Monday, 31 October 2011

Bedtime Story: Wings by Meghan Genge

white feather web 

When she gave herself time to sit and think about it, she wondered if perhaps there were other people who also had them. They were a bit of a nuisance at times. Sleeping on her back had become a distant, hazy memory. When she drove her car she had to put the seat so far back to get herself in that the seat belt barely reached around her. On every journey she could feel them straining against the leather. They wanted to know why she bothered driving at all.

The longer she had them, the bigger and brighter they seemed to get. But that wasn't all. They had begun to get demanding. "Fly," they would whisper whenever she chose to walk somewhere.

"I can't," she'd whisper back through gritted teeth. "People aren't supposed to fly. I'd attract too much attention."

"Fly!" They demanded as she waited in long lines. "Fly!" They would sing as she ran through the park.

But she could not listen to them. People didn't fly. People were supposed to stay with their feet firmly on the ground.

But sometimes, late at night when the world was asleep, she would take off the disguise of ordinary human clothing and let them out for a stretch. Then and only then they would dream together of everything she could be. Her dreams dripped from the tips of them in swirls of colour and ink and light. In the privacy of her room she existed in a world of possibility and potential. Then, creativity appeased, they would fly together as high as the moon and laugh at all of the ways that she had tried to keep herself small.

In the morning she would pretend again that they weren't there. Occasionally she thought she glimpsed a pair under the clothes of a stranger, but she realized that other people must be as good at hiding them as she was.

Someday maybe she would be brave enough to show them to the world. Someday maybe she would show everyone else the way. But in the meantime she would keep them to herself, no matter how much they whispered, no matter how much they itched and no matter how much they wanted her to fly.

She would keep her secret because she remembered a time that was much, much worse. She could remember a time when they hadn't realized that they were there at all.

xo megg

Megg is a writer, a seeker and a believer in magic.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Am I following my bliss if I don't feel blissful? by Kelly Besecke

Many of us who are following a creative calling resonate with Joseph Campbell's advice to "follow your bliss." But following your bliss doesn't always feel blissful. How do you know when you're on the right track and when it's time to rethink?

I used to be a professor, and now I'm involved with online communities of people who pursued an academic calling and for different reasons are reconsidering that path. Many of these people have come to resent the "follow your bliss" mantra. It was given to them as career advice, and many of them heard it like this: "You're passionate about French literature (or East Asian history, or ethical philosophy), so pursue that. Keep studying that, get your PhD, and a career as a professor will come together for you." They followed that advice, imagining a glorious future immersed in the life of the mind. But then things started to go wrong. Maybe graduate school was a nightmare. Maybe the academic job market was so tight that after years of trying, they were never able to get a job as a professor. Maybe they were able to get that job, but found themselves miserable in it. Maybe they eventually lost interest in their field of study and felt stuck in a career that didn't speak to them any more. Where was the bliss they were promised? Wouldn't they have been happier if they had done something more practical?

Following a creative calling, too, can bring up questions about the bliss factor. Maybe I love making art, or writing, or singing, but to pursue it seriously, I have to compromise other things that make me happy. How much sacrifice is worth it? A touring musician might give up the stability of home and family to keep on pursuing a musical calling. An artist might work a string of day jobs that drain her energy to support the art that feeds her soul. A writer might sacrifice her personal life so that she can work full time and finish her novel on nights and weekends. An actor might find himself in middle age and without any kind of financial stability because he prioritized his unpaid or poorly paid creative work.

So what becomes of bliss? Is following your bliss a cruel joke?

The only answer I know is to use that word "bliss" as a kind of navigational tool, like a compass. We have to keep on returning to it, keep checking in, keep adjusting our course. We have to remember what following our bliss really means--to remember that French literature, or being a professor, or publishing a novel, or making a living as actor, is not the real goal. The real goal really is bliss: happiness, creative fulfillment, self-expression, and a rich life that nourishes all of who we are.

So we make sacrifices to pursue what we love--we take risks, we give up resources, we endure training, we confront fears. But we consistently check in with ourselves. Am I happy? Do I feel like myself? Do I have what I want and what I need? I know what I wanted a year ago, but what do I really want now? And if things feel off, then we adjust course.

Adjusting course probably doesn't mean giving up the things you love. Instead, it means finding ways to have all the things you love. So you keep on reading French literature, or teaching, or making art, or acting. But you don't sacrifice the rest of your life to do that--you remember that you're a whole person with your own unique human needs, and you tend to all of them. And you don't assume that there's only one way to be happy doing what you love, or only one career path or lifestyle that will allow you to do what you love. You use your creativity and your support system to make for yourself a life that incorporates all the things you need and love. It's hard work. But if you keep on adjusting course, keep on checking in with yourself and taking your needs seriously, and keep on making real happiness your priority, then maybe the bliss will be in the journey.

What are your experiences following your bliss?

Kelly Besecke writes about spiritual meaning, progressive religion, and authentic living. Her first book is You Can't Put God in a Box: A Thoughtful Spirituality for a Rational Age. She's a dreamer, a thinker, and an incurable idealist who loves singer-songwriter music, impressionism, and every dog she's ever met.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Finding your courage – Elephant Style by Becky Armstrong

Everyday in life we face questions, challenges and dilemmas of all different shapes and sizes. For a lot of these we just deal with them in the moment often without having to give it much thought, the answer often just slips off the tongue- ever wondered why that is?

The answer lies in our filters – have you ever been to the theatre and seen the stage lit up with lots of colourful lights, yet every one of those lights is the same colour it is merely the filters that are placed in front of them that creates the difference. That’s true for us, we build and create filters and it is these filters that feed into our life and affect the decisions we make and the steps we take.

So, what would happen if we changed the filter? How would that feel? What might be possible?

So where does the elephant fit in? Every month I join Jamie and people from across the world to create dreamboards (join us next month – contact Jamie for details) and all year on every board has been an elephant, symbolising for me the need to tred my own path and make an impact ‘the unstoppable elephant’ but this month he has had a little change of appearance an is pink! So as I journal about that I get a real sense that he is the same but with a different filter - the filter of authenticity, he is changing and breaking the rules, and his grin tells me that there is fun to be had there.

Courage for me is all about being who you are, completely, utterly and shamelessly who you are. We often go through life conforming, being who others want us to be or who we think they want us to be , that might be a parent, a friend, a employer or even society on the whole. If you peel away that filter of who I should be and replace it with who I am, what happens, it can be quite a scary place … for me it started my journey to self-employment and every day I consciously choose to be me, sometimes this means taking the harder option but that’s ok as long as I get to be completely authentic. I found that following my dream took me away from the ‘sensible option’ of a goo, well paid job that I was very good at and into running my own business building that up from scratch.

People noticed a difference, in fact one person called me eccentric, which really hit me and I felt myself retreating back behind my safe filter but then I realised am eccentric and I am proud to be that because eccentricity is simply a label for uniqueness, for creating the direction rather than following and for a place of curiosity – all of which are wildly more appealing than conformance.
So far, I say so far because it’s a journey and I am still very much on it, I have found the impact has been amazing, I relate to people easier, I can choose what I do and more importantly what I say no to and above all I get to be me.

So I pose this question to you – if you peel back the filters of expectation and are just completely you what is possible … why not be the pink elephant and make a statement .. change the filter, most importantly choose the filter and who knows where you might end up!

Rebecca Armstrong (CPCC) is a professional coach who helps people across the world find their SPARKLE … working to help them connect and achieve their dreams and potential through a range of workshops and individual coaching sessions.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Starting, with Fear by Your Side by Susan Cadley

“When we feel stuck, going nowhere--even starting to slip backward--we may actually be backing up to get a running start.” Dan Millman

Oh, where to begin? That is the question when faced with starting something. Especially when it's something you've started before.

I've been on a short hiatus from the gym and working out in general. The reasons why are not as important as beginning again, in the now. I'm careful not to admonish myself for not working out, it's just not helpful. Instead, I first think about getting back into a routine, I remember how energized and grounded I felt, and then I decide. I decide to start. At first I hesitate as my inner protector begins to speak, wanting to shield me from ANY pain; "you'll be so tired, sore, you won't be able to keep up with the workout class, blah, blah, blah ". There may be some truths in that little rant, however, it's really trying to talk me out of it to avoid either perceived pain, which is really FEAR.

The element of fear is meant to keep us safe from harm. Think about that intuitive feeling you have when you sense real danger. It’s a natural built in instinct. However, what is unique to humans is that we place danger on situations that may not be harmful at all. We do this based on our personal history, looking for evidence that something did not work in the past. In order to avoid feeling failure, disappointment, or sadness, hesitation sets in. Fear can stop you in your tracks from moving ahead.

If you’ve been thinking about starting something such as a healthy lifestyle, work project, an event, anything that feels big and overwhelming to you, look for these signs that fear is in charge:

  • Negative self defeating talk – “you can’t do that, it’s too hard, you’ve failed before”
  • Procrastination – “you can begin later"
  • Comparing – “other people have it easier, they are more talented”
  • Complacency - Doing nothing is a habit.

Here are some ways to get yourself at the starting line once you’ve decided to begin:
  • Do your research and have a plan in place. Name the main goal and then create smaller attainable goals to keep overwhelm at bay.
  • Imagine how you would feel if you began something you’ve been putting off.This usually results in feeling a sense of calm, accomplishment, increased self-esteem.
  • Gain support and cheerleaders along the way.
  • Write down your goal and post it where you can see it everyday.
  • Celebrate yourself for starting with a healthy reward.

Beginnings can be filled with excitement and fear, as the unknown offers a plethora of possibilities and fear offers only one; perceived safety. Consider starting something you’ve been putting off and open yourself up to learning and growing. And remember, even if you slide backwards, you can begin again in the next moment. Life is a series of starts. Be gentle with yourself and decide to start living even more fully, right now.

Susan is a Licensed Psychotherapist & Soul Coach and sole proprietor of Living From Within, LLC. Through counseling, coaching, creative workshops, book studies, and writing, Susan guides you to hear and live the messages of your soul.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Meaning of Surrender by Aimee Cavenecia

I'm getting to a place where I see effort as futile. I believe that the universe, the planet, the body; is intelligent beyond my understanding. - So why do I push to understand, or force to make things happen when I am a part of this perfect whole? I am this universe, this planet, this body. (When I say, I am this body, it doesn't mean that when it gives out or "dies" that I am no longer. It just means that I do not see myself as separate from the whole. I am infinitely connected & everything is consciousness. Everything is.)

The word surrender is moving closer to the forefront in my life. I'm beginning to crave it, & to experience its magic in layers. People seem to view surrender as giving up, as being defeated. They don't see it as a powerful choice. I love this quote by OSHO because it states that surrender is the ultimate: "All methods are non-surrendering, because a method means depending on yourself. You can do something; the technique is there, so you do it. On the path of surrender, you are no more, so you cannot do anything. You have done the ultimate, the last: you have surrendered."

Why would one need to surrender & how does one do it? Well, let's use my life & a few of the things I struggle with as an example. I have been diligently working on so many aspects of my life over the years. Some I've made great progress on, while other areas seem to only get so far. The feeling of "Why is this still an issue?" hovers over me at times. I remember asking someone I respect for their opinion on the problem I have with my spine. His answer was, "If you have tried everything, the only thing you have left is to believe that it will get better" (or something like that). What he was insinuating was, that I have made great efforts by relying on my chiropractor, but I haven't tried something simple as knowing that the problem will heal itself if I believed it would. - My excess body weight is another example of this. There is always a cleaner diet to be on or more exercise that I should take on. But something as simple as listening to my body & befriending it, as well as loving it unconditionally never seems to be the answer.
"Let go. Listening to something is an act of surrender." - Brian Eno
So we can see the importance of stopping the fight if we wish to attain peace, peace with ourselves & all that we view as outside of ourselves. But one can not have a surrender method. They can't buy a "How to Surrender & Win the War" book that lays it all out for them. It just is for them. It's happening. The person hasn't given up, they've opened up. They have chosen to expand, to encompass, & to trust. To be moved & to be one, with all that is & by all that is.

OSHO says it beautifully: "You cannot ask how to surrender; the very question is absurd. How can you ask how to surrender? Can you ask how to love? Either there is love or there is not, but you cannot ask how to love. […] Love is being totally open, vulnerable. It is dangerous. You become insecure. We cannot ask how to love, we cannot ask how to surrender. It happens! Love happens, surrender happens. Love & surrender are deeply one. But what is it? And if we cannot know how to surrender, at least we can know how we are maintaining ourselves from surrendering, how we are preventing ourselves from surrendering. That can be known & that is helpful."

There is a fine line between action & non-action. If you choose to not act, you are actually doing something. Let's use creativity as an example. Or dancing as an example. Or loving as an example. You decide to let go & it happens. Erich Fromm says, "Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties". - When I dance, I dance best when I totally let go. When I love, I love greatest when I am unconditional. - In both cases I have let go of all expectations.
"The creative process is a process of surrender, not control." - Julia Cameron
Another great example of letting go of expectations, believing & finding strength in surrender is Kung-Fu Panda. Yes, you read that right. The children's film based on a chubby panda bear that works at a noodle shop & is chosen to be a Dragon Warrior. There is a scene in the middle of the film were Shifu (played by Dustin Hoffman) is having a serious conversation with Master Oogway (played by Randall Duk Kim).

Here is a bit of the dialogue:

Shifu: The Panda?! That panda is not the Dragon Warrior, he wasn't even meant to be here! It was an accident.
Master Oogway: There are no accidents.
Shifu: Yes, I know. You've said that already, twice.
Master Oogway: Well, that was no accident either.
Shifu: Thrice.
Master Oogway: The Panda will never fulfill his destiny, nor you yours. Until you let go of the illusion of control.
Shifu: Illusion?
Master Oogway: Yes. Look at this tree. I can not make it blossom when it suits me, nor make it bear fruit before it's time.
Shifu: But there are things we can control. I can control when the fruit will fall & I can control where to plant the seed. That is no illusion! [Shifu swiftly karate chops the tree & fruit falls to the ground, - & on his head.]
Master Oogway: Ah, yes. But no matter what you do that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple, or an orange, but you will get a peach.
Shifu: But a peach can not defeat, Tai Lung [the antagonist]!
Master Oogway: Maybe it can. If you are willing to guide it, to nurture it, to believe in it.
Shifu: How? But how?! I need your help, Master.
Master Oogway: No. You just need to believe.

I will end this blog post by asking a few questions & leaving you with a few more quotes (because I love quotes so much). Take these questions seriously. Take out a pen & paper. Write freely & allow your answers to give you insights.

What are you resisting? What won't you let go of? What do you refuse to accept? - How is resisting it or fighting it or refusing to accept it working for you?

Is there an area in your life where you are not trusting, not allowing, or not believing in? - Do you feel you won't be safe or you'll be too vulnerable if you do? If so, why?

Can you see how surrendering & letting go could lead to powerful experiences & a happier you? It takes the weight off of you & allows you to be free.

"Surrender to life itself and you'll just be rewarded with so many things. And I've been rewarded so many times, in so many mysterious ways. So I have no reason to be disappointed with anything." - Jason Mraz
This is a quote by Jasmuheen that I modified a tinsy bit: "Accept the perfection of everything that has been & now is, accepting that it has been our co-creation. It means deciding to be more aware & more conscious about how & what & why we create & then perhaps finding the courage to do things a little differently so that Grace can arrange Itself more powerfully through our life. We do this firstly by being a more awake being & secondly by treating others as we ourselves wish to be treated. Next comes the act of surrender where we sincerely invite our higher Self to merge us into the stream of Its love, & then finally to allow Grace to rearrange Itself throughout our life until all we feel is: appreciation & love."
"The greatness of a man's power is the measure of his surrender." - William Booth

Aimee Cavenecia (also known as AimeeLovesYou) has an extensive background as a professional artist. Her current work is becoming an expert in Seeing, Loving, and Being (SLB). Aimee has dedicated the rest of her life to studying this field and sharing her insights on the topic.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Wonder & Terror of Insider Art: Or, Why I Can't Follow Emily's Example by Amy Palko

Don't Disturb! Writer At Work

Photo by Amy Palko

The cursor hovers over the Publish button, my finger poised over the mouse.

The words had flowed easily, effortlessly. Spilling out from the tips of my fingers onto the keyboard. A stream of black type filling the white digital space on my text document.

And it had felt so good. An alchemical process of thoughts, that danced like dust motes in the late afternoon sun, metamorphosing into words… then clauses... then whole sentences that linked together to convey emotion, action, narrative.

The bliss that I find in the writing process is undeniable - my addiction of choice. The high I get from writing so much more profound and infinitely longer-lasting than the temporary buzz from one or two glasses of rose wine too many, or, when I used to smoke, the nicotine hit from that first cigarette of the day.

But sharing those words… sharing them is another issue altogether.

While the act of writing the words feels magical, instinctive heartwork, the publishing of those words often leaves me trembling. My heart quickens, not with joy, but with anxiety. The butterflies in my belly stir, not with excitement,t but with fear that in sharing my words with the world, I am leaving myself ever more vulnerable.

And it doesn't seem to matter if the words that I am sharing form a personal blog post, a piece of poetry or a fragment of fiction. The physical fear response is the same. The lizard brain kicks in and I have always been one for flight over fright or freeze.

I sometimes think that it would be so much easier if I just wrote, just revelled in the writing process, and left the publication of words to someone else.

When I was a masters student I attended a post-graduate conference on the theme of Outsiders. One of the panels I attended was on something called 'Outsider Art'. This was a completely new area of research to me; something I had never even guessed existed, the concept so completely foreign. Outsider Art is that which is produced with no intention of being shared with the wider world. These artists just opt out of the whole economic system of art and produce only from the place in them that needs to create. They lack that drive, that need to launch their work out into the world.

There are arguments that the great poems of Emily Dickinson are an example of Outsider Art. The majority never published in her lifetime - a lifetime spent mostly closeted away from the machinations of society, of culture - they're viewed by some as poems never intended for sharing. Small perfectly crafted parcels of words, held close to the skin: cherished, perfected, hidden.

And in this day and age, with our social media accounts, our personal blogs, our reality tv, we are being conditioned, in some ways, to share more and more of ourselves. Of our art, our words, our voice. Stripping back the veils layer by layer, no wonder we are left in fear of our nakedness, our vulnerability.

Yet, there is value in sharing our creativity, is there not? If there were no benefits to doing so, then so many of us wouldn't be doing it, would we? Certainly, in myself I recognise a desire to share that competes with the fear, the anxiety - a desire that stems from the knowledge gained from experience.

You see, I have shared much, and in return, I know that I have made a difference.

My words have brought laughter and tears. My words have evoked empathy, compassion and connection. My words have given aha moments. My words have stirred the soul and quickened the breath. My words have resonated.

This is why I could never follow Emily's example. I am not an Outsider Artist: I write from my place on the inside. The inside of networks of production and consumption. The inside of the vast networks of exchange, the ever-widening webs of communication. I write from the inside of me to connect with the inside of you. An act of courage, I believe, which is worth the risk of rejection, of ridicule, of potential repercussion.

And so, the cursor hovers over the Publish button and, leaning into the fear, the anxiety, the vulnerability, I click.

A true lover of stories, Amy Palko spends her days reading, writing and dreaming… well, that is when she's not being kept busy with her three children whom she home-educates! She is the creatrix behind Bloom by Moon, an online learning community of women exploring goddess myths and moon cycles through story, journalling, visualisation and creative exercise.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Staying with Your Dream When It's Hard by Andrea Schroeder

I am in the middle of a lot of different transitions.
  • I sold my dear sweet creative cocoon of a house
  • I am waiting for my new loft to be built, and living with my parents in the meantime
  • I started making and using my new website, Creative Magic Academy, but keep running into problems with it and haven't been able to fully move in
  • I have new ideas and projects in the works, getting ready for the next stage of my creative business but I don't have a lot of space to work in, or the kind of space to work in that I am used to

All these things in process.

With all sorts of different emotional ummm things happening around each one.

It's not easy and some days I wish I could hide in my tent all day each nacho chips, or give it all up and get some stupid job and stop thinking about creative dreams.

And I can't do either of those things.

I don't want to give up my dreams.

It's just that it's really hard right now.

It's hard to be in any kind of transition and hold on to progress on a dream.

It feels easier to just put the dream aside until the transition is done and then come back to the dream.

(You can substitute "transition" for a lot of things)

But putting a dream aside is like a Cardinal Sin of Creative Dreamers.

You've got to find a way to make space for the dream amongst the chaos or uncertainty or lack of space or whatever it is you are facing.

And that is my job today.

Making space for my dream.

On one hand this feels silly as my dream is alive and well but as soon as I look closer I can see that it's cramped and crowded.

I need new systems and practices for staying present with my dream:

Systems and practices that help me to keep breathing new life into my dream.

Systems and practices that help me to focus less on the cramped and crowded and more on the tiny bubbles of space I can find, until those tiny bubbles feel huge.

Systems and practices that provide for extra self-care and nourishment to help me move through all of these transitions with ease.

I started last night with my clothes. I've been here at my parent's place for 2 weeks and had not put my clothes away yet (!) I just didn't know where to put them, so I had them sprawled out in the rec room in the basement with the hangy stuff in the nice cedar closet.

So now my clothes have homes. And I cleared off a space on my mom's sewing desk to put my laptop and daytimer.

And I made an art station in the rec room. (And posted a photo of my first creative journal page I made in it) It's on the floor by the fire place which will be awesome as it starts to cool off.

I'll keep working on creating my space physically.

