Turning poison into medicine – honoring the reality of the moment

I create a kind of vision board for myself every year. On it is what I want to happen that year, and how it will happen according to my heart’s desires and my spiritual guides. This year, all of my focus in on creating a successful business doing what I love.  It’s a long-term goal, and I’ve been working at it for a while. That’s the vision that keeps me going daily. How I do it is different – it’s what I need to focus on daily to make that dream manifest.

And this year, that “how” is to focus on and attend to whatever is happening right now.

Herbie Hancock has a great example of this. It’s below, and is a story about how Miles Davis dealt with whatever happened to happen.

One time when he was new to Davis’ band, he made what he saw as a big mistake on the piano. Miles dealt with it by altering the key while playing, so that that “big mistake” became an opportunity for playing something fresh.

It wasn’t until years later that Herbie understood what happened: Miles hadn’t heard a “mistake”; what he heard was an event that he chose to work with. That’s all.

Herbie saw it as Miles’ ability to turn poison into medicine. By accepting what was happening as simply what was happening, Miles was able to work with it; being open to what the event had to offer. It was his own way of being in Beginners’ Mind.

For me, that wonderful story of Herbie’s taught me that there are at least 2 ways of looking at anything that happens: either as a problem or an opportunity. To see it as an opportunity, I first need to be open to that.

No judgment. Simply fresh eyes and an open heart, honoring the reality of the moment.

Herbie Hancock on Miles Davis

Quote of the Week
I believe that every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear. ― Oprah Winfrey

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co . Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Passionately Curious

Passionately Curious

I get scared every time I hear someone advise me not to throw all my cards into one basket. Not to go for broke. To slow down in committing to living the rest of my life based on what moves me; no longer spending even a second on anything that doesn’t.

My partner – one of my advisors – isn’t like me. Nor are many of the experienced advisors out there that I hear.

I respect these people; admire them. At the same time, I don’t agree that everyone needs to be as cautious as they advise.  It works for them. My partner, for instance, is a methodical guy and simply couldn’t live the way I do (He witnesses it, as I witness the way he lives; and we’ve come to an agreement we can both live with).

All of us started out with curiosity and passion. We come with it; it’s part of our nature. As Elizabeth Gilbert points out in an interview she gave on Curiosity and Fear, [link to/ ], even try to imagine a 3 year old not experimenting with a set of crayons that are put in front of him or her.  That’s curiosity!

But then what keeps that toddler playing with the crayons isn’t simply curiosity, but passion. He or she likes it! It’s fun and exciting. If it wasn’t, they’d move on to something that interested them more.

For us grown-ups, passion isn’t always exciting.  At first it is, when we dream up something new, then plan how to actualize it.  But then in the doing of it, life happens; something doesn’t work and needs tweaking. It’s frustrating, sometimes simply boring.

This is when remaining curious is so important. Curious about what happens if I try this instead of that. When what moves us – what we’re passionate about – is less than exciting, it’s our curiosity that helps me keep the faith.

I’m passionate about what I do. I love it, even if a lot of the time it feels like work. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But that’s me. That’s what keeps me going. What about you?

 

If you like this blog, you’ll love my newsletters “You are Enough Just as You Are” for a sample. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Know thy enemy and then, know thyself

I finally watched the Borgia series on Netflix.

One of the main characters is Cesare Borgia, eldest son of the future Pope Alexander VI and Vannozza dei Cattanei. The entire family has often been vilified. Some say this was simply part of the times – they weren’t the only family of power like this.

There are many things written about the Borgia family, and about Cesare in particular. Machiavelli based his book The Prince on him. He was seen by Machiavelli and others as a military genius.

Maybe so, but in the process, he used his position and connections to destroy other people’s lives. Lots of other people. It may have been part of the times, but that doesn’t justify his destructiveness and lack of human consideration. And, to be fair, it’s also said that his family also supported minorities who would otherwise have been wiped out.

So, it’s ironic that the writer and creator of this series, Tom Fontana, gave Cesare the lines from Sun Tsu, immortal writer of The Art Of War, that reveal the secret to winning any battle against our enemies, be they external or internal.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

So eloquently said. So easy to see. And sometimes, so hard to practice.. Especially if that enemy is within.

I have a belief that it’s only when we conquer our inner enemies that we can truly be master of our own lives. Imagine the following:

3 people. All three grew up experiencing exactly the same things (I know, highly unlikely, but I ask that you suspend your judgment in the service of considering the point I’m exploring with you).

They – all 3 at the same time and in the same place – witness an injustice against a stranger that reminds them of something that happened in their own lives. Let’s say that they witness a young child being bullied.

