Archive: Meditation and Mindfulness

The secret to winning in life

I was in front of a group of women my age, about to give them a presentation I’d prepared meticulously. I’d mapped it out, timed it out, and practiced.  I knew it cold. But when I got up in front of them, all I could think of was whether they’d take me seriously.  I had this constant inner talk going on for at least a week before the presentation.  I dressed in a way that I thought would do it – not the way I usually dress; I chose topics I thought would tweak their interest – not topics that tweaked mine.  And the inevitable happened: they, almost to a woman, looked like they were having a hard time staying awake; and left right after, without asking a single question.  I was mortified.

I had to go through that a few more times until I was worn out and discouraged enough to simply give up and be myself, regardless of the result.  After all – how much worse could being myself be? And, yes, the next time I spoke, I spoke on a topic that interested me, in a way that was natural to me, wearing what I liked, in front of a group of people I wanted to be with. That time, the listeners not only took me seriously, but really got what I was saying, using it in their own lives in a way it was always meant to be used.

I listened to a live Q&A with Marie Forleo today that brought that home.  Someone called in and asked her to suggest a baby step they could take that would help them succeed in holding their own authenticity.  I’ve included her remarks, along with my own, as ways of learning to notice what you’re doing and turning it into a win:

  • Discover your mask. When you’re in front of an audience, notice when you’re trying to be someone else. That’s all. Becoming aware of what you’re doing is always the first step to change.  Notice who you’re trying to be – someone in the audience; someone you suppose your audience admires? What exactly are you “trying on”, and why?  This, in the world of shamanism, is called a mask.  Masks can be powerful tools, as long as they’re used honestly without any intent to manipulate.  But when we’re hiding behind a mask, we always have an agenda.
  • Learn who and how you are naturally. It’s amazing but true that most of us have to actually learn this.  We knew it instinctively when we were kids, and have since hidden it in an effort to belong.  The truth is that who we are naturally is our greatest strength.  It’s the one thing that helps us stand out and be noticed.  And being noticed by the people who matter – those people who you want to be with – is the winning ticket.

It sounds simple, and isn’t: my whole work is about helping people discover that about themselves.  But it is the key – the secret – to winning in life.

Be yourself.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Being Authentically Myself at Work – Suzette Robotham

 Quote of the Week
I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.― Muhammad Ali

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

How to survive holiday dinners

holiday dinners

It started for those in the US at Thanksgiving, and will continue until the New Year is finally here – family gatherings, family dinners, where everyone we don’t see for the rest of the year is together for a long while.  Sometimes, it seems, a really long while.  There’s a reason you haven’t seen them for a year or more, and that may be because every time you’re together, bad feelings result.  Your brother is hard right and you’re hard left; your sister is born-again and you’re an atheist.  There are so many things people can strongly disagree on, that we end up coming to family gatherings expecting to be bored at best, and boiling at worst.  But never actually enjoying ourselves.

Well, you know your family best, but it may be possible to change that dynamic. There’s a Native American tradition that many have heard of, called the talking stick.  In traditional households, the talking stick is used to deal with disputes between members.  The way it works is that whoever is holding the stick has the floor.  Of course, there are some rules: the person holding the floor, for instance, talks about their feelings and don’t use the stick to blame the other. The other person – the one who’s hearing the speaker out – is meant to take a position of openness, really hearing what is being said in an open and non-defensive way (which they can only do if they aren’t feeling attacked).

We can do something similar at those dreaded family gatherings: open a space inside us to really hear what the other is saying, looking from their point of view, attempting to see how it makes sense to them.  This can be really difficult.  If it proves too much, then you might try what a close friend does every time he’s with his brother. He remembers the countless times they had fun together and relied on one another.  When he does that, his heart opens, and he can have a close and heartfelt time with someone whose views are very opposed to his.

 

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 .

 

 

The good committee – your own

The good committee

Seth Godin , in his blog Five Contributions, listed the 5 positions that make a well-functioning team: Leader, Manager, Salesperson, Craftsperson, and Contributor. Each of these players have skills and abilities that are unique and that combine to generate success.

