Looking over old notes, posts, and even bits of coaching sessions with different clients, I see that the sought-after goal, the dream outcome invariably revolves around the desire for purpose and connection.

If you have been fortunate to experience connection in life. You know, these are the more positive, productive, happy times. Things flow. You are on top of the world. There is no thought of “should” or “can’t.” You just are. Opportunities present themselves.

I want everyone to experience this.

Connection is being in a relationship or association, which can provide a context or meaning. We often think of it as feeling loved, having a sense of belonging. This connection—having it or not—will affect every aspect of our lives, including our health. If the need for connection is not satisfied, we remain unsatisfied no matter what we acquire, ingest, or do in an attempt to fulfill our need.

Food, drugs, work, toys, sex, …—anything—of itself has its value and is not necessarily harmful. Taken or used as a substitute for connection, however, these things can become a weapon turned upon oneself. There is no substitute for true connection. A substitute will fall short of satisfaction. It may distract or comfort us for a short while, but when that effect wears off, we are once again faced with a void. Our results depend on how we attempt to fill the void. And how we attempt to fill the void depend on our beliefs—beliefs of what we need to have, to do, or to be.

This idea is by no means new.
This quest is a big reason that we have philosophy, religion, meditation, yoga, exercise, Facebook, obesity, drug abuse, etc. Depending on how we use these tools or anything in our lives, we will either be connected and happier, or we will continue relying on substitutes and just gain more weight, take another pill, or spend more time by ourselves, living vicariously through posted images.

The evidence that connection is the key to health is also all around us.
Studies have shown, for example, that
• A regular family dinner with authentic and caring interaction will have a beneficial effect on asthma patients, i.e. fewer and less severe visits to the ER;
• After having suffered heart disease, patients who not only followed the dietary restrictions, AND also came together to prepare meals as a group, showed marked improvement in health over a longer period of time;
• A Mediterranean diet leads to greater health and longevity, NOT due to the diet (as the researchers wanted to show), BUT due to the togetherness of the small, close-knit communities in which the participants live.

In our society, we are so disconnected despite all our “Friends” on Facebook, and our staying in touch via Text and Instagram. Being together with other people, face-to-face, and being part of a community is the first step. Please don’t misunderstand me; technology can be valuable when used as a means to an end, but it is not an end in and of itself.

First, go out and play. Step outside and be aware of who and what is around you. Stop to smell the roses, enjoy the beauty all around you. Make eye contact and talk to the cashier or the person you pass on the street. Do what you enjoy, or start a new hobby. Get together with friends. Reach out to family. Invite the neighbor over for dinner.

In this way, you will get out of your own head. Interacting with others can help you gain a new perspective. It can help you realize who you are. Maybe it will even show you in which ways you are important, how you contribute. Your friends and family members can learn from you. You can help them. You might even find some of your own answers by helping and listening to others. Interactions with others allow for new opportunities to present themselves.

It is like the old joke: Week after week, a man begs and prays to the statue of a saint to let him win the lottery. Finally, in frustration, the statue springs to life and speaks sharply, “Go buy a [bleeping] lottery ticket!”
Motto: If you are not making yourself available, opportunities cannot find you. Step into the game.

Next, change your beliefs—those thoughts around what will satisfy the craving of the void you perceive. I’m not saying this is easy, and it will also not be completed immediately, but you can see a shift instantly. It is like those optical illusions, you know, like the young woman/old hag, the two profiles/vase, or the one with the cubes projecting out of/into the page. Automatically, upon first viewing, you only see one aspect of the image. Suddenly a shift occurs and you are able to see the other image. Eventually, with practice, you are able to easily move back and forth between the two. And you can never just see one aspect again. This shift occurs because you allow a new perspective, a new belief to be your guide. Both possibilities were always there, you just chose to see differently.

The steps to changing a belief:
1. Become aware of the belief.
Reflect on where you are and where you want to be. What thoughts need to change to bridge that gap? What is your limiting belief? What thoughts keep you stuck?
2. Articulate a new belief you want as a replacement.
What will be your new, empowering belief? State that belief clearly.Keep the new belief present, visible.
3. Consciously search for evidence to confirm your new reality.
4. Build the case for your new belief.
5. Visualize the new belief working.
Very importantly, visualize the outcome as real—sense the difference. How does it look, feel, taste, sound, smell?

Keep doing this, and you are on your way to living the difference.

