Friday I went on one of my favorite hikes. I love it because the half- way point is almost at the peak of Faggetto Mountain, at 1200 meters, or about 3500 ft. The view is spectacular!
I also love it because on Fridays there is no hunting allowed, so I feel safe and there are no gun shots, barking dogs and hunters ruining the silence of the forest. I’ve actually never been in any real danger, but it isn’t very pleasant with them around.
Yesterday was particularly quiet. Even the wind was still. I was curious to see what animals I might encounter because I am into animal totems. My longest standing totem and friend is the hawk. He has been with me for over 20 years now, and I have learned so much from his wisdom! I couldn’t wait to see what animals would be waiting to teach me my lesson of the day!
Well, about 1/3 into the walk, I saw a very clear wolf print, next to the prints of wild boar and deer…how I wish I could see a wolf in the wild! No such luck…only his prints and his droppings…thanks! Where were all the animals? Even the birds were oddly silent. No hawks. Not even the ever present crow showed himself!
I made it to the top of my climb and marveled yet again at the view. It’s almost like being in an airplane, it’s so high! I could see the new snow on the Appennines in the distance. Heaven!
I started my decent, still hoping to come across something alive (at this point, I would have been happy with a hunting dog! I’ve rescued a few lost ones on my walks.) Nope, not even a dog! Oh well, at least it was a gorgeous day!
The decent requires a lot of attention as to where I put my feet, since it is pretty treacherous in parts. As I was concentrating on the ground in front of me, I finally spotted something! What was that? A caterpillar! Are you kidding?! I’m looking for a totem here! Something significant! Something grand, like my hawk! A caterpillar?!
Well, I’ll take what I can get. My book on Animal Speak says that all animals have something to teach us. Something we need at this moment in our lives. So, when I got home I looked up the caterpillar.
Sure enough! It was better than a fortune cookie! Here’s what it said:
Caterpillar (good luck)
Good luck and new birth are at hand. Take a gentle and quiet approach to endeavors. Be realistic and shed the old.
I’ve been building my coaching business for about 3 years now and have just recently decided to offer Destination Retreats. My first is a Women’s Soul Safari in Tanzania in November, 2018.
I realize that my 12 years of international guiding has prepared me for this decision – and that it is time to stop working for someone else (shedding the old) and do it for myself. At first, I was a little frantic at the idea of doing it all on my own, but this little caterpillar reminded me that, just like on my walk today, I simply have to put one foot in front of the other, and quietly, quietly, I will get there.
There are always messages available to us, if we listen.
So, the next time you go outside (even if you live the city) I invite you to become aware of your surroundings and see what messenger (however small and seemingly insignificant) speaks to you!
A PERSONAL INVITATION
Those of you who know me, know that I’ve been meditating regularly for about 6 years now (and, irregularly, for about 30 years!)
My routine is this. I get up (usually because our 3 cats decide it is time for me to get up,) feed the cats (obviously!) and make myself a great cup of coffee (I live in Italy and have a professional coffee grinder.) This is a ritual for me. The Japanese have a tea ritual. I have a coffee ritual. The grinder is adjusted perfectly for my stove-top espresso maker. It takes about 5 minutes for the water to come to a boil inside and push itself up through the filter and cascade down inside the top half of the contraption. The smell (or “profumo” in Italian) is divine! I then take my cup outside (accompanied by 3 cats) to appreciate the view from the terrace down into the Tiber Valley. This is my moment to really give thanks for all that I have.
Once I’ve enjoyed my coffee, I meditate. It has become a habit for me. Like running. And like running, I had to develop the habit. At first it was difficult and sometimes, I really didn’t “feel” like meditating. Just like sometimes I really don’t feel like going on a run, but I just put on my shoes, and force myself out the door. Once I’m outside, and take those first steps, I get into it. And I feel so much better afterwards!
Same thing with meditating. I feel so much better afterwards! But there are those mornings where I am looking for excuses to skip my meditation because I don’t feel like it: “I have so much to do. I really need to answer those emails. And write a blog post! I should just get down to it!” Those were the excuses going through my head this morning, while I sat myself down in my “meditation chair” facing the bookshelf, where my Buddha lives. I was still coming up with mental excuses when I looked up at the bookshelf and saw the morning light hit the Buddha perfectly, illuminating his head. He looked so real in that nano-second. I could almost hear him breathing. And in that moment, I knew that there were no excuses for me. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, smiled, and meditated.
