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.

welcome home… bienvenida a casa

IMG_9434My first glimpse of you was as a child of four or five. One day my great-grandmother took out a box and showed me its contents: two coiled braids of fiery-copper hair. “This is what they cut off when one day in the 1920s, my sister and I snuck out of the house and without our parents’ permission, bobbed our hair,” she said. My great-grandmother played piano at the grange hall dances where she also danced the Charleston in her youth. My mother taught me the Charleston when she and other adults were still giant-size to me.

La primera vez que te eché un vistazo, yo era una niña de cuatro o cinco años. Un día mi bisabuela sacó una caja del armario y me enseñó su contenido: dos bucles de trenzas de color cobre. “Esto es lo que nos cortaron a mí y a mi hermana en los años 20 cuando un día nos dio por cortarnos el pelo al estilo de la época sin el permiso de nuestros padres.” Mi bisabuela tocaba el piano en los bailes donde también bailaba el Charleston en su juventud. Mi madre me enseñó a bailar el Charleston aun cuando ella y los demás adultos me parecían gigantes.

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I next saw you at age eight, when a dance teacher moved to our small town in central Maine and started giving lessons. I started class a couple weeks late for some reason. At my first class we did ballet for a while and then all of the other little girls ran to change into their tap shoes. I didn’t have tap shoes yet, but I still remember the feeling of utter fascination, excitement, and longing I felt watching the other girls clack around in those shiny black shoes. I had seen Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies on Saturday afternoons with my mother and I had never imagined that I would have the opportunity to glide around a room looking fabulous and making beautiful noise with my shoes. I was incapable of thinking about anything else until I had my own pair. I don’t know if I have ever wanted something as much in my life as I wanted those tap shoes. I cried when the dance teacher moved away a year later.

La próxima vez que te vi, tenía ocho años. Una profe de baile se mudó a nuestro pueblo pequeño y empezó a dar clases. Yo empecé un par de clases más tarde. En mi primera clase, primero hicimos ballet y después todas las niñas fueron a ponerse los zapatos de claqué. Yo aún no había comprado los míos pero todavía recuerdo la sensación de fascinación, ilusión, y añoranza que sentí a ver a las otras niñas bailar con aquellos zapatos negros puestos. Ya había visto las películas de Ginger Rogers y Fred Astair los sábados por la tarde con mi madre y jamás me había imaginado que allí estaría yo,  deslizándome por la pista de baile viéndome fabulosa y haciendo ruido bello con mis zapatos. Me obsesioné. Fui incapaz de pensar en otra cosa hasta que tuve mis propios zapatos de claqué. No sé si he llegado a desear algo tanto en mi vida. Lloré y me deprimí un tiempo cuando la profe de baile se mudó un año después y mis clases se acabaron.

Later I saw you in brightly-colored dresses with impossibly long fringe in Singing in the Rain. When it came time for me to go to the prom, I designed a black dress covered completely in fringe and a friend’s mom made it. I was disappointed when I first tried it on and saw myself in the full-length mirror. The girls in Singing in the Rain were showing their beautiful shoulders and the material of their dresses was stretchy with room to dance in. My dress was a constricting black sheath with a fairly high neckline, as required for a Mormon girl. I felt encased and upholstered.

Después te vi en los vestidos de colores brillantes con fleco en la película Singing in the Rain. Cuando llegó prom (la fiesta formal de instituto de los EEUU), diseñé un vestido negro completamente cubierto de flecos que me confeccionó la madre de una amiga. Me sentí desilusionada cuando me lo probé y me vi en el espejo. Las chicas de Singing in the Rain se mostraban los hombros tan hermosos y la tela de sus vestidos tenía elástico que les permitía bailar a gusto. Mi vestido en cambio era una funda estrecha sin escote y con los hombros cubiertos, tal como requería mi religión estricta. Me sentí encerrada y tapizada.

I found you in a book about Hollywood stars of the 20s-40s. My favorite by far Annex - Brooks, Louise (Beggars of Life)_04was Louise Brooks. Louise Brooks looked on the outside how I felt on the inside. She had all of that range between boyish charm and sexy siren. I spent many of my days dressed like a boy and Louise-Brooks-31being mistaken for a boy on my father’s farm. But I didn’t always feel like a boy. When I went home to my bedroom and saw my Jean Harlow poster on the wall, which I had mostly hung there to scandalize my mother, I felt like Jean Harlow. I wanted to wear stiletto heels, silky dresses, furs, and feathers, all with a debouched and devil-may-care attitude.

Te encontré en un libro de estrellas de Hollywood de los años 20-40. Me preferida era Louise Brooks. Louise Brooks se veía por fuera como yo me sentía por dentro. Tenía todo el abanico entre sirena sexy y estilo masculino. Yo pasaba muchos días vestida como un niño en la granja de mi padre, pero no me sentía como un niño. Cuando llegaba a casa y veía en la pared de mi habitación el poster de Jean Harlow que había colgado allí para escandalizar a mi madre, me sentía como Jean Harlow. Quería ponerme los tacones de aguja, vestidos de seda, pieles, y plumas, y todo con un aire de chica disoluta y temeraria.

