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How ignoring my Inner Nag got me to Africa.

September 17th, 2009 · 9 Comments

Does she have an Inner Nag?

Does she have an Inner Nag?

Over and over, I’ve been asked the same thing about my recent trip to Africa: what was the best part, the most important thing I learned, my biggest “aha”?  The people, the animals, the landscape, the country, and the African STAR workshop enriched my life in so many ways.  Did one thing stand out?

I puzzled over this, and then it hit me.

The biggest lesson for me was this–I went.  I didn’t take the advice of the whiney chorus of nagging, nay-saying voices in my head intoning “NO-O-O-O. Don’t go.  You shouldn’t do this,” somber as a criminal court judge handing down a life sentence without possibility of parole.

“You don’t have the time,” the clockwatcher crisply noted.  “You don’t have the money,” begged the voice of lack, convinced it’s the only thing between me and a life spent living under a bridge with my worldly belongings in a shopping cart.  “You didn’t plan this far enough in advance,” clucked the practical one as she studied the lists on her clipboard. “The long plane ride will wipe you out,” implored the hand-wringer that thinks danger and injury lurk around every corner.  “Everyone will think it’s foolish/be jealous/won’t like you,” pleaded the approval-junkie that desperately wants to get along well with others.

Is she looking for approval?

Is she looking for approval?

I’d heard them all before, cautioning me not to seize other opportunities in my life.  I’ve listened to their advice many times.  This time, I realized they were just the voices of limiting thoughts that weren’t true.   So I thanked them for their efforts.  And I ignored them.

Oh my stomach still did loops when I gave the airline agent my credit card information.  But I knew my feelings were coming from thoughts fueled by my Inner Nags.  So I bought the ticket.

And I had a fantastic trip with absolutely no regrets.  I was enchanted.  I learned.  I grew.  I shared amazing sights and transformative insights with fabulous people.  I had an adventure.  It felt light and airy and magical and free.  And it still does.

He doesn't seem to be worried about his future.

He doesn't seem to be worried about his future.

The Buddha taught that you can always know the sea because it always tastes of salt and you can always know enlightenment because it always tastes like freedom.

I can recall so many adventures that I’ve passed up because I chose to believe that chorus of hyper-cautious, sensible voices.  This time I listened to the deeper, wiser voice inside me.  “Go,” it whispered.  “This is an opportunity of a lifetime.  Don’t pass it up.  Go.”

Recognizing and listening to that still, quiet voice of truth is the greatest lesson I learned.   And it’s delicious.  It tastes like freedom.

Tags: desire · fear · stillness · thinking · truth

Having a hard time letting go of your painful past?

July 2nd, 2009 · No Comments

immaculeeI’ll never complain about anything again, I swear, after spending last weekend reading Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.  The author, Immaculee Ilibigiza, was just 22 years old when, in 1994, Rwanda suddenly descended into an unspeakably brutal genocide in which machete-wielding Hutus slaughtered nearly a million ethnic Tutsis.

The memoir recounts the brutal murders of Immaculee’s beloved parents and brothers, along with scores of her friends, neighbors and schoolmates.  She escaped her own death only by hiding in silence for three months in a local pastor’s three foot by four foot bathroom with seven other women, only to emerge starving and still in great danger.

This is a deeply moving love story, in which Immaculee transcends her fear and hatred of those who tore her life, her family, and her country apart.  Ultimately, she faces and forgives her family’s killers.  It is a remarkable and inspiring account of unconditional love under the most challenging circumstances imaginable.

And you think you have problems?

That it’s hard to forgive your ex?

That the economy is scary?

That you can’t let go of your dysfunctional childhood?

That life handed you a raw deal?

If you ever have whiney, victim-y thoughts, read this book.  If you hold onto your painful past for any reason, read this book.

You’ll get a new perspective in a flash, I promise.

Tags: compassion · fear · love

What do you do when life unfolds with ease?

June 17th, 2009 · No Comments

wave-on-beachSometimes good fortune arrives in our lives so effortlessly that we can’t believe it.  We hesitate and hold back.  Surely it can’t be this easy, we tell ourselves.  Our smaller, more painful interpretation of life is so much more familiar so it seems safer and more real.  We shrink from the beauty and magic unfolding before us.

Rumi urges us to seize life fearlessly, to let go and merge with it, and to embrace with ease the joy and opportunity as it comes to us:

The Seed Market

Can you find another market like this?
Where,
with your one rose
you can buy hundreds of rose gardens?
Where
For one seed
you get a whole wilderness?
For one weak breath,
the divine wind?
You have been fearful
of being absorbed in the ground,
or drawn up by the air.
Now, your waterbead lets go
and drops into the ocean,
where it came from.
It no longer has the form it had,
but it’s still water.
The essence is the same.
This giving up is not a repenting.
It’s a deep honoring of yourself.
When the ocean comes to you as a lover,
marry, at once, quickly,
for God’s sake!
Don’t postpone it!
Existence has no better gift.
No amount of searching
will find this.
A perfect falcon, for no reason,
has landed on your shoulder,
and become yours.

