Posted in Express Gratitude, Healthy Living, Take Time to Reflect

A Path Through the Dark

Overwhelmed? Finding a path through the dark means taking small steps.

Look in any thesaurus, and the synonyms for overwhelm are pretty awful: overpower, subdue, oppress, quash, engulf, swallow, submerge, bury, suffocate. Groan.

I think everyone has been experiencing ‘overwhelm’.  The COVID pandemic made even simple tasks like grocery shopping a fearful and frustrating experience. Whether the overwhelm is sudden or cumulative, chronic or acute, the feeling is one of immobility and powerlessness.

When you feel overwhelmed, tasks that used to take only 10 or 15 minutes feel utterly impossible. When we’re overwhelmed, making dinner becomes a monumental effort, but we can’t go out to our favorite restaurant because they are closed. After a year of everything being stressful we become overwhelmed. The hope that this will pass, people can return to work, children can return to school, has been crushed by months of endless cancellations, closures and conflicting information. We seem hopelessly mired in the quicksand of anxiety and the desire to have some semblance of “normal”.

I have always been a believer in goal setting and each New Year holds promise and I set goals for what I want to accomplish. Last year, two thirds of my goals were completely unattainable on some level. I felt overwhelmed that I could not fulfill even half of my goals. After surviving 2020, I realized that it wasn’t about planning huge projects and ambitious goals, but to setting goals that were personally enriching and satisfying. 

Celebrate those small steps along the path.

My biggest revelation was that I wasn’t celebrating any of the accomplishments I had made toward a goal.  I was too focused on the final outcome and my ‘too slow’ progress toward that goal. 

For me, the key to not feel overwhelmed, is to scale back.  I often set expectations for myself that in the long term are not sustainable.  All my big goals were waiting and the path to get there seemed like a road under construction, orange barrels and stalled traffic. Until I read the book, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything.  In the book the author, BJ Fogg, promotes the idea of setting tiny goals that can be easily accomplished and celebrated.  My biggest takeaway was that I wasn’t celebrating any of the accomplishments I had made toward a goal.  I was too focused on the final outcome and my too slow progress toward that goal. 

I simplified my goals into categories like Health, instead of lose 10 pounds this month. In the Health category I had: Take Vitamins, Drink Water, Walk, Track food . When I accomplish just one thing in that category, I count that as a success.   Tiny habits helped me to not feel overwhelmed because I was able to accomplish and celebrate my small steps toward being healthy every day.  It was as simple as star on the calendar for each day I completed the tiny habit. It encouraged me to see how many stars I could get in a month and feeling like I wasn’t overwhelmed but, instead smiling at a whole calendar filled with stars.

In the shadows of the COVID pandemic I learned a couple of things.  First, is to appreciate the small things in life. The time with family and friends is something I took for granted and now I make time for connecting even if it is a Zoom call.  I celebrate my small achievements toward bigger goals and try not to focus on my slow progress.  Secondly, I am grateful for the everyday beauty of the world around me.  The spectacular sunset or brilliant stars on a cold winter’s night or the silence of falling snow are a moment in time that will repeat but never be the same.  I am grateful that I can enjoy them in that moment and I feel at peace, not overwhelmed.

Posted in Discover Your Purpose, Take Time to Reflect

Journaling to Grow and Thrive

It’s very strange, but the mere act of writing anything is a help .

Katherine Mansfield

As long as there has been something to write on, humans have been keeping journals. You could even say that the earliest cave drawings were journals—capturing the events of a hunt, drawing pictographs that related stories, creating images of the sacred.

A journal is a way of recording and reflecting on your inner life. It is a way of expressing yourself freely, trying out outrageous ideas, tapping into inner wisdom, clarifying thoughts and feelings, recording your dreams, venting emotions, tracking your personal growth, and delighting in unexpected “Ahas”!

A journal is a safe haven, a non-judgmental friend and a trusted confidante. Journal writing is good for our health; it relieves stress, can help boost our immune system, and improve our feeling of well-being.

There’s no right or wrong way to keep a journal. You don’t need expensive equipment. The tools are a notebook—whether a special blank book, a composition book from your local drugstore, or loose-leaf pages—and a pen you enjoy. You can use a computer, but writing by hand is more physical; it keeps you in touch with your breath and your heartbeat.

The only rule about journaling is “Allow!”

Guidelines for Journaling

Write as regularly as you can—at the same time of day, if you can. It is not necessary to write every day, but the more frequently you journal, the easier it will become and more productive you’ll be. If you can set aside twenty minutes or a half-hour every morning or evening, or during lunch break, and simply begin writing, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover.

The morning is an especially good time to write: your mind is fresh; your dreams are still alive. Practice writing your dreams down whenever you can.  Writing in the morning is a good way to start your day and helps you to focus.

