Spring, glorious spring!

“Let it rain on some days,
Let yourself shiver on some cold nights,
So when it’s Spring you’ll know why it was all worth going through.”
― Sanhita Baruah

After a snowier-than-usual winter, this week brought some sunny days, and with the first day of spring, a spring in my step as well. Sunshine will do that for you, when you live in a rain forest! 🙂

You’d think that in SE Alaska, snow would be common. You would be wrong, at least at sea level, and in this small region of the state. Rain is common, storms are common, but not snow. This year my boots got to walk all over town as I had the chance to wear them most days the past six weeks. I’ve turtle-necked my way through, and now, as April approaches,  I’m looking forward to shedding a layer or two. It will be nice to put away gloves and scarves, and walk out without the extras.

As winter leaves, I feel the flow of spring-time energy. I picked up a paint brush yesterday to freshen up a wall or two; such a simple thing, but exciting after a hiatus of tackling projects. Spreading color on the walls was therapeutic and nourishing, a visible illustration of what I felt happening in my spirit.

I’ve filled the pantry, and after two years of minimal cooking, I’m trying new things, dishing up old favorites, and using cookware that’s been out of sight and out of mind.

I’m reading again, books that speak to my heart, and some new finds prompting me to thought.

I’m thinking of the curious combination of spring strength and softness…the strength it takes for green leaves and tiny flowers to push into the sunlight and the softness of the  early morning sun on my face as I walk to work. I think about the strength it takes to keep moving and growing through all the phases of life and the softness of heart that comes with experience and age. (Sometimes hearts harden with age, but I’m choosing not to do that.)

Strength and softness: that’s the combination I want in my life. I love strength of spirit, will, and courage. I love the softness of kindness, generosity, and gentleness.

Spring reminds me that the harshness of winter is disappearing, and the sweetness of the next season is here.

Seasons exist in all realms of life, and seasons of energy, creativity, and accomplishment are no less real than the seasons of the calendar. Manifesting in different ways, the results are sometimes visible, sometimes not.

I’ve learned that human seasons rarely match up with the calendar. I’ve learned that sometimes you can push yourself into the next phase of life, and sometimes, like a flower waiting to bloom, you have to wait for your next season to arrive. Some things you just can’t hurry.

I’ve learned that you can’t force what isn’t ready. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

When you’re ready for a new season, it will appear. In good time, but not before you’ve done the work to be ready to move forward.

The past couple of years have been quiet, times of growth and discovery. And those times are vital. All humans need time to percolate a bit, time to let life flow around and over, time to make sense of what was, what is, and what’s changed.

I sometimes call it wandering in the wilderness.

Good to do, but also good to come out of.

No epiphany required for the sunshine of springtime to remind me, it’s time to get busy. Time to paint, and plant an herb or two, and a flower or two, time to create in the kitchen, time to shift to a new season.

And while my hands are busy, it’s good to practice the values of strength and softness.

How about you? Are you feeling the pulse of springtime? Tell me about it? I’d love to know what spring sunshine prompts in you!

~ Sheila

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Word for the year, 2017

It’s that time again. Time to decide what word will define and guide the coming year. I started this practice in 2012, and to date these have been my choices:

  • 2012 – Revision
  • 2013 – Momentum
  • 2014 – Consistent
  • 2015 – Hope
  • 2016 – Thrive

I like choosing a word that’s both positive and implies growth. Growth is a good thing…whether I’m learning something new, stretching my abilities to share with others, or just improving a skill I already have, growth is always my goal.

But desire for growth doesn’t exclude times of stillness, moments of contentment to look around and just be. 

In fact, I believe movement and stillness, growth and contentment, are essential to a happy life.

The happiest moments in my life have been the times I was still and reflective enough to realize, right in the moment, that I was happy…content with what was happening at that very moment.

Growth takes work, requires planning, thought, organizing, time.

Stillness allows me to evaluate and take stock of where I am, what I’ve learned, and what’s occurring in the moment.

Being intentional in my life is a way to express these two distinct states of being…growth-seeking, and being still.

By being intentional, I set the tone. I make the plan, I choose when to say yes, and when to say no.

I take responsibility for growth, and for times of stillness.

Being intentional means living thoughtfully, and that’s sometimes difficult to do. In a culture that moves at the speed of social media, and gets caught up in trends and likes, gadgets and the pursuit of “more,” it’s easy to live in reactionary mode, instead of choosing how my life will look.

I’ve not always done a good job of choosing direction…I’ve been far too passive, far too willing to let other things and other people set my priorities.

This year, I commit to living with intention, to choose how I want to grow, how I’ll serve others, and how I’ll take time to be still and reflect.

The easiest thing in the world is to live in the flow of whatever life we’ve found ourselves in, and the hardest thing is to stand in the middle of that flow and try to control it. Understand, this isn’t about a power struggle with anyone…in fact, to others, my life may look much the same as before.

Or not.

The desire to live with intention is about having an internal monitor, about being self-directed rather than being passive.

So, my word for 2017 is “intentional.”

What about you? Do you have a word to define your coming year?

~ Sheila

Be. Do. Have.

Priorities. Do you know yours?

Think about it.
It’s easy to live life turned upside down, to focus on the wrong things.

Culture tells us to have, have, have.
Or maybe the message that resonates is do, do, do.

Have the biggest and best, the most, the most talked about, the most envied.

Do the most exciting, the most unusual, the most adventurous, the most noteworthy.

It’s all about who is the most popular. We took the old competition from the playground to Instagram and Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest followers.

Do and have focus on the externals.
But it’s the internal that’s important.

Who are you? What are you? Do you know? Are you living in integrity with your values? Are you living up to your aspirations?

Have you done the work to BE?

Being is harder to do well than doing or having. You can experience (do) and accumulate things (have). But to really BE… aaahh…that’s inside work. You have to grow from within, and you have to do the work for yourself.

Of course you’re going to do and have as you develop, as you move through life. Impossible not to.

But I’m talking about priorities..where’s your focus? I’ll give you an example of what I mean.

On the adult path, it’s easy to get caught up in doing, and having.

You want to nurture a career, or you’re trying to be a successful entrepreneur. Maybe you’re busy with a family, or some other personal calling. It’s so easy to be enticed by having…having a nice home, a great car, all the things that say you’re successful, that you’re living the life you deserve.

The crazy thing is, it can take so much work to keep life going, when it’s consumed by the externals. You get lost in trying to get ahead, and staying current with the latest trends is often just a merry-go-round of keeping up.

Latest styles, newest apps, hot new phone, social media followings, kids in all the right groups, moving ahead with the job.

Exhausting.
Stop. Be still and listen.

Listen to yourself. Are you in there? We are human beings, not human doings.

Did you forget to be? Just be.
When I think of being, I sense stillness. I hear quiet.

There is self-talk. Reading. Growing.

When I let myself be, I sit with a cup of tea and nothing else. No phone. No laptop.

No distraction.

I am being.

When you give yourself time to be, you order your life from the inside out.

I can hear you now…all the busyness of living is crowding your thoughts. You’re thinking, even as you read, how impossible to carve out time for self, for quiet, for being.

My friend, I’ve been there.

Been so weary at night that just going to bed felt like winning the lottery, a prize to savor at the end of a long day of mothering. A long day of giving. A long day of othering.

I know what it’s like to need every last-minute of sleep, because there just aren’t enough to begin with, and getting up early to nurture self seems too hard, too much to face at the beginning of another day of living outside of self.

I know what it’s like to run so long and so hard that you finally feel like a shell, given out, needing to replenish but hardly knowing where to begin. Because there’s always more you need to give, even when you don’t have it yourself.

When I began to run dry, early in my years of mothering…it wasn’t a lack of love, but a lack of time to be…I had to learn the old wisdom.