And experimenting with creating creative systems and practices for all of those other things. My ideas to start with are:
  • Adding morning yoga to my routine (have been doing it at night, under the stars, which is beautiful but I think more is needed)
  • Getting Havi's Shina Nata App and creating a Shiva Nata practice that fits my new life
  • Going for daily hour long walks
  • Daily journal in the park picnics (there is a perfect park just down the street with a picnic table right by the river - my parents live in a beautiful neighbourhood)
  • Daily or weekly scheduled time for creating new systems for my business - I know what these are, I know what I need I'm just not doing it and I know that doing it will make me happier
  • Using the Magic Potions!
  • Really fully appreciating the beautiful golden sunlight of fall

In short really - fill my life up with routines that support me in being more present and intentional.


Sigh of relief.

I can feel the chaos and overwhelm calming down.

I can feel the bubbles of space floating in already.

I'm excited to start experimenting to see what kind of life I can create for myself within all of these transitions.

I'll let you know how I do with this.

Andrea Schroeder is a Creativity + Meditation Teacher, Healer Artist + Magic Maker. You can find her in the Creative Magic Academy.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Tipping Point by Angel Young

I’ve been looking at fear - trying to look at it straight on, without flinching. God knows it’s scary stuff. After all I tried to bury it in chocolate, new clothes, books, for years just so I didn’t have to see it.

But now I’m here, facing it, letting the feelings surface. After all what scares one person is a no brainer for another - right?

My fears, it seems, are a jumble of social expectation versus desire, of seemingly inevitable failure, of financial insecurity. I look at them again, and the concerns don’t ring true, because in the heart of these fears are assumptions I made in my early twenties about how the world was made and what was possible. Those assumptions, we’ll call them hype, said I had to have a sensible job, and art, writing, healing could not fall into this category. Firstly hype said it’s impossible to make a living at these things, and when I said, ahh but what about Amy Arnold, Barbara Hepworth, Annie Leibovitz, Louise Hay, hype says, oh but it’s very competitive (ie you will not be good enough - don’t try). Fear and hype work together like that - they pull at your heart strings until you find yourself sitting at a desk in a sensible job.

But the world has changed.

Today I look about the world and I see that others are succeeding by following their dreams, that the world has made more space for dreams and dreamers. That I can write and heal and make art and photographs that people love, care about, cherish. Because it turns out these are my gifts, and there are loads of people who are really good at maybe, accounting, so I don’t need to be. It turns out that I don’t have to choose between a sensible life and any one of my passions, but they can all flood through my life.

So I’m updating my world view, and dissolving my fears in the process. I say to hype, you know what, there’s too much evidence against you now! I see the trailed blazed by others, and I’m seeing other people succeeding - and if they can do it, I know I can too. And that’s enough to tip the scales.

Angel lives in the UK and is having fun bringing more of the things she loves into her life.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

What Are You Afraid Of? by Ginny Lennox

When I turned fifty I decided to change lots of things in my life. I decided that now was the time to try new things and so I started a journey down not one but many new paths. One of the things I wanted to do was to ski. I had only gone skiing once when I was twenty-one and it was a disaster. There were many reasons I had not gone again but let’s say one of the big ones was that I was afraid.

My husband had grown up skiing and was thrilled when I told him that I wanted to learn to ski. It became his mission to make sure that I had the best skiing experience ever. If having the right outfit made you a skier, I would have been a skier. If having the right equipment made you a skier, I would have been a skier. If having a kind patient husband to teach you what to do made you a skier, I would have been a skier. But for three years, none of these things worked.

It was on the third trip out west, when it was obvious that I wasn’t getting any better, that my husband told me that it was time to get someone else to teach me. He had made this suggestion over and over but I was really scared and I didn’t want another teacher because I trusted him and knew that he wouldn’t let me get hurt. But this time I had to agree that I need someone else’s help. That was when I met Inga.

When Inga walked up to me that day she immediately told Greg to go skiing and to have a great morning. As Inga and I walked off together, she asked me a very important question, “What are you afraid of?” I told her that I was terrified that I would get hurt. And then she said, “Now that I know what you are afraid of, I can help you.” Her husband had been an Olympic skier and had developed a method to teach people with disabilities to ski. Within hours I was skiing down the hill unassisted.

Every time we met I got better and my confidence grew. I would love to tell you that I became a really great skier but that would not be true. But I was able to enjoy skiing and Greg and I were able to enjoy the experience together which was so important. We still talk about all of the wonderful times we had skiing.

I have used this story when talking to large groups of students to remind them never to give up. I used my story to illustrate that if you have a goal you can reach it even if it takes a very long time. I have used this story when talking to parents who were bitterly telling me that their son or daughter just needed to try harder and when they did their grades or their life would get better. I told them that when I was learning to ski, I was trying. I was listening. I was doing my best but I was afraid and I needed people to continue to believe in me and support me in order for my dream to come true.

I know sometimes it is hard to take that first step or continue to take steps to make your dreams come true especially if you are afraid. If you can determine exactly what scares you, it will help to make that first important step easier. It may mean trying over and over again. It may mean reaching out to a stranger for help. It may mean asking for help and support from lots of people. But when I think about how beautiful it was to be able to ski at night under the stars or how much we laughed as I fell down and quickly got back up to go down the mountain just one more time, I know it was worth all of the effort.

If something is holding you back from reaching your dream ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” The answer may help you to open the door to a whole new world.