The Leader is the pathfinder.  The person who is first to step into the unknown: an ability that is essential for forging any new path. The Manager takes responsibility for determining and managing the work needed to achieve the goals set by the Leader.  The Salesperson “turns a maybe into a yes”, showing others the value of what is being created and generating an interest in participating or purchasing.  The Craftsperson is the creative, using their abilities to actually produce the promised product in a way that attracts. And the Contributor fills in whatever blanks are left to ensure that promises are kept.

That’s an apt description of a well-functioning team.  It’s also an apt description of the autonomous person – one who lives life on their own terms. It doesn’t mean that such a person lives like a hermit, not needing or wanting anyone else in their lives. It simply means that they, on their own, are leader, manager, salesperson, craftsperson, and contributor.  They are the ones who forge new paths, determine their own goals, work out the requirements of achieving those goals, generate whatever is needed, and ultimately makes sure the job gets done – well and on time.

This kind of person isn’t rare. It’s every self-employed person who’s either achieved success or is on their way (whether they know it yet or not). It’s anyone who’s entire focus is directed towards their dream, for as long as they are so directed.

We have the potential to be autonomous. Each of these skills are also character traits that we all have, to some degree or another, and can gain mastery over.

If you’re actively pursuing your own dream, and have hit a blimp – large or small – it might be worth remembering that you have everything you need to either do what’s necessary, or negotiate for the help you need.  Either way, your dreams are real and achievable.

 

If you’re interested in knowing more about natural character traits, you might be interested in Discover Your Natural Character.

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 .

Too fond of play, Fooled for clothing

fooled

 

I woke one morning having dreamt that title (might even be too fond of it).  It was after binge-watching Mad Men.  So appropriate, since I felt I was on a bender until it was done.

I’d resisted watching it for years – because I’d lived it – but eventually, curiosity won out.  What I felt was a gradual descent into an old hell, re-awakening the women’s libber in me, bringing back the pain of those times – and also for a brief while, my great dislike of men. I remember talking about the series to a friend, who agreed that it is an incredibly accurate portrayal of those times, and of corporate America.

After WWII, society had, en masse, chosen to give all jobs to the men returning from the war, and re-locate all women to the home and motherhood. Growing up as a female child, I saw so many women end up either drunk most of the time or in psych wards.  When I entered the corporate work force at the age of 17, I watched – spell-bound – as boys my age were speed-walked through the ranks in a few months, while women who had been there for years stayed put. I decided that I would be one of the women who would change that. And I did, only to discover the truth in that old cliché “Be careful what you wish for”.

But like everyone else reaching for that elusive prestigious position that would bestow on me respect and acceptance, I hid myself behind what I thought was acceptable. By whom? Why, by all those other people doing the same thing! And because I hid myself – even from myself  – I became a fool for clothing – for appearance over substance.

I don’t know how many of you reading this experienced something similar; even so many years after WWII, after women’s lib, and after the great leaps in civility we’ve accomplished, we live fearfully. There is so much worry and anxiety that it’s hard not to hide behind the mask of acceptability.

But there is a problem with hiding behind this mask. The problem is that it will never lead to being happy with life. I keep thinking of the 5 main regrets of the dying; one of these regrets was about not doing what they had always wanted to do. Not trying it at least. Not even tasting it.

If you feel you may be hiding, I’m not about to suggest you throw off your cloak and reveal all. If that act doesn’t give you a heart attack on the spot, it might at least put you in real peril.  After all, all your friends and associates are very used to the hidden version of you. Instead, I suggest you find some small thing that gives you a taste.  Then if that feels good to you, take another taste, then another.

Eventually, you might find yourself, one day, in a surprisingly different world; one where everything is color and sound, taste and smell; where you feel more alive than you ever remember feeling.

 

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 .

Busting the myth of scarcity

I’m close to finishing my training with Martha Beck to transition from therapist to Life Coach.  I’ve discovered that there is very little difference between what she teaches and how I do therapy: she combines body/mind techniques to help people get unstuck, and then clarify and accomplish their goals.

I love it! And during the course of this adventure, I found there are people who have no coaching or therapy experience and are really starting out from scratch, others who have a great deal of life experience but are new to coaching, and still others – like me – who have a lot of life and professional experience in related areas.