You can’t give what you don’t have. You have to feed yourself first, in order to have strength to care for anyone else.

When I began to know this…not just intellectually, but deep within my spirit…I made some changes.

I started taking time to read again. How had I let that slip away?

I found time to write, a simple journal of thought, intention, hopes, and dreams.

I found time to play. I got intentional about saying yes to things that would take me out, would give me a change of pace.

It was slow at first.
But at last, I had a sense of being me again. I wasn’t just doing, or having.
I was being.

Rushing through life at the speed of busy, overwhelmed, always thinking of what’s next…that’s no way to live.

It’s counterintuitive to do less in order to be more.

But that’s what I needed to do…what I had to do.

Now, years later, I know the lesson well.

When I feel myself slipping back…getting caught up in the doing, and especially in the having, I reach for being.

Being quiet. Being still. Being myself.

There’s only so much of me to go around, and if I deplete my store of me, I won’t be able to be the wife I want to be, the mom, the daughter, friend, writer, doer.

When I overdo, I am undone.

The art of being doesn’t require lavish amounts of time or money.

It does require regular time. Sometimes money.

But mostly, being requires planning. Some thought, intentionality.

When my priorities are in order, life flows smoothly. I can do for others without losing myself.

I don’t need to have more stuff in my life to make up for not having a life.

Be. Do. Have.

In the right order, it all flows. As it should.

It’s great to do, and wonderful to have. But you need to be, first. You need your foundation…clarity of thought, rested spirit, values and priorities in order; enough reserve of yourself that you have something to give to others.

It’s a hard lesson to keep hold of. I have to right myself on a regular basis, reset, retrace my steps. But having done it now… oh, a few thousand times, over the years… I know when I’m off balance again, and how to restore order.

You can apply the same formula to many things. My new site, for instance, follows Be. Do. Have.

First, the mission of Story Revisioned is to be a resource and a lighthouse to others. (BE)

Second, the goal is to offer products that are valuable for anyone who wants to go beyond the wealth of free resources available for the taking. (DO)

Third, the dream is to create a community of readers and followers who share their stories of ups and downs, failures and successes, the how-tos and the nitty-gritty; and to build a platform that is transformative for participants. (HAVE)

The goal is to help: one person, a hundred, a thousand, or a million. And if that’s possible, it will grow out of being, before doing or having.

The Book…

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Like many, I struggled with questions of purpose for a long time. My epiphany…that I am in charge of choosing my purpose…was profoundly meaningful. Crafting a statement of purpose is rewarding and fulfilling. It can provide direction and insight for many life choices, and help us see ourselves more clearly.

As I worked through my process to find answers, I made notes, and from those notes, wrote a book, Choose Your Purpose, Love Your Life http://amzn.to/1sv2Wa3

You’ll find questions, answers, tools, stories, and more in the book. I invite you to read, and to choose purpose for yourself. You’ll never look back, I promise!

Design your life plan. Using the guidance and formula I share, you’ll be more than successful; you’ll be satisfied. And that’s a very fine thing, indeed.

Best of Christmas

This is a most unusual Christmas season. But it’s already one of my best.

I don’t have a tree, or even a home for the tree I don’t have. I haven’t decorated anything, and don’t plan to. That just isn’t the focus this year.

But this is what I do have:

~ I’ve bought gifts and planned surprises, some on my own, some with the help of elves. From a kitchen faucet to movie passes to legos to all things Amazon…Brings a smile to my face to play Santa!

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~ I wrote cards to friends. For years I was a dedicated card-sender. And then a few years back, I just stopped. It was a difficult season for me, that year, and I didn’t do much of my usual holiday routine. Since then, I’ve mostly ignored that tradition. But this year, I wanted to do it again. It feels good to restore that custom.

~ I’ve listened to beautiful music…ah, the wonder of music! Thank you to Spotify and Pandora, companies that give me beautiful and beloved music to enjoy, courtesy of the wonder of internet radio.

