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DO YOU….REACT OR RESPOND?

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Do you ever wish you could turn back time? Press rewind on a conversation or a situation?

If you could, how many moments in your life would you redo?

Certainly, the positive moments full of love and care. Moments of regret, when you wish you could handle something differently or when the outcome of a situation doesn’t align with your intentions. It is in those times that we realize, how powerful our actions and words are. So powerful that within a moment they can alter the dynamics of any relationship, personal or professional.

In reality, life keeps humming forward, there are no replays and no rewind buttons. For that reason alone, our response to any situation is vital, therefore teaching yourself to respond versus react to the world around us, is a critical self-management skill.

Few years back, I read a book called the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. One of the very first agreements the author introduces the reader to is “…be impeccable with your word”. Ruiz defines this agreement as “…speak with integrity and say only what you truly mean…” and “…avoid using the word to speak against yourself or others…” Finally he reminds us to “…use the power of your word to speak in the direction of truth and love.”

Unfortunately, as beautiful and simple as it sounds, this agreement is much harder to live to. Most of us are on two opposite ends of the communication spectrum. We either say what we feel immediately without filtering our reply, which is a typical reaction and has been known to quickly escalate to over-reactions. Or we freeze and become paralyzed, not taking any action. We may have grown up with the teaching that it may better to say nothing if you do not have anything nice to say. While the rest of us were raised without a filter and hence do not hold great concern with voicing our thoughts, and their resulting implications. Keep in mind that not addressing an issue, does not mean it goes away. It will remain inside you and overtime will begin to leak out via resentment and frustration which will build, until eventually it will explode and cause an unplanned and likely unhealthy reaction.

Having no filter, or being “brutally” honest on the other hand, may feel freeing. It may make you feel proud of your ability to “tell it like it is”. Some people have likely complimented you on your courage to not hold back in “telling the truth”. However the reality is this; it is still a reaction, a first impulse that breeds from your feelings toward the situation or person. And by the way, those feelings are YOUR truth, not THE truth. It is your perspective which exists from the lens only you, alone, view the world through.

So here is MY truth.

Somewhere out there lies an invisible line that teeters in between saying too much and not saying enough. If we give ourselves time to respond to a situation versus reacting to it by shutting down or not shutting up, then we can be more deliberate with our messaging. Emotions will always create a haze over any situation. When you acknowledge this and give yourself time for the haze to pass, clarity will come. I am not saying by any means that we should lose our sense of urgency when time is of essence. Just remember that when running the race, you may have to slow down and pace yourself a bit, so that you can get your sense of direction back…..and still get to the finish line which you initially set out to reach.

Since life does not come with a rewind option, let’s make the most of each moment we are presented with. Let’s acknowledge that how each of us behaves, the words we use to communicate have a powerful impact. Don’t you want certainty that your actions are in alignment with your intentions?

In closing, we can all use a little reminder to be deliberate in our behaviors, to be aware of our actions and impeccable with the words we put out into the universe. After all, who does not want the world around them to hum in harmony with their true intentions?

IT’S A MAD WORLD

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Picture courtesy: Dialectic Chaos by Satania Digital Art (http://satania.deviantart.com)

The world is a chaotic place. There are expectations, obligations and responsibilities. There are needs and wants, yours and those of others. Emotions flying high and low, hitting you from all angles. Making sense of it all, sorting through it and prioritizing is a challenge. Learning how to protect yourself and stay grounded can be an extremely daunting task in this world today.

Some people protect themselves from the madness by defense, building walls and shutting down. Others go on the offense and hit hard before the chaos of our world can impact them. Either one is a way to protect the vulnerabilities of our heart and soul. Both may be manageable in the short term- but both will ultimately have dire consequences in the long term- as both require holding on to your struggles and don’t allow the relevant emotions to release.

So, how do you sort and prioritize through the madness that life blows our way? How do you ensure it doesn’t build up and smack you in the face when you least expect it down the road?

People often talk about values. Values can help you define your priorities in life. They can help you define what really does matters and what does not. There is no right and wrong, there is just what resonates deep inside your soul. In the world of intense energy flying all around us, we are all susceptible to people who are angry, needy or pushy. We find ourselves pulled down by the negativity of those emotions. Finding your values and concretely planting them into the center of your life is core; and then using the self-care tools available to you to stay grounded to those values. So each time you are hit with toxic emotions and situations; you take a step back, shackle yourself to your grounding principles, and begin enacting the tools to stay connected to what really matters to you.

All of us experience stress. How we deal with it is what keeps us centered and grounded to our values and priorities. Here are a few ideas to keep you sane in this mad world…

1- Just breathe. Yes, simply just breathe. Stop what you are doing, take a mental break and just breathe. Breathe deeply and slowly. You would be surprised how often we forget to breath and as the world becomes more and more overwhelming we take shorter, shallower breaths without even realizing it. All that oxygen reaching your brain and every cell in your body will help clear you.

2- Express yourself. Shutting down and pushing the feelings aside just buries them deep inside. Communicate through whatever expression is right for you…to get the emotions out. Whether through keeping a journal and writing to get them out of your head or by finding someone to talk to that will listen and acknowledge your feelings. It is not about complaining; it is about getting the fog out of your head, whether with a close friend, your partner or a counselor. If you are not the talking type, then scream, cry, paint, listen to music and sing along with it….anything to express your feelings and just GET IT OUT. Ultimately, there is nothing more impactful than talking it out. To start with, just find a way to express your emotions and don’t hold them in.

3- Move your body. Yes just move it. Go for a walk, take a jog. Go for a swim, do some yoga, weights, cardio….whatever works for you. At a minimum, stretch. The key is to move your muscles, joints and your body any way you can. Feel the movement to your core…and yes while you are at it go back to number one and just breathe.

4- Get out to the elements. I don’t know what it is about the sun shining on your face and the smell of fresh grass. Or the feel of a forest air, the snowflakes falling or ocean waves crashing against the shore. Whichever way, getting out amongst the elements is one of the most comforting feelings. Whether it is the fresh air or the earth beneath your feet that somehow helps bring perspective, but just get outside. Slow down as you get out to nature and take a moment to appreciate the elements. Getting out to nature will force you to mellow out and if you remember to breathe, you may have the extra soothing benefit of a whiff of nearby wild lavender or pine when you least expect it.

5- Surround yourself with others of similar values. Remember the whole value and principle concept? Well, when the going gets tough is the most critical time to surround yourself with others of similar values. Is your faith something you value? Then surround yourself with your faith community or others who can share in your spirituality; whichever core belief you have is nothing short of the comfort you need during times of intense stress. These are the people who will be your support group, encourage you, and share in your knowledge that you are strong and will get through whatever life throws your way. If a core value is family or friends; surround yourself with them. They will be your rocks.

6- Reflect. Self-reflection…whether through formal meditation or moments of silence and observation, this is the key in connecting to your values and regaining composure so you can get back on track and focus on your priorities. Use your journal to write down thoughts of reflection or just sit in peace amongst the elements and enjoy the silence while you meditate on what truly matters and the bigger picture of life. It will only be via reflection that you can get clear on what grounds you and what this life is all about for YOU. What really matters to you? What are your beliefs, your principles, what do YOU value???

7- Take a break. There are times when you just have to get away from the distractions and all the stresses of life so you can think, reflect and well…just breathe. Sometimes just taking a drive out of your area or getting away for a couple days (if you can’t  take a vacation and truly go away), will make a huge difference.

I am sure there is so much more we can all do to manage through the stress, chaos and madness of life coming at us. Knowing what is important to you in life is core, so as you get bombarded with the madness of life you can easily release the little stuff. The stuff that is just surface and really doesn’t matter in the bigger scheme of it all. Your time and energy is precious, so focus it on the right stuff. Only you can figure out what the right stuff is….and I can only hope the above tools will provide you with some small solace of peace.

LIVING IN REALITY

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I recently deactivated my Facebook. Honestly, I don’t know if I will ever return. I was loyal to Facebook since 2007. Oh yes, I enjoyed watching the lives of my friends, some old…some new. It was fun, I thought. The lives of my online friends took a life of their own. I knew where they ate, how often they traveled, and all the fun they had. Mostly, I saw how blessed they said they felt. How IMPORTANT it was for them to share how blessed and fortunate they were with others. Don’t get me wrong, I miss some of my online friends. Watching their kids grow up, watching their lives unfold as distance and the daily craziness of life kept us apart from sharing these joys in real life. Recently, though, I learned a valuable lesson. I believe I already knew it deep inside, but then it was as if the fog lifted and I saw clearly through the clouds. People show you only what they want you to see. Most people want you to believe their lives are fabulous, close to perfection, pure happiness and joy. People love Facebook because it gives them full control to paint their lives as they want others to see them. And then the likes and the comments start coming…the more the better, just reinforcing the need for reassurance that their life IS fabulous. It is not hard to tell who these folks are.  Maybe at one point I had those moments too. Then I had a hard lesson taught to me. I learned that some people will go to an elaborate extent to show how fortunate they are. But you know what? For some of these people, it just is not real. It’s a way to make themselves feel better about themselves. A way to say “Look world! I AM HAPPY! I have everything I could ever want! My life is perfect!”