The Universe had sent me a personal invitation!
And I am forwarding that invitation to you. Give yourself permission to take a minute to be with yourself. Yes, start with just a minute. Close your eyes, smile and take a deep breath as you count to 5. Then exhale, counting to 5. Do that 6 times, counting to 5 each time you inhale and exhale. There - you meditated for a whole minute! It’s that simple! Open your eyes and see how you feel...and please share with me here!
I love success stories!
YAY! I don’t know about you, but those are welcome words to my ears! Why? Because it means I am done with work for the day – and on Friday – for the week! That’s when I usually go out with friends to celebrate the coming weekend. I love it because everyone is happy – well, usually they are happy.
Sometimes though, they aren’t so happy. In fact, sometimes, after a couple of drinks, they start ranting and raving about how they hate their job or their boss and feel trapped and, and, and….you know what I’m talking about…you may even have been the one ranting and raving.
Why does that happen? We leave work, feeling great because we are “free” for the weekend, go out with friends to celebrate, and end up complaining! What causes that fatal change in mood?
I’ll tell you. YOU cause it! What?! But it’s my boss! He doesn’t respect me. He treats me badly. I hate my job! I hear you.
Now let me ask you a question. What about your job do you like? Does it give you a decent income? Does that income allow you to do fun things on the weekend? What else is great about your job? Do you dig your colleagues? (that’s probably who you are celebrating Happy Hour with right now!)
Let me ask you another question. After answering the previous questions, NOW how do you feel? Better? Why? Probably because you were thinking happy thoughts, right?
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying you shouldn’t look at what would make you happier! But do you see the difference? Instead of saying, I hate my job/boss or whatever it is you “hate,” what if you asked yourself, “What, specifically, about that do I hate?” Or better yet, “What can I do to make it better?” Now we’re getting somewhere! Instead of being the victim, you are taking control. Is there something you can do to make the situation better? If there is – DO IT! If there isn’t, maybe it’s time for a change. Either way, YOU are in control.
Another thing – neuroscience has proven that we are “hard-wired” to look for the “negative.” Why is that? Because millions of years ago, when we were out there in the wild, we had to look for the negative (as in DANGER) so that we could survive! Our brain thinks that anything that “threatens” us (our boss) is dangerous (threatens our survival) and this automatically stimulates our “fight or flight” response. This in turn, stimulates our body to produce adrenalin, which we don’t actually need, since we aren’t going to physically fight with our boss (even though we might want to!) or run away (at least not yet!) So what happens to all this adrenalin? It turns into STRESS!
So, what can we do? Let’s be scientific here (logical). If being angry with our boss makes us feel badly, and thinking about what we LIKE about our job/home/friends/partner/kids/pets makes us feel good, then the LOGICAL thing to do is think about the good stuff, right? See? VERY scientific!
And the fact is, brain research has proven that when we think “happy thoughts”, our stress levels DO go down, which has huge health benefits, as you can imagine.
So, I am inviting you to start a new habit: DAILY HAPPY HOUR!
I am not encouraging you to drink daily (that’s entirely up to you) but I AM encouraging you to take a few minutes – daily – to consciously think about what makes you happy! Really FEEL it! You know that feeling – how you can actually feel your heart swelling with joy. Joy over the silly little things in life, like:
And I promise you, Happy Hour will never be the same for you again (in a good way!)
Remember pink slips? OK, so I am giving away my age here, but who cares! For those of you who DON’T know what a pink slip is, I’ll explain.
Have you ever said to yourself something like “I really should exercise more.” And then immediately come up with some excuse why you couldn’t? “I have to get the kids to school. No time before work. No time after work”. I know I have!
So what happens when we say the word “should?” What’s so powerful about that word? What does it immediately bring up? RESISTANCE.
SHOULD almost always comes from the outside, from somebody else. It is almost invariably someone else’s (a parent or someone we admire)value or belief that we have unconsciously adopted somewhere along the way. Our subconscious KNOWS it isn’t OUR idea, so why SHOULD we do it?! It is a sort of childish reaction, albeit subconscious: “NO! I want to do it MY way!”
When someone starts a sentence with “I should – do – this, that, or the other thing,” it just BEGS the question, “Who says? Who says you SHOULD?”
