How to follow your heart… Como seguir a tu corazón

follow_your_heartThis question comes up a lot in my work with clients. People want to know how to connect to their inner guide, how to listen to and follow that quiet voice of wisdom that can tell them how their life is best lived. As someone who has sometimes followed my heart and sometimes hasn’t, I know what both feel like. I can tell you what works for me.

  1. Connect to your body. When you are not listening to your heart and thus, not living according to your values, your body will tell you. My body told me that going to the Mormon church was not good for me. Every Sunday, by the time I left church I had a terrible headache and after getting home I would collapse into bed and sleep for hours. Your body will also indicate when something or someone is right for you at this time. You will feel a lightness, expansion, and a brightness like someone just flicked the light switch on inside of you. Develop an awareness of the sensations of your body throughout the day. Sometimes it can be difficult in the moment when you are with someone to know how that person affects your heart because you are focused on the conversation or your own image. However, take a quick body sensations inventory once you are alone again. What was the impact of that person on your body? These physical sensations will tell you a lot about how that person affects your soul. This is not about logical analysis with your mind. It’s a different kind of knowing. You can do this same kind of body sensations inventory with projects you are working on, books you read, foods you eat… Really, with any choice you make regarding how you live your life. It seems like the most obvious of things to say that in order to follow our hearts, we first need to connect with them, and we do that through our bodies. However, in today’s world we are so used to trying to figure it all out with our minds, we forget about the body’s wisdom and we disconnect from it.
  2. Let yourself obsess. I just heard a wonderful podcast about the topic of learning to be your own guide which so fully reflects my own experience, I have to share. I went to the website to see if there was a transcript so that I could more easily quote from it. Interestingly, there is not a full transcript, but the few quotes from the podcast shared on the website are exactly the ones I was looking for! The producer and I are on the same wavelength. Here is what writer Steve Almond says in the podcast about returning to a more instinctual state: “Children come into the world obsessed — they care about things too much, and that obsession gets socialized out of us. We beat down the voices that care about things too much and that feel too much, and part of the artist’s journey is to say ‘Screw that. I do care about it too much. I am too invested in it. I’m obsessed with it, and I’m going to be honest about that obsession rather than try to lead a safer, more conventional, ‘approved’ life.’ But it’s an emotionally and psychologically inconvenient arrangement.” What does this have to do with following your heart? You may not consider yourself an artist, but guess what? You are, and your life is your masterwork. If you are reading this, you probably care about and want to follow your heart. Following your heart requires obsession which Steve Almond so truly defines as caring and feeling too much. It’s not socially acceptable and it’s not convenient. Most likely, you’re not going to get a pat on the back for it. If you start following your heart, people are going to tell you that you are irresponsible and selfish. They may say it because they are envious, because they really wish that they had the courage to follow their own hearts. Or they may genuinely worry about your welfare. In any case, following your heart requires that you do so in spite of these objections from others that echo fears within your own self.
  3. Set fire to your own nest. The beautiful singer/songwriter India Arie says: “We hear about the phoenix rising from its ashes. In the mythology, the phoenix actually sets fire to its own nest. The thing that makes empowerment a journey is because no one can give it to you. You give it to yourself. You set fire to your own nest. You give birth to a new you.” Your heart will make itself heard. Your body will tell you what you want and don’t want in your life. Whether you pay attention and make choices based on this information is another thing entirely. Following your heart requires fierce courage because there are real risks involved. It’s not the safe way. You may hurt someone. You may hurt yourself. You may get burned when you set fire to that nest. However, I know from experience that what rises from those ashes is stronger and better every time.

The only way you can learn to follow your heart is to do it day after day. I have made some big, bold moves in the past. I’ve made some major life changes in the face of great opposition. I’m always glad that I had the courage to make those changes. And yet, I often find myself stumbling on my heart’s path and losing connection to my heart, my values, and my life’s purpose. We learn to trust our own inner guide by surrendering to its wisdom every day. This is how we create our own sanctuary of inner calm from which we can draw strength and make all of our decisions. This sanctuary of the soul can not be shaken by life’s tempests. Whatever is going on out there, we can always retreat to this space of trust and tranquility.


En Español:

Esta pregunta surge mucho en mi trabajo con clientes. Quieren saber cómo conectarse con su guía interior, cómo escuchar y seguir a esa voz callada de sabiduría que les puede decir cómo vivir mejor. Como alguien que a veces ha seguido a su corazón y a veces no, sé cómo se siente de las dos maneras. Os puedo decir lo que funciona para mí.

