Life happens . . . and rarely according to plan. As a coach, I encourage clients to craft a dynamic personal vision, cultivate a sense of their mission, and use these to discover and articulate their unique purpose. But, when it comes to taking action, my advice is to plan for only a step or two at a time. Why? Because it is of the utmost importance to allow space for magic in our lives. Oftimes it is our need to be so very in control that interferes with our ability to recognize magic when it knocks on our door.
And magic most assuredly does come knocking time and again. Just recently, while healing all too slowly from two hip replacement surgeries, the most magical thing happened. I had tried everything I could think of and consulted a number of experts about how to ease the pain in my left femur caused by the stabilizing rod. Then a casual remark by a friend showed me a completely off-the-beaten-path (and, therefore, seemingly foolhardy) approach to the challenge. That single comment created a magical opening in my life and a new possibility. Today I am without any pain.
We've been taught from early childhood the value of having a realistic plan and specific goals which can be interpreted as the value of not leaving things to chance. More recently, as we have gained awareness about the power of our thoughts to create our physical reality, we are even encouraged to tap into this capability by visualizing precise outcomes and positively affirming their manifestation. Ahhhh, but . . . the trick is to leave room for serendipity. Affirmations and visualizations are awesome techniques to add positive energy to our dreams, as long as we can remain open. The best way I know to do this is to always include the prayerful phrase, "Either this or something better will manifest". The limitless possibilities that the universe may have in store for us are oftimes beyond our ability to imagine. By keeping the door open, we invite in magic.
Do you need to be a know-it-all? Do you need to have the end AND the path clearly in mind in order to feel at ease? Do you find interruptions and deviations from your carefully conceived plans disturbing or distracting? Well think again. Perhaps they are signs and messages about another more effective and more magical approach or possibility for your life. Next time you are annoyed that things aren't going according to your design, consider these words of Saint Augustine. "Miracles do not happen in contradiction to Nature but only in contradiction to that which is known to us about Nature".
So, how to begin to allow for more magic in your life? Here are 4 possible steps you can take.
1. DEFINE MAGIC - Understand that magic isn't about rabbits coming out of a hat. (That's simply illusion.) Any time a wonderful coincidence happens, any time something beyond the realm of your expectations or directed efforts occurs, it is an affirmation that magic is in the air.
2. EXPECT MAGIC - As someone wise once said, "Anyone who doesn't believe in miracles isn't a realist." (Actually, I think it was Einstein!)
3. RECOGNIZE MAGIC - When magic happens, don't ignore or reject it because it's not part of your plan or preconceived notion. Whenever something serendipitous or unexpected comes your way, open yourself up and make room for new possibilities. Flexibility and intuitive awareness are key here.
4. CELEBRATE MAGIC - Rejoice in your good fortune and bring to your life an attitude of gratitude. By acknowledging and giving thanks for your blessings, you invite in more.
5. My wish for you, dear reader, is a lifetime filled with magic and the time and wisdom to appreciate it.
Oftimes my poems and articles shape themselves around some provocative tidbit or other. Sometimes, as I focus on one small intriguing idea, I am gifted with ancillary "Ahas!" that seem to appear everywhere in the wake of my attentiveness.
In my women's group, we are, month by month, exploring each chapter in The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. Last month it was my turn to "lead" the discussion and the current chapter was on betrayal. I began to prepare for the evening by categorizing the betrayals I have felt in my life but soon realized this felt more like wound picking than worthwhile soul-searching.
Then came the first "Aha!" I realized that the times I have betrayed myself in word or deed offer far richer grist for the mill than any perceived hurts. I began to consider the times I have underestimated myself, criticized myself, stifled my creativity by doubt, inhibited my spirit through fear or anger or, in some way, lost faith in myself and, in so doing, held myself back from responding to what life might be offering me.
Along came the second "Aha!" In the The Four Agreements, I read that to be impeccable with one's word is to recognize and respect words as a creative force and to choose what we say and think accordingly. The word impeccable derives from the Latin root words for "without sin". So, to use words and thoughts negatively or critically is, first and foremost, to commit a sin against oneself.
Just this morning, the third "Aha!" graced my awareness. I discovered that the word confidence derives from "confidare" meaning "with faith." When we are faithful to our authentic beauty and wholeness by being impeccable in how respectfully we choose words to speak about ourselves and by refusing to betray our true worth/worthiness with insidious doubts, we become more and more SELF-confident.
Here are some ideas of ways to reflect on these "Ahas!" for yourself:
Think of times when you've said "I can't" or "I'm not good / strong / capable / intelligent enough." What have you stifled or lost in the process?
