Category Archives: Choices Seminars

Adults are Messy

Art Journal – mixed media on watercolour paper
7 x 12

I know. I know. It’s not the adults. It’s life.

Yeah. Well… while that may be true — that life is messy — so are we, the adults living it.

Think about it.

We come into this world, these perfect beings of love. Vulnerable. Naked. Divinely beautiful. Defenseless.

We carry with us only two things, a fear of falling (removal of support) and a fear of loud noises.

The rest… well, those hopes and dreams, yearnings and possibilities, concepts of who we are — limiting beliefs and full potentials… those are all constructed by the adults in our life. We don’t carry them with us when we come into this world. We pick them up on our journey.

Which means, we’re often picking up other people’s expectations of us.

And then, we forget to let them go (or don’t know how) and end up living our lives as if what other people think of us, or expect of us, is most important.

See. Adults are the messy ones.

The question is… What are we willing to do about it?

Getting over our messy is messy business.

It takes a whole lot of patience, compassion, self-care and… the thing most of us struggle with, self-love.

It’s to be expected we struggle with it. We’ve spent so much time picking up the pieces we think other people want us to carry or think will make them happy if we carry them, we don’t really know who we are.

Note the lack of ‘forgotten who we are’ in that statement? Yup. It’s not there. That’s because to forget something we have to have had it in the first place.

And yup. That sentence includes a past perfect – past participle of the verb (I think). See, my remembrance of those English classes where I learned all about present and past perfect and participles and tenses was a long time ago. Using them correctly today is sometimes challenging.

But here’s the thing. I don’t remember ever being taught about self-love. Which means, it was never high on my list of lifeskills in my early adulting days. Which is another way of saying, I wasn’t carrying it from my teen years when I stepped across the threshold into adulting.

And that’s where adults come from. Teenagers.

Yup. Those angst-ridden, surly, defiant, ego-centric, life-defying, boundary testing teens were us before we became ‘adult’.

So then we ‘grew up’, and granted we got smarter about a lot of things we studied so that we could have jobs and build careers and maybe even change the world. The thing we didn’t necessarily get smarter about? You guessed it —  this thing called being ourselves without the mess we’ve carried with us.

And that my friends leads to the statement… adults are messy.

Here’s the thing though. We don’t have to stay messy.

It takes… (go back up ten paragraphs)… patience, compassion, self-care and… self-Love.

We gotta love ourselves through the messy to get to the juicy.

To love ourselves through the messy, we have to be willing to stand in it without employing the arsenal of tactics we’ve developed to avoid getting all messed up by our messy. You know. The running away, hiding out or simply ducking every rough spot we come upon with things like anger, self-deprecation, tears, avoidance, fake smiling, appeasment, building walls, and the list goes on.

Tomorrow afternoon, a group of people will walk into a room designed to support them through the gateway into living their lives free of ‘the messy’.

Choices Seminars begins tomorrow and for those walking into that room, either as coaches or as trainees, the gifts are immeasurable. The value infinite.

And believe me, the work is not easy but stepping into living life on your terms with joy, love, compassion and grace as your constant companions (even when you mess up) is worth giving up a lifetime of making messes because you’re living your life by other people’s expectations.

‘Cause let’s face it. It’s a whole lot easier to clean up your mess when your foundation is built on Love.

I won’t be in the room coaching this month as I am taking care of me. I deserve to live a juicy life which means, when I bump into a messy place within, it deserves my full loving attention. I’m worth it.

For those in the room, there’s one thing I know for sure they’re going to find and that’s the thing the world (and each of us) needs more of… Love.

Check it out! You deserve it!

And, in case you’ve forgotten, you’re worth Loving with all your heart and soul.

Make your difference count.

My ego took a trip yesterday.

It wasn’t a long trip, but it was long enough for me to realize that no matter where I go, my ego comes with me.

You gotta pack the right ideas, thoughts, feelings, beliefs or your ego will attempt to step in and sidetrack your journey.