Ginny Lennox believes that each and every day is filled with special moments. On her blog Special Moments In Time she encourages everyone to recognize and celebrate their own special moments. Ginny also believes that we are all creative and talented people. In her workshops, All About Me and Circle of Dreams, Ginny shares ways to discover your talents.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Path by Kim LeClair

has never been clear to me
seems to wind into circles and knots
takes me into so many tunnels and dark places

sometimes lights up
sometimes seems easy
sometimes feels downhill

the path never makes sense going forward
but always seems perfect looking back

the path, wide and open and full and joyous
and filled with friends

the path, dark and narrow and dank and dry
and filled with shadows

the path, from high above, an amazing pattern of perfection
the path
always always moving toward away through
Kim LeClair has been a shadow creative for the past 40 years but is finally deciding to come out into the light. Kim is In the Process of Creating her Dream Job....Creative Director of east willow studios. For now, you can visit her at one of her other adventures -- MoveJoyUs or fitness for mere mortals.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Selectively Courageous by Meghan Genge

"It's hard to be brave when you are a Very Small Animal." A.A. Milne


13 years ago with only a single backpack and £300 in my wallet, I got on a plane for England. I was so afraid to go that I couldn't even hug my parents goodbye at the airport. I knew if I did I would start crying and not stop all of the way over the ocean. When I tell people that story, part of me still can't believe that I did it - Me - the person who is afraid of so many things. The people I tell always shake their head and tell me how brave I was. I wasn't brave because I have more courage than anyone else. On the contrary! Instead I was brave because I had decided to be.

Fast forward 13 years and you have the same me now living in the UK with her English husband. Looking back I know that I was brave because I needed to be somewhere else to get where I needed to be in life. A great big leap of faith needed to happen to shift me to a different place. But that is where I get confused. Why could I be so brave then and follow that dream when my manuscript languishes in my hard drive because of my fear? Why could I throw caution to the wind and move continents but I am afraid to let myself write what wants to be written? Why am I selectively courageous?

I'm not going to tell you that your dreams need you to be brave, or that you must take that leap or any of those guilt-inducing sentences. Instead I am going to ask you to think about one moment in your life when you were truly brave. We all have one. Just being alive and getting through the day sometimes takes immense courage. Thinking about that moment I want you to know deeply that you are brave - you have proven it to yourself - and that you can call on that courage at any time. And maybe, when the time is just right and you are really ready for a big leap of faith, you will choose to be courageous and it will change your life.

Megg is a writer, a seeker and a believer in magic.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Listening to the Whisper by Michelle Reinhardt

I think that creating in any way shape or form is an incredibly courageous act.  It doesn't matter if that creation is simple or complex.  Whether it is a new recipe, a new hairstyle, a doodle or a symphony, it is all brave.  All creation is nourished from deep within.  Desires, cravings, revelations, hints, choices, inclinations all guide the way but most often it is my faintest whispers that hold the most richness and truth.

I've always had dreams. Usually they have remained just that, dreams.  Stuck in my head, not given much attention, not written down or drawn or put on a vision board.  Barely squeezed in between all that happens every day. The fact that some of them have come true is evidence to me of the power of giving even the smallest bit attention to those whispers.

I am blown away and incredibly inspired by those that create.  I used to separate myself from them and actually say "I am not creative".  Absolute hogwash.  What I know for sure now is that everyone and I mean everyone is creative in their own way.  I have been learning so much about the creative process lately and am blown away by how the creators dare to make it happen.   How they take the whisper or dream or yearning and turn it into the book or movie or masterpiece or chocolate chip cookie.  Fascinating if not a bit daunting.

What I have come to believe is that it is gumption and guts and pure desire that makes it happen.  Jotting down the dream.  Taking five minutes to doodle.  Making space to notice. Taking time to paint.  Just showing up if even for two minutes.  I may be wrong but I am listening to my whisper and sometimes it becomes more of a voice that says "oh yes, yes, YES!!!  I am trying to honor the hint of possibility and openness that comes from the simple doodle, the completion of my mostly daily morning pages, the new marinara sauce, the first blog post, the time I take to get quiet and listen.

So I am hoping it can be this simple.  Two minutes, one hour, ten seconds devoted to your dream.  One little itty bitty step.  It's all part of my experiment.  We shall see!

Wishing you joy and clarity and ease and giggles while dabbling with your creations!

Michelle Reinhardt is a seeker of joy and beauty and ease on a quest to create her most authentic blissful life and hopes to help others do the same.  She is fueled by the laughter of children, people living their dreams,  doodling and dancing,  live music, yoga and green smoothies.

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Canine Mirror by Becky Armstrong

Have you ever looked into a dogs eyes and seen yourself staring back, the depth of love and feeling that you get from a dog is boundless, their ability to show you who you are is unparalleled. They reflect your emotions so when you are happy your best friend will turn up with a stick in his mouth and a wagging tail, when you are sad he will come and lay a head on your lap and when you are anxious he will be unsettled and worried too.

There is nothing more special than that bond between a dog and its human and this quote really captures it for me:
‘He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are his life, his love, his leader.
He will be yours, faithful and true until the last beat of his heart.
You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.' (Anon)

This quote inspires me every time I read it. For me it captures the essence of love, the special bond of complete unconditional love we get from our pets.

We all need a sense of belonging, it is what helps us create stability and helps us be ourselves. The freedom to be who we are not what someone wants us to be allows us to be our best, confident selves. This is just as true for dogs. They each have their own unique and special personalities.