Play watchful detective. Notice when you choose words that are impeccably loving and encouraging and when you don't.
Practice again and again finding a way to affirmatively reframe negative thoughts and words.
Watch your self-confidence blossom and grow in this process of practicing appreciative SELF-talk.
Not quite. I take umbrage at such lyrics that would sing of our insignificance. Metaphorically speaking I would prefer to acknowledge our aliveness and honor our potentiality.
We are most certainly something more than mere particles of lifeless matter. I KNOW that in my heart of hearts. Don't you? Not that we're not blown about by the winds of life but what gets scattered is neither inert nor insignificant. Perhaps we might sing instead about our endless seeds of possibility alive with promise. Life teaches us that the energy of our thoughts and actions reverberates out, like ripples in a pond, impacting the world in both apparent and unseen ways. We do not always get to choose or control every place our seed takes root nor when it gets trampled on or destroyed by other forces (and, it seems, even that which dies becomes fodder or fuel for something else) but we cannot help but create and contribute to all that is or will ever be. Every step we take, every move we make has an impact on the dance of life for as long as we live and beyond.
Sooooooooo, what will we choose moment by moment? There are those who inspire (breathe life into) the world with their hope and compassion and there are those who would suck the world dry with their anger and doubt. Will we offer the wind the seeds of our courage or the seeds of our fear? Will we open our hand to allow for the scattering of the seeds of our joy or will the seeds of our despair escape from our clenched fists? That choice is yours and mine to make, each of us alone… and together.
Questions for reflection:
- What seeds will you offer the world today?
- What is the garden of possibility you wish to plant in the world?
- Where might you find the most fertile ground to plant your unique seeds?
Surely we will never be the same. In the wake of the great terror we have all just witnessed, it would be ridiculous to assume that we could ever simply go back to the way things were. And so the question becomes (remember the coach approach always involves provocative questioning in order to invoke our own wisdom and knowing) how do we move forward? How do we come to grips with all that we have seen and heard and experienced in order to find our next best steps? How do we create meaning and inspiration out of such devastation and despair and rebuild our lives from that perspective? Keenly aware of the preciousness and precariousness of life, what is it that we are no longer willing to put off or put aside? The words of Abraham Lincoln come to mind - "that these honored dead shall not have died in vain." And it is not only about those who have died, but also about the part in each and every one of us that has died with them.
Perhaps we've lost our naiveté. Most certainly we've lost our sense of invincibility. But what have we gained? From what I've seen and read and from the countless people I've spoken with perhaps it is not overly hopeful to say that we have gained a greater perspective about what it means to be fully human, responsive and responsible beings. Something grand and magnificent in us has been awakened / inspired (in the root sense of having new life breathed into it). The countless stories from "ground zero," from emergency centers and blood banks, from the streets of cities around the globe make me cry. I never knew I could shed so many tears. I'm sure you feel the same.
In Judaism, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement - which occurs this month) is a time when we name and release our sins and make amends to God and ourselves. In our prayer books, one of the sins listed is "succumbing to dismay." This is not about "being dismayed" - that happens to all of us from time to time. It is the giving in to hopelessness that is sinful because it denies both our faith in the existence of a Higher Power as well as in the existence of our own Highest Self and our ability to respond with kindness and love in each and every moment of our lives.
There are hard choices to be made now about our future, individually and collectively, and my sense is that we are preparing ourselves to make them as consciously and conscientiously as we possibly can. I'm heartened by that thought. I'm heartened by the vision of millions, even billions, of us reaching out to one another in deep recognition of our interconnectedness and appreciation for both our diversity and our shared humanity. I'm prayerful that, because we are now so very aware that we are all in this together, together we will find a better way. Right now might be an incredible opportunity for each of us to make this be so.
Namaste to all (Sanskrit for "I honor the place in you of love, of light, of truth, of peace. I honor the Divine place within you where, if you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.")
Recently, when asked what I do, I've begun responding that I'm in the "happiness business." Having spent the last year and a half studying Emotional Intelligence and the profound impact it can have personally and in the business world, I am convinced that "knowing, naming, and choosing" our emotions is not only possible but is at the very foundation of a joyful and satisfying life.
Happiness is a choice we make, again and again, day by day. This is not about being a Pollyanna. Rather it's about looking honestly at what is so, denying nothing, deciding what it would take to get to happiness, and then taking the necessary steps.
Ever notice how ordinary faces come alive and are lit up by a smile? That's because there is a radiance and attractiveness that are intrinsic to being happy. And, what's more, happiness is contagious. Really! Unfortunately, so is sadness if we don't "shield" ourselves from someone else's negativity. Biggest challenge is that, nowadays, there's a lot of sadness going around. People are not happy. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, refers to the rise of the "Age of Melancholy" as we enter the 21st century.