One issue or question that keeps coming up for all of us (me included), regardless of experience, is how we are going to be successful as a coach when there are so many of us.  It’s the idea that there are only so many people who want or need coaching and a lot of coaches providing this service; it’s the idea – the myth – of scarcity.

It comes up in comments – stated or implied – like this: “She’s so good and I’m just starting out! How am I ever going to compete against her? I don’t have a chance, and might as well quit!”; or “God! As soon as I open my mouth about Martha Beck, people simply want to read her books! I feel like a walking advertisement for her, instead of doing anything for myself!”; or “Dam! We’re in the same network group! How can we both talk about coaching without getting in each other’s way?”

These are a small sample of the fears that go through the mind and bodies of most of us, and they are all – every one of them – myths, based solely on our own limiting beliefs, and not on the reality of the situation at all.  In reality, we live in a world filled with people who are looking for the kind of help coaches offer, and especially in this world of online access, our customer base is world-wide. There is more than enough work for everyone, and that happy fact means we can relax and focus on finding people who we work well with.

I’ve focused on coaching because that’s what I’m focused on anyway just now.  But this attitude of scarcity is everywhere. It might be that you work in a small office where only one person ever gets promoted – forgetting that there’s a whole world of other similar opportunities out there; or that you want to make and sell fragrant soaps, but notice that every flea market has hoards of soap sellers.  It doesn’t matter what you fear, the myth of scarcity can be examined, dismissed, and replaced with a belief that truly helps.

If you’re feeling anxious in this way, I’d like to offer the following to help you determine how much of that fear is real and how much is really based on a limiting belief (based on Byron Katie’s The Work).

  • Write it out. Begin writing everything you can about your feelings, fears and beliefs.  Don’t hold anything back – no one but you will ever see it, so get as down and dirty as you can.
  • Find the belief, or set of beliefs that all of this fear is based on. For instance, let’s take the “As soon as I open my mouth” example above: I might begin with writing about how unfair it all is, how no one wants to pay anything for value, always looking for the least expensive way – writing about my pain and fears until they are all out in the open, on paper. Eventually, I’ll begin to calm down and notice a pattern through my words.  It might be “I don’t really have anything to offer!” or “Deep down, I’ll never be good enough!”. The belief that we hold, deep down, is often something we would never say out loud, even to ourselves.
  • Challenge this belief.  Katie has a system she uses and teaches to challenge our beliefs, beginning with challenging the truth of the belief, then looking for examples of when it isn’t true. Then dives deeper, examining how believing it makes us feel (generally awful in some major way), and who we would be without that belief (generally good and even great).  Then as a final nail in the belief coffin, examines variations of the reverse or opposite of the belief, often revealing something significant about why we have that belief. Continuing with the example, “I don’t really have anything to offer”: it isn’t always true – there are many ways I have something of real value to offer – all of us have this. But when I let myself believe this, I feel small, defeated, worthless.  Without believing that I don’t have anything to offer, I’d feel fine – relaxed, engaged. Reversing the belief – I do have something to offer; My self-doubting mind doesn’t have anything to offer – shows me what really has to go (my self-doubt).
  • Replace the belief with C. We all have something valuable to offer, and that value comes from who we truly are, authentically. The more we question any belief that stops us, the more we can relax into the truly powerful self we are, in whatever space we’re in.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

 

Quote of the Week
If you think happiness is a rare bird you won’t see much of it. ― Marty Rubin

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

Mindfulness and Mindlessness

I meditate every morning – for at least half an hour. Sometimes, I end up gaining energy and a kind of delightful groundedness from it that can carry me through the rest of the day. Sometimes, I feel it’s little more than sleeping sitting up, where the entire time can go by in a blink.

Ellen Langer would call the first instance one of mindfulness, and the second one of mindlessness.  Ms. Langer is a social psychologist at Harvard University, who has studied Mindfulness and what she calls Mindlessness since at least the 1970’s.  In a recent podcast, she spoke about what mindfulness really means for her.

She defines Mindfulness as the simple act of actively noticing things. For her, being mindful doesn’t necessarily involve meditating or yoga, or any particular recommended way of being. All of these things can be mindful, and they can also be unmindful, depending on how we are while we do them.

From her studies, experiments and research, she concludes that most of us are mindless most of the time, and that this mindlessness is at least a major contributor to illness and unhappiness in our lives.

In one study, for instance, which she terms Counter-Clockwise, she has a group of men in their 80’s live in a retreat for a week that has been retrofitted to around 20 years earlier. These men were to act as if this retrofit were in the present (i.e., as if they were 20 years younger).  What she discovered, by measuring their physical and emotional well-being after that week, was that they not only felt 20 years younger, but that their hearing, vision, memory and strength had all significantly improved.

Her work addresses the mind/body question in an intriguing way: most of us still separate the mind from the body – looking at how the mind influences the body and vice versa.  She doesn’t make this distinction. Instead, she sees mind and body as inseparable.

With this perspective, the Placebo can be seen as a powerful and valid drug instead of a mistake; one that unlocks our brain’s inner pharmacy, and gives us mastery over our own health. How empowering that is!

I could talk endlessly about the implications and applications stated and implied by Ms. Langer that come from her approach and perspective, but will offer up one that we can all use right away: re-invigorating our personal relationships.

Most, if not all, of us can find ourselves getting too used to our life partners.  The prevailing wisdom when that happens is to change things up; to freshen that relationship by making it new again.  And some people manage to do that with success.  Or, you can try this:

Every day for a week, make a point of actively noticing 5 things about your partner. For instance, you might notice today that he or she carefully folded their pajamas before leaving for work. What you notice doesn’t have to be profound; it simply needs to be something you actively engage in in the moment.

What happens?  A revitalized connection to your partner.

 

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 .

 

Who do you feed?

If you haven’t heard the story about the 2 wolves, here it is: It’s an ancient Cherokee legend.

A boy comes to his grandfather for advice because he’s raging inside over a fight he had with his friend.  His grandfather tells him there are two wolves inside him. One is good and is joy, peace, love, hope, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion – all the things that give our lives joy; the other is evil and is anger, envy, regret, greed, guilt, resentment, doubt, false pride – all the things that make us miserable.

The boy thought for a minute, and then asks his grandfather which wolf would win.

Grandfather replies: The one you feed.

Which is good and which is evil isn’t always so easy to figure out. Here’s another, more modern, story (you may be familiar with some version of it):

A woman – Jane, let’s say – is faced with a choice, and can’t decide which is the better one. She’s just been offered the promotion she’s coveted for over a year, but it would mean relocating.  That’s OK for her, but not so OK for her son and husband, who like where they are and friends, colleagues and great prospects that they’d lose if they moved.  She would feel great. They would feel terrible. What should she do?

She might talk herself into one choice or the other, without ever really being clear about what motivated her. After all, if I were to be offered the job of my dreams, I’d be pretty hard-pressed to turn it down, and might rationalize my way into going, only to discover my mistake when it was too late. Or, she might avoid that mistake by imagining that it had already happened – both alternatives.

Alternative 1 – moving with her husband and son.  Imagine a typical day living in her new place – being honest with herself, how she’d feel getting up, how it would be between herself and her family walking through the whole day like that.

Alternative 2 – turning the job down and staying put. Imagine this typical day in the same way as she’s imagined the first alternative.

Which feels good? Which doesn’t feel good?  Which choice gives her peace and joy, and which doesn’t? Martha Beck refers to something like this in her book Steering by Starlight. She calls it “Find the Feeling”.

Sometimes knowing which wolf we’re feeding takes some effort, but the pay-off is worth it.

Peace of mind.

 

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 .

Anger: how it helps and how it hurts us

Let me tell you a story that you may know yourself. You’re in the office and hear your manager tearing a strip off a co-worker. The manager is angermeterangry bordering on rage. She seems to have a point, but her attitude toward the co-worker is, in itself, anger-making.

How does this impact you as an unwilling observer? What would you find yourself doing about it?

Some of us would get angry and react by either saying something in anger or avoiding the situation altogether, likely feeling badly about it later. A few of us may get angry and then take it in, responding once we were ready, feeling OK later, if we thought about it at all.

The former reaction hurts us and the second helps us. As Ambrose Bierce said, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

Anger is a natural and necessary emotion. It’s how we deal with our own anger that determines whether it hurts or helps us. Anger is a natural response to perceived threats. It causes our body to release adrenaline, our muscles to tighten, and our heart rate and blood pressure to increase. Our senses might feel more acute and our face and hands flushed. Anger becomes a problem only when we don’t manage it in a healthy way.

Anger helps us in at least three ways:

  1. Anger protects us when we are in physical danger by kicking in our “fight or flight” response, allowing us to act quickly.
  2. Anger can let us know when something isn’t right and we need to take action. For instance, if a person isn’t listening to us when an important situation arises.
  3. Anger teaches us about what is important to us and about our own bottom lines. For instance, back to the story, is mutual respect in the workplace a bottom line for you?

Next time you get angry, notice how you respond. Begin to appreciate how getting angry, if felt mindfully, can be a powerful teacher in our lives.

 Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit http://www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

 

Price vs cost – is it worth it?

Imagine this: You’re planning a vacation for you and your friend; you go ahead and make all the reservations, booking the flights for both of you. Then, a few days before the trip, you two have a big fight, and your friend disappears.  You’re left to deal with what to do next.

If that’s ever happened to you, it sucks! It hurts, even if you find someone else to go with. Even if you go anyway and have a great time.

That event cost both you and your friend: it cost you time and money, but it cost your friend a lot more.

Here’s another story that might be closer to home:  the momentary lapse in good judgment.

  • Eating the extra cookie, telling myself I deserve it and that it won’t make much difference.
  • Looking away when I see an acquaintance across the street, telling myself that I don’t have time to chat just now.
  • Trying to fit too many things into a very short timeframe, so that I’m not paying attention to what I’m doing while chopping vegetables with a very sharp knife.

All of those things have happened in my life.  The last one nearly cost me my thumb.

Seth Godin in a recent blog invites us to consider the difference between Price and Cost. Price, he says, is a simple number. Cost is what we have to give up to get what we want.

When I nearly cut my thumb off, I thought I wanted to complete an impossible number of tasks from my to do list.  What I really wanted was to decrease my anxiety that I’d end up not succeeding in launching something important to me.  All that make-work, along with my distraction and energy drain, was the cost.
But if I’m being honest, my real desire was to make this launch a success.
To know that, I had to stop the busy-work, and sit with my feelings. Only then was I able to focus on what really mattered.
The price was a few minutes of discomfort.  The cost was giving up the lie that make-work will make success happen.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

The price of happiness
worth
Quote of the Week
Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.
― Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

 

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

Mon, Dad and the Kids – How our families help us grow

family

I sit and watch a friend agonizing over something she’s writing, moaning she’s no good at this kind of thing. She does this all the time.  She writes for a living and is really pretty good at it, but that doesn’t stop the moaning and occasional self-doubt.

It may be true that she wasn’t born with a natural talent to put words on paper. I really can’t think of anyone who is. But she’s developed that talent: encouraged by teachers and family, not only to pursue what she wanted to pursue, but also by their own power of example, showing her how to live successfully. Her accomplishment is just as real and “valid” as if she were born with it. She’s worked really hard to get to the level of competence she’s at, and I applaud her.

Seth Godin, in his recent blog titled The Musclebound Baby, reminded me that when we see a person with a lot of muscles, we don’t assume they were born that way.  Instead we assume they worked hard to develop those muscles.

Family traits are way more than what gets handed down through genes.  We all know that. How our parents raise us; how we were nurtured by them; how they modeled being an adult to us; even the family culture – all of these are major influencers in the way we develop.  There’s even some evidence that some traits are picked up at a cellular level, even if not genetically (For instance, we now know that if a mother is malnourished during pregnancy, she will carry that information in her cells to her offspring down the generations).

What I find so cool is knowing that whatever I’ve picked up from my parents, I can use to build up my strength.  Sure, I can also use them to limit myself, but I’d rather see what I can make of them to expand my capabilities and options.

Like my friend, who learnt through dogged effort (which she learned from her Mother) to write well.

 

NOTE: the photo above is from a BING screenshot.  It’s something you can get, as I did, if you have a Windows Operating System.

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 .