To help in this process, seek support. Surround yourself with people, who help you build your case for the new belief. Work with a coach. And know that it is a process. Be kind to yourself. If you are willing, you can make changes.

Being Between Heaven and Earth

You are like no one I’ve ever known,
Yet so much like me and everyone I’ve known.

Getting back to me through growth and change;
Loving you, loving me for the willingness to flow.

Led by faith.
Guided by feeling.
Striving to know.
Just surrender and grow.

At the end of May 2014, I joined in the celebration of a milestone for a group of people, who were all strangers to me. Not only were the people unknown to me, but the group and what they did was new to me, as well. Since then, I have come to get to know some of the people and the work of the group. In retrospect, I can say this was a big part of the unfolding of a new chapter in my life, a wonderful new journey—a journey to me—for which I am so grateful.

My new journey actually started at the beginning of May with the move to Florida and the start of my studies in Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine. I sensed immediately that I’d stepped into new territory, yet it felt so familiar, so much like home. It began to unfold slowly, but by mid-June, the pace had picked up; I was on a rocking rollercoaster ride. But I am getting ahead of myself.

On that evening, I was greeted by so many kind and interesting people. Almost everyone greeted me with a hug. “We hug here,” was the simple explanation as I was, again, folded into someone’s arms. I felt forced to comply. The hugs were mostly authentic, so that made it more bearable. Some people could sense my hesitation, and either backed off a little or leaned in even more. Thinking about it now makes me laugh. I was the test subject, bringing out each person’s personality. And, at the same time, I was very aware of my own.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love hugs. So what was bothering me? I didn’t know these people. Perfect strangers were pressing me to their chest, stepping into my private space. Within the embrace, I was pulling back as far as possible without being [completely] rude. That resulted in the leaning hug—you know, keeping as much of your body away from the point of the hug as possible—and it also meant that my internal wall went up. My message: “OK, you can take my body, but you can’t get to me in here.” Once I had a glass of wine in my hand, and some in my bloodstream, I was again, on more solid footing. I had let go a bit, and, besides, the majority of the greetings had already taken place… I was in my meet-n-greet groove.

At times, it was a bit surreal; the group shared some mysterious tight bond, and talked in code. I was an outsider. The word “cult” did certainly cross my mind. Yet some of the people were definitely interesting.

Fast-forward to today: I long for hugs and give them readily. I am honored to have a couple people from that evening in my life; I value them greatly. I have stepped into myself.

The hug has become my pick-me-up, my energy boost, my connection to others and myself. It is a moment to plug in and feel peace. Through this journey and my evolving, the hug has become my symbol for connection, for embracing myself and who I am. I welcome and embrace the hug. Actively connecting to others and myself, seeking more. Embracing. Being open. Learning. Accepting. Growing.

 

Some learning from this week:

Using the memory of being supported and safe, floating in the ocean’s embrace, I am learning to embrace the ease of the flow in my life and my deserving nature. The ocean teaches me to relax and surrender into it; struggle and resistance will cause me to sink. One cannot grab onto a handful of water. However, a calm, strong stroke with an open hand gives buoyancy and propels. Yes, the waves can be powerful, but I can learn to react appropriately. The wave taken head-on will most likely win—or, at least, cost me a lot of energy; I can either relax and ride it, or dive down and let it pass overhead.

Learn. Accept. Grow. Repeat.

 

Since moving to Florida, I have been on a whirlwind ride of discovery and growth. Mostly it feels as if I have just shed old, worn out skin, or thrown off a layer of armor that is no longer needed. I’m still peeling off layers. Some of the shiny new, fresh skin is peeking through, glowing bright. That’s me, stretching toward the light, reaching out to give you a hug.

 

Embrace the Now.
Embrace the Feminine.
Embrace the Flail.
Embrace the Passion.
Embrace the Power.
Embrace the Lesson.
Embrace the Love.
Embrace Life.

 

As we age and move through different stages of life, our focus can shift. We might change our goals, our friends, our jobs, or find new ways to define ourselves. Throughout our life, however, some things do not change. Our personality traits, for instance, remain stable. What about our needs? Once we retire, do we still need to worry about Maslow and his hierarchy of needs? Is it enough to graze in the green pasture and leave the race to a younger generation?

For many of us, the search for meaning in life is not a new one. The quest is also not new to our lifetime. Over the centuries, religions and philosophies have evolved; Shakespeare asked, “To be or not to be…”; and motivational workshops and coaching businesses are booming—all with the goal of helping us decipher the puzzle and decode our purpose.