Has a perfect falcon landed on your shoulder?  What do you want to do with it?  Do you welcome it wholeheartedly?  Will you honor yourself, believe it, and allow it into your life?

Or are you thinking “this can’t be real if it comes so easily”?  Or “this can’t be valuable if it has come so easily”?  Are you believing that struggle is a necessary component of your life?

Where can you be more open to the rose gardens, the divine breezes, and the magnificent oceans which come to you?

Tags: fear · happiness · noticing · risk

Did you make a mistake or get feedback?

May 18th, 2009 · 2 Comments

pregnancy1Last week, the topic of mistakes and failures came up in many client sessions.  It was also a huge topic in several classes I taught.  “I’m afraid I’ll fail,”  “I’m afraid of making a mistake,” and “I can’t let go of my failure or a mistake I made in the past,” were the themes.

This morning a passage in Deepak Chopra’s little book, Creating Affluence, practically jumped off the page at me:  “In reality, there is no such thing as failure. What we call failure is just a mechanism through which we can learn to do things right. . . . This is the principle of feedback.”

There’s nothing really new in the concept that “there is no such thing as failure” or “there are no mistakes,” but I got really excited when I read this.  A huge light flashed on for me:  I have a whole new way to conceptualize setbacks, mistakes, and failures—it’s FEEDBACK.

I’ve spent plenty of time wrestling with being fearful about mistakes, and having utterly no tolerance for my own. When I was beginning my own deep inner work, I remembered that my dear mother (who passed away when I was in my early twenties, so I don’t think she’ll mind my sharing this now) had told me when I was about ten years old that I was “a mistake.”

This was intended to impress upon me the importance, in her view, of not having sex before marriage.  But that’s not what I got from it.  I think that I somehow internalized this message and was extremely intolerant and fearful of making mistakes.  I was dedicated to avoiding mistakes at all costs.

And, even though I’ve made light years of progress in my personal “mistake and failure acceptance,” I’ve never had much of a sense of humor about it until this morning.  It struck me for the first time that I wasn’t a mistake—I was FEEDBACK!

The more I thought about it the funnier it got.  I was notorious as a child for being into everything; incapable of walking, I only ran. Some handful of feedback, eh?  The facts of life being taught to a young, small-town Southern girl, courtesy of a curious toddler who would never be still.  Somehow, being of such great educational value to my mother made the sting of her words completely vanish.

So thanks, Mommy.  Thanks for the lessons we taught each other.  Perhaps our journey together can help someone else.

And now, how about you?

Can you find any more ease, lightness, or humor in your “mistakes” and “failures” if you see them as feedback?

Could you look forward to your new challenges and activities with more excitement, more enthusiasm, if the worst thing that could happen is that you got feedback?

Tags: compassion · fear · laughter · self-criticism

Do Doubt and Fear Ever Go Away?

February 21st, 2009 · No Comments

darren-jumps1Is there a point at which we are so sublime and confident, that we can put ourselves into new challenges and not worry, not feel any fear, not have one thought that we might look foolish or screw up  or that our ideas might be rejected? Clients ask me this all the time.  I doubt it.

The diver pictured holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for jumping over 35 feet into a kiddie pool holding 12 inches of water. That’s right–12 inches of water.  His stage name is Professor Splash and I had an opportunity to talk with him a couple of years ago.  I asked him about whether he was afraid when he did a jump.  “I’m scared out of my mind,” he told me.  “I just jump anyway.”  You can watch him set a world record here.

I attended a workshop once with Debbie Ford, a multi-bestselling author who is physically stunning and super-poised.  She asked the audience, “Do you think I am never scared?  I am scared all the time.  I just don’t let it stop me.”

Doubt and fear seem to be widespread human responses to challenging situations.  After we’ve learned to see through our old beliefs, and we begin to develop new ones, those old thoughts lose their power to stop us.  I need approval, I screwed up, the world may think my ideas are wacky—these thoughts may still pop up again, particularly when we have placed ourselves at risk by doing something new, something that challenges our comfort zone.

We feel the old fears, and hear the old thoughts and worries when we take risks.  But we can recognize them for what they are—just thoughts.  And from this place, we can keep going. The fear and worry lose their power over us when we don’t let them stop us.  This is what it feels like to grow.

Tags: fear · risk · thinking

What Are You Doing “Just in Case”?

October 29th, 2008 · No Comments

I knew what I had to do today.  The thought was scary.  I was really, really hesitant.  Is this the right decision? Can I be sure?  What if I make a mistake?

I’ve held a license as an educational therapist for about 10 years.   I thought, “Well even though I don’t want to do this work anymore, I should maintain this license, just in case….”

Just in case what?  I’ve spent so much of my life doing things just in case.  Now that I’m on the Joy Diet, just in case is not a sufficient reason to do something.  Just in case does not come from desire, it comes from fear.  Just in case is, in this situation, a joy killer.

So I just sent an email notifying my certifying company that I would not be renewing.  Simple.  Straightforward.  Direct.  It was scary to push the send button on my email.  My hands trembled a bit and I caught my breath.  And it feels fantastic.  Clean, honest, clear.

What are you doing just in case?

Tags: joy diet · risk