~ I’ve read. Inspiring words of faith, insight, truth, mercy, sacrifice…how they move me to be a better person, a stronger person, a more generous and loving person! Thank you to the gifted writers and voices who remind me to cherish what is truly important in this life.

~ I’ve baked! Even the clinic housing apartments we stay in when we’re working have ovens (!), and I’ve baked gingerbread and treats that fill the air with Christmassy scents. It’s comforting to find myself in the kitchen, even if it’s not “my” kitchen. Food is one of the ways I connect with people, with memories, and with creativity. It soothes me and settles me, takes me to a feeling of home.

~ I look around and see joy. I sat in the Seattle airport Sunday afternoon, en route to work in Alaska for the ten days before Christmas, and I found magic, right there in the big center food court. A talented musician filled the air with holiday tunes, there was hustle and bustle all around, the light streamed in the huge window that looks out onto the runway, and I was grateful to be there, in the moment.

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~ I anticipate. I look forward to seeing and being seen. We’ll be with family for Christmas and New Years, and we’ll smile big, eat well, laugh, cry, be silly. We’ll look at one another and say, “this is the good stuff.”

Version 2

Life isn’t about perfection. It is about minding the minutes, seeing the good in the cheerfulness around, in the thoughtful words, the helpful acts of kindness. It is about love, and grace, forgiveness, and trying. Especially it is about the trying, for that’s really all we can do. We try, and sometimes we get it right.

I’ve never understood why some Christmas seasons are so beautiful, so perfect, even without perfection, while others can seem right, look right, but never really take root in my heart. Why is that? I don’t know, can’t put my finger on just what makes some years magical, and other years mechanical. I know it’s not for lack of heart, or desire. But there it is, just one of the realities of life.

Magic moments are mercurial, they don’t come with explanation or make sense; they’re shimmery things, like bubbles. You have to cherish them when you feel them.

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It’s a grace-filled time, this season, and I’m grateful. So grateful.

~ Sheila

Mindful and grateful: Happy Thanksgiving!

Gratitude is truly an amazing habit. The spirit of thankfulness works to soften and soothe, helps me see the good all around me.

Practicing gratitude, I am mindful.

Practicing mindfulness, I am grateful.

Today I’m thankful for the way life gives unexpected joys. I’m grateful for time with family and friends, health, enough work to stay busy, enough quiet time to find inspiration.

I’m thankful for for the steady presence of voices and faces in my life that enrich and encourage.

I’m thankful, as I cook in my son’s somewhat spartan kitchen, for the gifts of tradition, ritual, and surprise. Moving out of my comfort zone, living without all my stuff for the past year, has shown me that I can do all sorts of things, without the gadgets, without all the known and familiar.

What’s known are the faces, and the memories of place, and history. What’s familiar is the love, and the laughter.

The surprises sometimes come in the form of something forgotten…like a main ingredient to a once-a-year dish. Sometimes the surprises are the spur-of-the-moment decisions that become the best part of the day…stopping to capture a photo at just the right moment, or a conversation that goes right to the heart, and warms me to the core.

The beautiful scenery in the mountain west gives me one more thing to appreciate, this Thanksgiving. The sunsets and the blue, blue sky…so beautiful!

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This weekend we’ll do some driving, looking at familiar sites, and recalling when we lived here, the Colorado front range the backdrop of the every day, and yet never taken for granted. When I have the chance to be here now, I drink it in, and revel in the magic of the grand peaks, the colors, the seasonal cold, the white of snow.

Mostly I’m thankful that this was the setting for family, and for memory making. I’m thankful for lessons learned, and joys re-discovered, for the people that make it all possible.

I wish the same for everyone…gratitude, mindfulness, peace, and joy. Happy Thanksgiving!

~ Sheila

 

 

 

 

Patterns, patterns, everywhere!

Last week I wrote about the Hoffman Process and some of the insights I gained at the retreat I attended.

You knew I wasn’t finished, didn’t you? I’m faaaar too wordy to condense a week of material into one post!

So this is more of what I learned. This is my distillation, as I understood the material. This is Hoffman philosophy, as interpreted by Sheila.

I learned a lot. One of the terms I heard over and over was “pattern.” We all have patterns, hundreds and hundreds of patterns. A pattern is the default behavior we develop to address circumstances, and our feelings about what is happening, or what was said, or even what we think someone is thinking about us.

Pattern behavior is launched at the subconscious level…so ingrained we don’t even recognize we’re doing what we usually do in a given situation. Acting out patterns typically comes from lightning fast judgments and assumptions we make, based on everything from physical appearance of another person, a specific situation, spoken words, stress, fear, feelings of low self-worth…oh, the list goes on and on.

Have you ever felt an immediate dislike for someone because they remind you of someone else? Have you found yourself reacting to a situation, based on what you tell yourself others are thinking? Do you find yourself repeating behavior automatically when you’re tired, or nervous about something, or overwhelmed?

Congratulations! You, too, are of the human race, and you have patterns, just like the rest of us!

We generally know we have habits. I brush my teeth after meals, I drink coffee every morning. These are habits. They’re different from the concept of patterns. Patterns are not just actions that I do habitually. They are reactive, not really actions of choice.

Typically we develop our patterns in childhood through adolescence. Our patterns are a reflection of a behavior or coping skill we learned and adapted from our parents, or someone who stood in a surrogate role to us; or, we developed our patterns as a reaction to the people who raised us…as in: I don’t like it that my mom/dad does (fill in the blank), so I’ll do the opposite.

Of course we don’t have that conversation with ourselves. This is all happening at a subconscious level. I think it’s fair to say that a pattern is not necessarily, of itself, destructive or negative. Some may be. But I believe most patterns are neutral behaviors. The behaviors become patterns, and become destructive, when we default to a specific action or attitude based on reaction instead of choice.

Examples: Someone threatens our sense of security, and we become small. It’s as if we shrink back to a role from childhood. Becoming small looks just like it sounds. Your physical presence is diminished…maybe you try to become invisible. You minimize yourself, still your voice, give up your opinion, even your right to have an opinion.

For others, feeling intimidated or threatened leads to a show of bravado. Literally, you embody: “You’re not the boss of me!” You talk loudly, maybe bravely. You stand up, make your presence felt. But it’s not authentic bravery; it’s a show of force to soothe your experience of fright.

You see? Two sides of a reaction to the same stimulus.

It can be confusing, to say the least. And it’s damaging when two people begin to react to each other…each feeding the cycles and patterns, in a crazy dance that grows from behavior learned in childhood.

Here’s another example: You run into a friend who is moving forward in her career, while yours feels stagnant. Your interaction is positive and you make all the right encouraging noises. Then you go and buy something on impulse to cheer yourself up, maybe something you can’t afford, don’t need, or will feel guilty about buying. But you buy it anyway.

You reacted to feeling “less than.” You felt badly about your life, so you defaulted to a pattern that helps you feel better, at least for the moment.

The next concept: vicious cycles. That’s when patterns join together to form a downward spiral. In the example above, you can see several patterns, with more on the horizon. You put on an act with your friend because you know that’s the socially acceptable thing to do. Then to make yourself feel better, you turn to buying something for that immediate fix…must.feel.better.now. Then, when you reflect on what you bought…you didn’t need another thing; you put it on a credit card and added to your debt; you feel guilt; you feel sadness; you wonder why you do this on a regular basis; and you spend the rest of the day vacillating between guilt and frustration.

None of this has anything to do with your friend, and you didn’t spend any time thinking about how to improve your career outlook. Instead you got caught up in self-pity, then buying something to feel better emotionally, then second-guessing yourself and feeling mad/sad/frustrated that you added to your debt.

Patterns are not about the other person, or likely, the real situation…instead, they’re a reflection of how we interpret an event, which we pair with a judgment about an event or others. Then we act, and often the first act only leads us down the path to more patterns…more unhappiness.

To find your way through the maze, it’s important to know what your values are. Knowing your values and having determination to live with integrity helps you to stay focused on the outcome you’re seeking. You don’t get caught up as easily in reactionary behavior. You can listen to your voice and know your mind, rather than being swayed by the opinions of others…or the opinions you believe others have.

It’s especially important to know that a lot of what we attribute to other people…what we think someone is thinking of us…is often just a story we make up to fit the narrative we’ve chosen.

Our narratives may have nothing to do with reality.

Here’s an example from the course, in Sheila’s words: You’re going to a party and you don’t really want to go. But you go anyway. When you arrive, you feel intimidated…others are better looking, better dressed, seem like they’re having a good time already. You feel awkward, shy, “less than.”

See where this is going?

No one really notices you when you come in…everyone is involved in conversation. You tell yourself you’re being ignored. You go stand in the corner, and eventually find someone else to talk to who’s also standing on the sidelines. You talk to each other about the others there…how shallow they are, or some other critical observation.

The reality? Likely, no one thought anything negative about you, intentionally ignored you, or felt any ill will toward you. You made up a narrative to support your feelings of “less than.” And then your experience seems authentic. You felt disrespected and unseen.

Ah, it’s interesting, isn’t it, the world that lives in your mind, and how quickly you can evaluate and react to scenarios? Much of this is lightning fast, happening in our minds as we careen between our thoughts and the reality of what’s occurring, or what’s occurring as we see and believe our interpretation of events.

Think about it…we do it all the time.

This is another example: if we’re late to an event, we excuse ourselves…weather or traffic or something likely unavoidable caused us to be late. If someone else is late, we’re likely to see that person as unreliable. So this narrative that runs in our minds works in two ways. Either: We’re likely to give ourselves a pass, excuse, or benefit of the doubt. Or: we make ourselves the guilty ones, the bad ones, the losers, and elevate others when we write our stories.

Fascinating. Of course all of this is on a continuum. There are extremes to patterns, and some people are more mired in reactive behavior than others. The goal is to become aware of how much we live in a reactive state, and live out of choice instead.

Try this next time someone cuts you off in traffic: instead of telling yourself the story that this person is rude, dangerous, inconsiderate, a bad driver, etc., etc., etc., tell yourself the story that this is a couple racing to the hospital to have a baby. When that’s your story for why someone cuts you off, you feel different about what happened. You don’t get heated, or feel slighted. You feel compassion, understanding, sympathy or even empathy for their situation.

Sometimes we may understand the situation perfectly, and maybe the other person involved really does have bad motives, really does have ill will toward us. But you can still act out of choice. You can decide how to behave in the situation. You can choose to respond instead of react. That’s mature behavior. That’s breaking your pattern.

So I challenge you…look at the last day or two and see if you can find patterns for yourself. See how often you react rather than respond. It’s tricky, because actions can look mature, and yet not really be that.

I think the key is awareness. What do you do that is a predictable reaction, given a particular set of circumstances? When you look at those experiences, you can begin to identify your patterns. And when you become aware of being in a pattern, pause, slow down, and choose.

Choose. Respond instead of react. That’s all you need to do. Isn’t it simple?!

Well, I’ve got a little work left to do on myself…a few hundred patterns yet to address. But I’ve made a beginning, choosing to be more aware, more deliberate and intentional, less reactive. It’s a good road to be on, and it fits well with other choices I’ve also made along the way. Being intentional and living with integrity and choice marches together with my faith. All of this work reinforces the values I already have…I don’t want to go through life making assumptions and judgments based on a lot of false story telling.

I don’t think I do that too much. Do I?

Yes. Yes, I do. I don’t do it in ways that are extreme. But I do it. We all do it. And we can change if we choose.

Don’t believe everything you think. Your mind doesn’t always tell you the truth.