I’m inviting grace to thanksgiving, but she never goes anywhere without gratitude.
My coaching friends and I were having a discussion about what grace is, how difficult it is to define. One of my friends said it reminded her of a supreme court justice famously saying about pornography: I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it. We agreed that that sounded true for ‘grace’ (and laughed that pornography and grace were in the same discussion).
Grace can be an act; it can be a personality trait, a physical attribute. Grace, a sense of blessing unasked for, is for me indescribable. I don’t think to invite grace, but I know when I experience it; grace shows up right after gratitude is expressed. When I am noticing the beauty and wisdom of life and I am grateful for the noticing, more to be grateful for, and more of a sense of being blessed by life rises up.
But I forget. Then I remember. And it flows again.
At thanksgiving, I am grateful for this past year. Especially for the things I didn’t like, that made me uncomfortable. My fears and weaknesses. Having time to wake up a bit more, to become more conscious of what I want to offer, how I can be of more service: I am grateful for this.
Where gratitude is, grace will follow.
Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term to describe the swinging of the mind from doubt, to fear to worry and back again, like a monkey climbing from branch to branch. I learned about it in Life Coaching training and have found it a life-changing idea. This function of the brain is centered in the oldest part of our brains that was constantly scanning the horizon for danger. It is still with us, and even though we generally are not dodging tigers, it sees danger in anything new or different. This is particularly true when we are considering something that is important and meaningful to us. While everyone has Monkey Mind, the things it says to us are particular to each person. My MM very pointedly tells me I need to think long and hard about whatever it is I am thinking about attempting (a blog, for instance). It tells me I should probably first read another book about it, or take a class, or put it off until I have figured everything out. Plus, this idea will probably get hard and overwhelming and I’ll just quit, so why even start? Until I knew what this voice was, I thought it was a guiding voice and that what it said was true. IT DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING. It is the ancient voice trying to avoid anything that signals change. Once I had been made aware of this voice, I realized that Monkey Mind injected doubt or fear into any dream or goals attached to it. I had let it run things for a large part of my life, much to my regret.
The only way to deal with Monkey Mind is not to engage with it. I was taught to thank it for sharing and move forward. Trying to reason with MM only ramps up the chattering. Being clear on what it is I want to do, and why it matters to me can calm MM for a while. Remember, Monkey Mind never goes away, so don’t waste time in trying. Keep focusing on your goal, however small. Keep focusing on why it matters to you. So many dreams and ideas were put on the back burner or tossed aside because MM was telling me I should be scared, overwhelmed and questioning the whole enterprise of my life. It’s just the ancient brain worrying that I might die of embarrassment.
To move past Monkey Mind, you have to know it exists. What follows is recognizing the hysterical nature of its “voice”. Observing this without engaging with it allows us to hear the calm voice of our own wisdom encouraging the following of the dream.
Out of ignorance, I gave Monkey Mind way too much influence in my life. Listening to the scared and worried voice in my head kept me small. The world needs all of us to live to our fullest, to do what we long to do, be who we most want to be and give what is ours to give. I am willing; how about you?
Positive change in life, body and soul is almost impossible unless we are willing to give up the idea that we need fixing.
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Of all the wonderful qualities to demonstrate which ones would you most like to be?
Do you realize you have a choice in what you are thinking about? At any time, you can choose your focus, change your thinking to something more interesting? Pick a wonderful quality and run with it! Consciously demonstrate something positive. It could change your life! The choice of what you see in the mirror is always there... choose the good.
#MyCoachingForLife #PowerOfPositivity #DemonstrateGreatness #BeYourBestSelf #BeWonderful #LifeCoach #LifeCoaching #Attributes #LiveYourBestLife
I’ll love myself when…
I lose weight. When I stop getting angry and being so judgmental. When my body is perfect. When I find the perfect job or the perfect partner or the perfect place to live. When I finally figure it all out.
And this, more recently: “I’m not getting anything done. I thought I would use this time to get caught up on stuff at home.” “My kids aren’t doing their schoolwork; they’re falling behind.” “I’m eating crap all day long!” “I haven’t exercised for weeks.” “I’m binge-watching tv all day! I should be reading!” I’m noticing how similar all of these comments’ sound. Self-loathing and disappointment, expectations we set up for ourselves, as if we are being graded for how we are doing our own lives, as if we have some unwritten rules we have to follow. No matter what, we can easily judge ourselves as failing on some days and struggling on others. (Oh, yes “we’re all in this together!” I wouldn’t want you to, but you should see my house, my lack of writing, my lack of reading.)