One of the foundational processes of Choices Seminars is to find your contract word(s) that will remind you, in those tight or sticky moments of life, about how and who you need to be to create the more of what you want in your life.

When I first went through the program in 2006, my contract statement was, “I am a passionate and fearless woman.” It didn’t take long for Thelma Box, the founder of Choices to ‘out’ me. It happened in one of the Coaches circles that take place before the trainees come into the room. The coaches talk about the process and how to move the trainees through it. In this instance, we were discussing Contracts when Thelma mentioned that one word contracts are best but two words are okay too.

As I sat and listened to the conversation I started to smile at myself. I hadn’t played the ‘Contract Game’ with much integrity when I went through the program as a trainee. In fact, the chip on my shoulder was big enough that my ego and I figured I knew everything they were trying to teach because I’d already done all my work.

Coming back to coach I quickly realized how I had been playing self-defeating games while I was in the room as a trainee.

On this morning, as we discussed the Contract process with Thelma, I put up my hand and said, “I have a two word contract but it doesn’t actually work for me.” When Thelma asked for clarification I explained how anyone who knows me quickly recognizes that I am passionate about what I do. I had stuck the word I was comfortable with before the word I most needed to be. It was kind of a smokescreen, I told her.

For the next seven years, “I am a fearless woman” became my contract.

And then, a series of events gave me pause to consider if Fearless was keeping me walking with integrity in my life. With the help of Mary Davis, Thelma’s daughter and facilitator of Choices, I changed my contract statement to, “I am a trusting woman.”

For me, trust is a big word, and being trusting can be a real challenge. It means I have to trust myself to be okay, no matter how the winds blow. And that’s what a Contract word is about. It’s meant to be that statement of self that reminds you of your power, your capacity to live your dreams, to stand tall and proud when your ego/critter is pounding you with thoughts and feelings of your deficiencies. It’s that statement that says, “Your limiting beliefs are not the truth about you. The truth about you is….” And you fill in the blanks with your contract statement.

For three years, I am a trusting woman, was a powerful statement for me. And then, as often happens as we grow more assured and confident in our capacity to stand fearlessly and lovingly in our own light, I realized that I was still hiding behind a contract word that, while powerful for me, did not keep me walking fearlessly in my truth, in every circumstance, every kind of weather.

In April, when I coached for the first time in a couple of years, I realized how my Contract statement was still my ego’s way of keeping me from walking my truth. Yes, I need to trust myself. I need to walk with and in integrity to do that.

And that is where my ego most often challenges me.

It wants to lure me off my path by telling me it’s okay to not ‘do the right thing’.

It wants me to let go of taking care of myself with its insistence I’m too tired or don’t have enough time.

It wants me to act out when I am feeling frightened or alone or like nobody cares or like I don’t matter.

Or, like yesterday, it wants me to take a little trip that does not serve me well.

Our egos have their purpose. But, when the ego hisses from the darkside of our fears with its insistence we get small and hide our light, the ego is not acting in our best interests. It is acting out of fear.

For me to stand fearlessly in the light of my own brilliance and be a light for others to stand in theirs, no matter how dark the times, I must claim my truth – I am a woman of integrity. (A woman of integrity will clean up her messes, and even more importantly, avoid making one in the first place.)

Ego trips can be fun (in a sick kind of way) but what’s even more fun is to know we are living life, no holds barred. No stone unturned. No dream unlived.

To do that, we’ve got to give up ego trips and play the game of life as if everyone is watching. Because what we do in the dark is a reflection of who we are in the light of our own brilliance.

May you shine bright today. May you dance as if no one is watching and live as if everyone is. Because, what you do today, who you are and how you are, matters.

Namaste

_______________________________________

Contract words are found through a process of discernment and self-assessment. For me, it has been an evolving process. One where listening to my heart required being able to discern the difference between my ego/critter’s insistence it knows best versus my heart’s truth calling me to stand in my own light. It has required patience, self-compassion and love.

Will you choose to love yourself?

Yesterday, a beautiful man wrote a note to tell me how my words had moved him. (Thank you M) (Thank you also to several others who commented) and then, this morning, I received a note from a woman in New Zealand asking to use one of my poems on her blog.