"...a massive survey of parents and teachers shows a worldwide trend for the present generation of children to be more troubled emotionally than the last: more lonely and depressed, more angry and unruly, more nervous and prone to worry, more impulsive and aggressive."
Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, p. xiii
Why choose on happiness?
It is scientifically proven that there are physical reactions to emotions. If our brain believes that there is a threat (whether it is to our body or to our ego), then we have a reaction of anger or fear, which prepares the body for fight or flight.
- Anger directs blood to the hands to prepare a person to strike.
- Fear directs blood to the large muscles, like the legs, to allow a person to flee.
Sadness and grief decrease the metabolic rate to give one time to adjust to loss. Happiness, on the other hand, directs blood to the brain, increasing its capacity for creativity and productivity. Furthermore, the emotional state of happiness inhibits negative feelings and quiets worrisome thoughts. As a result, the muscles rest, freeing up energy and creating a sense of well-being. When we are happy, the mind is able to think clearly, learn more easily, make wise choices and, therefore, our capacity for happiness is enhanced. So, happiness can build on itself.
Ultimately, the aim of Emotional Intelligence is to recognize the emotions that we are experiencing at any given moment and to determine what is needed to increase happiness. The role of a personal coach is to facilitate that awareness and to encourage action. I rather like the business I'm in.
Here are some very basic questions to ask yourself as you focus on happiness in your own life:
- How am I feeling at this moment? (KNOW IT!)
- What are the benefits / consequences of my current emotions? (NAME IT!)
- What would it take for me to be happy right now? AND What is one step I can take at this moment? (CHOOSE IT!)
- What would I need to do OR not do, let go of OR take on in order to make a shift toward happiness?
- By when will I take the first step?
The nature of life, according to Buddhist teaching, is impermanence. What causes us to suffer and drains our energy is simply our refusal to accept this fact. At the extreme ends of a long continuum of how we as humans deal with change are two diametrically opposed strategies. Because of our great fear of the unknown, of being out of control, we sometimes try to cling to the status quo, the safe and familiar, with all our might. The other strategy is to simply let go and go with the flow of life. Each possibility involves our "energy." But clinging requires a great expenditure, can be frustrating and fruitless and often leaves us feeling stressed and exhausted. On the other hand, allowing ourselves to be carried by life's flow can leave us refreshed and renewed.
Bill Thompson, the editor of Natural Health magazine wrote an editorial recently about a concept he calls Waterfall Medicine. "Often when we let go, when we stop battling, we're taken by nature's course, like water down a mountain, and end up where we need to be." To be in the flow means to be totally present to what's going on around us while simultaneously focusing and directing our energy like a laser beam in the direction of our intentions and commitments.
Staying in the flow is a lifelong process. Our task is to surf the waves that come our way, awake and aware, balanced and centered, prepared and open to the possibilities. Here are a few basic thoughts about how to allow change to energize us by preparing for and managing our response to the inevitable shifts/oscillations that life brings.
1. Embrace change as the very sum and substance of life. Find ways to welcome the endless stream of new challenges and possibilities that are constantly arising with a sense of anticipation rather than dread.
2. All change is stressful. A strong and resilient body is the best foundation for supporting change. Be committed to your own extreme self-care by taking time to eat properly, get adequate rest (including wonderful rejuvenating naps), and exercise to build strength and stamina.
3. Cultivate a resilience of mind. Be open to always being in the process of discovery and learning as a way to "grow" with the flow, to participate fully in LIFE.
4. Living successfully is about being at choice again and again. As things change, and they will, engage in an ongoing soul-searching inquiry about what you are passionate about saying "YES!" to and what you choose to say "NO!" to . . . NOW in this moment. Focus on what really matters and that which brings you great joy. Be willing to let go of that which no longer serves or energizes you.
5. Learn to be present in each moment. No matter the turbulence of life there is always a still center point of peacefulness. Meditation and journal writing and prayer and simple rituals and yoga practice and deep focused breathing are all ways to access a sense of focused presence.
6. None of us is wise enough alone. Seek out the companionship and support of others to help navigate through the high and low tides of life. As George Bernard Shaw said, "Independence is middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent, every one of us on earth." Turn that interdependence into your greatest asset.
7. Seek a connection with Source or Spirit - your own personal Rock of Gibraltar to sustain and comfort you all ways always.
As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens while you're making other plans." May you be blessed by the magic and mystery of it all.
the heart, mind, and pen
© Minx Boren 2001, All Rights Reserved