Even in the thick of things, when life is full of tasks, challenges, to-do lists, goals, and deadlines, we sometimes feel a lack of purpose. We are busy responding to others’ needs, we are doing our job, we are raising our kids, we are moving ahead in our career, we are celebrating successes—even then, we can feel lost or disconnected from meaningfulness.

What about after all these tasks are completed, the kids are raising their own kids, the deadlines belong to someone else, and seemingly, so does the success…and the purpose. Increasingly, we are living longer. To what end?

Every week, I have the opportunity to meet one or two people to whom I administer a psychological test battery. My patients are in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Each has her own story. Some are recovering from surgery or an illness, some are struggling to regain the ability to take care of their own daily tasks or to walk up two steps or down the hallway again, but they are all learning to cope with varying degrees of depression.

The test battery I administer is not a walk in the park; it can take up to three and a half hours, it challenges one’s memory, logic, some specific brain functions, and general intelligence. Although some of the tests can be uncomfortable in pointing out weaknesses—lack of memory especially can be painful—my patients often brighten up during my visit. A woman told me that she was glad to undergo the test, because Sunday afternoons are otherwise so lonely.

Recently, two people in particular, struck a cord in me. Both are relatively fit, have their wits about them, are painfully aware of faltering memory, are lonely, and are waiting for life to end. Their financial situation allows them the comfort of a private room in a clean and well-run facility. Physical needs are met, but emotional and social ones remain woefully neglected. It is human interaction and purpose that is lacking. The gentleman said it so succinctly, “I can no longer contribute.”

Where is the disconnect? How is this happening? What can be done? How can they contribute? With whom could they connect? 

I feel confident that this is not conscious abandonment, and there are luckily many happy exceptions to this end-of-life wasteland. Broad individual differences exist. On a societal level, however, a number of factors can contribute to this current situation: geographical mobility, smaller families, economic pressures, perhaps even technology and a change in the amount of face-to-face time we expect to spend with family members, to name just a few. These are just speculations on my part. I can only guess. I know neither the cause, nor the solution. Likely, a number of solutions will be needed, depending on the circumstances and the angle of attack.

For my part, I do not know what I can do. A suspicion is creeping in that I personally will ponder the situation, delicately disentangle myself, and slink back into my sideline life. Yes, the emotions I felt—the sadness, guilt, disappointment—will surge up at various times, triggered by a sight or a memory, and I will let it sink back down. After all, what could I do to make a change? How can I help these people connect and contribute?

Perhaps the act of putting this in writing, inviting others to look and ponder, will lead to ideas and actions of others. It might even embolden me to feel that I can do something, however small, to make a difference.

 

The communication model shows us the flow of messages and feedback. To be considered is also the context and culture of the sender and the receiver. Additionally, we always contend with noise.

Noise can be internal, such as lack of attention. It can be external, like the loud honking of a horn or the sight of an attractive person walking past. Noise can also be semantic. Yes, even though we may  both be using the English language, we cannot rely on a 100% agreement as to meanings.

I want to touch on internal noise today. Sometimes it takes the form of self-talk.

Self-talk can be negative or positive.

Very often we don’t even realize we are engaging in negative self-talk. It becomes a reflex. We are confronted with a situation and seemingly directly feel the resulting emotion. Sandwiched in between the situation and the emotion, however, is our belief in the form of self-talk that filters the situation for us and based upon which we (often unintentionally) create our reaction.

Our belief about the situation and its consequences for us acts as a filter, a framework or roadmap for our behaviors and feelings.

For example, your girlfriend tells you that she wants to end the relationship. Depending on your belief/self-talk you could react in several ways.

  1. Perhaps you believe, “Whew, what a relief. Now I don’t have to break up with her.” This would result in a positive emotional consequence.
  2. Or you believe, “I wish she would change her mind. This is not what I want, but I know I will be ok. I will miss her, but my life will go on. I can be happy without her and will probably find another girlfriend some day.” The result would be calm, neither happy, nor upset.
  3. If you believe, “No, she cannot break up with me. I cannot live without her; I am nothing without her.” Your resulting emotional consequence will be upset.

Since we “think” our belief so instantaneously, we don’t usually hear our negative self-talk, but we sure do feel the consequences! That makes it difficult to change.

So the first step is awareness.