  1. Conectarte con tu cuerpo. Cuando no sigues a tu corazón y por consiguiente, no vives de acuerdo a tus valores, tu cuerpo te lo dirá. Mi cuerpo me dijo que ir a la iglesia mormona no era bueno para mí. Todos los domingos, para cuando terminaba la iglesia, tenía un dolor de cabeza horrible y al llegar a casa, me caía a la cama y no me levantaba por horas. Tu cuerpo también te lo indicará cuando algo o alguien es bueno para ti. Sentirás una ligereza, expansión, y una luminosidad como si alguien te encendiera una luz por dentro. Desarrolla una consciencia de las sensaciones de tu cuerpo a lo largo del día. A veces puede ser difícil en el momento que estás con una persona saber cómo esa persona te afecta el corazón porque estás enfocado en la conversación u otras cosas. Sin embargo, toma nota de las sensaciones de tu cuerpo una vez que estés solo. ¿Qué impacto tiene esa persona en tu cuerpo? Esto no tiene que ver con ningún análisis lógico de la mente. Es una forma distinta de conocer. Puedes también tomar nota de las sensaciones del cuerpo con cualquier proyecto que llevas, libros que lees, lo que comes… En realidad, lo puedes hacer con cualquier elección que haces referente cómo vives tu vida. Suena como lo más obvio que para poder seguir tu corazón, primero tienes que conectarte con él y eso se hace a través del cuerpo, no la mente. Pero como estamos tan acostumbrados a intentar solucionar todo con la mente, nos olvidamos del conocimiento del cuerpo y desconectamos.
  2. Permitirte el obsesionarte. Acabo de escuchar un podcast genial sobre el tema de cómo aprender a ser tu propio guía en la vida, lo cual refleja tanto mi propia experiencia que necesito compartirlo. Busqué la página web para ver si había alguna transcripción para así citarlo aquí más fácil. Curiosamente, no hay una transcripción completa, pero los pocos textos que tienen en la página son justos los que yo quería! La productora del podcast y yo estamos en la misma onda. Esto es lo que dice Steve Almond en el podcast acerca de volver a un estado más instintivo: “Los niños vienen al mundo obsesionados—les importan demasiado las cosas, y esa obsesión nos apaga la sociedad. Apagamos a esas voces que les importan las cosas demasiado y que sienten demasiado, y parte del viaje del artista es decir: ‘A tomar por culo. Sí, me importa demasiado. Me involucro demasiado. Me obsesiono, y voy a ser sincero con esa obsesión en vez de intentar vivir una vida más segura, más convencional, más aprobada por la sociedad.’ Pero ese es un plan inconveniente de forma emocional y psicológica.” Qué tiene que ver esto con seguir a tu corazón? A lo mejor no te consideras un artista, pero sabes qué? Lo eres, y tu vida es tu obra maestra. Si estás leyendo esto, seguro te importa y quieres seguir a tu corazón. Seguir a tu corazón requiere obsesión, lo cual Steve Almond tan bien define como el que sientes alguna cosa demasiado y te importa demasiado. No es aceptado por la sociedad y no es conveniente. Lo más probable es que nadie te aplauda por ello. Si empiezas a seguir tu corazón, la gente te va a decir que eres irresponsable y egoísta. A lo mejor lo dicen porque te tienen envidia, porque a ellos les gustaría tener el coraje que tú tienes para seguir a sus propios corazones. O puede que se preocupen por ti sinceramente. De todas maneras, el seguir a tu corazón requiere que lo hagas a pesar de estas objeciones de otras personas que reflejan también tus propios miedos.
  3. Prender fuego a tu propio nido. La hermosa cantautora India Arie dice: “Escuchamos del fénix que surge de sus propias cenizas. En el mito, el fénix en realidad prende fuego a su propio nido. Lo que hace el empoderamiento un viaje personal es que nadie te lo puede dar. Tú te lo das a ti mismo. Tú prendes fuego a tu propio nido. Tu mismo das luz a un nuevo tú.” Tu corazón se hará escuchar. Tu cuerpo te dirá lo que quieres y lo que no quieres en tu vida. El que hagas caso y eliges a base de esta información es otra cosa. Seguir a tu corazón requiere un coraje feroz porque hay riesgos verdaderos. A lo mejor hieres a una persona. A lo mejor hieres a ti mismo. A lo mejor te quemas cuando prendes fuego a ese nido. De todas formas, por experiencia propia sé que lo que sube de esas cenizas será mejor y más fuerte cada vez.

La única forma de aprender a seguir a tu corazón es de hacerlo día tras días. He tomado decisiones grandes y atrevidas en el pasado. He hecho cambios vitales radicales aun con oposición muy fuerte. Siempre me alegro de haber tenido la valentía para hacer esos cambios. Sin embargo, a menudo me encuentro pisando mal en el camino de mi corazón y perdiendo la conexión con mi corazón, mis valores, y mi propósito de vida. Aprendemos a fiarnos de nuestra propia guía interior cuando nos entregamos todos los días a su sabiduría. Así es como creamos nuestro santuario de calma interior de lo cual podemos extraer fuerza y tomar todas nuestras decisiones. Este santuario no se puede perturbar por las tempestades de la vida. Lo que sea que esté pasando fuera, siempre podemos retirarnos a este espacio de confianza y tranquilidad.

Rediscovery

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I must listen to the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live–but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.

It takes time and hard experience to sense […] that running beneath the surface of the experience I call my life, there is a deeper and truer life waiting to be acknowledged. -Parker J. Palmer

All parents have the experience of knowing first hand that a baby comes into the world with a unique identity. This fact is made especially clear if you have more than one child and can thus compare how two siblings born to the same parents can be so different, even from birth. Whether you call it a soul, an essence, or what have you, you are born with a unique inner wisdom that can guide you to what brings you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. You also have all the tools necessary to “fix” your life when things go awry.

This essence and this guiding inner voice of wisdom is always there and it is completely unique to each individual. It is also indestructible. What too often happens, however, is that this essence of who we really are gets a bit lost and forgotten. It gets buried beneath the values that society, religion, or our families impose on us, all generally well meaning, but not necessarily in alignment with our souls. Our own fears and insecurities also keep us from recognizing our true power.

What I most love about the philosophy of coaching I practice is how respectful it is of each individual’s unique essence and creative capacity. The very best coaching helps you rediscover that inner fountain, that source of wisdom, creativity, and light within you that can heal, nourish, and give life to your dreams. The best coach will not only help you connect to that, she will hold you there and help you build the life you dream on from that place of clarity and strength.

I have recently started working with some new clients and I would love to add more! Please contact me for a free sample session.

the end of people pleasing

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Diana Krall, the honey badger of blues. She gets up there and does her thing , totally not giving a rat’s hiney if you like it or not.

In this post I wrote about a part of me that I was estranged from for many years: my carefree, bold, unconventional, independent, fun-loving, rebellious, flapper girl. Now that she is back in my life with a vengeance, she occasionally raises hell.

This past year as I’ve increasingly embraced this side of me, I’ve been less and less interested in pleasing people. As is to be expected, this has resulted in people becoming.. DUH DUH DUUUH…displeased. When this happened before, I would always rush to fix it, sometimes bending over backwards to make sure someone’s nose didn’t get out of joint. Well, lately noses have been getting out of joint all over town, and guess what? I find that life goes on. In fact, I admit that for a little while I was taking perverse pleasure in displeasing people. I wasn’t going out of my way to do it, but when it happened, I enjoyed the spectacle. I think I’m over that phase now, but I can’t imagine ever being a people pleaser again. It’s exhausting! I have so much more energy now for other things, like doing what pleases me.

Pleasing people is the enemy of loving people. The compulsion behind pleasing people is a lame need to be liked. To really love people powerfully, you have to let go of the need to be liked. You have to stop being nice and start being real. Also, pleasing people makes it difficult to respect and love yourself, an absolute requirement for loving others. Being able to say and do what I like without regard for what others think is liberating, but a much stronger motivator for me personally to stop pleasing is the ability to love more truly and powerfully.

How is it that we become people pleasers? We certainly are not born that way! And I was an especially displeasing infant and young child. We become people pleasers if we think that’s what we need to do to be loved. Or if we internalize limiting beliefs, like that we need to be everyone’s friend or that it’s not ok to dislike people. If we don’t feel free to dislike people, we get upset if someone dislikes us, so we try to please them into liking us. It’s slavery.

I don’t trust people who are universally liked or who try to be universally liked. The people I most admire, respect, and find attractive are those who are brave enough to think, say, and do what they like, even if it’s controversial. People who try to be controversial are a bit tiring, but if controversiality is just a result of people speaking their truth, I think it’s cool.

 

podcast debut

This is the first podcast at philosofina.com. I’m so excited! And nervous, too. For this first podcast I decided to answer some questions from readers, so here it goes.

What are your most popular posts?

My most popular post has been Leaving Mormonism, where I talk about my crisis of faith and my changing relationship with the Mormon church I was born and raised in. The post was controversial and there was some negative feedback, I expected that, but what most surprised me in a wonderful way was the outpouring of supportive messages I received from others who struggle with their faith, as well as words of love and understanding from nonbelievers and faithful Mormons alike.

The next most popular is a post that was simultaneously published on Stoicism Today, a piece called Stoicism for Passionate People. I’ve been pleased with the positive feedback on that post as well and it seems some of the regular readers of this blog discovered it from that Stoicism Today link.

Why is the blog named Philosofina?

I like philosophy. I think everyone needs to have a personal philosophy of life and this blog is where I develop mine from one post to another. That, and I just like the name. I get a lot of compliments on it.

Who is your favorite philosopher?

Michel de Montaigne, 16th-century French nobleman and inventor of the personal essay. I have this vivid mental image of Montaigne sitting down at his writing desk with a serious topic in mind, but once he started scratching that quill across the paper, all hell broke lose because he had this rich, fertile, imagination that would not be contained. It had its way with him every time. His writing is always fresh and organic, interspersed with tangents where he related funny anecdotes and personal stories, like listening to the best storyteller at the party. I love how playful and irreverent he is, never takes himself too seriously, and yet he has these profound insights on the complexity and contradictions in human nature. Montaigne also had a series of major life challenges in his thirties, at the very same ages that I had the same kinds of events in my life. And those events provoked in him, as they did in me, a time of self-reflection that ultimately led him to make some major changes in his life.  I feel like Montaigne and I have a lot in common and he is a major inspiration.

Why do you write so much about relationships and dating?

Since I married when I was still in my teens, I never dated until three years ago after I divorced. When you first enter the dating world at my age instead of at 18 or 20, you have a much different awareness of yourself and others, you look at it all with some distance and perspective, and you can’t help but notice and laugh at all of these strange things we do in our courtship and mating rituals. I have dated quite a bit because I’m always curious to meet new people. It’s sometimes been fun and sometimes maddening, but ALWAYS fascinating, and I love to write about what I’m seeing and experiencing and the insights I have. Several people have told me I should do a talk show about dating and relationships, and I’m considering it. Sounds fun!

What is a life coach? Is that like a therapist or something?

You hire a life coach if you want to transform your life. Life coaches help you to develop a greater awareness than you would otherwise be able to on your own, providing a better perspective from which to make important choices. A life coach can help move you back into action when you are stuck. You hire a life coach to provoke you, to ask the questions you need to be asked and say the things you need to hear.

A life coach can help you identify your values and create a life purpose, find resources within yourself to make the changes you want to make in your life, help you see the blind spots and hang-ups you have that are holding you back from making those changes, and learn to recognize the voices in your own mind that could be sabotaging your success.

As far as how life coaching may be related to seeing a psychologist, for example, I can only speak from my own experience. A few years ago after going through some difficult challenges, I felt depressed and eventually I started seeing a psychologist. After seeing me a couple times, the psychologist told me that we needed to go back into my childhood to see why it is that I have the insecurities and fears that I have. I asked how that would help me feel better, and she said that as we uncovered different layers, I would discover the root of my problems. I asked how THAT would make me feel better, and she said that the knowledge of where my insecurities and fears came from would help me to overcome them. I went a few more times, but I felt bored and frustrated by the process. I didn’t want to focus on my problems. All I wanted was to make my life beautiful again.

I stopped going to the psychologist and started focusing on doing and being those few things that I absolutely knew, regardless of any passing identity crisis, made me feel like me. In other words, I started living my values. I nourished my soul with great music, books, art, and friendships, and I wrote about it all. I got myself into a better place. When I finally listened to my own little heart, it told me how to heal myself. Around that time I discovered life coaching, and I was hooked! Because for me, that is what coaching is, getting the help you need to learn to listen to your own heart and letting it tell you what is best for you rather than taking advice from others. It’s about exploring within and developing new registers you never even imagined were there. While psychotherapy may be more focused on your emotional or mental problems and looking back toward the past, life coaching is focused in the here and now with a view toward the future.

What issues and topics do you work with as a coach?

I have coached people on dating and relationship issues, physical fitness goals, weight loss, self-confidence, friendships, parenting, pregnancy, writing, self-mastery and forming habits, and other things. Right now I am developing personalized programs to help people:

  • thrive as singles
  • emerge from an identity crisis as stronger, better, new versions of themselves
  • feel confident, secure, and empowered in their sexuality
  • discover their passions

I don’t have a niche, but I think I do have a theme that runs through my work with people, and that is helping people discover and live up to the greatness they have within. I think one of the worst tragedies of life is how we allow ourselves to be mediocre out of fear our own greatness and because we don’t want those around us to feel threatened by it. I love nothing better than working with people who want to let their light shine in spite of these fears.

Marianne Williamson says it well:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. […] And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Have you worked with a coach? What did you work on?