Can we just…NOT? Not keep doing this to ourselves, diminishing our very being with all the judgement of every part of ourselves?
It’s very important to me to make sure that anybody reading this knows that, education and training aside, I often think I’m a mess, unfocused, not using the skills I have learned to help other people. I will not ever offer x steps to the perfect life, the perfect workout, the perfect diet, the perfect anything. It doesn’t exist except as a concept in our own minds, and in some magazines. When I remember “there is no perfect”, I automatically take a deep breath.
I KNOW, from my own experience, that hating myself never led my body or thoughts anywhere I said I wanted to go. Hate begets hate: if I hate myself, the fat on my body, the dirt on my floor, that’s all I will see. The lens of hate makes everything bigger, uglier, darker. The energy of hate keeps life stuck in an ever-widening swirl of despair. When I continue to “grade” myself based on how I think the outside might judge me, the spiral gains speed. Because I have been taught, and I practice, take a breath and shift my thinking, I have a chance to stop this hate in its tracks. This sounds simple, and it can be easy if you are willing to consider that giving yourself some love doesn’t have to be hard. As I practice this, I can smile, even laugh, at how easily I fall into self-loathing. (I’ve practiced it diligently for most of my life!). As soon as I see it, I am out of it: I can’t be in love and in hate at the same time. When I invoke some compassion for mind, body or how I’m doing life, I cannot keep on with hate. Love will always drive out hate, light will always overcome the dark. A deep breath can change a lot.
What is your focus? What thoughts circle around in your mind frequently? What grabs your attention in the course of the day? If you were a transmitting station what’s your frequency? High or Low, Positive or Negative. Is ‘what’s wrong’ on your mind? Often? Do you think about how “hard” everything is? Are you criticizing yourself: how you look: too fat, too thin, too tall or too short? Are you not smart enough, not educated enough? Are you falling short in every area of your life? Maybe your thoughts are on someone else: your co-workers, your boss, your mother, that terrible boyfriend from college? Do they keep doing what they have always done, even if you have asked them to stop? In the midst of a global pandemic, we are worrying about our friends and family possibly getting sick, or worse. Jobs and the economy add to the swirl of fear and worry.
Do you realize you have a choice in what you are thinking about? At any time, you can choose your focus, change your thinking to something more interesting: what are some ideas you have that you take some very small steps toward. Is there something you could do to support or uplift someone else, like a phone call to check on a neighbor, a snail mail note or organizing a Zoom or Face-time call with your favorite people. Giving support and uplift to others is a great antidote for anxiety or fear. Maybe you just need to fold the laundry: what is the next, small, forward moving step?
This shift can be made at any time during any day. When you notice that you have drifted back into negative or fearful thinking, passing judgement on anyone or everyone, yourself included: Take a deep breath! And smile! Because you WILL return to old patterns of thinking. This old way of thinking is deeply ingrained in our brains. Even though I have been many years removed from an active eating and exercise disorder, I can fall back into worry about body and food. Getting curious about why these thoughts surface, I learned that it’s mostly a distraction. If I’m procrastinating doing something I don’t want to do or I’m writing and feel “stuck”, old thoughts about not being worthy, asking “who do you think you are?”, and “if you take care of this you won’t have time to work out!” raise their very familiar chorus. It’s been a learning curve, and one that I haven’t mastered…yet. It’s an ongoing process. I also wish I could say that I don’t get mad at myself for taking a step back into the fear, negativity and judgement. In life coach training I was taught that getting mad and/or giving up creates more of the same old pattern. Gently turn your focus to where you would like it to be in this moment.
Like learning anything new, it takes your attention and desire to do it. If you think this a positive change you would like to try, there is no time like the present! In this time of pandemic and uncertainty, it may be one of the best things you can do for yourself. It is a gift you give to everyone as you release others and yourself from criticism, judgement, fear, worry and doubt. When the old thoughts come up, you can ask yourself: what is more kind, more peaceful, more proactive for me to think about?
This tool is a practice, and you will very likely have to return to your commitment to up level your thought patterns many times. Instead of seeing this as a good reason not to try, could you be interested in trying it for a day? Can you see the possibility that negative thoughts are exhausting you, making you feel overwhelmed or angry or depressed? Holding this practice lightly, not taking your yourself so seriously, can offer some light for your spirit during challenging times.
As Courtney Carver*, writer extraordinaire says: “you don’t have to believe everything you think”. Noticing, getting curious about what you’re thinking, weeding out thoughts or beliefs that are not helpful or positive, or false, that don’t serve you well, is a process, one that I find myself turning to over and over, as I allow myself to journey forward. Allow yourself to change your focus. Give yourself credit when you do and when you don’t because it’s a practice, you’re learning something each time. This is a tool I have found to be helpful as I journey along with everyone else.
*Check out Courtney Carver's blog here; I also highly recommend her books, Soulful Simplicity and Project 333
It should be obvious that 'one size fits all' doesn’t work. Most clothing cannot shrink or stretch to accommodate all, or even most. But how often do we notice where we are asked to fit in, to try to pretzel ourselves into the way it’s always been done. In my demographic, education started with the idea that all students had to “sit down and be quiet”.
Consider the rigid, invisible structures we create for ourselves. For so many reasons, we start on “self-improvement’ for body, mind and life. Around 8th grade, Seventeen magazine entered my life, and it targeted all the insecurities that most 8th graders had and still have. For me, it started with my very curly hair that wasn’t featured in any pictures in any magazine and that tug of war reigned for decades, only to be surpassed by the war I engaged in with my body and food. So much “self-improvement” leads to so much self-destruction. Even though we know that one size doesn’t fit all, so many of us buy into the idea that some expert has a system or a diet or a workout plan designed to make us smarter, thinner or fitter. Self-improvement comes from a sense that we’re less than everyone else, there is something wrong with me; maybe THIS program, diet, book, will fix it, fix me.
We lose sight of our “expert” within. We aren’t always encouraged to trust our body, our feelings, or our own experiences. True growth, in mind, body and soul comes from acceptance and love. Acceptance of what is, in this moment. And love is the only thing that will allow change. Client’s say: “If I love myself now, nothing will ever change!” thinking that the self-loathing is the motivation. But self-hatred doesn’t create change, it just generates more of the same. Life Coach training taught me that I can choose to shift my attention to what I want, instead of focusing on what I don’t want, what is wrong. We can all choose to focus on something more interesting. This takes practice. It IS a practice, one you can choose over and over. And instead of beating yourself up when the old thoughts come calling, remind yourself, gently, that you are going to focus on the positive, on uplifting your thoughts (and thus, your health, your life, your entire expression and experience). It’s practice, not a perfect. Beating yourself up for drifting into the old habitual thoughts is more of the same old negativity. Hold yourself and this practice lightly, with compassion for the you that you are becoming.
As for the idea that you will do everything you really want to do once you have the body, the money, the job, the whatever; instead “start with the end in mind” (a saying of Marc David, my teacher at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating). Identify those things now. It could be taking a class, travel, going to a concert, participating in a community play. Start small, and pick one, and very importantly, put a 'by when' date on it. If it’s someday, it’s just a wish. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to prepare, but be specific. “I will go hiking at the county park with my friend Clare, by July 30, 2020.” Setting goals is also a practice: focusing on what moves you forward. Practices don’t make perfect, practices bring you closer to the expert on you: YOU.
A New Year brings articles and advertising about "a whole new you". Join this gym, start that new diet, declutter your house, find a new career, rearrange your whole life. In other words, don't be you. The "old you" makes mistakes: you eat too much "bad" food, you don't get enough sleep, you sleep too much, and your desk is a mess! You need to be different, new and improved, Where does this leave you emotionally, spiritually, physically? Feeling that you aren't good enough, that you haven't measured up, maybe you never will. This is definitely not a great way to start anything.
Discarding any part of the self is impossible: every thought, every experience is part of you, body, mind and soul.
Rather than trying to disown parts of your physical body or life experiences, try embracing it. ALL of it! By recognizing all parts of yourself, by welcoming all that you have been through, you give yourself room to breathe and space to acknowledge all you are, all that you have become and all you are willing to grow into. This is a practice--not a perfect. And like me, practice doing this, day by day... or minute by minute, if necessary. Through it all, allow You to be You: that's one way to start everything.
Mary is a certified Life Coach in Omaha where she enjoys reading and sharing books, taking in nature and exploring all life has to offer with her husband Kurt, and rescue dog "Scruffy".