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Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

Barefoot

Barefoot Coaching … Literally!

I’m one of those people who loves to explore, to try new things, and to experiment with new behaviors. Once, when a friend asked, “Where is your favorite place to go on vacation?” I replied without hesitation, “Someplace I’ve never been.” So, the fact that I’ve been showing up barefoot in more and more places is not as odd as some people may think.

What started as a method for easing the pain of a left knee meniscus tear last May has grown into a spiritual practice of sorts. Every day I experience a keen awareness of my place in time and space, an unprecedented sense of the “Power of Now.” Never have I been so alert to my surroundings; to the feel of the earth, carpet, grass, or cement beneath my feet; nor to just how softly I can place one foot in front of the other.

Last week I was barefoot in Washington, DC, attending Converge17, a professional development event with 1,700 ICF Coaches from 62 countries. I used my naked feet to remind me to remain Authentic, Vulnerable, and Present, which can be difficult for a sometimes insecure introvert in the presence of hundreds of accomplished peers.

Adopting a new behavior or practicing a new way of being in the world can open our hearts to myriad insights about ourselves and those around us. Nudging ourselves outside the Comfort Zone is an invitation to switch off autopilot and wake up to creativity, inspiration, and what it means to be alive.

Three months ago I set a fun goal to complete the 5K Charleston Distance Walk barefoot. Little by little, I have built my barefoot endurance, strengthening my arches, toning my legs, and improving my balance. Tomorrow is the day!

I know this walk will be interestingly different from the 25 previous years’ walks because I will be there like never before. As the remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey relentlessly soak us all, I know my shoes will stay dry because they’ll be at home in the closet, alongside my old, boring, risk-averse approach to daily living.

 

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Painting

Watercolor … “Inspiration” by Barbie Dallmann

I was halfway through the morning dog walk, a little less than a mile from home, when I heard it. Subtle. In the distance. A faint fluttering of leaves in the treetops. I hoped the breeze would make it to the ground. It was a muggy morning, with intermittent sunshine coaxing wispy bits of fog from the low-lying grasses.

Then I heard it again. The sound was a little louder this time. No, not the sound of wind rustling leaves. This was a sound I never heard growing up in the treeless prairies of Nebraska. It is the sound raindrops make when they hit leaves. The tiniest splat. So tiny it can only be detected when there are millions of raindrops hitting millions of leaves.

“I hear the rain coming,” I told the dogs. “Let’s get home!”

I quickened my pace and dismissed the idea of running. Two dogs, hiking shoes, and no bra. If ever there were reasons not to run, I had plenty. As the sound intensified, I knew what was coming. The words “torrential downpour” popped into my head. I looked behind us and could see a sheet of water in the distance. There was no escape. This was going to be really bad.

A burst of wind, and my muscles tightened in anticipation. One huge drop hit my head, then two, then twenty all at once. This was not the gentle shower of a watering can, but the splash of water pouring from a bucket. Oh, my goodness! So loud, and so much water! My thoughts were racing, expecting a lightning strike or to be washed away by flood waters. Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Get home!

And then, within 15 seconds, the rain stopped. I waited for a second wave, but that was it. I marveled as the tiny, yet powerful storm moved on. The dogs shook themselves, and I laughed, swiping the dripping hair out of my face. It felt more like getting hit with a water balloon than a rain storm.

Before we got to our driveway, the sun was out again, and I saw something sparkle on the ground. A quarter and a nickel. Wow! Thirty times more money than I usually find on a morning walk. This feels like my lucky day.

 

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ReadAloudYesterday I finished my third year as a ReadAloud Volunteer in a grade school classroom of approximately 25. Next Thursday I’m going back to celebrate the penultimate day of school with a class pizza party and an opportunity to say good-bye to a very special group of people.

Reflecting on this past year’s experience induces a tearful sense of gratitude. Where do I begin to describe what it’s been like for me? Somehow the books, the kids, the teacher, the questions, and the laughter (lots of laughter) have come together to create an idyllic situation, one I have found myself eagerly anticipating each week. I enjoy practicing the reading as I try to get the voices of the characters just right. I anticipate questions that might arise and do a little research, hoping to be prepared.

This hasn’t been an experience of simply “reading books to children.” Yes, I do read books, but not to “children.” I read to lively, funny, inquisitive, and tremendously smart young people, complete human beings in every way. We’ve engaged in some of the most intriguing discussions, ranging from life on Alcatraz Island in the 1930s, to autism, inflation, Elliott Ness, ice boxes, and tooth powder. We’ve talked about the stock market, summer jobs, and even debated the pros and cons of kissing and marriage. This class has kept me on my toes all year, and I have loved every minute of the hour spent with them each week.

And so, to Mrs. Burdette’s Fourth Grade Class at Overbrook Elementary School, I say a big THANK YOU! Thank you for the smiles, for the laughter, and for the applause. Thank you for inspiring me to expect more from young people. Your ability to listen, to learn, to grow, and to share has warmed my heart. I hope you’ll always remember the fun we had with books this year and that reading will forever be an important part of your lives. I feel blessed to have been a part of your fourth grade experience.

 

 

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

In the fall of 2000, I delivered a 90-minute presentation on the topic of Power Talking at the national convention of Professional Résumé Writers in Las Vegas. I flew out several days early to indulge myself with a side trip of hiking in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks and horseback riding to the floor of the canyon. Looking back, I marvel at my adventurous spirit. I’m shocked sometimes at the realization: not only did I do it; I did it alone! It was all part of an ambitious plan birthed from my 1989 New Year’s intention to live my life “feeling the fear and doing it anyway.”  (See my 1989 Guidebook: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers).

I was in a reflective mood while hiking a remote trail in Bryce Canyon. Nature does that to me. It opens my mind to the big questions. You know the ones: “Why am I here?” … “Does God exist?” …  “What is the meaning of life?” … “Does anything I do really matter?”

As sometimes happens when hiking alone, I began asking my questions aloud, pleading with The Universe to give me just one solid answer. Is that too much to ask? Really? Just one, incontrovertible straightforward answer. I mean, this is The Universe … all powerful … all knowing … all present. Hello?? Anybody there?

In desperation, I yelled out, “I want an answer … and I want it now!”

Just then there was a sharp turn in the trail and I nearly smacked into a signpost, whose words took my breath away. “STAY ALERT” the bright yellow letters instructed … “READ THE SIGNS.”

Whoa! The message pierced through to my heart. Isn’t it just like The Universe to deliver what we need to know instead of what we demand to know?

This morning at the cottage I found myself asking “What do I need to focus on in 2014? What intention should I pick for the new year?” Silence. And then the impatient shout, “Just tell me! I want to know!”

Then–just like that–I remembered “the sign” that was so meaningful to me 13 years ago. I also remembered the intriguing allure of “omens” in a book I’m currently reading, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. As these rather vague but appealing thoughts were bouncing around my head, I think I actually encountered an omen, but I’m not sure since I don’t really know what an omen looks like. But it felt the way I imagine it feels to see an omen. Silently awed, in the moment, grateful without words for the download of wisdom. Wow!

Happy New Year … Happy New Focus … What do you intend to create in 2014?

As for me, my intention for the next 365 days is to stay alert and read the signs.

Sign from Bryce Canyon

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Gift Card

I’ve heard a lot of people comment that gift cards are “just so impersonal”! Last week I received one from the fourth grade class where I’m a ReadAloud volunteer on Thursday mornings.

It reminds me of when my grandma would slip five dollars into my birthday card. Mom urged me to buy “something special,” something that Grandma herself might buy if she lived closer. After the purchase, I wrote a thank-you note. (Remember those?) I not only said thank you, but I told Grandma specifically how I spent the money as well as the pleasure I received from my gift.

The first year I received a check for Christmas from my dad, I was a little disappointed. He had always been a thoughtful gift giver, and I enjoyed the presents he chose. As he slowed with age, though, it was easier for him to just send a check. He slipped in a note telling me to buy myself something special. So, I began a tradition of carefully choosing a gift I could imagine him buying. That year, I picked out a beautiful pair of gold earrings, and I placed the wrapped present under the tree with a tag that read, “To: Barb … From: Dad.”

On Christmas Eve, I “forgot” what the box contained and opened it with great anticipation. A few days later I sent a thank you note: “Dear Dad, I adore the beautiful gold hoop earrings you sent! I have been wearing them every day since I opened the gift. Thank you so much. I Love You! Barb.”

After his initial confusion over that first thank-you note, Dad came to look forward to finding out what he bought me for Christmas via the thank you notes. And, even now, more than 20 years later, when someone admires those earrings, I say, “Thank you. They were a Christmas gift from my dad.”