My writer’s soul and human heart gave a deep sigh of contentment.

There is no greater gift as a writer than to hear that something I wrote has resonated, with another and created space for our heart awareness to connect. In that connection, we both feel less alone, less unseen, less unheard.

I write because I must. It is as much a part of me as breathing.

Many years ago, when I was lost in a relationship that was killing me, I didn’t write. I couldn’t.

Writing for me is about speaking my truth. And I had no truth left in that relationship other than what he told me was true, I was worthless and deserved to die.

The morning after he was arrested and I got the miracle of my life back, I pulled out a lined notebook and began to write. About healing. Broken heartedness. Broken spiritedness, Broken places. One of the first sentences I wrote about healing was, “Now for the hard part.”

I remember writing that sentence and then stopping. My pen poised above the page, I took a breath and wrote next, “Wait. Going through that relationship was the hard part. What if I choose to simply heal without judging how difficult it will be? What if I simply choose to stand in the brokenness of my heart and give myself room to breathe and heal and grow through the pain into Love?”

I’d love to tell you the healing from that relationship was ‘easy’. It wasn’t. But, it also wasn’t hard, though it definitely had its very hard, jagged places. Healing was the best thing, in fact the only thing, I could do. And so I chose to do it with what I now see as ‘grace’.

In my healing, I could have chosen to continue to beat myself up or love myself in all my brokeneness.

It is a choice I get to make every day.

To love myself as I am, all of me, beauty and the beast, exquisiteness and flaws, yin and yang, light and dark. Or, I can shine my light on the dark places forgetting that the light shines brightest in the dark as I focus on finding ‘the beast’ within, bemoaning the existence of my flaws and beating myself up for being so human.

It is a choice we all get to make, every moment of every day.

To see ourselves as exquisitely human or as damaged goods, flotsam floating on the dark and murky waters of a life not lived in grace.

It is our choice. To love ourselves with grace, celebrating our being so beautifully perfect in all our human imperfections, or, to treat ourselves with inhumane disregard for being so human we make mistakes, forgetting mistakes are our pathway to change and growth.

Change and growth are inevitable. How we navigate them is our choice.

What will you choose for yourself today?

Will you forgive yourself for your mistakes? Will you step into the broken places with grace? Will you give yourself the grace of being human?

Will you love yourself for all your worth knowing you are worth Love?

It is your choice.

Namaste.

 

Life Happens. What then?

We come into this world not knowing what it means to hope or dream. We have but two fears: the fear of ‘falling’ (of losing support) and the fear of loud noises (startle reflex). We are precious. Perfect. Divinely innocent.

And then…

Life happens.

The perfect family we deserve is human.

The perfect world we need to treasure our innocence and perfection is flawed.

We grow and learn ways to adapt, to cope, to make sense of the imperfect world into which we were born. And in our adaptations, we learn coping skills that seem to keep us safe, keep us breathing, keep us living.

And then, after what feels like a lifetime of living in the fear of feeling unsafe, the pain of not breathing deeply, the sadness of not living completely, one more thing attacks the protective walls we’ve constructed along the way and we can’t take it anymore.

We feel so alone. Has any other human ever felt this way? Why does everyone else seem to have it all together? What’s wrong with me?

Tired. Exhausted. Broken. We lock the door to the wall we’ve built around our heart and tuck the key away somewhere deep within our psyche. We take another step. It’s not a light one. It’s not joyful. But it’s another step.

We resign ourselves to the fact, this is just the way life is. We’re born. We live. We die. And along the way, life happens to us and the best thing we can do to keep ourselves safe is not remember where we hid the key to unlock the door to our heart. That way, no one can break our hearts or hurt us again.

We dry our tears, put a smile on our face and tell ourselves it’s just the way life is. We can’t change the past. We can’t see the future. There is only the heaviness, or the numbness, of today.

What if it could be different?

Last week, I had the gift of standing in a room with people choosing to awaken to the full possibilities and beauty of their lives. And as happens for me every time the Choices training finishes, I am in awe of the magnificence of our human condition and our capacity to shine.

As always, there were people in the training who had lives they’d lived with courage and strength for many years. Lives in which they’d built careers, known some success, achieved many goals. But somewhere inside, they still felt like something was missing. Perhaps it was their closest relationships didn’t feel all that close. Or maybe, their hearts were heavy with a loss. Whatever was going on in their world, within them there was a silent wish for more; perhaps a sense of belonging or connection with those they love that would give them peace of heart and mind or perhaps it was a wish to give up feeling like they had to control the world just to feel safe or find comfort within themselves.

Some were just starting out on their journey and already they felt like life was hitting them with adversity every step of the way.

Some had listened for so long to the voices in their heads telling them they were worthless, they believed they were. Why hope for anything better? Life was hopeless, but hey! It was better than the alternative. But sometimes, in the silence of their darkest fears, they would wonder… Was it?

Some felt broken. Some didn’t. Some were curious. Some were scared. Some might even have thought it was all a joke that would eventually make them the laughing stock of the room.

It doesn’t matter what they felt, what they’d done or achieved or acquired in their lives. What mattered most was that they were willing to risk taking a deep dive into themselves. Because, in the end, when we dive into ourselves there is only one truth we will find.

We are each incredibly beautiful, magnificent, precious, unique.

We are each worthy of joy, peace, kindness, happiness, Love.

May you live today, and everyday, knowing you are worthy. You are Beautiful. You are Love.

Namaste

 

 

 

 

Life is a learn as you grow experience.

Since first going through the program in April 2006, I have coached in the Choices Seminar room over 50 times. And still, I get Ah! Ha! moments.

So often, we humans have a tendency to blame another when we hit a speedbump and falter or fall on the road of life. Being accountable for our own experience is an integral component of the tools taught at Choices.

Wednesday night gave me a beautiful opportunity to get accountable.

As I pulled into our driveway around 10:30 on Wednesday night, the first day of the training session, I noticed my beloved had pulled the black garbage bin from the road to the door of the garage, but not put it back in the garage.

And that’s when the story-maker in my head began to dance with the critter as it spun a tale of his deficiencies.

“Why does he do that?” “What’s wrong with him?” “Can’t he see I’ll have to do it because he didn’t?” “How can he be so inconsiderate?” Yada. Yada. Yada.

When I walked into the house I didn’t say hello, or I love you, or even ask him about his day or share about what a wonderful day I’d had.

Nope. All I did was focus on the garbage bin.

Fortunately, my beloved is a tolerant and loving man. With patience and a lot of love, he moved us through the stickiness of that encounter without it becoming a reason for the outbreak of WW3. Which, when I’m listening to the story-teller chatter in my head, WW3 can seem like an imminent possibility.

In the aftermath of the ‘Garbage Bin’ encounter, I had to get accountable. What was really going on for me?

See, I know my response to my husband in the moment was not about the garbage bin’s location. It had much more to do with where I had been spending time over the past few months in my thinking about him/our relationship, me/my life – not because of who he is, or our relationship, but rather, because of the lack of balance in my life, my heart, mind, body and spirit.

And, because I was out of balance, I had been giving into negative chatter, developing an adverse story-arc of our relationship. You know, the one that goes, “He always…” “He never….” “He can’t/won’t/doesn’t…” And in my dark cloud picture of what was wrong with our relationship, I had let go of all that is right and beautiful, loving and kind in our relationship.

I was playing the self-defeating game of ‘looking for fault’ and acting out from a place of criticism instead of Love.

That’s what stress will do.

In the last couple of years of my career in the homeless-serving sector, I hadn’t realized that I had let the toll of the work begin to affect my sense of my own self-worth. In the final months before retiring, there were several issues and encounters that caused me to doubt myself, my value, my integrity. In giving into one of my darkest limiting beliefs, “I am not wanted here”, I started to believe I was not worthy, not wanted, not capable. In my confusion, I wavered in my commitment to standing in the truth of who I am, “I am a woman of integrity’ and gave into the victim’s belief, I can’t win/do anything right/am a failure.