NEWSFLASH – no one person’s life is perfect. And if you have to make a point to say it so much, it certainly is not. People have joy and sadness, pain, hurt and happiness. They have moments. Moments of experiences that elicit feelings of joy, fulfillment and fortune. Is that real life 100% of the time? How often do we hear people say they just want to be happy, that they just want to be fulfilled. Yet, how can you be happy and fulfilled if you have not experienced the opposite; the duality of life? Life is balance. Yin and yang, light and dark, male and female. So goes the same for emotions. How can you ever truly experience true joy and happiness if you have not felt deep pain and suffering? How can life be in balance if the experience of the duality is not equal? Some people have an abundance of one or the other. Those, for example, who have everything they want in life handed to them, take it for granted unless they have felt the depth of the opposite. Success? How does one even know and comprehend what success is without failure? Maybe in theory, but not in reality. People have shared with me that Facebook makes them feel bad about themselves. They see the good fortunes of others and feel sad, lonely, empty…because they don’t have the same fortunes of fulfillment as others make a point to show off.

So my friends, don’t be fooled. A story is a story. A good story is meant to elicit emotions. Facebook is about storytelling. In short snippets, photos and emoticons. Ultimately, it is still just a story. 

Blogging speaks to me, because the people on here share joy and they share pain. They contemplate life, success and pick apart the many facets of life for what they truly are. So I thank my new community for giving me an outlet. An outlet to be real and sincere. Most importantly, I learned a valuable lesson…people will show you only what they want you to see. They will show you what they want to be, not necessarily what they actually are. Their lives in real life are much different than on Facebook. They all have their personal demons to fight, as all of us do. We are all imperfect, but that is what being human means. Experiencing the duality of emotions so when we do have moments of peace, joy and success….we can truly honor and appreciate the intensity and realness. YOU and your life IS beautiful, with all the opposites, the variances, the dualities of emotions and experiences…because it’s real, because it’s LIFE. So live it – out there – amongst the elements, amongst reality. Don’t ever, EVER forget that.

STRENGTH OF A WOMAN

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LEAP OF FAITH

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I am taking a leap of faith. Correction….a SMART leap of faith. Meaning I totally and completely understand the risks associated with such a leap and am willing to own them.

We have all had our trust broken at one time or another. We have all been betrayed. Certain betrayals are worse than others. Some are personal…deeply personal of love and faith, while others are of money, workplace and jealousy. Ultimately, in my book, all betrayal is about pure selfishness. It really doesn’t matter the reason for the betrayal. What matters is deciding whether the person who deceived you is worth discarding or saving. By worth saving, I am referring to the saving of the relationship or partnership. Do you walk away from the experience untrustworthy to all? Do you build walls around yourself to protect your heart and livelihood? Do you allow that one person to take away all that makes you human, with all the possibilities of your future happiness?

Building emotional walls and putting up your guard only hurts one person…YOU. The other person does not feel the pain of deceit and the multitude of emotions that you experience. They may possibly feel guilt and remorse, but feelings of betrayal are a completely different story. The hate and fear you feel does not hurt the other person to the extent it hurts you- it is like a knife in your gut that just keeps turning and turning. It hurts YOU and holds YOU back from experiencing the beauty of selflessness, of giving your heart away in passion, of taking risks that can result in joy, personal development and progress.

Therefore, as scary and painful as it is- how about releasing the hate? Let it go, release the negative energy so the knife is no longer shackled to you and ceases doing more damage. Overcoming the fear and the feelings of vulnerability is a long road entangled within the path of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean you condone the actions of deceit, it does not mean you shall forget what happened. Forgiveness is for you and only you, so you can begin healing and moving on. If you have determined the relationship or partnership is worth saving because it is special, it has a deep meaningful history for you, it has more advantages then disadvantages, or simply because it was a stupid STUPID selfish mistake riddled now with remorse and regret, then you must be willing to take a smart leap of faith. It will be scary, and you will feel naked inside and out; you will question yourself and be bogged down with what others may think of you (who cares what others think, this is your life NOT theirs). You will be terrified because there won’t be a safety net to catch you. Yet, if it is worth it, you must take that leap of faith. You may find that you grow wings along the way and you don’t need the safety net after all.

What if it happens again, you ask? What if I experience betrayal again? Yes, it’s a risk, but it may be worth taking. And one day you will want to look back and know that you tried all you could. This act of strength and selflessness will assure you that the other person has not destroyed your ability to trust and believe in others. That you have not lost your faith in people, as imperfect as they, as we, all are.

So, there. I am taking a leap of faith…a smart leap of faith. And I will do the work, in full comprehension of the risk I am taking. Nothing in life worth fighting for is without its risks and challenges. I can live within the confines of my safety, my own prison of pain and loss. However, that’s not living at all, its called maintaining and barely functioning. And therefore, be it as it may, I CHOOSE to live….TRULY live. I am strong, powerful and only I can own my life and its decisions.

Here I go…wish me luck as I leap, and here is hoping I grow wings…..

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