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Posts Tagged ‘life coaching’

Many, many years ago, early in my pregnancy, I confided to my doctor, “There’s something seriously wrong with me.”

Two years earlier I had quit my job and started my own word processing business. It was growing, and I was devoting a lot of time and energy to its success.

My doctor regarded me with concern and asked me to explain. I blurted out, “I’ve lost my edge! My motivation is gone. I no longer care whether I work long hours or not. What’s wrong with me? I’m just soooo laid back!

He chuckled quietly and said, “It’s the pregnancy. Your body is flooded with progesterone, the feel-good hormone. No need to worry. You’ll be back to your Type A personality after the baby is born.” And for better or worse, he was right.

Over these past several months, my journal has been filled with similar ruminations. I’ve been wondering what happened to my drive, my stress, my productive angst. A couple weeks ago when I discovered someone had scratched my beautiful Mustang convertible in the parking lot, I thought, “Poor car. Next time I’ll park you farther away from the entrance where there aren’t so many cars.” That was it. No ranting. No rage. No swearing. Later, worried about my calm demeanor, I diagnosed myself as “apathetic. I just didn’t care any more.” I began writing in my journal: “What’s wrong with me?!?”

This morning I remembered my conversation with my OB/GYN. At nearly 67 years old, I know pregnancy is not an option.

Then it hit me: Oh! This is what peace feels like! After 18 months of daily practicing mindfulness meditation, my brain has slowly changed the way it processes events. I have gained an ability to RESPOND to circumstances, rather than simply reacting. Reacting comes from the ego and is all about protection and self-interest. Responding is a higher brain function, aligned with one’s values, integrity, kindness, and interconnectedness with others. In that moment with the car, I was able to bypass the angst and anger and go instantly to where I would have ended up eventually anyway: acceptance of what happened and taking responsibility to park differently in the future.

Instead of being stricken with apathy, I had chosen the peaceful waters of equanimity. It is a state I’ve been seeking for many months and years. I’ve read about it; I’ve thought about it; I’ve prayed about it. My meditation practice has always had a goal of increased equanimity.

Today I’m in awe and a bit amused, too. I achieved what I said I wanted, and then I didn’t recognize it. I instantly thought there was something wrong with me. What an irony!

As I write this, I know equanimity is an elusive state. My ego has had lots of experience reacting to what happens. Mindful awareness is relatively new. I will continue my meditation practice with gratitude and renewed hope.

Today I’m grateful to embrace a more peaceful state of mind, especially now that I realized there’s nothing wrong with me!


If you’d like to explore mindful meditation, I highly recommend the 10% Happier app. It has guided meditations, short educational courses, talks, and sleep meditations that really work! You can check them out here: https://www.tenpercent.com/ or email me, and I’ll send you a free 30-Day Guest pass (no credit card needed to sign up!) And for the record, I’m pretty sure I’m at least 15% happier since I’ve started meditating regularly.

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Yesterday I bought a table saw. I resisted this purchase for over a decade. While building the cottage, I used circular and radial saws. I have also used tile and jig saws, but when my son told me I needed a table saw to do the rip cuts on my vinyl plank flooring project, I balked. I was confident I could manage with a jig saw. And I did, for the few rip cuts required in the dining room and kitchen. But the hallway presented a challenge. Twenty-four, four-foot rip cuts. I did the first one with my jig saw and realized it was impossible to get the cuts straight and smooth.

Headed to Lowe’s, I did my best to quiet the ominous voice: “You’ll cut your fingers off!” Remember the movie, A Christmas Story? Remember the constant warnings Ralphie received? “You’ll shoot your eye out!!” That was pretty much what was going on in my head.

As I was unpacking the 10″ Craftsman table saw, I began to hear my father’s voice, “Don’t Touch! Don’t Touch!” As I turned the handle to raise the saw blade, my breathing got shallow, and my heart started to race. Gut wrenching fear. “Don’t Touch! Don’t Touch!”

I donned work gloves, sure that the blade would be so sharp it would cut off my fingers before I even knew what happened. Mind you, the saw was not plugged in. In fact, the cord was still encased in plastic and bound with a twist tie. I was not taking any chances that it might plug itself in, turn itself on, and come after my fingers!

The fear was so intense and so irrational that it astounded me. There was a part of me that was unpacking and assembling a much-needed power tool. There was another part–I’d say she was about four years old–that was reacting to her father’s admonitions to stay clear of HIS table saw. I know I was really young because in my mind, I could see a table saw high above me. I would need a step-stool to reach it. It seemed so big. The reality of MY saw, sitting there in front of me, was miniature and toy-like, by comparison.

There was a time when I would have said to myself, “Quit being so silly!” But I know better now. I am well acquainted with that fearful part of myself. She needs reassurance and understanding. She needs to feel protected and safe. I sat with her for a bit, reassuring her, calming her, and loving her. “I know Daddy said not to touch. We were young then. It was good for him to make us afraid. But we are grown up now. We can do this. We will be VERY careful. We will read the directions and follow the safety precautions. It’s okay. We don’t need Daddy to protect us. We know how to protect ourselves.”

So I did it. I ripped my first four-foot piece of vinyl plank flooring. Smooth and straight. Wow! So easy! Today I can’t wait for my capable, carpenter son to give me a thorough Safety Talk (via video chat from Montana) before I cut and lay the rest of the pieces.

I wonder just how many of my irrational fears were perfectly rational at one point in my life and then never got updated, much like an old software program looping in the background regulating a dial-up modem while I’m busy with a high-speed internet connection.

Updating internal software requires compassion and patience, not harsh disdain. Irrational? Now, yes. But not always. Honoring the original intention of the fear goes a long way toward releasing its hold. I’ll end with words I couldn’t image saying just a couple of days ago: “I own a table saw, and I know how to use it!”

This is me with my new saw … being as safe as my inner child needs me to be.

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This morning I washed my car. It’s been a while, and it was dog-dirty. I have a Mustang convertible, and I rarely drive it with the top up. That in itself attracts a lot of dust and leaves. Then there’s the dog. I regularly drive her to the forest for stick chasing, creek swimming, and dirt gathering. It took several hours to get my sweet ride looking properly cool once again.

While I was busy detailing, I listened to ‘60s and ‘70s music on Sirius Radio, and my mind began to wander. I was listening to the soundtrack of my high school years. With certain songs, it feels like I’m time traveling. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” takes me back to a morning ride to school, my car filled with friends, and all of us singing and swaying to that song. Good times never felt so good. I swear, I could almost hear my girlfriends laughing and singing.

During my stroll down memory lane, I remembered it was 50 years ago this month that I was excitedly anticipating my 16th birthday. I was so dead sure that my parents were going to buy me a Mustang convertible. I had been dropping hints for months, maybe for a year. I had plans to get my driver’s license on my birthday, and I imagined driving off in my brand new Mustang.

Mom kept telling me, emphatically, that I was NOT getting a car. She gave me loads of reasons, mostly financial ones, but I didn’t believe her. I was so sure that she and Dad were just saying no so that it would be a surprise. How could they refuse me? It was my biggest dream ever! It was my 16th birthday! I was certain it was happening. As the days passed, my excitement was barely containable. I could hardly stand it. When the day arrived, I was determined to act cool, to be totally surprised.

I was surprised, all right. A cake, a bottle of nail polish, and some new clothes. That was it. I nearly cried, but I didn’t. I took every ounce of my disappointment and buried it deep, deep inside myself. There was no way I was going to appear ungrateful. After all, Mom had told me time and again there would be no car.

Fast forward to this morning: me happily scrubbing down my car, singing along to the oldies and fondly remembering my youth. Suddenly, I felt my 16-year-old self looking over my shoulder, wide-eyed and thrilled, screaming with delight. The 50-year-old disappointment melted, and I heard myself saying aloud, “I bought it for you, Sweetie. Happy Birthday!” And then that 16-year-old hopeful optimist who had been so determined to act cool and totally surprised, broke down in tears of gratitude.

I have never been so happy with my car as I was this morning, nor have I ever enjoyed washing it quite that much.

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On January 15, 1998, I attended a day-long workshop entitled, “Stress Management For Women in Business.” The only physical reminder of that day is this pink piece of paper on which we were instructed to write a note to ourselves, our most important take-away from the class. Mine said simply: “Life isn’t about what does and doesn’t get done. It’s about … the people we touch, the experiences we have, sharing love, and helping others through this life.”

That was what I learned at the workshop.

I have learned it over and over, again and again.

At first I looked at this piece of paper regularly. Every month for the first few years. Every quarter for a while after that. Finally, every year I pulled it out and read it. You can see where I added notes and taped other quotes. I have been working at understanding what I wrote that day for a long time. For most of these last two decades, I have read this bit of wisdom and thought, “I wish I could remember that on a day-to-day basis.”

But when I pulled out the paper from my tickler file this morning, I finally felt like the wisdom belonged to me. This time when I read it, I said aloud, “Well, yeah! I already knew that.”

How true. I knew it 21 years ago. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to write the note to myself. Heck, I’ve probably known it since I was a little kid. It seems to have taken a lifetime of striving and doing, setting and meeting goals, and crossing things off my to-do list to finally work my way back to elemental truths.

I especially like that little sideways note that I wrote in blue, maybe ten years ago. It says: “Life isn’t about what we are doing … it is about what we are being. Peaceful? Loving? Accepting? Kind? What are YOU being today?”

I do so love the wisdom that leaks out of me every once in a while!

As I head into this new year, I’m feeling pretty good that I seem to know this truth right now. I’m also okay with the fact that I might forget it before the year is over. So I’ll embrace that little note at the top that says, “I commit to trusting the process.” After all, Life Lessons play out repeatedly all through one’s lifetime. They’re not finished until we are.  And I don’t feel finished quite yet.

 

 

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