The beginning of a new year is a great time to think about what you will do differently in the coming year. I love the image of a butterfly as it makes me realize I CAN reinvent myself in some ways, and the start of a new year is an optimal time to do this. 2017 is a particularly special year, as according to numerology, it is the first year of a 9-year cycle. This means that what do you in 2017 sets the path for the following 8 years. I am excited and rejuvenated thinking about what I am going to do differently this year! What will support me to awaken each day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart?
Here’s what I plan to do differently this year (in my life and in my work).
- More “being” – open to possibilities, and to listening to the messages I receive
- More “receiving” – self-nurturing; taking time for myself doing things I enjoy
- More adventure – sleeping on a sailboat and taking a trip to Europe or Asia with my Sweetie
- More time in nature
- More cycling
- More video
- More speaking “gigs”
- New/Updated website
- More leverage in my business
- More writing – perhaps start my memoir?
What would you like to do differently this year?
Take a few moments to ground yourself and get present. Write down the question above, and the responses that come to you. Try to stay in your body and write from your “heart” instead of your head. When you finish writing, go through each statement, say it aloud, and notice how your body responds to it. I suggest only including things that excite you, and will support you to awaken each day with a smile on your face, and a song in your heart.
I’d love to hear what exciting plans you have for 2017! Feel free to share them and your comments below. I appreciate you sharing the post with others.
The holidays are a time of joy, laughter, connecting with family and friends, and celebration. They also may be stressful on our bodies, minds and “pocket books”. With our already busy lives; extra baking, shopping, gift-wrapping, and entertaining can make us feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.
Here are a few tips to help you to stay healthy, happy and mindful during the holidays and beyond.
- Take time for you – Holidays are a time to give to others, and they are also a time to give to yourself. Schedule time in your day for that yoga class, to go to the gym, for that bubble bath. Rather than jumping out of bed each morning and “hitting the ground running”, do a full body stretch; close your eyes and scan your body from head to toe noticing any areas of tightness or discomfort. Breathe into those areas and release that tension or discomfort.
- Spend time in nature at least 3 times a week (for 15 to 30 minutes or more). Being in nature is SOoo therapeutic. Focusing on the beauty that surrounds you takes your busy mind off that never-ending “to-do” list. Did you know that the Japanese have done longitudinal studies that show when we spend time in forests (they call it forest bathing or forest therapy) it reduces our heart rate, reduces our blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells our body produces; which means it strengthens our immune system. During stressful times it is particularly important to keep our immune systems strong so we don’t end up with that flu or cold after our guests leave!
- Celebrate YOU! At the end of each day identify at least one thing you want to celebrate about yourself for that day. It could be something you accomplished or how you responded in a stressful situation. When you constantly give to others without nourishing and celebrating yourself, you will become depleted and may also become resentful and/ or ill.
I’d love to hear your strategies for staying happy, healthy and mindful during the holidays. Please share them below. Feel free to pass this on to others you care about.
 Here is a useful resource on mindful eating: http://thecenterformindfuleating.org/
I invite you to ask yourself the question, What would I do if I had no fear? Notice what comes up. You may get a message “Leave my job.” “Leave my marriage.” “Start that business I’ve been wanting to for awhile.” If you get a message, then notice how your body feels when you receive it. Do you feel tension, or excitement about new possibilities? You may then ask yourself, What’s the worst thing that could happen if … I leave my job, leave my marriage, start that new business? Notice again what messages and feelings come up for you.
The Importance of Listening to Your Body’s Wisdom
What I know to be true from my own journey and work with clients around the world is that our body always knows the truth. When we stay in a job or relationship that no longer serves us, it takes a lot of energy. We are living out of alignment with what Buddha calls our “true self” wants; what we intuitively know is the best choice for us. I’ve made a number of “pros” and “cons” lists over the years based on my rational left-brain. However, the decisions I’ve made solely from using my logical left-brain, have not always been the right ones for me. The ones I’ve made by going inside and listening to my body have always been the “right” ones.
What happens when We Don’t Listen
One of the keys to Creative Living in my book Learning to Dance with Life is “Listen to and Trust in Your Body’s Wisdom”. There is increasing evidence of the negative impacts on our body of NOT listening to the messages it sends us. Dr. Gabor Mate, in his book When the Body Says No, provides case studies and research evidence linking stress with cancer and auto-immune disorders. Ruth Buczynski, licensed psychologist and President of the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), wrote that the high stress of our complicated lives “can wreak havoc on our brain’s ability to control emotions, maintain focus and perform tasks”- http://www.nicabm.com/nicabmblog/the-brain-under-stress-using-mindfulness-to-regain-focus/). When we stay in jobs or relationships that are stressing us out, over time this leads to negative impacts on our health and also negatively affects our performance at work.