The first person is horrified and becomes consumed with rage, ready to wade in and pulverize the bully, knowing that it will actually make him or her feel worse after they calm down and regain some control. The second is terrified and wants only to run and hide until it’s all over, knowing they’ll feel mortified with what they see as their own moral cowardice afterwards. The third might feel repulsion and rage, but is able to consider in a split second how best to respond in order to support the child, and help the person bullying to come to terms with the situation in a better way.

Both the 1st and the 2nd person aren’t able to effectively intervene because they are blinded by their own inner war. The third has come to know herself and has – at the very least – won that particular battle.  She knows this enemy because she knows herself.

Which would you rather be?

The Nobody Sandwich – Chris Paracox

Quote of the Week
Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
― C.G. Jung

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co . Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

You deserve to show off!

deserve

This blog is dedicated to all of you who have had to grapple with shame.  I’m one of you and – if you listen to On Being’s interview with Maria Shriver  – she’s one too.

Most of us began our journey with shame as a result of having differences with our parents. Our parents never meant to hurt us – they were worried we’d get hurt by life if we continued to do whatever it was we did to get shamed by them. And it likely began really early, with potty training. Then with how to behave as a child in front of adults.  Then how to be altruistic to the kid who wants your favorite toy.

The adult instruction to any resistance from you might have sounded something like: “Shame on you! Look at how you hurt that boy!” or “Shame on you! Look at the mess you made!”

You end up feeling denied. Constantly. And grow up with a trigger point of rebelling against others telling you what to do, resenting being treated that way, and deep down, feeling the shame of having done “something” wrong. You’re never sure of what you did, so you simply assume responsibility for everything – it’s so much easier than trying to figure it out.

Besides developing that trigger point, this sense of shame makes you feel that you aren’t ever enough. It digs into your sense of self-worth, even if you never show it, and you begin to hide who you really are – for fear of being “found out” – of being unmasked as someone who isn’t enough.

As an adult, all of this might be unconscious – so ingrained its simply part of the way you operate.  And yet, that shame is excruciating.

There are probably many ways out of this dilemma, but I know of only one way: to stop taking on all the responsibility that isn’t really yours, and to decide to show up and be who you are.

Maria speaks at many functions, and lets people know that she shows up for herself, that she has her “I” on. In her own words, she explains: “I say that to people so they don’t despair, that sometimes it takes a really long time to feel like you deserve to be on the stage; you deserve to be in the room; you have earned your “I.””

Right on, Maria!  And right on to you!

You deserve to show off who you are. No apologies.

 

If you like this blog, you’ll love my newsletters read you are enough just as you are get my latest one. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

 

If you like this blog, you’ll love my newsletters “You are Enough Just as You Are” for a sample. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

From Frustrated to Wow!

When I get an idea I love, getting started is easy, but finishing sometimes seems impossible.

I want to write a book about scapegoating. I really want to do this, and have a lot of enthusiasm around it. I began this project 2 years ago: did a lot of research and thinking, interviewing and writing. And then got overwhelmed with possibilities that began to form some months in.  After a while, I felt more frustrated than enthused, and eventually decided to give my brain a break and let it go for a while.

If you’ve gone through this kind of scenario, you might end up feeling frustrated – like me – starting to lose confidence in yourself and in the validity of your project.

In anything we endeavour, there are a number of steps we take in the process.  This isn’t arbitrary, it’s natural, and happens with everything.  In the shamanic tradition I work with, it’s called the Zero to 9 law. In Martha Beck’s paradigm, it’s called the change cycle, and there are 4 stages.  No matter what it’s called, it’s natural, necessary and unavoidable. Using Martha’s model, we end something that no longer works for us, grieving it and letting it go; that opens us to dreaming in something new, planning how we want that to happen. Those are the first 2 stages. Stage 3 is about manifesting that dream. Martha calls stage 3 the Hero’s Saga, because this is the stage where we test things out in real life, encountering problems and issues we couldn’t have imagined.

Logically, this only makes sense. Emotionally, it can be painful. It’s the hard part and needs us to keep the faith and finish instead of quit.

This stage is on my mind a lot right now because I’m going through it. For instance, I’m working at getting a designation I have wanted for a number of years, and I’m nearly there.  Then a few months ago, something happened I wasn’t prepared for and there was some fallout. My “normal” way of dealing with this would be to take the blame for everything and then try to “fix” what I actually couldn’t, leading ultimately to frustration and pain.