Keep your hand moving. Write quickly and freely. Don’t stop to edit or re-read what you’ve written until you’ve completed the session. If you get stuck, write, “I don’t know what to write,” or “I’m stuck.” Repeat the same phrase or sentence, if necessary, until something else comes. Writing from wherever you are will move you to the next place.

Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar. Don’t worry about it being “good,” or “right.” There’s simply no wrong way to do it.

Go deep. Writing about what matters the most to you will give the most benefit. The act of writing about complex issues can help you to see a path through or beyond the surface and get to the core.

Leave your censor outside the door.  This is free writing.  Simply allow the words to come and let yourself  be surprised. In the words of Julia Cameron, author of The Artists’ Way, “The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” Have fun!

Suggestions for Getting Started

A pen you like to write with.  Pick a pen that is a pleasure to write with.  A roller ball pen is my favorite, smooth and flowing.  It sounds simple but try out some different pens at the craft store or office supply and find a pen that you really enjoy writing with.

Begin with a few chosen words. “Today I…,” “I feel…,” “I want…,” “I don’t know…” or “I remember….” Just follow your pen. It won’t take you further than you want to go. One of my favorite prompts is “What if”…

Favorite Quotes.  When I find quotes that I like I write them in my journal.  Some journals actually include quotes on some of their pages.  Quotes are good for writing prompts, allowing you a starting point for a personal mission statement or philosophical journal entry.

Be imaginative.  Write as if you are describing the world to someone that is blind or deaf. Describe the weather, your room, or the sounds you hear. Let it lead you somewhere. Remember this is a no judgement zone.

Explore the positive along with the negative. Celebrate yourself and your life as well as venting your emotions.  Venting your emotions on paper is a good way to purge your feelings and not let them build up to toxic levels.

Date your entry. This will keep you grounded in the present and help you reference entries you may want to find later.  It is as if you are recording your history and by putting the date you can recall all the things that happened.

Journaling as a Creative Tool

A journal is a great place to track ideas.  Our minds are constantly thinking and making connections.  Ideas can be fleeting and a journal is a good place to capture them.

Sketches:  You may not believe yourself to be an artist but practice making sketches to go with your journal entries. Maybe a sketch of your ideal personal studio, or library could be included in your journal.

Photos:  Now that we carry a camera with us every day in the form of a cell phone, why not include a photo?  I often take photos of patterns or fabric that I like.  I include them in my ‘idea journal’ so that I can go back to them when I have a project that needs something similar.

Journaling teaches us to both trust and nourish our inner lives.  It is a personal account of who we are without the judgement of others.  A journal is rewarding and insightful discovery of your true self.

Watch for our next article on Art Journaling and Travel Journaling.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Posted in Discover Your Purpose, Healthy Living, Take Time to Reflect

Out of Time: Rushing Through Life

Is time on your side?

Do you feel like this: too much to do, too many places to be, too little time to do it all?

On the job, in school, at home, even in retirement, we are increasingly imprisoned by the perception that time is a scarce and limited resource. We rush from one commitment or activity to another and believe that we haven’t a minute to spare. We yearn for more time, yet we often feel anxious and guilty when idle.

Until we change our relationship to time, our lives will continue to speed away from us—at enormous cost to our health and to direct experience of ourselves and the world around us. “There is no issue, no aspect of human life, that exceeds this in importance,” says Jacob Needleman, author of Time and the Soul. “The destruction of time is literally the destruction of life.”

When we learn to shift time, our relationships become more rewarding, our time spent alone is richer, our aging is more satisfying, our work is more fruitful and our stress and anxiety are less paralyzing, or even nonexistent. To allow time to “breathe” more in your life, try some or all of the following suggestions from Stephan Rechtschaffen, author of Timeshifting, as well as others. See if your reservoir of time starts to refill.