It continues to astound me that most people see this wonderful relationship as ownership, you own a dog! Ok legally that might be the phrase we use but ownership means that you can dispose of a belonging. I can take an old handbag to the charity shop, sell it on ebay or get rid of it, why does society accept that it is ok to do the same with a loving, living creature? I like to think of it more as a partnership or friendship, yes you are the care giver in that relationship but its built on mutual respect and understanding.

I don’t believe in ownership, I certainly don’t believe in pack leader theory and I 100% believe that having a dog is the most wonderful gift – a friend, a teacher and a companion all wrapped up in a furry coat. I rescued Mavis 2 years ago, she was due to be killed at the vets because her owners didn’t want her, she couldn’t have pups anymore so she served no purpose. She had been rescued and was so scared that she was growling and snapping at everyone, when I first saw her I feel completely in love, she literally skipped over to see me (despite being almost 15stone in weight and having horrendously bad hips), she has never growled at me and she has from that day never left my side.

When I need a break from work we go for a walk with the other dogs and as Mavis can’t play too long we sit together in the grass and watch the others play – there isn’t a business decision that isn’t ran past her first and I am often chatting away to her in the office . When I am happy we have dance parties in the sitting room, me dancing her wagging and spinning, when I am sad she rests her head on my shoulder and gives me a cuddle and with Mavis as my ultimate mirror there is no way I can be sad for long.

Lets celebrate the love and insight dogs give us!

Rebecca Armstrong (CPCC) is a professional coach who helps people across the world find their SPARKLE … working to help them connect and achieve their dreams and potential through a range of workshops and individual coaching sessions.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Treasure Chest of Your Past by Kelly Besecke

Some interviewers are truly excellent at getting to the core of the person they're interviewing. Not long ago, I saw an interview like that--the interviewer, Isabelle Giordano, was so thoughtful about her questions that she was able to get to the heart of the person she was interviewing. As a bonus, the interviewee was Johnny Depp, who's terrifically thoughtful. You can check out this 1993 interview here and here.

Midway through the interview, Giordano opened a bag and started pulling out things that she knew would have meaning for Depp--CDs, particular movies, books, photos, and other things that represented his passions or turning points in his life. He said "This is like Christmas!" By asking him to reflect upon these "Christmas presents," she connected him, herself, and viewers with his inner life, with what's meaningful to him, with the foundations of his identity and his creativity.

A treasure chest of meaning. What if we all had our own treasure chest full of life's gifts to inspire us and remind us who we are and what matters to us?

So I composed my own. What would be in my treasure chest? What people, books, things, places, and images would I want to gather together to represent the important parts of my life history?

Here are a few of the things I came up with:

  • A picture of Nepal, where I lived for three months during college
  • Tubes of oil paint
  • A photo of my oldest niece, who I took care of when she was a baby
  • A picture of Devil's Lake State Park, in Wisconsin, where I used to go a lot during graduate school to think and to get inspired
  • CDs of Bill Moyers' interviews with Joseph Campbell, which inspired my first book
  • Tama Kieves' book This Time I Dance, which was a spiritual lifeline when I was crumbling out of my old job and wanting to go in a completely different direction that I couldn't foresee
  • Monet's "haystacks" series of paintings
  • A postcard of my college

The list goes on--my favorite music at different points in my life, a couple of movies that affected me deeply, people who inspire me, things that have meant something to me.

If you like this idea, you could make your own list like this. You could write about what the different things in your treasure chest mean to you, and you could even gather everything up and put it in a box to leaf through sometimes for recollection, re-centering, and creative inspiration.

Kelly Besecke writes about spiritual meaning, progressive religion, and authentic living. Her first book is You Can't Put God in a Box: A Thoughtful Spirituality for a Rational Age. She's a dreamer, a thinker, and an incurable idealist who loves singer-songwriter music, impressionism, and every dog she's ever met.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Happiness II by Valarie Budayr

"To be without desire is to be content. But contentment is not happiness. And in contentment there is no progress. Happiness is to desire something, to work for it, and to obtain at least a part of it. In the pursuit of beloved labor the busy days pass cheerfully employed, and the still nights in peaceful sleep.

For labor born of desire is not drudgery, but manly play. Success brings hope, hope inspires fresh desire, and desire gives zest to life and joy to labor. This is true whether your days be spent in the palaces of the powerful or in some little green byway of the world."

Therefore, while yet you have the strength, cherish a desire to do some useful work in your little corner of the world, and have the steadfastness to labor. For this is the way to the happy lie; with health and endearing ties, it is the way to the glorious life."

                                                                                                 Max Ehrmann

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Your Biggest Obstacle Doesn't Exist by Aimee Cavenecia

This blog post is a follow-up to a previous post I wrote called What is the biggest obstacle you are facing right now?

I want to start off with a quote that sums up this entire blog post:

"Real obstacles don't take you in circles. They can be overcome. Invented ones are like a maze." - Barbara Sher

When I asked the question "What is the biggest obstacle you are facing right now?" Not one of my blog readers said that their biggest obstacle was life threatening. No one said, "I'm dying of a deadly disease" or "I'm starving with no access to food" No one was being chased by a tiger or was caught in a natural disaster without any sign of hope. Everyone said things that exist only because they were agreed upon by society. Credit card debt, self-doubt, getting paid for meaningful work, & developing self-mastery. How did these things come into existence?

Let's look at money. Money isn't real in my opinion, it's an agreement. We all agreed that something (a piece of paper) is worth something & we act according to that agreement. This is something we all created & agreed upon. We made it real. The same goes for the other things mentioned. We all created them & we all gave them significance.

The answers I received from my readers fit into four categories:

1) Paying off debt
2) Overcoming fear & self-doubt
3) Doing what I love & getting paid for it
4) Being more disciplined

Although there are four categories listed, I believe they all stem from just one: Overcoming fear & self-doubt.

If I use myself as an example I can honestly say that all of the categories are a challenge for me. They all feel like a huge obstacle. But all of them can be dealt with easily if my mind wasn't conditioned. Society & culture, we ourselves have created this conditioning & this environment. The environment has created a habit in us & that habit has created a problem. This can be changed if we view it differently & choose to create a new reality.

For example:

Paying off debt - I can file for bankruptcy if my debt was too much to bear. But then the fear creeps in of "What will people think of me?" or "What if I need credit for something?"

Doing what I love & getting paid for it- I can focus on what I love & try a few of my ideas out to see which ones create the biggest response. But then the fear creeps in of "What if I invest lots of money & time in trying something new & it doesn't work out?" or "What if people don't respond to my new business idea & it fails?"

If we look at a problem or obstacle what follows are the 'what ifs'. The 'what ifs' always seem to have the last word. The 'what ifs' are the real problem. And they don't even exist!

I will share with you four ways to view your biggest obstacle. These are empowering big-picture views. Views that can literally make your obstacle shrink or feel weightless. Your problem will no longer look like something blocking you, some heavy burden preventing you from moving forward. It'll appear as it is, an illusion.

View #1: 'What if' is the problem.

'What ifs' seem to be the culprit behind most problems & fears. 'What ifs' are nothing but unnecessary suffering. People hardly ever have positive 'what ifs' They always seem to be negative. Another thing about 'what ifs' is that they are always future based. (Which means they don't exist.)

"What are you worried about the future for, you can't even be in the present." - Ramana Maharshi

"The best preparation for the future is fully being in the present." - Ram Dass

Get real with yourself next time a disempowering 'what if' comes up for you. Is it a factor or threat at this time? Are you OK right now? Do you have all you need for this moment? Let it go & focus on the moment & on the things that really matter. Throw your 'what ifs' in the backseat & keep driving. You can take them along, but don't let them drive you around. You'll never get anywhere!

View #2: The answer to a problem is in it.

Let's use credit debt as an example. Maybe the solution isn't getting an additional job to pay it off, or borrowing money from a family member to lower the debt. Maybe you can call the credit companies & negotiate a reduction. Or maybe you can file for bankruptcy (who cares what people think!). What I'm saying is, don't look for solutions outside of the problem, work within it. Better yet, use it!

"In Judo the punch of someone else becomes the energy you work with to defeat them. You work with the energy that comes at you, by moving with it rather than going against it." - Ram Dass

I know this might sound really silly & insignificant, but last night I had a problem. The pillow that I like to sit on as I work on my laptop felt too low, too flat & it was hurting my back to sit that low & write. (My laptop sits on a small black wooden table.) All I had was this pillow like cushion & a piece of fabric that I was placing on top of it. I was annoyed at the time that those two things were all I had to work with (I don't like sitting on chairs if I can help it). But then an idea popped in my mind! Why don't I tightly roll the pillow & wrap it in place with the fabric. Sort of like a burrito. This was the perfect answer! This cushion was now the perfect size & height, it was also nice & firm. A perfect match for my wooden little work table. My back felt fantastic & I could write on my laptop freely! - The answer was in the problem.

View #3: The way out of it is through it.

Imagine a thick fog in front of you. It's so dense that you can't see clearly. All you can make out is a blurry vision of something. The best you can do is guess at what it might be. The way out of this fog is to go through it. It is the only way.

The thing that you think is holding you back, or setting you back, or in the way of where you want to go really isn't there. It's just a conditioning of the mind that can be changed. If you can just see through it, as well as work your way through it, you would be on the other side.

My knee is a great example. I was in a car cash in 1997. My left knee was operated on after the accident. If I don't exercise regularly I get knee pain. It may seem counter intuitive to think "My knee hurts when I move it, maybe I should be moving it more" But that is the solution! I had to work through the pain to become painless. Now that I exercise consistently I never have problems with my knee.

Don't be afraid to dive right in & work through the problem. You can't work it out by avoiding it. And sometimes the problem will appear bigger before it can disappear. Just work through it & know that you will make it through to the other side.

View #4: Action is the opposite of worry.

This is actually the solution I use the most for my problems. If something is bothering me, I have to do something about it. Either actively let it go or physically address it. It may not mean I solve it in one swoop, but it may mean I take a bite out of it. I show it who's boss so to speak. I am no longer paralyzed by it & it no longer seems bigger than me. I am chipping away at it. Things are moving!

"I never worry about action, but only about inaction." - Winston Churchill

"We don't have a problem, we need a plan." - Timothy Leary

When I heard someone say that Timothy Leary quote I thought, "Yes! My problem is not the problem, I just need to see it another way!" This kind of thinking is nothing but awareness. It's a higher level of awareness. It's big picture thinking.

I hope these views are in some way helpful to you. Just by sharing them I feel lighter. So I'm grateful for the opportunity to post them & discuss them.

I started this post by saying that one quote sums it up. I will end this post with two quotes that wrap it up:

"Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them."
- Albert Einstein

"The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness." - Lao Tzu

Use your problem as an opportunity to see how your mind thinks. Then rise above this current way of thinking & create something new. Hurrah!

Aimee Cavenecia(also known as AimeeLovesYou) has an extensive background as a professional artist. Her current work is becoming an expert in Seeing, Loving, and Being (SLB). Aimee has dedicated the rest of her life to studying this field and sharing her insights on the topic.