Tools to Enhance Body Awareness
In my work with clients I teach a number of tools and techniques to assist them to listen to and trust in their body’s wisdom. It takes some time and practice, however the benefits are amazing! Imagine being able to ask yourself about a decision you are challenged to make, and being able to go inside your body and “know” the truth/the best choice for you? Imagine being able to trust that the decision you are making will bring positive results to you, instead of deliberating for days and a number of sleepless nights over what to do?
A good place to start is with Body Scanning, a mindfulness technique from Eastern psychology. This practice cultivates the ability within you to live “in the present moment”. When you do a body scan, you take the time to notice and feel your body’s sensations. A good time to do this is in the morning on awakening. Rather than leaping out of bed and “hitting the ground running” make a conscious effort to quiet your mind and scan your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Notice any tension or discomfort; breathe into these areas and consciously release and let of the tension. – See more at: http://creativelivingcommunity.com/how-you-can-find-peace-amidst-the-chaos-of-daily-life-work/
Another tool that I’ve found really helpful to “get out of my head” and “into my body” is Mindfulness Walking Meditation. When you do a mindfulness walking meditation outdoors, you feel the ground beneath your feet, the breeze against your face, and the cool air flowing through your nostrils down into your lungs. You smell the salt sea air or the aroma of lilacs, and you observe the scenery around you. Rather than spending your time constantly thinking about and processing all the things you have to do, you stay present and experience all of nature’s beautiful sights, smells, sounds and sensations.
My challenge to you
I encourage you to try one or both of the tools above. Begin with one and start incorporating it into your life on a daily basis. Notice how you feel in the moment and over time. I’d love to hear your experiences below with trying these tools. I invite you to share your own tools and techniques for listening to and trusting in your body’s wisdom and the results you’ve achieved from doing so. Feel free to share this post with others.
What is conscious choice?
Sen defines it as “when you are making choices with the full understanding of reality, from a place of inner freedom, rather than making choices from a place of delusion/ignorance or fear-based motivations.”
Brady views conscious choice as (making) “choices that are conscious, free from knee-jerk reactivity, and (being) mindful of the impact they have on (y)our own well-being, as well as the impact they have on others and the larger environment. “ 
What do our lives look and feel like when we don’t make conscious choices?
We make choices based on what we think someone in our position should make, or based on wanting to belong to a particular group, and thinking there is a particular way we need to speak and act to be accepted by that group.
We study and become; for example, a physician, because that’s what our parents want us to be; instead of following our heart and studying something we are passionate about.
We get into relationships based on the type of partner we’ve been socialized to choose, or to satisfy a need we have. For example, believing that we need to marry someone who will provide us with financial security above all else, or becoming a rescuer and getting involved with needy people to help them, rather than choosing a true partner who will support us to learn and grow in positive ways, and us them.
We respond to family members, friends or colleagues reactively based on previous conditioning or fears that we have. We jump to conclusions, become angry and lose control saying and doing things we later regret. This distances us from people and makes us feel alone and misunderstood.
Making unconscious choices can cause a lot of unhappiness, conflict, stress, disengagement, lack of fulfillment, and negatively impacts our relationships, careers and our health. When we don’t make conscious choices, we aren’t being true to ourselves.
So how can we learn to make more conscious choices? It’s a process and a journey that requires commitment and a desire to learn and grow. The first step is learning to become more self-aware.
Proven Strategies to Increase Self-Awareness:
- Spend time on your own walking in nature, swimming, kayaking… and notice what you notice. Is your mind constantly active? What do you think about? Notice how you feel while in nature and while being physically active. Journal about your thoughts and feelings.
- Become aware of your emotions. Start noticing how you react to certain people and situations, and get curious around why that is. Is it due to past experiences? Does that person remind you of someone in your past who treated you badly? Does that person’s behavior make you feel unsafe?
- Clarify your values (refer to http://creativelivingcommunity.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/), and live your life in alignment with them
- Work with a coach
- Participate in personal growth workshops and/or group coaching programs
- Study and practice mindfulness. A good place to start is doing mindfulness walking meditations. 
What happens when you become self-aware and get in touch with your core values, passions, and who you really are? You are able to make conscious choices; ones that are aligned with your values, needs and passions, and that lead to connection, good health, happiness, fulfillment, and inner calm; instead of conflict, disengagement, stress, compromised health, unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. Which would you rather have in your life?
I invite you to try some of the strategies listed above and notice how they impact your life and your decision-making. I’d love to hear your strategies for becoming more self-aware and how you make conscious decisions. Share your comments below and feel free to share this post with others.
 Sen, Conscious Choice – http://www.calmdownmind.com/conscious-choice/ – posted on November 12, 2012
 Brady, Reaction Management: How to Make Conscious Choices – http://www.chopra.com/articles/reaction-management-how-to-make-conscious-choices
 A tool from Easter psychology that I have found extremely useful for getting “out of my head” and into my body is Mindfulness Walking Meditation. Mindfulness practices focus on the senses and feeling sensations and emotions in our bodies. When we do a mindfulness walking meditation, we feel the ground beneath our feet, we feel the breeze against our face, we feel the cool air going from our nostrils down into our lungs. We smell the scent of salt or the aroma of lavender in the air and observe the scenery in front of us. We try to stay out of our minds and experience our senses. Rather than spend a walk in nature constantly thinking and processing all the things we have to do, instead we stay present and experience nature and all of its beautiful sights, smells, sounds and sensations.
At a recent retreat, one of the commitments I made was to gift myself a mini-sabbatical. This meant taking Mondays and Fridays off through July and August to do what I wished, and to free myself from work-related activities. As an entrepreneur, I often don’t take large blocks of time off during the summer as it’s when I typically design new programs, write or make website changes. So a mini-sabbatical sounded like a good idea.
Last Monday, the first day of my mini-sabbatical, was easy as we had moved the day before and had not retired till close to 3 am, so it was easy to sleep in and to not work. The first Friday was more challenging. I was “pulled” to check my email and to start writing down the design for my new group coaching program. That said, I found a nearby yoga studio online and tried out my first yoga class there. Amazingly I connected with a woman after class who has a similar background to mine, and who may become a new friend.
The first question I’ve started to ask myself on awakening is What will I do to nurture myself today? To me nurturing involves: doing yoga, meditating, going for walks in nature, being by, in, or on water, connecting with family and friends in person and virtually, and cooking a special meal for my Sweetie and myself. What do you do to nurture yourself? My mantra for 2016 is I am open to possibility, and I repeat it once or twice daily. I also am increasingly listening to and trusting in the messages my body sends me. Here’s a process my clients and I have found useful in making decisions – http://creativelivingcommunity.com/how-do-you-make-decisions/.
So far on my mini-sabbatical I’ve noticed I feel more relaxed, more creative, more energized, lighter, and I’m finding that new like-minded people and opportunities are coming my way.
What would a mini-sabbatical look and feel like for you? Perhaps you’ve tried one before? I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Feel free to share this with a friend, colleague or family member.
A chameleon is a salamander that is able to change the color of its skin so it blends into an environment it enters. It does this to camouflage itself, and also to display aggressiveness toward other chameleons in certain situations.
For many years I was a chameleon. I entered environments and based on the signals I was picking up, initially unconsciously and later consciously, would change my behavior and way of reacting based on those signals. I’m not certain how I learned to do this. One thought is when I was younger and entered a new organization I would quickly notice all of the things that weren’t working within it, and would soon question why certain things were being done the way they were. Often I was told “Because we’ve always done it this way.” Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar. I wasn’t as diplomatic in my younger years as I am today, and after getting some negative reactions from my remarks, I learned to keep my thoughts to myself or to express them in a certain manner and to certain individuals based on the environment. However, that changed when I became a management consultant and was paid good money to go into environments, share my observations, and make recommendations for positive change.
For many years being a chameleon served me well. I can’t pinpoint exactly when my behavior changed, but I do recall a situation that stands out. While managing a large project in Pakistan a number of years ago, I recall meeting with the two Muslim women on my team, and a number of other Muslim women who were assisting in planning an upcoming workshop. One woman in particular was strong, assertive and articulate in expressing her thoughts. I was quite taken aback several days later during the workshop with a mixed group of men and women, how the strong, assertive, articulate woman was demure, unassertive and only expressed her thoughts when asked. It was like she was a different person! Over time, I’ve surmised that she behaved differently in a group of women compared to a mixed group, because that is how she had learned to survive. That was what she perceived was the appropriate and acceptable way to interact in the company of men.
Having had the opportunity to live and work in a number of countries and cultures around the world, I now have found that regardless of whom I’m speaking with, whether it is the Minister of a government department or a cleaner; a man or a woman, I am myself. I no longer react as a chameleon. I try in all situations to speak from my heart while at the same time respecting the dominant religious and cultural norms (e.g. wearing a headscarf in Afghanistan and wearing looser clothing that covers much of my body in Muslim countries). At this time in my life, being myself seems to be serving me well. I think it is interesting to notice how we react in new situations, and if our behavior changes, to explore what might be causing it to do so. It’s also interesting to notice whether our way of reacting has changed over time.
Are you a chameleon? Do you change your behavior in different situations? How is it serving you? If you haven’t thought about this, I invite you to reflect on and to notice how you react in a new social or environmental situation. I welcome your comments and reflections below.