I have definitely worked with coaches and I have a life coach of my own. In the past one thing I have worked on is embracing my sexy side. I’ve found that change isn’t always easy and it takes time, but it happens! I am amazed at the progress I’ve made. It’s also been fascinating to me to see how other aspects of my life have changed now that I have more confidence in this one area. Fascinating and very encouraging! Maybe I’ll talk more about that in my next podcast.

blue moon

20110319-JLB_4506-4041This evening I went for a walk along the beach of Belfast Bay just after the sun had set. The sky was still tinged orange in the west and I started my walk toward the east. I saw that the  moon was just beginning to rise. 2015’s blue moon. It was the palest of whites when it first peeked over the horizon but soon it was a luminous pink and orange, something like this photo I found online. It was much more impressive than this photo. I watched it rise and for some reason I remembered a conversation I had a couple weeks ago.

I was at home in Málaga eating grilled sardines under the stars with a poet who I suspect of being a wise man. I was telling him that my life was very lovely and orderly for many years, and in fact people used to tell me that I had the perfect family and the ideal life, like something out of the movies. I was seldom unhappy or angry. He said, “Well, I think such a life as that is a shit. How are you to appreciate it and really know you are happy if you never suffer, if you just go through life feeling great all the time?” That’s how poets talk. Spiritual gurus are slightly (or very) condescending and poets just say straight out, Your life was a shit.

But I think he’s on to something. For the past couple years my life has been a mess. At first I was embarrassed by it. I was failing all the time and I felt ashamed of these failures and angry at myself for letting them happen. I felt like a loser, like I couldn’t do anything right anymore. The internal work I’ve done through coaching and Stoic meditation has gone a long way in helping me see how wonderful it is to fail. It means I’ve taken a risk, I’ve hopefully learned something, and I’m living my life in a bold way. I can fail quite spectacularly now and feel relatively unfazed by it. It does hurt a bit still, but usually I’m so quickly on to the next endeavor that I’m not down for long.

For example, for the past six months or so I’ve been kissing a lot of frogs. I’m learning that there are many types of frogs. According to this article there are nearly 4000 types, including toads which are part of the frog family. I think I’ve kissed some of those too. I do hope I will find the type that turns into a prince before I get too close to the 4000 mark, but I’m making progress. See, a couple years ago it would have really grossed me out to be kissing all these frogs and it would have traumatized me. But now I take it less seriously and I also see that this experience is helping me to become quite an expert in the herpetological field. I’m now able to identify many types of frogs by their identifying spots or the shape of their nostrils without having to kiss them at all. As in, this is the type who lies, this is the type who doesn’t have a lot going on upstairs, etc.

It’s all good. My life is no longer picture perfect, nor is it a shit. It’s a beautiful mess. I’m a beautiful mess.

 

What can’t you stand?

It was an intense weekend. I did CTI’s Process course which is about expanding into the present moment, having curiosity about it, being able to name whatever’s going on inside of you at any given moment, and slowing down to appreciate and enjoy the journey. It’s about being fully alive.

We also learned how to recognize blocked emotion, bring it to the surface, and help clients be with their emotions. One exercise we did to explore blocked emotion was to name what it is we absolutely can not stand and recognize what it is within ourselves that is causing us to fixate on this issue. For example, people who loathe hypocrisy may have difficulty reconciling contradictory elements within themselves. “You spot it, you got it” is the idea.

After completing the course on Sunday, I decided to text this guy I had been seeing. We were getting to know each other but I started to see things I didn’t like and I didn’t feel comfortable at all the last time I saw him. I think he realized it and maybe felt the same. We just weren’t compatible for a relationship. Over a week had gone by without communication between us and I felt awkward. I wanted us to be friendly acquaintances at least, if not friends, so I started what I thought was a friendly, neutral conversation with him. That was probably my first mistake. I should have waited longer to contact him. Anyway. Somewhat out of the blue he said he was really really sorry, but he just didn’t think it would work out between us, but that I’m a beautiful woman and I shouldn’t let his rejection of me upset me too much or make me feel insecure or inferior.

So. At this point I should have said, that’s fine, thank you for your consideration of my feelings and just let it go. Right? That’s what I should have done. But his passive aggressive ass-hattery riled me so much that I couldn’t. I fell into the trap headfirst. I had to get into it with him. I will spare you all of the mean things we said to each other. It was not a pretty sight. It made me feel terrible, in fact. Even though I recognized that his attacks were obviously ego-based, the things he said still hurt me. (You know what his answer was a few weeks ago when I asked him what he couldn’t stand? Egocentrism. I think “you spot it, you got it” is right.)

I do not like it at all that I couldn’t just let it go. I felt disappointed in myself after that exchange. I felt like I had lowered myself. Why did it have to bother me in the least that he wanted to feel superior by “dumping” me? Who the hell cares? Well, it seems that my ego did. I don’t want to be the kind of person who let’s my ego dictate what I say and do. I want to love. I want whatever I do in the arena of romantic relationships to be loving and kind. Ego, you are not welcome here, even when sorely provoked! I want to be a big enough person that those kinds of remarks are just water off a duck’s back.