But, instead of asking this question, which might take us into the world of the past, I prefer to look to the future, and ask that person to repeat the statement they just made, substituting the word “could” for the word “should”. “I COULD do this, that, or the other thing.”
What often happens at first, is a moment of silence, and then the realization: “It’s true, I COULD do this, but I COULD also do, a bunch of OTHER things, that I hadn’t thought about before.”
Just changing the verb from SHOULD to COULD, opens up a whole new world of possibilities. SHOULD is almost always somebody else’s idea, which we have subconsciously made our own.
There are, of course, exceptions. Sometimes the person will then reflect and say “What I really meant to say, is I WANT to do this.” Great. They have achieved some clarity around the choice to do something. They have owned that choice.
Whereas if their SHOULD does come from the outside, often in that moment, they will realize that this is NOT what they really want to do. And in that moment of realization, they then begin to explore new possibilities, new solutions, new options that they COULD do, in the exact same situation.
Let’s take an example:
“I SHOULD go to the gym everyday for at least an hour.” Rather limiting in terms of possibilities –OR- “I COULD go to the gym everyday, for at least an hour, but I COULD also alternate the gym with a bike ride, which I really enjoy, or maybe just go to the gym for ½ hour at lunchtime, so I am energized for the afternoon. Or maybe I could take a brisk walk after lunch, or maybe, if I work out really hard one day, I could give my body a rest the next day, so that the following day, I’ll have even MORE energy!” See how many more possibilities there are?
Now let’s take an example in the “negative”:
“I SHOULDN’T have another glass of wine.” Sounds a little reprimanding, at best. –OR- “I COULD NOT have another glass of wine, which would probably allow me to sleep better, so that tomorrow morning, I won’t be grumpy, and I’ll start my day out on a positive note.” In this case, the person has thought about the consequences of another glass of wine and CHOSEN NOT to have it. He is not just blindly following a self-imposed rule that feels limiting and depriving. The alternative”COULD” scenario sounds logical and actually, inviting. In this case, the person CHOOSES NOT to have another glass of wine and take care of himself, instead of simply depriving himself.
So, perhaps you are trying to change a habit, or form a new habit with something you think you SHOULD do. I invite you to substitute the verb COULD for SHOULD and wait - and see what happens.
After all,“who says you should?” Maybe, in answering this question, you’ll realize that it wasn’t your idea in the first place, and even though you didn’t come up with it, maybe it WAS actually a good idea! And now, instead of resisting the imposed idea, you have consciously embraced it and made it your own. Now you see that you COULD adopt that behavior and benefit from it and then CHOOSE to do it.
The opposite scenario is equally possible. I had this experience recently myself. In planning my coaching business, I got caught up in the whirlwind of excitement with a coaching group I was in. Everyone was aiming for the stars – a six figure income was possible! Oh boy! I was on board with that one! Then I began to experience a sense of overwhelm, of losing momentum. I got a sore throat. I wasn’t sleeping well, thinking about everything I had to do to build my business to that level. And suddenly I realized (literally at 3 am) I didn’t WANT a six figure income! I had adopted everyone else’s idea and thought I SHOULD want that too. Whereas earlier on, I had taken the time to define exactly what kind of life I wanted: maximum of 2 clients per day, so I had the time to do my daily work-out (which is of the utmost importance to me), meditate, work around the house (I am a carpenter and LOVE projects!) We own our house free and clear, so our monthly expenses are reasonable. Additionally, I had decided to create an online group coaching course, which would leverage my time and allow me to help more people at once. And I had decided to do one or two expedition coaching trips per year, to satisfy my love for adventure. Once I got back in touch with MY big picture, I realized I COULD strive for a six figure income, but I also realized that I COULD choose NOT to do that, and honor my own needs and values. By the way, I am completely open to having a six figure income, as long as I continue to honor that precious balance I have achieved in my life! Thinking I have to give up that balance to make money is my own limiting belief (but that’s a whole other article!)
Recognizing and honoring your own needs, wants, values and beliefs is the key to creating an ideal life.
So, the next time you use the “S” WORD, make light of it and say to yourself: DON’T SHOULD ON YOURSELF!
Then be sure to follow YOUR heart and honor YOUR intuition and YOUR truth!
If you're ready to go from bored to bodacious, you've come to the right place!
© COPYRIGHT 2015. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. * Mountain photo by Cecilia Mortenson ACMG/IFMGA Mountain Guide/CAAL2aspiremountainjourneys.com