  • Pause. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Han suggests taking a deep breath before answering the phone. Other conscious pauses throughout the day—a moment of silence before each meal, sitting in the car a few minutes before entering the house after work—help us to “come home” to ourselves.
  • Carve out idle time alone. Greek philosopher Aristotle noted that “nature requires us not only to be able to work well but also to idle well.” Just because you’re not doing anything doesn’t mean that nothing’s getting done! Don’t be tempted to “fill” every moment with a task. When you find a moment try concentrating on taking deep breaths to let go of the anxiety of being ‘idle’.
  • Live as fully as possible in the present moment. When we leave behind thoughts of the past or future, we can experience time more peacefully, says Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now. Release the past and surrender that you cannot know the future, but you can live in the present.
  • Toss your schedule whenever you can. Even better, schedule spontaneous time and then surprise yourself. Have you driven by a park on the way to or from work? Why not stop and take a stroll around it?
  • Examine underlying reasons for your busyness. What emotions would you experience if you weren’t so busy? What emotions are you trying to run from? Emotional work is challenging but essential if we are to stop running from our hearts.
  • Play. Whether you sing, play the ukulele, paint, shake your bootie—whatever—play helps us to step outside of ordinary time. Try something you always wanted to do, play an instrument, buy a dance video and dance just for fun!
  • Create time retreats. Once a year or so, choose to do something for a week or more that allows you to shift into a different rhythm—something where you can just “be” without the need for doing anything. Don’t be that person that won’t take their vacation time, saving it until they were forced to use it as if it were a punishment. If you can’t take a week, try an art class, a museum visit, a lecture at the local university something that can expand your horizons and give you a new perspective.
  • Spend time in nature. We can’t help but slow down in nature’s unhurried pace. Watching a soaring bird or admiring a flower garden can seem to stretch a minute into an hour. Try carrying a sketchbook and take a few moments to sketch outdoors.

We can learn to experience time more purposefully and meaningfully—so that it’s not an enemy robbing us of the joy of life. We needn’t be at time’s mercy. When we change our awareness, we can actually experience the gifts of time.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

Posted in Discover Your Purpose, Do What You Love, Take Time to Reflect

The Courage to be Authentic

What could be riskier than diving out of an airplane or climbing a glacier-covered peak or accelerating a race car into a curve at the Indy 500?  While these examples are pulse raising and risk filled, what about life decisions that we face almost daily? For me it was quitting a secure, well-paying job to start a business, 3 Graces Design Studio.  For another person, it could be deciding to leave a marriage after 18 years or reporting that the company they work for is endangering the environment or people’s lives.

At first glance, psychological risks that summon us to put our personal values and beliefs on the line may ultimately feel more dangerous than those of physical challenges. Yet these fundamental challenges that we face time and again are the essential sources of growth as individuals. Each time we take a risk that contributes to our personal growth or enhances our self-esteem or enriches our lives, we make the choice to stretch ourselves, knowing there are no guarantees and chancing possible failure.

Growth-producing risks generally fall into three categories.

Self-Improvement Risks

These are the risks you take when you want to get ahead, learn something new or make a distant dream a reality. You take on the venture with hopes of enriching your life. Maybe you want to change careers, or take ukulele lessons, or learn a language. On one side of the risk is the person you are and, on the other, the person you want to become.

Commitment Risks

Commitment risks have emotional stakes whether you pledge yourself to a person or a relationship or to a cause, a career, or a value. Joseph Ilardo, author of Risk-Taking for Personal Growth, advises that if you avoid making emotional commitments, you all but guarantee that personal emotional growth will be stunted.

Self-Disclosure Risks

Communication risks fall into the category of self-disclosure. Anytime you tell someone how you really feel you’re taking the chance of self-disclosure. When you open up to others and reveal who you really are, how you feel and what you want and need, you make yourself vulnerable. It is impossible to be assertive without doing so.

All risks carry with them the possibility of failure. Often you have to surrender being in your ‘comfort zone’ before any real benefits are realized.  Routines may have to change; the familiar may have to be released.  What are the benefits then, why take a risk? Challenging yourself is the key to personal growth and development.  It also allows you to let go of expectations or roles that don’t fit who you are or who you want to be. Tomorrow we will post a quiz for you to ask yourself some questions about your level of risk taking.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

Posted in Do What You Love, Honor Your Creative Self, Take Time to Reflect

The Renaissance Soul

Multifaceted Renaissance Woman

I come from a family of creative souls. My sisters and I started 3 Graces Design Studio based on the creative calling we share. We inherited our creative natures from out mother but, the evidence is in other family members as well; a heritage of quilters and painters, artists and film makers, actors, tinkers, thinkers and writers. 

The old saying: “Jack-of-all-trades, master of none!” reveals the bias against those who choose a varied work life rather than committing to a unidirectional path. There was a time, however, when society admired such a person. In fact, some of our greatest contributors have been talented in a variety of areas.

Leonardo da Vinci, painter of masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa, also designed and built bicycles, canals, musical instruments and flying machines. Benjamin Franklin not only helped draft the Declaration of Independence, he was also an inventor, statesman, printer, scientist, author, and student of French culture and language. More recently, Maya Angelou, best known as an author and poet, was also a successful songwriter, journalist, actress, singer, dancer, civil rights worker and professor. And she could speak eight languages!