So, what do I do? The next time something like that happens, I need to sit there with that feeling of humiliation and just let myself feel it without striking back. I can see from this incident with this guy that it would have been MUCH better to just let it go. That would have made me feel good about myself. I need to remember that.

Are you thinking about what it is you can’t stand, and what that indicates about you?

sunlit souls

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There are souls that one desires to draw near to, like a sunlit window. -Federico García Lorca

A few days ago I met with an Argentine friend who lived many years in Spain but moved last year to Manchester. I went to visit her in Manchester last fall and she seemed to be adjusting well. When we’ve spoken since then, she’s always been upbeat about the experience. This friend is one I’m always thrilled to get together with because she is unfailingly positive.The shortened version of my friend’s first name means “light” in English, and her last name is similar to “ray.” Every time I see her I think how much she resembles a sunbeam. Yesterday I finally got to see her again because she has come down to Spain to visit. I hadn’t realized that this entire past year she has been unable to leave England because of a visa problem that has just now been resolved. She told me about this and other difficulties she’s faced this past year as well as the measures she took to keep herself in a positive frame of mind. I had been taking my friend’s sunny disposition for granted. Though she does lead an enviable life in some respects, she has difficult trials and fears and disappointments just as we all do. She is naturally good-natured, but obviously some days (or months, or years!) it requires a lot of effort to maintain good cheer. She is always radiant because she chooses to be.

IMG_7469Cheerfulness is not the only way a shining soul makes itself known. I think of my grandmother, Bea. She was a simple country girl, not at all fancy or sophisticated. And yet she had a powerful presence. A neighbor who was raised on a farm next to my grandmother’s house (on the legendary River Road, where I grew up!) once told us about the skating parties they used to have there in the winter. In that group of children there were some quarrels and rivalries that came out whenever they got together. But then my grandmother would arrive (late of course–Bea knew how to take her sweet time), and suddenly all would be well. There was something about her that made everyone want to get along and have fun together. She radiated peace and contentment.

Another sunlit soul I am privileged to know is my friend Mariló , she of the Bridge People wisdom. Mariló is an artist in everything she does. Everything. In her relationships, her interactions with patients as a nurse, her meditations, her paintings, her dinner parties, the decor of her home, and in the way she talks and moves and dresses. She can not help but constantly express beauty and joie de vivre. I first heard about Mariló from some mutual friends and then I kept seeing her comments on their Facebook content. I longed to meet her, but couldn’t figure out how. One day I started chatting with a man on Facebook I don’t know personally, but we had other friends in common. He is a successful and inspiring violin teacher and we were talking about that. All of a sudden he said, “You should meet Mariló. She lives down near you and you have a lot in common.” I didn’t even know he knew Mariló! And I thought it must be fate that she and I meet. We didn’t finally meet in person until about a year later. We’ve had many conversations about how people don’t always make it easy for you to be yourself if you are not like everyone else. Mariló is constantly making the choice to be true to who she is and to let her light shine brilliantly.

When I was in Barcelona recently for two weeks, I felt radiant. I was in a magical city far from my woes and cares where no one knows me. I felt completely free to explore different versions of me and I discovered within hidden talents, ambitions, and strengths that I never knew existed. This post is indicative of how I felt before I went to Barcelona. In this post and this one, I mention some discoveries, though not all. I will write about more discoveries, and some I will keep to myself. Anyway, now that I am back home, I have struggled to maintain that high. Friends have told me that that’s what happens when you come back from vacation. You are faced with the reality and routine of your life and, Hello! It’s not vacationland. Well, I’ve got news for them. I was BORN in vacationland. If I want to feel the same freedom, creative inspiration, and joie de vivre here in Málaga that I felt in Barcelona, then I will, damn it. And no one is going to tell me that I can’t. I will choose to be a radiant, sunlit soul. So there! Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

new moon elegance

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What it is that brings you the deepest joy? What motivates and inspires you? What gives you a sense of rightness and satisfaction? What is essential?

The answers to these questions inevitably indicate something about your values. Your values reflect what you most care about. Your values are not your morals, ethics, or principles, though it could be that you have a value of acting ethically, for example. Living a life in accordance with your values is what brings you fulfillment in life. It may not always feel pleasurable or make you constantly happy like popping a pill, but living your values gives you satisfaction, meaning, and joy.

Yesterday I wrote about my Lady is a Tramp value, which is largely about freedom. The freedom from other people’s expectations and the freedom to fully enjoy life on my own terms without being cool, apologizing, or conforming. When I think of the words “Lady is a Tramp,” all of that immediately comes to mind, but I also feel it in my body, deep inside. In this way I’ve made this little cluster of values tangible. It has much more power and impact than if I just think of the words “freedom” or “unconventionality,” etc.

A leader in my coaching class told us that he calls one of his values the “elegance of the new moon.” For him the image of the new moon represents a certain kind of under-appreciated beauty. Everyone admires the full moon, but no one talks about the new moon with its barely-there sliver of light, promising and hopeful. That really struck me, and I realized that I share that same value. Or at least, the image of the new moon evokes values for me, too. A kind of over-looked beauty that has its quiet, minimalist elegance. A beauty of fresh beginnings that come on gradually and require a careful attention and patience to fully appreciate. Simplicity. “New moon” says all of that to me.

Here are two more of my embodied values:

I value luxury, but not the luxury of a sleek, expensive car or a designer-made dress. I value the luxury of slipping newly-shaven legs between freshly-washed, line-dried sheets. I value the luxury of sitting on my terrace with a book and an herbal tea. A homemade hair mask of honey, egg, and argan oil. A bud vase with a few wild flowers. These several-times-per-day moments of quiet connection with beauty and my senses make life meaningful and lovely.

I value forget-lunch passion. Yesterday I was so wrapped up in my writing that by 3:30 I still hadn’t had lunch. When I’m so interested in what I’m doing that I forget to eat, it must be passion because I love to eat! While exploring my values in coaching class, a fellow student told me, “I can see that passion is the motor of your life.” Passion touches everything that I most care about. I can see it in my relationships when I stay up all night talking with friends. I see it in my appreciation for music and dance. I feel it when I visit museums.

Why does it matter what your values are? Why even think about it? Why not just live your life and let things flow? Just as there are people born with perfect pitch, I’m sure there are people who are born with the ability to live a life in constant and perfect accordance with their values without even thinking of it. However, most of us have to practice to become good at living our values. And in a world where the media constantly bombards us with its values, many of us don’t have our own values clearly defined.

How do you determine what your values are? With the examples I’ve given, I’m sure you’ve already come up with a few of your own. If you dare, ask your friends or family members: What would you say my values are? This exercise could provide useful information about what your values really are, but also ways that you may be acting or spending your time that don’t reflect your true values. Someone could tell you that you seem to value being traditional and conformist, for example, and you are surprised because that’s not at all the idea you have of yourself.

One way to determine your values is to ask yourself what annoys the hell out of you. What is it that just bugs you so bad? What makes you indignant? When I asked myself this, I immediately thought of the lunch program at my children’s school. Buying the school lunch is compulsory. Students are NOT ALLOWED to take their own lunch or go home for lunch. The reason given for this is that the school wants to ensure that the children are getting proper nutrition for their long day of learning. The problem is, the school lunch is dreadful. It’s not made on site. It’s brought in by a catering service and reheated, so the texture is unappealing. My kids will barely touch it, so when they get home from school they are ravenous. We pay A LOT for this stupid school lunch they won’t even eat. The campus and buildings for this school are probably the most expensive and technically cutting-edge in the region, so I was confused as to why they couldn’t provide a proper cafeteria. I found out that the owner of the catering service is the school director’s cousin. Ok, now it all makes sense and it makes me SO FRIGGING MAD. I could not be more indignant, and the covering up of this nepotism with the enraging lie that they are forcing me to pay for this nasty lunch FOR MY CHILDREN’S NUTRITIONAL GOOD… I can not even.

Now I am hopping mad. What values of mine are being offended here? Tell me in the comments. And what are your values? I’m curious!

how to be a tramp and other words to live by

ba819960237b1bc74cedb0644c6d2bd9.850x521x1Isn’t that a great title for a book? I’m making note of it.

I’ve had a few private messages from readers asking more about the Life as a Tramp post from a few days ago, so I’m happy to write more about it. Being a tramp is something I’m passionate about.

First, let’s look again at the Frank Sinatra lyrics that inspired the post.

She gets too hungry for dinner at eight
She likes the theatre and never comes late
She never bothers with people she’d hate
That’s why the lady is a tramp

Doesn’t like crap games with barons or earls
Won’t go to Harlem in ermine and pearls
Won’t dish the dirt with the rest of the girls
That’s why the lady is a tramp

She likes the free fresh wind in her hair,
Life without care
She’s broke and it’s oke
Hates California, it’s cold and it’s damp
That’s why the lady is a tramp

This is such a fun song! I love it. The lady in question is labeled a “tramp” by the popular women of her social tier because she’s unconventional and doesn’t give a rat’s tush what they think of her. This song really resonates with me personally because of an experience I had a few years ago. I was newly separated and looking for new friends. There was this group of women who were initially friendly to me and they seemed cool. Attractive, smart, funny, talented. However, not long after I met them they started giving me the cold shoulder and then I heard from other people that they were gossiping about me. In fact, they were calling me a tramp! I was shocked because I was one of the least trampy people I knew. I asked a friend what to do about it, and he said: “Nothing. Forget about them. They were only friendly with you so that they could probe your weaknesses and bring you down a peg. Your way of being makes them feel threatened.”

With a bit of time I came to see that it was actually a compliment that these accomplished women felt threatened by me. It made me start to wonder if I was maybe cooler than I thought I was! I don’t especially care about being cool, but what I learned from this experience was that I do care about being free to express myself as I am and do what I want to do when I want to do it, just like the lady in the song. I care much more about that than I do friendship and acceptance, and I’ve always been that way.

However, earlier in my life being accepted and liked were more important to me than they are now, so I often felt that my values were in conflict. I would always do my thing, but then when people didn’t like it, I felt bad. The difference now is that I care less what others think, so I live more peacefully. I’m not as likely to put on the veneer of niceness out of fear of someone not liking me. That’s not to say I can’t pull out that card and play it when I want to. I can make polite conversation with people I don’t especially like or have much in common with if I want to. I can conform to norms in certain situations when I deem it ultimately beneficial in serving a specific goal or my life purpose. Maybe for convenience’s sake I want some government official to like me for five minutes, so I’m nice. Etc.

When I want to remind myself that I value being unconventional me, free to do what I want when I want and how I want, free to say what comes to mind, free to let myself shine, I think: This lady is a tramp. Those words are a trigger that instantly focuses me and connects me deeply to all that the song means as well as my past experience, what I want in the moment and moving forward with my life… There is a lot of power in naming your values and making them tangible. I look forward to writing more about that soon!

In the mean time, here are five ways to be a tramp, if you are so inclined:

1. Wear yourself some bold, red lipstick.

2. Take your sweet time. Yesterday I was crossing the street when a car came along too fast. The driver stopped abruptly, honked at me, and gestured rudely. I tossed my hair and smiled winningly at the man. I even waved and tilted my head at him as if he’d just told me I was the most beautiful thing he’d seen all day.

3. Don’t apologize for having your period or for being cranky about it, either.

4. Enjoy your dessert. In fact, enjoy every damn mouthful of whatever you decide to eat. If you’re going to eat it, enjoy it! Don’t beat yourself up about it after. Savor it. Guilt is not going to help you lose weight, ever. Making the conscious choice to thoroughly enjoy your food is the first step to getting yourself into a slender mentality.

5. If there is something you want to say, speak up. Put it out there. Say it with the absolute conviction that you have a right to say it. If you are expressing a doubt or a question, feel entitled to ask and unembarrassed by not knowing. Good grief, if you are asking that means you are trying to remedy your ignorance, a most admirable action! Speak in a voice that is sufficiently loud and clear.

I wish you happy tramping!

life as a tramp

 

She gets too hungry for dinner at eight
She likes the theatre and never comes late
She never bothers with people she’d hate
That’s why the lady is a tramp

Lately people don’t like me. Not everyone of course, just some people. A significant number. They unfriend me on Facebook, horror of horrors. They avoid me, not returning my messages. Or they just give me the stink eye. It used to be that this kind of rejection would upset me. A lot! I wanted everyone to like me. I needed everyone to like me. And because I needed that, I was… nice. I couldn’t help being opinionated, strong-willed, and expressive, but when I saw that being this way was making some people not like me, I would immediately tone it down. I made myself smaller around small people. I retreated. I waffled. I stepped lightly.

Throughout life our values change. I no longer value people liking me. When I left the Mormon church I lost quite a few friends just for that. It was an eye opener. And then when I started simultaneously trying to make new friends and come more fully into who I am, I discovered that not everyone was going to like the unapologetic version of me. I was surprised by how many women didn’t like me, for example, as I became more connected to my sexuality and stronger in that. I suppose it makes biological sense, but are we that primitive, ladies?

Quite recently I’ve decided that not only do I not care if everyone likes me, but it’s probably a good sign if some people don’t. Once I really started to believe that deep down, I changed a lot. I stopped being nice and I started being real. I started being someone I like and admire. I had no idea what an impact that shift would have on my social life. It’s been dramatic. People either feel much more comfortable around me, or much less. There is not a lot of in-between.

And I feel more at home in my own skin than I ever have. I’m in my body, and I’m taking up space. I’m not sorry to be taking up space. This is my space. The other day in a practice coaching session, a man told me that I am earth, sex, heat, and power. I said, Yes! That’s me. You nailed it, buddy.

I don’t see myself giving up this way of being so that everyone will like me again. My friends are deeply important to me and I love them immoderately. However, first I’m my own closest friend. And that friend never tells me to be nice anymore. She tells me to be a tramp.