Yesterday I used the gift card from the students to buy two books. The thank-you note says, “Thank you so much for the Christmas gift card. Because I enjoy reading to you so much, I used it to buy two books for myself. One is a travel guide to the Big Island of Hawaii. I’m going there this summer, and I want to get the most from my trip by reading about it before I go. The second book is a journal I’m using to write all my ideas about–and wishes for–the trip. Please know I’ll be thinking of you all when I celebrate my 60th Birthday bicycling through Volcanoes National Park on August 14! Books help big dreams come true!! Thanks again for your magical gift. Keep Dreaming! Keep Reading! Love, Ms. Dallmann”

On the inside flap of the books, I have written: “Merry Christmas 2013 from Mrs. Burdette’s Fourth Grade Class at Overbrook Elementary.”

Impersonal? I think not!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas 2013

Making Memories

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Painting of Flowers

“Imaginary Flowers,” acrylic on tile by Barbie Dallmann

I’m reading a book, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, that is stimulating a lot of thought. In the book, imaginary friends are only capable of doing whatever their children imagine they can do. For example, the subject of the book is capable of walking through closed doors, but he cannot walk through walls. He doesn’t sleep because his child imagines him keeping an eye on things all night long. Each imaginary friend is limited by his child’s imagination, and it can be very frustrating for the friends at times.

I think in a sense we are all our own imaginary friends, limited in our abilities because of some default operating system dictating what we can and can’t do. If I “can’t imagine myself ever doing that!” then chances are, I never will. But through the magic of visioning, I can begin to open my awareness to new possibilities.

I have noticed, too, that often other people can more easily see our potential than we can. After all, they don’t have our fears blocking the view. What does it take to trust the vision of others? To step out on a limb, spread our wings, and fly because several other people imagine we can?

A couple of weeks ago, some friends told me that I should teach an art class. Quickly I responded, “Oh, I could NEVER do that! I can’t imagine ever being good enough to teach!” But even as I said those words, I realized that it wasn’t the first time I’d said them. At least twice before I had been urged by someone to create a class to help those who are afraid to paint. When prompting nudges me from three unrelated sources, I have a tendency to take a closer look. For me, that means meditating on the possibility. I create a vision, and walk around in it for a while, sort of like trying on a new pair of shoes. How does it feel? Is it a good fit? Could it work?

And the next thing I know, an opportunity presents itself. This one popped up the very next day. And guess what? This coming Saturday I’m leading a workshop in compassionate creativity for art-timid adults.

So, while it’s true we are limited by our own imaginations, it is also true that we can tap into the Collective Consciousness and download a new paradigm. Why not pay more attention to the possibilities that enter our awareness? Why not try on some new ways of being? Why not sign up for an art class?

Flier for art workshop

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"By the River" - Acrylic on canvas by Barbie Dallmann

“By the River” – Acrylic on canvas by Barbie Dallmann

I love taking my son’s dog with me in the mornings when I walk or run. She’s such a great companion, and I confess, I do love multitasking. It’s such a high when I’m getting a three-for-one bargain: exercising, walking the dog, and listening to a book on my iPod.

This morning, as I noticed Lucy wandering into a side yard, I yelled over my shoulder, “Hey! Lucy! It’s your job to keep of track of me … not the other way around!” As she quickly caught up, I found myself smiling, remembering how I used to say that same thing to Britain when he was a toddler. Wherever we went, I would always remind him: “It’s your job to keep track of me. So, pay attention, and try to keep up!” What a great memory!

The truth, of course, is that I always had an eye out for him, just like I’m always aware of what Lucy’s up to.

I wonder if it’s that way with the Divine. I can just hear God saying, “It’s your job to keep track of me!” And off I go, thinking I’m all independent and in charge of every last detail. My truth, though, is that there has always been a bigger picture, one I’ll never be able to totally comprehend. And those times when I’ve strayed off course, there were whispers urging me to “pay attention!” Sometimes, too, my resistance causes me to run in the opposite direction. I’m grateful that even during those times when I think I’ve lost track of the Divine, she never loses track of me.

I guess this morning’s outing was actually a FOUR-for one: exercise, dog walking, iPod, and a bit of spiritual insight. Now I really am feeling a powerful urge to smile!

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