Fortunately, even in the darkest moments of my journey towards leaving my professional life in the sector, I knew I wasn’t all bad — but the stress of my work-environment took its toll.

And the person who paid the price was my beloved.

Because that’s what stress (and a very active story-teller/critic in my head) will do. It will weaken my commitment to acting in loving kindness with everyone, to being selective with whom I share grace. It will deafen and blind me to the truth and shadow everything in the grimness of the stories I tell myself about ‘the other’s’ deficiencies.

Under prolonged stress, and a rebellious decision to ‘not use my tools’, I moved out of integrity into snarky, judgemental, critical posturing where I viewed ‘the other’ as ‘the problem’ and myself as ‘the victim’.

That black garbage bin was representative of where my thinking had moved from loving connection to trashy acting out.

It is a very human response that does not get me the more of what I want in my life.

I am fortunate. Being in the Choices seminar room, I was reminded once again that I have the capacity to choose to do something different in moments where the story-maker/critic in my head is inviting/urging me to act out.

In choosing to do something different, I get to stand in my integrity and choose a path that will create the more of what I want in my life. Joy. Creativity. Passion. Connection. Love…

Life is a ‘learn as you grow’ experience. Living the best version of ourselves means getting accountable in those moments where we let our ‘lesser selves’ take rein.

And when we don’t know or have the tools to take charge of our own lives and experiences, powerful personal development courses like Choices, give us the space, time and tools to learn how to grow with grace into being the best ‘Me’ we can be.

Namaste

 

 

 

 

It’s Never Too Late to Begin

As I continue to explore the question:  “What do women of a ‘certain’ age want?” I am discovering just how important continuous learning, experimenting and experiencing is to living life fully and joyfully.

Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 76 when severe arthritis made it impossible for her to  cook and sew, pick berries, make preserves, all things she loved to do. Rather than fall into the ennui of doing nothing, she took up painting and, in 1949, at the age of 88 received the Women’s National Press Club Award for “The most outstanding contributor to contemporary thought and achievement.”

It’s never too late to begin.

What if you could begin to live the life you dream of, today?

What if you decided the life you always wanted wasn’t about the things you acquired, like titles and cars and houses and trophies or accomplishments but rather, about being the person you’ve always wanted to be, stepping into doing the things you fear but always dreamt of doing?

Tomorrow morning, I am stepping into the Choices Seminar room for five days of delving into the Be. Do. Have of living life on the other side of my comfort zone.

For five days I shall be immersed in ‘heartspeak’, listening deeply to the dreams and fears, hopes and possibilities of people willing to explore the ‘better’ of what is possible if they choose to let go of believing it’s not. There’s always a reason why we fight against ‘the more’ and the better of what we want in our lives. Beliefs that leave us giving up on ourselves becuase we buy into the notion there’s not much sense in trying to change, because… there’s always a because… “I’ve tried to change, I can’t.” “Why bother?” ‘This is as good as it gets.” “Nobody cares anyway.” “What’s the point?” “I’m just not good at anything else.” “My dreams don’t count.”….

In the Choices Seminar room, people walk in with lives in every state of existence. From working okay to not working at all, from just hanging on to completely checked out. They step into the room carrying their pasts, their pain, their fears, their dreams and limiting beliefs. Some have chips on their shoulders, some, weights on their feet. Some carry arrogance like a shield while others carry their pain like a security blanket. And some come carrying nothing but curiousity because someone they care about has asked them to explore the possibilities, or, they’ve tried everything else, why not prove there is no hope?

No matter their state of being, or reason for being in the room, there is always something in that room that awakens their heart’s desire for the better possibilities of life. Something that says to their heart it’s okay to step into life beyond the boundaries of the comfort zone they’ve grown so familiar with, the pain that feels so protective, the fear that feels so comforting, the beliefs that feel so safe.

I feel so blessed. Sixteen years ago, when I walked into the seminar room, I had no idea what was in store. A friend had asked me to go and I wanted to express my gratitude for all she’d done for me.

I walked in with my attitude, ‘I alreay know it all’ as a shield. I used my arrogance as a barrier. My ‘I’ve done all this work already’ as an excuse not to let my true feelings show. I believed letting people see I ‘felt’ anything other than happines was risky. I believed people were out to get me, that inevitably, being vulnerable would only lead to people hurting me.

Sixteen years later, I can look back at the woman who was on the surface very put together and embrace her fragility and her fears, and love her for having had the courage to risk stepping into somewhere she didn’t think she needed to go anymore. Herself.

How mistaken I was to believe I knew everything there was to know about myself. I am still learning. Still exploring what it means to be me, at any age, any stage of my life.

What a wonderful and miraculous journey.

I am stepping into the Choices Seminar room tomorrow. I am grateful.

Perhaps one day I’ll see you there and we can shine our light togehter to create an even brighter, more loving world.

Because the dream I have for what I want to create more of in this world is Compassion. Joy. Creativity. Love. – and it takes a world of people believing better is possible to make it happen.

____________________

Thank you to those who have commented, emailed, phoned to share their thoughts on what women of this certain age do and do not want. Your wisdom and courage is inspiring.  (and it’s not to late to include your voice!) Namaste

 

 

 

To ‘Know Thyself’ is not an excuse to act out

I spent the weekend coaching at Givers 1 (G1), the first of two weekend processes that complete the  Choices Seminar program.

One of the core elements of G1 is the Sunday Colours activity where trainees go through the process of discerning their core personality/social drivers based on the four colours:  Blue. Gold. Orange. Green.

Years ago, when I first took the Colours test, I came out high green (intuitive, visionary, analytical) with equal Blue (empathetic, compassionate, cooperative) and Orange (energetic, spontaneous, charming) a few points back. My Gold attributes (punctual, organized, precise) were the lowest.

Fact is, as I became more comfortable living from my heart, and embraced vulnerability as the path to peace and joy in my life, my top three colours shifted to the point where they are pretty well equal.

And that’s the opportunity and the challenge.

I can use each colour to complement everything I do in my life, creating more harmony and joy, or, I can choose to let my colours drive me into chaos, flipping from thoughtfulness to erratic, thoughtless behaviour, constantly changing my mind, stepping on people’s feelings and creating disharmony where no one around me feels safe.

I don’t want to do that in my world.

I want to create more peace, harmony, joy. I want to be a safe haven. I want those around me to feel welcomed and embraced by love and grace.

Decades ago, the Greek philosopher, Plato, extolled the virtue and necessity to ‘know thyself’. That maxim still holds true today. When we know ourselves, we open ourselves up to creating the relationships we want to have in the kind of world we want to live in.

The danger is that sometimes, we use the knowledge gained from self-awareness as an excuse for why being the way we are is an excuse for us not to change the things we do that create more distress than harmony in our world. Our excuses for being the way we are do not move us closer to our vision of what we want to create in the world. They put up barriers, destroy intimacy and build walls.

For example, my critter would love to have me believe that when my beloved says, “I don’t have a clue where you’re coming from”, (a natural response on his part when I am taking 101 different sides of an argument looking for the flaws in each perspective simply because I think it’s fun to argue) that what he’s actually saying is, “What is wrong with you?”.

When I can step out of my position of, “It’s just the way I am” (because my colours say I am this way or some other test says I am) and move to being curious about what I am doing to contribute to his confusion and discomfort, my personality strengths/attributes become my ally. Knowing my ‘Colours’ helps me to understand my natural affinity for certain social responses so that I can align my natural responses with my vision of what I want to create in my world and relationships.

Knowing myself, and knowing how I am in the world is not a license to act out, to be unkind, thoughtless, rude, arrogant, stubborn, difficult.

Knowing myself is the invitation to be curious about how I respond in every situation and what I can do with my self-awareness to ensure my responses, actions, presence create the more of what I want in my life and all my relationships.

Namaste.