Margaret Lobenstine, author of The Renaissance Soul–Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One, identifies five signs to help determine whether you are a “Renaissance Soul”:

• The ability to become excited by many things at once, often accompanied by difficulty choosing

• A love of new challenges; once challenges are mastered, you are easily bored

• A fear of being trapped in the same career or activity for life

• A pattern of quick, sometimes unsatisfying flings with many hobbies

• A successful career that has left you bored or restless

There is Nothing Wrong with You

People who recognize themselves in that description often feel that something is wrong with them, that they’re not normal. They may be accused of an unwillingness to grow up. They may be called irresponsible, a dilettante, or told they have Attention Deficit Disorder.

If you fit the above criteria, take heart. Support is available to help you embrace your strengths and stop trying to fit into the mold of someone you are not. In fact, your traits make you an ideal candidate for work that requires flexibility, adaptability to change, and a broad skill base. Renaissance Souls are often ideal entrepreneurs since they typically wear many hats in their own business. Public relations, marketing, consulting and project management are other good choices. Because of their multifaceted abilities, they may also adapt better in today’s shifting financial climate and global economy. What’s more, their passionate nature and curiosity are truly an asset in any arena!

How to Handle Your Passions

In her book Refuse to Choose: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love, career counselor Barbara Sher provides dozens of tools for dealing with a multiplicity of passions and also divides what she calls “Scanners” into nine categories. The “Double Agent” is torn between two interests, while the “Sybil” is drawn to so many things that she’s often unable to choose anything. The “Serial Specialist” and “Serial Master” often stick with one career or project for many years until they’ve gained all they desire from it, and then move on to master different occupations. Understanding your type can help you recognize strengths, get support, and choose work that suits you.

Along with clarifying your core values, Margaret Lobenstine’s “Renaissance Focal Point Strategy” recommends choosing a “sampler” of four interests and then rotating them. For example, you might work on a new business venture, volunteer to teach reading in your local school, take acting lessons and study Italian. If you want to, in six months you rotate some of those out and choose others. That way you’re moving out of indecision and into action, honoring your renaissance soul, and accomplishing goals. A journal and 3-ring binders can help you track your numerous ideas and keep your projects organized.

Often all it takes is a shift of attitude to embrace your renaissance nature. Learn to honor its ways and you may find that your many talents lead you to a fulfilling, passion-filled life.

 Live Inspired!

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

Posted in Honor Your Creative Self, Listen to Your Intuition, Take Time to Reflect

The Call to Create

The sound may be faint as the stirring of butterfly wings or as loud as a brass band on Fourth of July. Or you may not hear a sound at all, but feel an urging, an inner pull, a sense of excitement and longing that resonates from within. This is the call to create, and it is universal, bidding each of us to bring something new into being.

“Creativity is the Self searching for itself,” said George Gamez, Ph.D., author of How to Catch Lightning in a Bottle. We create in order to express our unique visions and perceptions. We create to communicate and to form a bond with our fellow human beings. Creative expression helps us feel connected to the world and builds bridges of understanding. It nourishes us and helps us grow, provides insights and deeper understandings. Creativity is fun, exciting and playful. It relieves stress and releases tension. It provides a way of communication when normal channels may be blocked or are insufficient—when we must speak in colors and textures and shimmering visions and music.

Creativity is love expressing itself; it heals and renews. Our creations are mirrors in which others may see themselves and the signature of our lives that says, “This is how I saw it.”

Everyone is Creative

No matter what you may have been told, every one of us is creative. It is as much a part of us as our voice and breath and fingerprints. Creativity isn’t just about making “art.” Cooking, gardening, handiwork and crafts, keeping a journal are all creative acts. Arranging flowers or rearranging furniture, painting a picture or painting a room, singing on stage or singing in the shower—these are responses to the call.

Creativity is a way of living. It is being spontaneous and playful, exercising the imagination, finding solutions, and embracing possibilities and doing it all with passion.

Yet for all the joy and fulfillment it brings, some resist the call to be creative. In our culture the ideas that “Time is money” and “Art is frivolous” hold certain sway, and old messages such as, “Stay inside the lines” or “You can do better than that” have remarkable staying power. It takes courage to look beneath the surface of what we’ve been told in order to find our heart’s desire.

Creativity requires risk-taking. It asks us to surrender, to lose control and to trust. “Committing to our creativity is an act of faith,” wrote Jan Phillips, in Marry Your Muse. “A promise to believe in ourselves.” 

Honoring the creative Self means finding time, making space, being patient and taking the chance of looking foolish. You cannot care too much what others think or say. You must be willing to start over and stay with it; creativity takes stamina. There are no magical secrets or absolute rules. Creativity can’t be taught. You just do it. “Creativity belongs to the artist in each of us,” said Corita Kent.

Like the body’s natural urge for motion and the human need for connection and community, the spirit longs to express itself. So when you hear the call to create, answer, “Yes.” It is your self searching for your Self, a movement toward being whole.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications