Love makes the world go round, in ways we never dreamed of . . .

Valentine’s Day is over, but don’t give up on love!

Check out positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.’s new book, “LOVE 2.0” it’s about the moments  – and the science behind them  – that connect us to each other.  Patrice Koerper  Speaker Wishful Thinking Works Love 3

Significants↔Strangers. Family↔Friends. Companions↔Colleagues.

According to Fredrickson, love is the most rewarding form of positivity and doesn’t require a soul mate to experience! Romance is just one form of love, the others can be just as rich and rewarding and are replenishable.

Love has no expiration date!

Patrice Koerper  Speaker Wishful Thinking Works Love 2To read more about Fredrickson’s latest book and her thoughts about how love makes the world go round, click here.

To listen to Fredrickson talk about her new book, click here.

To listen to her 28 minute presentation about love, youth, and warm hearts, click here. Really great information!

To meditate on the topic of love, click here.  (These are Fredrickson’s personal recommendations.)

To read other great Wishful Thinking Works posts about Barbara Fredrickson’s work, click here, here, and here.

Wishful Thinking Works life coaching can help you build your happiness muscles.

Having a coach in your corner, is a great way to quickly move forward with the changes you want to make in your life.

For more information, click here.

You can Visit and “Like” Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook!

How walking in circles can calm your mind

labyrinth-2405313_960_720

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. It represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools.

I walked my first labyrinth this weekend, so I am no expert – but I am now a believer.  I believe that taking 15-30 minutes out of your day to do something that can relax and center you is a good thing. I also believe that walking anywhere – even in circles – can be good for us.

And, I know first-hand that guided walking and mindfulness are a peaceful and positive combination.

Labyrinths

Here’s what I learned about labyrinths before I walked one.

  • They are an ancient practice. The oldest are around 3000 years old.
  • They have been found all over the world.
  • There are different designs and sizes. Two of the most recognizable are the classic design shown above and the medieval style shown below.

My Walk

The labyrinth I walked was made of rust-colored bricks and was surrounded by moss-draped oak trees on the banks of a creek in southwest Florida. I was leading a group of 12 Wishful Thinking Women and we were being guided by a local labyrinth expert. The afternoon was rainy but luckily, the downpour slowed to a drizzle long enough for us to step outside into a new experience.

The retreat setting we visited was so beautiful it was easy to feel we were going to be experiencing something special. The deep blue of the sky was the perfect backdrop for the glistening greens and browns of the grass and trees around us, made all the more vibrant by the rain. Nature was at its best.

Each of us paused before we stepped into the mouth of the labyrinth. (That’s what you call the opening.) No one said we had to, it just seemed liked the thing to do, and doing so let us move forward with awareness and intention.

The first turn came up quickly, I realized almost as quickly that concentrating on the path was going to be necessary.  I remember thinking “This is easy, the path is laid out for me.” (A metaphor?)

I felt extremely happy to be walking the path surrounded by nature with a group of women whose company I truly enjoyed. At that point I relished having nothing more to worry about than where to place my next step.  I felt completely relaxed. The world around me faded and I felt I was walking in the woods, alone and happy.

Birds started chirping and cawing, I paused for a minute to look up, breaking my solitary spell, and immediately felt overwhelmed by the beauty of surroundings and the company around me.

I slowed my pace as passage on the path began to slow – others were walking the same path, but at very different paces. (Another metaphor for life?)

After a few more steps, I wondered how long this thing was going to last! When I entered, the labyrinth didn’t seem that big but now the paths seemed to go on forever, the twists and turns elongated the journey way more than I realized.  (I remember thinking that was a funny thought, since I am a life coach and I often coach folks on slowing down, but that’s the beauty of it. We all feel that way at times, it’s how we handle it that matters.)

At the next turn, I wondered if I was “doing it right”.  I almost laughed out loud, because even though I knew there was no way to “do it wrong” and the path was clearly marked, when I allowed my mind to wander from my task I immediately began to doubt my progress.  (I took that as a reminder for life – doubting the path, even when it is neatly laid out before you, is normal, not to worry, just keep going, so I did!)

The length of the labyrinth surprised me time and time gain, and each time I pondered  its length, I became aware of the other folks on the path and began to feel a need to visually follow the path prior to walking to it.

I wanted to figure out my path before I walked it. I felt a tad stressed and found it interesting that even though I knew where I was going, I felt the need to know exactly how I was going to get there. Pretty funny, since there was only one way in and one way out, and everyone was moving into the center and away from it with great ease. Once again, I laughed inwardly at myself and kept going.

The moment I returned my focus to the path directly in front of me, and away from the twists and turns ahead, I felt relieved. Within a few seconds I felt excited again that I was on the path and it was clearly laid out ahead of me.  My progress and feelings

My progress and feelings yo-yoed again and again.  Surprisingly, arriving at the center was anti-climatic, but in a positive, gentle way; I simply continued on the path. I have no idea how long my walk on the labyrinth actually lasted. I am guessing it was between 15-20 minutes. But I know the moment it ended, I wished it hadn’t.

I have no idea how long my walk on the labyrinth actually lasted. I am guessing it was between 15-20 minutes. But I know the moment it ended, I wished it hadn’t.

I’m happy I had the experience, and will find a way to “walk” one daily! If you click on the Classic Labyrinth above, you can print a copy of it and simply “walk” the labyrinth with your finger. You can also go online and with your cursor find plenty of labyrinths to follow. Physically walking a labyrinth is a great experience, but until that opportunity arises, don’t miss the opportunity to let your fingers do the walking.

My biggest take-away of the day? Twists and turns can pull me away from my path, but gentle awareness and not taking myself too seriously, always get me back on track.

I’d loved to hear about your labyrinth experiences. If you have walked one let us know what you thought of your experience. If not and you would like to, this Labyrinth Locator can help you find one close to you.

And, breathe . . .

In our Wishful Thinking Ways #3 weekly post we talked about inhibitory breathing. Folks around the world are holding their breath in times of stress, which may lead to anxiety and, over time, to health problems.

This past Saturday a group of Wishful Thinking women gathered and Wendy, one of the participants, shared this wonderful site with all of us: www.doasone.com

Do As One’s vision is to have 1 billion people – yup, 1 billion – synchronize their breathing by November 11, 2012. To this end, they have created a wonderful web site so folks can learn to breathe moment to moment! (There’s even an App!)

Give yourself a much-needed break and go to Do As One now, and learn to breathe full-body, life-enhancing breaths. You can choose from a number of “breathing rooms”, where you may then select background audio (choices include softly falling rain or Tibetan bowls); color – a rainbow of options; intentions – peace, harmony, abundance, and length of session.

“Do As One” offers many more relaxing options for intentional breathing beginners and experts, and for folks who are looking for meditative options. “Do As One” is an excellent tool for bringing peace and relaxation into your life one breath at a time. A minute or two of full-body breathing, will relax you and help you focus your awareness in a gentle, easy way. You will feel the tension melting away. It’s like a mini-vacation for your mind.

Relax your shoulders, stretch a bit and begin now.

Don’t underestimate the power in each and every breath you take – being more aware of your breathing patterns can help you change your perspective and may transform your life.

And, breathe . . .

PS Let us know of other breathing and meditation sites you have used and recommend. And, thanks again, Wendy!

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How I “wrote” today’s post

 WTW DandelionToday’s post evolved differently than my other posts:

  • I read an article on Wednesday about former Martha Stewart EVP and Director, Margaret Roach.
  • Margaret left Martha and a high-paying, high-stress, high-life career in NYC to create the life she wanted.
  • Then she wrote a book about it: “And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road“.
  • I loved the article and thought the theme was perfect for Wishful Thinking Works – my “garden” is life coaching.
  • So, I emailed the author of the article, Deborah Dunham, and asked if I could repost.
  • She said, “Yes”. Thank you, Deborah.
  • Here it is.
  • I am looking forward to reading Margaret’s book.
  • And, the article reminded me a bit of the choices and courage of next Wednesday’s Returned Peace Corps Volunteer “up close and personal” interview, I think you will enjoy it, too.
  • The end.
  • Or, perhaps a new chapter in the lives we are living.

PS I don’t believe you have to leave something to find something, but I do believe sometimes it happens that way.

The following is reposted from mydaily.com, 3/9/2011. 

Margaret Roach writes a book about leaving her life in the fast lane for life in the country.

Margaret Roach did something that many over-stressed, over-worked women wish they could do: She ran away.

As a highly successful executive of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia who lived a fast-paced life in New York City climbing the corporate ladder and found herself more and more in demand every day, her former life sounds like a dream for many. Just working for Martha herself is enough to send many of us crafty, cooking, gardening, decorating, color-coding-our-underwear-drawer wannabes into a tizzy as we imagine how “Martha-like” our own homes and lives could be.

So while Roach loved her high-powered career, which had all the makings of an existence rich with everything a girl could want (including a platinum Saks card she would use on occasion to blow through stress –- and $5,000 in 15 minutes), Roach craved something more. Or, actually, something less.

In her new book, “And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road,” Roach describes how she survived corporate-ladder-climbing days by gardening with a vengeance on weekends at her small cottage in the country. Those weekends and those plants turned into her solace, her refuge from the long hours, the endless meetings and her squelched creative side that was desperate to be heard.

Turns out, Roach wasn’t actually running away in 2008 when she quit her job and left the city to live in her rural home full-time. Rather, she was running toward something: herself. Her goals for a new, ideal life? 1) Gardening offline and online; 2) changing 3,000 lives; 3) having lots of great sex; 4) writing a bestseller; and 5) living without asthma.

We had a chance to talk with Roach about her life-changing decision and why she says the only regret she has is not shacking up with her Hylomecons sooner.

MyDaily: In reading your book, it appears, at first, that you were unhappy with your life at Martha Stewart — a job you say many would consider a dream job. Were you unhappy?
Margaret Roach: I wasn’t unhappy for most of the years. I actually loved working there because I worked in newspapers for 20 years prior, which was a big corporate industry with far fewer women in high ranks. When I came to Martha Stewart, there were so many women. No idea was too big and creativity ranked, which was wonderful. But what happened was, the more I succeeded in my career, the more I ended up managing other writers and editors. That’s called a promotion, but it takes you away from your own work.

I am left- and right-brained, but I’m also a good writer, a good gardener, a good cook, and good at creating and decorating –- all the stuff I didn’t have time for anymore in my life. All I was doing was going to meetings. I took on more and more responsibility and got further away from my brain that wanted to be creative and express ideas. I wasn’t unhappy, I was more frustrated because that other self was screaming for some air time.

Margaret Roach left her life in the fast lane for gardening in the country. An interview with the author of Photo by Erica Berger

What was Martha like to work for?
Well, it’s a very expansive environment, and there’s no thinking that something can’t be done. That was very different for me and extremely positive. In a way, I never would have been able to do this if it wasn’t for that thinking. Martha started her magazine, TV show and corporation when she was in her 50’s –- what an example for me. She was definitely an inspiration.

She’s also obviously extremely high energy; she never stops. She makes me, a total type A, look like a slug. She’s fast, she wants to travel, she wants it all. I get over-stimulated in that environment. Solitude sustains me. It was exciting to work there, but also exhausting. My team was all the people who created the magazine and reported to me, and it was amazing. In 1994, I freelanced for the magazine, in 1995 I became the first garden editor for Martha Stewart Living, then I became executive vice president and editorial director of magazines, books, specials and Internet. It was a lot.

I love how you say that the corporate world can snuff out someone’s creativity. Why do you say that and how can we avoid that?
You can really get swallowed up by a big corporation. I don’t actually believe that multitasking is possible. I’m a person who can do a lot of things, but that is, to me, totally antithetical to personal creativity. I think you have to pick a path. I don’t think you can say, I’m going to be the EVP of Martha Stewart and oversee 180 people at a given time and make sure everything is perfect, and by the way, I’m not going to come to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays because I’m going to write a book. That’s not realistic. Given the finite hours in a day, it’s a personal decision on what you want to do, like maybe giving up a promotion. If I had stopped as garden editor, I could have written books, been a great corporate citizen and still been a success. You have to say no sometimes to things that are very attractive in order to obtain things that are attractive in another way.

Describe your life now.
I still work a lot. I came here to write. I’m trying to piece together a livelihood of things that are personal, self-expressive and creative. I’m focused on my blog, awaytogarden.com, where I do all the photos and writing. It doesn’t pay anything, but it allows me to have a connection in the community, which has really cheered me on with this book and what I’m doing.

I’m also starting another book and I do a little freelance writing for some income, and some Web consulting. So I kinda back-fill this existence here with things that are creative and satisfying. I’ll probably work forever, but here’s the thing: Some mornings I get up at 4:30 or 5:00am, and I may do my best work of the day. Then, if at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, I decide I want to watch several episodes of “Friday Night Lights” or get some tea and read another author’s book, I do it. I’m not wasting time commuting, dressing for success, blow drying my hair or going out to eat. I work when I want, sleep when I want, play when I want and garden when I want. It’s following my own rhythm.

You say that Martha taught you “Learn something new every day.” What do you continue to learn that’s new each day?
For a city girl, I knew a lot about nature before I moved here full-time, but I will say that by living here, hardly a week goes by where I don’t observe some kind of animal behavior or event that I didn’t know about. For instance, we all know about spiders, but it was just when I was writing the book that I found out Daddy Long Legs are not spiders at all. To be a spider they have to have certain physical characteristics. I know that doesn’t sound like a big revelation, but for me, I had to learn and research about them. And the great thing is, when I want to do something now, I do it. No one’s watching me on a clock. I used to say I didn’t have the time, but now I can read a book about spiders if I want. That comes from living in a much closer relationship with nature.

Margaret Roach interview: The author of
How have people responded to your decision to give everything up and move to the country?
I have had people say I was dropping out, but when I got here it was really more dropping in. Solitude is really more contemplative. I think there are nine houses over a couple of miles here and two dairy farms. There are people, but you’re not right up next to each other. There are no street lights. It’s rural. We have a lot of ice, thunder, violent weather and wild animals.

If I were to sit in my old office with my former staff and ask for a show of hands of who would like to live like that, everyone would start laughing. But they would say, “You would, Margaret.” You can’t go to Starbucks or order a pizza here. It’s just different. It’s more rural, and for me, that’s perfect.

Have you ever regretted your decision or second-guessed yourself?
No, not at all. Once you get a little further away from a paycheck, you do go through moments and say, “Well, this is interesting”. But all you have to do is look out the window, see the light and you feel like you can breathe deeper. I just feel so relieved to be here finally.

You would have to think many women who are over-worked and over-stressed would be envious of your decision and lifestyle. Yet, they know something like that is just not practical given their financial situation, family, kids, etc. What advice would you give them?
I know many of my friends are married with children and they’re not suddenly going to move to a rural place, but this was my heart’s desire, my craving. Finding your own craving can make a huge difference to finding more joy. It doesn’t have to be moving to the country, it can be looking at “I don’t have time for ____” and then decide how can you carve out time for that. It can be much less dramatic than what I did.

This suited me. I’m single, and I have no kids. What I craved was to live in my garden, so I did that, but everyone has different cravings. I would recommend to everyone that they find some time for solitude, some quiet time, even if it’s just an hour. We tell kids to chill out and have some down time, but we don’t do that for ourselves. Turning off the TV, doing yoga, meditation or trying to be outdoors more is really helpful. That time for rumination and reflection is very catalytic for a better life.

What’s your plan? How long to you intend to stay in the country?
My plan is to fall face down in the compost someday. This is where I’ll die. I don’t foresee ever leaving again. I hope I can make some success and cultivate readers to enjoy what I’m writing, I hope my website will grow, I’m still trying to have creative self-expression. My garden is now 25 years old, and like people, it needs attention, there’s a lot of editing to do. This will be a very rejuvenating year for the garden and a new adventure and direction for me. I’m excited about that. But mostly I’m excited about being here. It’s been an unexpected blessing.

Do you still keep in touch with Martha?
I just was on her show last Friday. She invited me and did a blurb for the book. She was always my boss and mentor, so I was nervous to talk with her about what she thought of the book, but she appreciated it and felt like she got to know me better. That was kinda wacky to be on her show, but we do stay in touch. She was an important person in my life.

 

 
Deborah Dunham is a freelance writer who considers herself very un-Martha-like, yet she adores self-expression and creativity.
 

Enjoying “The Joy Diet”

Have you ever thought you might need a little more joy in your life?

I did, so way back in 2003, I read author and life coach Martha Beck’s book “The Joy Diet” and it changed my life. Big time.

Beck’s approach is simple and methodical. I like that. She shares clear-cut steps and tells you how to combine them for the biggest impact, and then she sort-of kicks you out of the nest, trusting you will figure it all out, and, you will.

The first step was the toughest, and she won’t let you move on until you get it right. I will be eternally thankful to her for that. Her words led me to step back and slow down at a time when I truly needed it. Her light and breezy way of writing kept me interested, and as silly as this may sound, the short length and size of her book, immediately put me at ease – I knew I wouldn’t have to wade through hundreds of pages to get to the good stuff. (I truly am lazy at heart.)

“The Joy Diet” is all good – Step 6 is a real treat, and each of the steps makes a great OTAT.

Here is an Amazon overview of Beck’s 10 steps. Don’t let the number of or the descriptions intimidate you, she walks you through them and into a joy filled life.

Martha Beck’s Joy Diet:

  1. Nothing: Do nothing for fifteen minutes a day. Stop mindlessly chasing goals and figure out which goals are worth going after. (Yup, absolutely nothing, you can do it. It’s not meditation-but it could be, it’s more like simply sitting still.)
  2. Truth: Create a moment of truth to help you unmask what you’re hiding—from others and from yourself. (Scary, but she holds your hand and you come out much happier on the other side.)
  3. Desire: Identify, articulate, and explore at least one of your heart’s desires—and learn how to let yourself want what you want. (Wishful Thinking at work.)
  4. Creativity: Learn six new ways to develop at least one new idea to help you obtain your heart’s desire. (Good way to brainstorm yourself into your new life.)
  5. Risk: Take one baby step toward reaching your goal. The only rule is it has to scare the pants off you. (It will, but it also gets you where you want to go, and afterward you will feel quite proud of yourself.)
  6. Treats: Give yourself a treat for every risk you take and two treats just because you’re you. No exceptions. No excuses. (Can you imagine, a diet that encourages treats?)
  7. Play: Take a moment to remember your real life’s work and differentiate it from the games you play to achieve it. Then play wholeheartedly. (Adults at play – pick me, pick me!)
  8. Laughter: Laugh at least thirty times a day. Props encouraged. (Yes, yes, you get to be silly or simply enjoy life a bit more.)
  9. Connection: Use your Joy Diet skills to interact with someone who matters to you. (Solid social connections are the number one  indicator of overall happiness.)
  10. Feasting: Enjoy at least three square feasts a day, with or without food. (Feasts? It sounds so primitive, and adventurous, and well, interesting.)”

I suggest you treat yourself right and pick-up a copy of “The Joy Diet” today. By Valentine’s Day, your life and everything around you could look a bit sweeter.

No commissions - I just really love the book!

Enjoy.

“Eat, Pray, Love”

I am a Julia Roberts fan; I read and love the idea of the book “Eat, Pray Love(EPL), and tonight I will be in the theater watching the movie.

That said, the first time I read the book, I hated it.  Then I saw the trailers with Roberts, and the movie looked interesting to me. I quickly realized I had been reacting to the “voice” of the EPL messenger not the message, so I decided to reread the book. Surprise, surprise, I found lots of little gems from Elizabeth Gilbert  between the pages.

I think the best part of Gilbert’s story is it reminds us that creating the life we want is possible.

So as your self-appointed fairy godmother, I am waving my wand and you now have three wonderfully rich, delicious, life-enhancing, soul-infusing, EPL-type wishes.

To me WISHES are:

W – What 

I –  I

S – Seek

H – Hope

E – Enjoy

S – Savor

You are free to choose the moments, the people and the places that you hope for, seek and want to enjoy and savor.  Go ahead, you can do it . . . put your personal “Eat, Pray, Love” journey down on paper. Jot, doodle, draw, write, type, or paint your way to your dreams.

Doesn’t matter if you love or hate the book, the movie, Gilbert, or Roberts, don’t let that distract you.

This is about you, your wishes and your life.   

Where would you go and what would you eat?

One of my favorite personal EPL moments involved eating lots of calamari.  A big scoop of lightly breaded and fried calamari in a white wax paper cone for 2 euros as I strolled around small town markets in Italy. Day after day I treated myself to this inexpensive delight.  A year or so later,  I found myself focusing on a plate full of fresh, creamy-white calamari, dripping with olive oil and lemon juice on the Island of Corfu in Greece at Easter. Mmm, so good and the memories are so vivid. I look forward to my next calamari encounter.

What’s in your food future?

Where would you go to pray or for a retreat?

Another easy one for me, the small rural village of Dihovo in Macedonia where my heart swells as I walk the narrow, softly winding roads and my eyes feast on the old stone houses with their clay tile roofs weathered by wind and wars.  I spent many days and nights there during Peace Corps and will be back again this fall.  I am heading to Macedonia for two months this September and will be helping four American first-timers and one returnee enjoy “my” Macedonia, which will include time for me in Dihovo – eating, laughing, praying, relaxing and reveling in moments great and small. 

Where are you headed?

What type of love are you looking for?  Where will you go to find it? 

My house in Florida.  That’s where I read about and learned how to practice Yoga Nidra after years of failed meditation attempts.  Not all of our dreams need grand locales or even other people. Being good to ourselves is a form of love, and remember what Dorothy learned in the “Wizard of OZ” – “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”  The love we seek is often closer than we think and can be found in a child’s smile, a lover’s eyes, a friend’s words of support, a pet’s attention, a quiet moment, or by treating ourselves exceptionally well. (More about Yoga Nidra in future posts.) 

What does your “love” life look like?

No matter which side of the book or movie you have settled on – pro or con, I believe it is nice to have reminders that creating the life we want is possible and worth the effort.

Give it a try this weekend.  My wand is waiting, your wish is my command.

 

What we count, counts.

Chip Conley’s TED talk reminded me that I am happiest when I am counting what really matters to me.  

Conley founded “Joie de Vivre Hospitality” (Joy of Life) and is a leader in the hospitality industry because of his perspective that joy has a central place in the workplace. He is an international speaker and the author of a number of books, including his most recent, “PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow.” (I haven’t read it yet, but it is next on my list.)

His talk also reminded me that I am happiest when who I am aligns with what I am doing

When that equation is seamless, I am me, and I am at my best.

Each of our formulas may be different, but as long as both sides of our personal equations (I value = I do) are equal, we are being true to ourselves.  And, I believe when we are being true to ourselves, we make the world a better place for all of us.

If you haven’t already, take some time to figure out what you really value, and then spend some time determining if that is what you are “counting.”

$$$$$€€€€€££££££    Money?

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥      Love, relationships, family, friends?

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦      Diamonds, bling?

™©® ™©® ™©®       Designer clothes, foods, furnishings?

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞      Religion, spirituality, meditation?

ΑΒΓΔΕΖΗΘΚΛΠΣΥΦΨ    Education, learning?

↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑      Upward mobility?

↑↓→← NSEW  ↑↓→←     Travel?

What do your signs look like?   Are you happy with the “sum” of your symbols?  Do they add up to who you want to be?

If your equation is working, celebrate!  

If not , don’t worry, and please, please don’t let “test anxiety” keep you from examining your life. (I have done that at times – not such a good idea.)  Instead of letting regrets or fears get the best of you, begin moving in the direction of who you really want to be.  Each step you take toward creating the life you want, makes the next step a bit easier. You can do it.  This is real life – not a test, and in real life, you do not need to get all the answers right, and I believe we get bonus points for trying!

Take time to explore your values.  What do you really care about?  How can you make what you value a part of your life or your organization? What can you do to bring your values and actions into alignment? 

If you need help getting started, check out my brainstorming worksheets or email me at wishfulthinkingworks@gmail.com

Signing-off for now,

Patrice, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞ΑΒΓΔΕΖΗΘΚΛΠΣΥΦΨ↑↓→←NSEW ↑↑

PS More thoughts about Conley’s TED talk ahead.

Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend.

Got that song in my head.  Can’t get it out.  Don’t know why I am having this particular musical flashback, but it got me dancing, so I figure it can’t be all bad.

It also led me to think about a radio ritual started by Kid Leo, a famous Cleveland, Ohio DJ (1974-1988 – had to look that up), who dominated the airwaves daily on an iconic Cleveland radio station, WMMS.  (I was born and lived in Cleveland until I was 35, please bear with me.)

In the 70’s and 80’s WMMS was well-known for giving airtime to new bands, covering live concerts and later for being one of the driving forces for bringing the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to the shores of Lake Erie.

Kid Leo was known for many things, but the one I remember best was his weekly habit of playing Born to Run as his signature sign-off song at 5 p.m. on Fridays.   This sweet little act united and motivated drivers throughout Northeast Ohio (this was a time and place where everyone, who was anyone, listened to FM in the car) by providing us with musical and philosophical weekend guidance from The Boss, “Nobody wins, unless everybody wins.” 

So why am I dragging you down my musical memory lane?

Because even though I now work a completely relaxed and flexible schedule, Fridays still feel special to me (just like the return to school each fall whether or not I am returning), and are the perfect time to create a weekend ritual.

Rituals connect us to each other and act as a bridge from the past to the future by allowing us to honor or recognize moments in the present.  I like that.

They are a formalized version of mindfulness, and they remind us, and tell the folks around us, that we value what we are celebrating. 

Think about starting a weekend ritual. 

Make it something that transports you from one state of mind to another, even if the flow for you from workdays to weekend is flawless, stopping to honor the transitional moment can signal your brain and those around you that you are aware of the value of each.

How do you begin a ritual?  I think of rituals as having three major components.

1. Meaning

2. Timing

3. Activities

Begin by identifying why you want to mark the moment – what do you want to honor or celebrate?

Pick a time and maybe a consistent place, and then decide what you want to do.  Make it simple and easy to recreate, and if you want others to join in, make sure you include them in the planning process. 

Then test it out.  Don’t give-up if the first few times the ritual doesn’t seem to gel, just rework and revamp it until it feels right. Make changes along the way until your ritual becomes something you (or everyone involved) look forward to, is easy to execute and enjoy, and brings you a sense of connection to something larger than life or at least bigger than yourself.

One of my favorite rituals seems pretty silly, but it gave me the feeling of connectedness I was looking for. For years I began my weekend with an early movie, then dinner out. I was out of my office by 4 p.m. (I made sure to start early or stay late ahead of time to make this possible – rituals take some level of planning, which may actually increase their value to you), and was cozily ensconced in a movie theater seat by 4:30 each Friday. 

I was faithful to this practice with or without a companion, but was lucky enough most of the time to have a girlfriend, date or boyfriend join me.  For them it was a fun escape, for me it was much more – it meant that I was taking time to do exactly what I enjoyed doing, in a way I enjoyed doing it – I was celebrating me and the passage of time and the events that had allowed me to be more comfortable than ever being me!  My little ritual led me to many, many other rich and rewarding choices in my life. 

Please do not underestimate the value of recognizing who you are and what you like.  It is the key to creating the life you want. 

So whether your weekend ritual involves the gentle glow of candles, the healing aspects of water, the soothing value of meditation, games with the kids, special foods or treats, or the simple fun of a good movie, make it your own and let it transport you to the place you truly want to be.

Mental sludge, emotional oil spills

I just began reading “Joyful Wisdom: Embracing change and finding freedom” by Yongey Mingyur Rinchope, a well-respected Tibetan meditation master. Ten pages in and I was already making notes to share with you.

He describes our feelings of helplessness as sludge; I am calling it “mental sludge.”

Are are you picturing the horrible, thick, gooey black substance that clogs your bathtub drains (sure, sure, not yours) – Yuk, or maybe your sewer lines – Gross, or worse yet, the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico – Devastating?

Mental sludge is just as big a threat to our happiness and to creating the lives we want as the oil sludge in the Gulf of Mexico is to our environment.

Rinchope describes sludge as the feeling we get when we are in the middle of a negative or sad thought or situation, and we begin to think “this is the way I am, this is the way life works, there’s nothing I can do to change it.”

Mental sludge. 

Okay, so that got me thinking: I have areas of mental sludge in my life – and, if we are really being honest, which I am – I have, at times, had vast wastelands of mental sludge, which have led me to what I am now calling “emotional spills:” nasty little outbursts of thoughts and words that just like the oil spill in the Gulf, have ripple effects that spread far and wide and can affect me and those around me for years to come.

Sometimes, I have let my fears such as: being late; not getting the job done; not doing it well enough; not making the best __________; being the best _______ ; having the nicest or cleanest  ________; the smartest  ________ or whatever my momentary complaint is, lead me to think and say things I would rather not.

Most of the verbal oil I spew is directed solely at myself, but sometimes, it seeps out toward others: Hey, that guy just cut me off; She looks _______; I can’t believe they expect me to _______; She/he is always ________; They never _________; and one of my favorites” You/they should . . .  (All of these are hard to admit and, of course, there are much uglier examples – I am honest but not a masochist. :-)

I believe that most of the negative comments we make to ourselves, our loved ones and anyone else, who happens by when we are “spilling,” are the result of some level of mental sludge clogging our spirits and preventing us from creating the life we want.

I began facing my mental sludge years before I named it, which was just a few days ago, thanks to Rinchope – and noticed that when I do face the sludge, my emotional spills became less frequent and much less intense.

Here’s what works for me:

1. Being aware of my mental sludge: the negative thoughts and thought patterns that keep me stuck.  Awareness is always a good first step.  Notice what you are thinking in times of stress or sadness. Then, look for patterns.

2. Learning to recognize them for what they are: thoughts, not prophecies.  Try not to judge yourself.  One mistake or failure does not a loser make.  In fact, a million mistakes and failures do not, and all the negative stuff we tell ourselves is just us telling ourselves negative stuff. It is not fact, nor written in stone – anywhere. (Same for all the stuff others tell us – their thoughts, not fact.)

3. Mentally rewarding myself for being able to recognize and label my thoughts:  Hey, good job, Patrice. (Sort-of like my friend’s adorable two-year old nephew, who tells her all the time, “Good job, I am proud of you!”)

By the time I make it to Step 3, the original thought(s) has passed, and that big old pile of mental sludge that was so overwhelming has disappeared.  Pretty, simple, huh?  And, it works.

Rinchope calls that mindfulness.  I call it wonderful.

To clean-out your spiritual pipes, repeat Steps 1-3, which you will probably need to do often in the beginning, but try not to judge yourself or your progress, just repeat the steps, as needed.

Now, let’s find a solution for the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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