I found you in music, dance, film, books, and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, fellow high-spirited Maine girl. I found you driving at 100 mph in my car on a summer night. I found you in my Ecuador adventures at age sixteen. I found you in midnight escapades of high hilarity and daring with my high school friends. I found you in the mirror sometimes in a girl breezily self-confident, free of convention, original, spicy, and fun.

Te encontré en la música, el baile, las películas, los libros. Te encontré en la poesía de Edna St. Vincent Millay, una chica también de Maine y llena de vida. Te encontré conduciendo a 180 km en una noche de verano. Te encontré en mis aventuras en Ecuador cuando tenía dieciséis años. Te encontré en correrías de hilaridad y osadía con mis amigos del instituto. A veces te encontraba en la chica del espejo, una chica segura de sí misma, libre de la convención, original, y divertida.

I got married when I was still a child, and that’s when I lost you. I will tell you how it happened. There had always been this Victorian girl at my shoulder. Victorian-Ladiy-Image-Velvet-GraphicsFairyStern and self-important in her principles and morals, quiet and yet insistent. When I got married she stepped in, in all of her efficiency and righteousness, and took your place. She wagged her finger at you and made you feel judged and out of place. You went far away. I missed you, but the Victorian girl comforted me. She said you were a bad influence and not to be trusted, and that it was for the best. She was not a bad sort. She was a gentle and nurturing mother who loved the bonds of home and family. She felt safe and valued there. She was responsible, self-sacrificing, and dutiful. Her modest dress reflected her modest attitude toward her personal achievements beyond motherhood and wifehood.

Me casé cuando era una niña aún, y fue cuando te perdí. Te contaré como pasó. Siempre había una chica victoriana a mi lado. Seria, rígida, algo pretenciosa en sus principios y moralidad, callada pero insistente. Cuando me casé, ella con toda su eficacia y rectitud, se hizo cargo de mí. Te regañó, te juzgó, y te hizo sentir fuera de lugar. Y tú te fuiste. Te echaba de menos, pero la chica victoriana me consolaba. Me dijo que eras una mala influencia, que no eras de fiar, y que era mejor que te alejaras de mi. La chica victoriana no era una mala tipa. Era una madre tierna y cariñosa que amaba las ataduras de familia y hogar. Se sentía segura y valorada allí. Era responsable, abnegada, y diligente. Su forma de vestir tan modesta simbolizaba su actitud modesta hacia sus hazañas más allá de la maternidad y el hogar.

Things happened. I made choices that frightened and disgusted the Victorian girl. You, my childhood crush, came back into my life to dance with me in the kitchen. I started seeing you at jazz concerts. You re-taught me the Charleston and together we learned to swing. We are all about emphasizing the second and the fourth beat now, you and I. We are never in a hurry, no matter how intense and driving the music may be. That’s how we groove.

Pasaron cosas. Tomé decisiones que asustaron e indignaron a la chica victoriana. Tú volviste a mi vida para bailar conmigo en la cocina. Empecé a verte en los conciertos de jazz. Me volviste a enseñar como bailar el Charleston y juntas aprendimos el Lindy Hop. Para ti y para mí, se trata de acentuar el segundo y cuarto tiempo. No nos apuramos en nada, da igual la intensidad de lo que pase a nuestro alrededor. Así bailamos la vida tú y yo.

kay francis 2For a while Victorian girl hated that you were back. She felt threatened. She talked bad about you and tried to get me to fear you. She threatened to leave if you stayed around. I told her that I don’t want her to leave. We’ve had some good times together and I value her, but I made it clear to her that you are back to stay. She has to accept you.

Por un tiempo, la chica victoriana odiaba que estuvieras de vuelta. Hablaba mal de ti e intentó que yo te tuviera miedo. Me amenazó con irse ella si tú te quedabas. Le dije que no quería que se fuera. Hemos vivido cosas muy importantes juntas y la valoro, pero le dije claramente que tú ya estás para quedarte. Le dije que te tenía que aceptar.

She has to accept you because since you came back, I am whole. I am wild and exuberant and free. I am more in the moment. I’m more at ease. I’m more comfortable in my skin. My world has more color, taste, sound, smell. I’m stronger. Ironically, I’m a better Christian. I like myself better now that you are back, and if there is a God, I think He would like me better now, too.

Te tiene que aceptar porque desde que volviste, soy completa. Soy más salvaje, más llena de vitalidad, más libre. Estoy más en el momento. Estoy más a mis anchas. Mi mundo tiene más color, sabor, sonido, y olor. Soy más fuerte. Y hasta soy mejor cristiana. Me gusto más a mí misma y creo que si hay un dios, yo le gustaría más a él ahora también.