First, it is important to understand and even alter your language around being upset. So, “she upset me” is not accurate. You upset yourself. Remember, it is what you think about the situation that upset you.

Second, it is necessary to understand the underlying assumptions that cause your beliefs. Stop and ask yourself about it. Why would such-and-such be good or bad? What is it that you think about it?
Become aware of your own beliefs.

Next time we’ll discuss the necessary steps toward changing negative self-talk.

Today, I saw several different variations on the theme, “Woman Walks Dog”.

In the morning, heading for the bus, I saw an older woman wheeling a one-eyed, older dog in a stroller.

During the day, I watched a woman patiently wait for her dog, who was wearing a coat, to finish sniffing and then move on to the next spot. The dog seemed engrossed in inhaling the world; the woman was paying attention to what the dog was doing and at what pace.

On my walk to the store this evening, I saw a very familiar sight. A young woman was walking her dog, who was pulling her in the opposite direction–toward another dog. The woman was talking on her phone.

Will this young woman go through all these phases with her dog(s)? Going from being lively but separate to more appreciative of the time spent together and cognizant of the other’s path to catering completely to another’s perceived needs? Probably not; but these three scenarios are often seen in human relationships.

This young woman was not engaging with her dog other than by tugging on the leash.

From my knowledge of dogs, it would be important to stay focused on the dog–and most definitely go to dog training classes when it is a young dog, to establish the boundaries and the hierarchy. A dog wants to know what the rules are; it wants to know how to win your approval. In order to make this reality, it is necessary to establish the guidelines of what you want from your dog and how to make yourself understood. This takes practice.

With a young dog it is easy to believe that the leash will be guideline enough. A young dog tends to stay closer to its owner. It all seems to work out with a few tugs on the leash–a puppy doesn’t put up much resistance. As the dog grows, gains in weight and strength, and acquires its own desires, the tugging becomes more of a war.

All too often that is also the way we choose to communicate with our fellow upright companions. As long as we are sure they are along for the ride (or walk), we take it for granted. If we notice that they are on a slightly different heading, a few words will pull them alongside again. We don’t engage with them enough or ascertain that we are both heading for the same goal before starting off. Additionally, it is easy to get distracted, dividing our attention and not fully engage in a dialog. We let ourselves be distracted, by career demands, project deadlines, other people, etc.; falsely believing that relationships will grow and develop in the desired way without our attention.

In a relationship, it is essential to take the time, put in the effort to build solid lines of communication to not only get to know your partner well enough, but also to practice expressing your own needs and desires. Additionally it is necessary to evaluate your partner to know if your goals and values are aligned and if you both are roughly headed down the same path.

This seems unimportant, unnecessary in the first stages of dating, when the chemistry is strong, the desire to make a good impression and the novelty of it all demand attention. The small tugs we feel–the slight differences in direction–don’t make much of an impression compared to the fun and excitement.

Eventually, however, once the honeymoon phase if over, the demands of daily life once again push to the forefront, diminishing your time and attention spent on the relationship. To retain and perhaps even strengthen a relationship, it is crucial that strong communication patterns have already been established.

It remains important to continue investing in the relationship. After all, you do enjoy spending time with your partner, right?! So, just like the young woman with the pulling dog, both of them would have found more pleasure on the walk and with each other not only with established guidelines of going on a walk, but also engaging with each other.

Yes, we are all busy, but what is your relationship worth to you?

Take time to get to know a new someone special. Evaluate values and goals, etc to see if enough common ground is there. Build healthy patterns of communication.
Schedule and spend time with your partner and other important people in your life. Get creative on how to fit it in to a day. Be mindful of each other, communicate well, and enjoy!

This past week at the Letelier/Moffit Human Rights Awards Ceremony,  I heard Sweet Honey in the Rock sing. I had never heard of the group and will never forget the feeling I got hearing their beautiful voices.

One diddy really got me.

If there is light in the soul, there is beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person, there is harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home, there is honor in the nation.
If there is honor in the nation, there is peace in the world.

This is what I seek to do for myself and my clients: help keep the light in the soul burning strong.

My colleague from International Coach Academy (ICA), Mark Reinisch, gives some great tips in his latest newsletter regarding living in the moment (check it out at Shift the Paradigm.com). He also quotes one of my favorite books, Flow.

