgement or projection. You need to let the child’s brain chew on the question and an answer without your input. They may communicate something cogent first time out the gate. They may not. Let them try again. But don’t jump in and shape their responses. Feedback and course correction are part of the process. They need to learn to the process of dipping into their existing resources before they defer to yours. Give them time to reflect and chew and speak and if necessary, reflect, chew and speak some more. Regardless of the topic, THAT’S the activity that grows Wisdom – the process of chewing and formulating and communicating and then rechewing, reformulating and recommunicating until you ascend to the highest level of perspective and response.

5. CELEBRATE AND RECOGNIZE: It’s never too soon or too late to start engaging your children this way. Remember, you are in the business of growing independent wise and empathetic human beings. So, reinforce this kind of thinking and being whenever you see it. Catch them in the act. A reinforcement could be simply, “I like the thought you put into that response (or solution)” or “you were really dipping into your wisdom and empathy when you did that.”  

Some things to be mindful of:

1. YOUR TONE – You could create a potentially negative experience by inviting reflection and dialog only to invalidate by and through your response to their response. So, comments like “that’s stupid,” or “seriously?” or even “why would you do that?” can come off invalidating especially if it’s said without regard to tone. So be mindful in your response and positively reinforce the effort with comments like “that’s interesting” or “what an interesting way to see it.”

2. YOUR TIMING – Slow and easy does it. If you haven’t engaged your child like this before, don’t go full throttle. Rather, slowly being to introduce questions like this when you see them absorbed and just start with one question at a time. And, choose a time when your child is the least likely to be irritated by you and your engagement.

3. YOUR ROLE – Children are watching everything you are doing and the strategies you are using for survival. They watch your processes and behaviors to glean what works and what doesn’t work. If you are not modeling this way of being, you cannot expect them to value it and demonstrate it. So, demonstrate it.

If you need help with this, let me know. Click to CONTACT ME and I will send you a list of resources to support your deeper dive into these approaches. Simply put “PARENTING RESOURCES” in the subject line.  Also, be sure to check out my WORKING WITH KIDS AND TEENS page for more information about how I can help you help your kids enjoy powerful, positive change!

I know I’m asking a lot. It’s a tall order during a very difficult time, but nothing is more important. Doing less won’t change our children, much less the world. These are the skills they will need to get through this and future challenges. We owe it to them.

Let me know how it goes and how I can support you.

Go to Top