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weirdness

ET Moon

Mostly, I could tell, I made him feel uncomfortable. He didn’t understand me, and he was sort of holding it against me. I felt the urge to reassure him that I was like everybody else, just like everybody else. But really there wasn’t much point, and I gave up the idea out of laziness. -Albert Camus, L’Étranger

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here and there are several reasons for that. I’m working on a couple other projects that have me very busy. One of those projects is Co-Active coaching, which I love entirely. It’s great to have found a career that is such a good fit for me. However, maybe the other reason that I’m not writing as much is that I’m going through a weird time.

I went to the U.S. a couple months ago to visit, and since I came back to southern Spain I have felt uncomfortable here. When I go to Barcelona or Madrid I feel light on my feet, joyful, carefree. I’m always smiling. I meet all kinds of interesting people with whom it’s easy to connect. I feel like I fit in there. I’m just another person in the throng, with her beauty and ugliness, her passions and her torpidity. Here in southern Spain, however, I usually feel like an outsider. People put me in a little box and slap a label on me. They switch out the label depending on their mood. For a long time I was in denial about this. Once I realized what was going on, I resented it so much I struggled and fought, accused and cried, and in the end hurt no one but myself.

I have to accept that I am not going to connect in any edifying way with most people here. And that’s ok. I don’t mind feeling alienated here. As one friend said to me the other day, looking me squarely in the eyes: “What is it that you really want? To feel accepted by these people, like you are one of them? You want to be like them? Seriously, Lindsay? I don’t think so.”

Not only am I going to accept that I am not like people here, I am going to embrace it. A few of the people I have had issues with have said to me that I should consider that maybe I am the problem, not them. They are absolutely right, of course. My problems have been the following: Trying to force friendships with people who don’t share my values, making myself small so that others don’t feel threatened, and giving energy to people and situations that don’t give me joy.

I realized last night that the people I most identify with, respect, and admire are people who don’t have many intimate friends. Human friends, that is. When I was growing up I felt like my best friends were books, paintings, and trees. I still feel that to some extent.

When I’m in Barcelona or Madrid I take big, deep breaths. I stretch. I feel like dancing down the street. I am going to feel that here in southern Spain, too. I don’t care if it’s the last thing I do. I’m going to feel as wonderful here as I do in other places. So take that, andaluces!

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!

untethered

11127204_10206955703675224_3380256642613492434_oThis is the first vacation I’ve ever done by myself, completely untethered. No kids, no dudes, no staying with friends.

At first it was disconcerting. My first full day here in Barcelona, for example, lunch time came along and I wandered the narrow streets of the Gothic neighborhood looking with longing at all the mouth-watered options. Thai, Moroccan, Spanish, Catalan, Japanese… I became hungrier and hungrier. My stomach started to growl. Suddenly, I stopped and looked around me in irritation. And I realized something. I was looking around for whoever was responsible for deciding what “we” were eating for lunch. Because there has always been a “we!” I seldom go out to eat alone, and I always defer to whoever I’m with to decide where.

That was a major moment. Since then, I’ve positively reveled in the acts of getting up late, taking forever to choose my outfit for the day, primping, eating at odd hours, taking siesta at 7pm, browsing the shops forever, reading in cafes, and spending too much or not enough time in the museums. It’s marvelous. Even if I get engaged tomorrow (which seems like a distinct possibility here in Barcelona!), this will for sure not be the last time I take a vacation by myself.

I am reborn. Back in Málaga where I live, I was feeling annoyed, misunderstood, and very tense. Weird stuff kept happening and I couldn’t deal with it. I felt like whatever I did was wrong. Here in Barcelona, I’m a cat and I don’t give a damn. Everything flows, the Universe is conspiring in my behalf, and I’m ready to receive whatever comes my way. I feel alive creatively in a way that I haven’t for some time. I’m constantly getting new ideas for my projects and I’m excited to start work on implementing them. I’m on fire!

On a personal level in my relationships, back in Málaga I was stressed about various situations there. I felt stuck and whatever I tried to unstick myself only made things worse. Here and now, in my state of flow, spontaneity, creative energy, and Level 3 listening, I’m cool with sitting back and letting things unfold as they will in my relationships. This is how I so desperately wanted to feel before, and though I tried, I didn’t know how to get there. Now I see that what it takes is allowing myself to be happy and engaged deeply with what I care about. When I do what I love and kindle my passions, everything and everyone else falls into place.

I spent much too much time agonizing over who said what, she looked at me wrong, and I texted this or that and then he said such-and-such… Such absolute rot! For one thing, if your resources are largely devoted to doing what you love, you radiate an irresistible energy. You attract the “right” kind of people in your life. It’s effortless. Really, you don’t even have to think about it. Also, people always reveal themselves for who they truly are. Sometimes it takes time, but it all comes out eventually. There is no need to be surprised or even especially upset when someone you care about and think you know turns out to be a bridge person.

I took the above photo in the National Museum of Catalunya. I don’t remember the details of who the photographer is. I believe it was untitled. The photo struck me because I love women in hats. Also, I think the determination in her expression and light in her eye shows that she is a woman connected to her passions. I identify with the feeling I get from this photo.