A couple tidbits that Mark mentions that jive with my thoughts today–movement, striving to improve oneself. Both of these help us reach our goals/dreams. Additionally, in my reading today, I came across the thought “find your life (by centering on yourself) and you will lose it; lose your life (by centering on your partner) and you will find it.” This refers to the interconnectedness of our needs within a relationship.

Again, it comes down to focusing on your goals, setting priorities and putting one foot in front of the other.

Trust that even if you (feel that you) get off track, you can refocus, set priorities and put one foot in front of the other. The journey may be like the Beatles song, long and winding. Look how successful they were, and their music certainly did not remain the same! It changed and grew in complexity over the years, they were not afraid to experiment or incorporate new ideas.

So, take care of yourself, do something relaxing, strengthening, keep your dreams in sight and keep moving toward them even if you have to wind around/over/under various rocks in the path–the sweet honey is there!
This will keep a light in your soul.

As an update on my Habit post: yes, I’ve been more active. Tennis, a few runs, yoga. Today’s run was already so much more pleasant, I can feel the increase in condition. Very powerful (the feeling, that is).
I also just started a Spanish class.  So, my timeline for getting my biz off the ground is looming. I don’t think I’ll make the date, but I will get it going!

At times I feel like Lilia from Last Night in Montreal, skating through life, not immersing myself. In the past five years, I’ve been in constant change. I feel as if I’m not finding friends, I’m also not as certain about myself sometimes, do I know myself anymore?

With the passing of time, one does gain an understanding of oneself. You can usually not help but spend time with yourself! (We’ll leave potential perception-altering chemicals out of it for now.) As you go through life, act and interact, experience new situations, and perhaps even reflect and actively grow, you are able to paint a picture of yourself. Over time, you get to know yourself. And if you spend time with others, they get to know you.

To build a relationship (friendship or intimate), this time is necessary. This is something for which we truly do not have the time to hurry it along! Only the test of time will build a strong foundation.

In the dating world, especially, we feel rushed to make a choice. Between work and errands, we barely have enough time to squeeze in time for friends or hobbies. In speed dating rounds, we learn to follow our first impressions to weed out the “chaff”. These impressions are formed by our experiences. So, if we notice something about a potential date that is similar to that person from last year that was so annoying… we’ve already drawn our conclusion. Perhaps it was a sound decision. Perhaps we really had no chemistry with that person. Perhaps, though, that one something came with such a different package that it is fine after all. We’ll never know, though.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not advocating that we spend loads of time getting to know everyone and their uncle! And there will also be persons, with whom it is best not to spend any time. But maybe there is a way to focus less on getting that boy-/girlfriend, and more on getting to know someone as a person. Hey, it might even be a little less intimidating and nerve-wracking to talk to someone with no direct agenda other than to communicate, get to know him/her and also oneself better.

In our society it is very easy to be constantly on the go, meeting new people, experiencing new adventures. This is viewed as positive. I certainly do enjoy it. But what is the priority? New and shiny all the time or the comfort and strength one has with strong relationships?

If you are not in a relationship and are seeking one, yes, I understand, you do not want to wait, at least not too long. My advice would be to focus on “just” meeting and getting to know people (yes, you do need to be active), do things you enjoy, learn and grow, focus on being the best you, you can be as a person, and the rest will fall into place. In this case, I believe, a watched pot never boils.

So, put the pot on the stove, turn the flame up and ___________ (fill in the blank: dance, read, paint, do yoga, sing…!)

21 days. That’s how long it takes to form a habit.

That’s what I need to do. Form some positive habits. I always seem to know what I should be doing and actually even like those things. What keeps me from following through on consistently doing things that I want to do for myself?

I want to exercise regularly. I want to eat healthfully. (I am one of those people, who really likes healthy foods.) I want to work on building my coaching business. I want to keep in touch with friends. I want to read regularly. I want to take classes, but I don’t know what classes.

Ahhh! That is part of the problem. I don’t know what I want to do.

Recently I keep coming back to my plan from 2008: becoming a life coach. Now it is more defined as Life and Cultural Transition Coach. I can do trainings and workshops. So, what is stopping me?

Do I not believe in myself? Is it my financial situation? Am I afraid of failure?
All of the above?

I lack confidence in my self discipline.

Hmmm. So if I do manage to follow through on the things I really want to implement, the things I want to make habit, I will prove to myself that I can do it, I have what it takes.

Which things will I choose?

Exercise.
Time for myself and my life.

Now I need a plan with SMART goals.
I’m already telling others about it.

I’ll let you know how it goes.