This time, I did something different: I looked at how I contributed and addressed that, also acknowledging those parts that worked well. And as a result, while I had moments of frustration and pain, I ended up feeling like I’d grown from the experience. I was grateful it had happened! I went from feeling frustrated to feeling Wow!

My challenge to you is this: the next time you feel frustrated about something you’ve been working on, take a short break, and see what you can do that will turn it from a painful experience that sends you into self-doubt, into a worthwhile one that truly adds to your knowing and sense of self-worth.

Now, let’s finish that book!

On Change and Healing – Martha Beck

Quote of the Week
Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward. – Kurt Vonnegut

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co . Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

On Pace and Power

power

 

I’m a go-getter and that worries my friends, because it seems that I never stop.  When they’ve been with me for a day, they often – with good intent – suggest I slow down.

Sometimes, they’re right on. When I’m worried that I’ll miss a deadline (usually self-imposed), or obsessed about getting something right (driven by fear of failure or rejection).

Sometimes, they’re mistaken. When I’m creating or doing something I love, for instance.

Sometimes it’s both – when I’m venturing into new territory. At those times, I’m both energized and terrified – mostly terrified of how my life will change if I succeed.

Does this sound familiar?

Marianne Williamson once said: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

That’s true for me. What I’ve learned is to pace myself.

When I pace myself, I can …

  • catch moments of terror and take the time I need to deal with them before moving forward;
  • discover how I really feel about what I’m doing, and make change that make better use of my time and energy;
  • learn as I go with awareness and presence.

When I pace myself, I feel powerful, and feel like I’m gaining more and more energy as I go.

When I pace myself, I am the author of my own life.

 

If you like this blog, you’ll love my newsletters “You are Enough Just as You Are” for a sample. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Roots, Wings and Energy

This week, I got almost nothing done that was on my priority list. That’s unusual for me: it wasn’t because I slacked off, or because I was incapacitated, or because I had friends over, or any reason like that. I was busy and productive all week. So what happened?

What happened was that I discovered that what I thought I needed to do isn’t what I actually needed to do. So this week, I spent my time planning and dreaming. Looking inside myself, challenging everything I’d thought and assumed once again.

I took a good look at what I’ve done so far that I like, and where it is I want to end up, and on what inspires me to get there every day.

Phillip Zimbardo, from his research, has discovered that those of us who consistently make the best use of our time are the ones who use positive past experiences to root them in the present, future visions and dreams to give us wings, and present desires to energize us.

As a result, this week I’ve been assessing and dreaming – using vision boards and quiet meditation; reviewing what I’ve done so far – what worked, what didn’t, and what I might alter. I might have to do this next week as well.

Then I’ll have a new to do list and a new direction. With Roots, Wings, and Energy.

The Psychology of Time – Phillip Zimbardo

energy

Quote of the Week
You can’t save up time. You can’t refuse to spend it. You can’t set it aside.
Either you’re spending your time.
Or your time is spending you.
-Seth Godin

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co . Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Ah ha!

ah-haI’m a Gestalt therapist. As such, I always work with what’s present for a person in the here and now. Sometimes, the problem for my client stems from a lack of awareness of that presence; at other times, it’s more a matter of what they choose to focus on.  Kind of like not seeing the forest for the trees.

For instance … and I’ll use my life as an example … I’m like a terrier. Terriers tend to focus on whatever it is they’re after to the exclusion of everything else.  I understand terriers.  Seamus – my little buddy for many years – had this thing about cats. And bones. And anyone walking past the front gate. And mail  people.  Many, many things. One at a time.  When he was interested in a particular bone, that’s all he cared about: he would chew on the bone for a while, then place it strategically in a location he could survey, daring any other being to come near it, summarily ejecting them if they dared.

I have a thing, among many other things, about walking. Especially since my partner gave me a Fitbit a few years ago.  I walk at least 10,000 steps a day.  Not because someone said so and now it’s LAW.  Well, Ok, that’s part of it.  But mostly because it’s a focal point for me, and ensures I stay fit and healthy.

In some ways, that single-mindedness is commendable. In other ways, both Seamus and I miss out. In my case, I’ll talk myself into walking even if I actually shouldn’t; like when I’m getting over the flu. I do this by deliberately ignoring what my body is trying to tell me, overruling that voice with the command in my brain that says I must walk.

I should say, I did this – past tense.  I eventually contracted an illness that would show up, very loudly, every time I ignored that voice. After getting particularly ill, I missed an event I’d planned and co-organized for 3 months. That was really disappointing, but that wasn’t the ah ha moment for me. My ah ha came when a colleague volunteered for something I would have jumped at had I been there, even though I didn’t have the bandwidth for it. With everything I’ve been through, I wanted that opportunity so much that I would, once again, have ignored my physical needs. Instead, Scott volunteered.

Thank you, Scott! And thank you, benevolent universe!

Sometimes ah ha moments aren’t a surprise, like mine was. You can discover them more regularly with the following exercise:

1. First, make some time where you won’t be distracted for an hour. Turn your phone off; put your PC away; close the door, and let your friends and loved ones know you won’t be free for that hour. Then, before doing anything, close your eyes and be still for at least three minutes.

2. Now, with pen and paper, write down 3 to 5 things that came up for you during those few minutes of silence. It might be something like “I couldn’t stop thinking about a problem at work no matter how hard I tried.” Or “I’m so tired!”.

3. Then, review what you wrote, highlighting anything you weren’t aware of before you did this exercise. If your focus was totally on a problem, were you aware of how much you missed because of that? If you’re really tired, are you aware of how that happened?

This awareness is key, because it opens a previously closed door.  Being totally focused might mean you don’t have to dwell on something that makes you uncomfortable.  What happens when you uncover that? Being tired might be from insomnia as your subconscious wrestles with an issue that bothers you deep down.

4. Finally, once you’ve become aware of what you previously missed, take anther few minutes to check in with yourself. What have you learned? How are you feeling? How can you take what you now know to a new level of awareness?

 

If you like this blog, you’ll love my newsletters “You are Enough Just as You Are” for a sample. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Speaking your Truth

Such an interesting topic. You and I are encouraged to speak our truth, especially if we’re women, or in some minority sub-group where speaking our truth might be risky.

I know it’s important for my sense of empowerment and well-being to speak out when I need to. It’s equally important to speak with honesty, and that can sometimes be tricky: our mind can trick us into thinking we’re being honest when we aren’t.

For instance, when I’m triggered by someone, I might choose that time to “speak my truth” in such a way that it hurts the other person.  You’ll know when that happens if you hear me begin by saying something like: “I need to speak my truth” or “I have to be honest with you”; and then spend the rest of the time speaking what I believe is your truth, not mine. Like “You’re always late! You really need to do something about your laziness and disregard of others.” Instead of something more truthful like: “I’ve noticed you’ve been late the last 5 times, and this means we’ve had only 20 minutes together. I really don’t want this. Is there something I need to know? Or some way we can come to a better arrangement?”

Then there’s the issue when I don’t say what I need to say because I’m afraid it’ll come out garbled; or where I’ll show my anger or hurt and don’t want to. So I don’t say anything. If I do that long enough, then some day down the road of the not-so-distant future, it all comes pouring out in a way I’ll regret, probably big time.

And then, there are times when I’m silent, and by being silent I implicitly allow an injustice to happen.  That’s when I need to say out loud what I’m feeling. And that’s when it’s hardest.

Speaking our truth isn’t easy. It’s risky. It takes an open heart and a willingness to dialogue with the other, leaving our assumptions and expectations behind. Speaking our truth doesn’t have to be pretty; it just has to be honest.

I hope for all of us that when you and I have something real to say, about what’s in our heart, we say it the best way we can. With real power.

Oprah – Golden Globes n Speaking our truth

Quote of the Week
At least you said it! – Seth Godin

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co . Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Confronting Mirrors

confronting

Have you ever been so committed to an idea or issue or movement that you have a hard time seeing any point of view but your own? I have, and am right now.  I want a particular person to be included at a big event next week because I believe he has something important to contribute. I believe this so much that I’m finding it almost impossible to hear the view of any nay sayers.

How could these people not see what I see? …  It’s so obvious! … I say to myself.

Then at some point I realize that I’ve done nothing but talk to myself, even if I talked to the others who I’m convinced won’t agree with me. Why? Because I’ve filtered what they’re saying and hear only what agrees with my foregone conclusions.

I miss the chance to really hear what they’re saying. It might be that they believe there’s simply no room for an extra person; or that if this person comes then so should their friend. It might even be that they  agree with me. Or that I caught them on a day their dog got lost.

Not missing what is on their minds means I can allow their concerns to register, mirroring back to them what they’re saying, and offering them a chance, in turn, to mirror my concerns back to me.

Confrontation can happen in one of two ways: either to win over the other person, or to take the conversation to a new level. The first is like a one-way mirror; the secnd like a window into each other’s soul.

From Martha Beck: Don’t be the light. Be the window.

 

If you like this blog, you’ll love my newsletters “You are Enough Just as You Are” for a sample. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .