Tag Archive: meditation

Everything you need

I have a personal mesa that I meditate on every morning.  On it are objects that help me focus on what’s truly important in my life.  One of these objects is a ceramic bowl I made a few years ago.  It’s beautiful. And empty. It’s there to remind me that I have everything I need, and that it’s up to me to fill my life with what I desire.

Even though this knowing isn’t new to me, it’s something I still need to remind myself of. Every time I begin to doubt, every time I begin to lose sight of my purpose, I think of my beautiful bowl.

It’s called re-focusing. Training yourself to focus on something life-enhancing – and true – whenever you find yourself spiraling down into self-doubt and discouragement.
Just like me, you have everything you need, no matter where you are or what you’re trying to accomplish.

For instance, right now I’m challenged with figuring out how to connect with more people.  I’m a social media rookie, even though I’ve sort of been using it for a few years now. I feel I need help; that I don’t have what I need right now to deal with social media.  But that isn’t entirely true.  When I think about it, the truth is that I can discover a lot from friends who do know more than I do; with a little effort, I can get a lot of information and advice from the web. And once I work out what I can do well and what I need extra help on, I know where I can get that help.  Having everything I need doesn’t mean I have all the answers and know-how. Having everything I need means I have a working brain and the ability to sort out what’s important, what I can do myself, and what I need extra help with.

The next time you feel stuck and lost in self-doubt, try re-focusing.

  • First, stop the downward spiral. There are certain things that you likely do when you begin the descent. For me, it’s getting lost in trivial tasks (as a way of not feeling distress). Whatever it is for you, once you notice it, Stop! I literally say “Don’t go there!”. It works for me; it might work for you.
  • Next, get calm. Mindfulness meditation is designed to help you here, because it’s all about training the brain to re-focus. I set the timer on my phone for 5 minutes and I breath. That’s all it takes. 5 minutes.  You may have another way that works for you. This way works for me.
  • Finally, fill that calm with that knowing that you really do have everything you need, right now. Because it’s true: telling yourself you don’t have everything you need is the lie. Put something before you that expresses this knowing. It may be an object, like my empty bowl; it may be a piece of music, a quote or poem, or even a location.  Make it something that quietly reminds you of who you really are, in all your beauty.

Now I’d like to hear from you – how do you re-focus?  What item in your life helps you do that?

Included is a video related to this topic from another perspective, and a quote that I hope you will enjoy.

Pema Chödrön – Start Where You Are

Quote of the Week
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
― Arthur Ashe

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

3 Secrets of Success

In North America, both in the US and in Canada (and – really – the world over), earning a good living, having a house, paying for your kid’s education, saving for retirement – all the things we all thought we’d be doing when we grew up – is no longer all that attainable for over 90% of us.  It may seem like it when you look at the number of house purchases. But if you dig even a tiny bit deeper, the real cost of getting that house shows up. In Toronto, we call it being “house poor”, because every cent you make goes into paying down the mortgage. For years. In fact, mortgages are routinely generated over 25 or 30 years, because otherwise it would be impossible to hold one.  This, along with student loans and other debts, generate huge debt loads that tie us down to whatever jobs we can get. Until we’re old.

I’ve talked about this before in The Wisdom of Insecurity. It’s one of the drivers for the tiny home movement: finding ways to shed that debt load and attain the freedom to do what you truly want to do. You might dream of winning the lottery, or making it big in business, spending thousands on the few coaches who have made it big in the hope that it’ll happen for you, too.  Sadly, I suspect that mostly isn’t true.

So, what is the answer? Making it big? Or not?  Either way, the reason for wanting to try is because you – like me – probably want to live a happy and fulfilling life.

If you could have that life, with or without a lot of money – wouldn’t that feel like success?  It would for me. The older I get, the more I value my health and the health and well-being of my loved ones. The more I value living in a community of happy and contented people.  Money, as long as my basic needs are taken care of, matters less and less to me.

What is success?  According to the online dictionary, it’s the accomplishment of one’s goals.  That is a kind of success. But life success – feeling successful and happy life, is more than that: it’s accomplishing the goals that mean a lot to us.  Richard St. John in his Ted Talk (below) lists 8 secrets that he gleaned from successful people.

I believe these 8 things can be narrowed down to 3:

  1. Passion: Passion for whatever it is you’re doing means that you’ll happily do whatever it takes to get it done. Passion will get you through the mistakes, inevitable failed attempts, criticisms, and dark nights. Working at something that you’re not passionate about is work. Doing something you love is fun – not work. It may be that you’re not sure if you’re passionate enough in what you want to do right now.  That’s OK – do it until something else takes over. There is no ultimate answer to what you should pursue – only that you love doing it.
  2. Focus: You may think this is a no-brainer, but believe me, doing what you love can be terrifying. All the nay-sayers, the bills, the lost security can make it really hard to focus on what’s truly important.  When I feel stuck, it’s always because I’m sitting in fear, where there are a lot of inner voices telling me that I’m not good enough, that I’m going to fail, that this is a stupid idea.  Then I distract myself with anything else so that I don’t have to feel that terror, ultimately wasting my time on what doesn’t matter.  If this happens to you, having a friend to talk to can help. And if that isn’t an option, try this: take your worst fear – say it’s “No matter what I do, I’m going to fail” – and turn it around to something that gives your heart a lift – like “No matter what I do, I’m going to win” (because in the long run, that’s what’s going to happen).  Use this turn-around whenever you begin to feel that fear, as a way to regain your focus.
  3. Love: This may seem corny, but honestly, if your feeling of love and good will towards yourself and others doesn’t increase with what you’re doing, then it probably won’t be sustainable.  Because without this kind of love, how can there be happiness.

Having said all that, if you want the added bonus of financial success, go for it! But first, go after your heart’s desire, because without that, money isn’t going to do it.
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.

Richard St. John – 8 Secrets of Success success

Quote of the Week

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.

– Maya Angelou



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

Following the road less traveled

I watched a wonderful movie last night titled “Legends of the Fall” on Netflix.  It was released in 1994 and stars Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, and Gordon Tootoosis (as One Stab, the narrator); the movie is based on the novel of the same name by Jim Harrison.  The story is about the development and life of a young man who follows his own path, and as can be expected, his road is one less traveled; his path puts him in the way of adversity over and over again.  Early on in the story, the narrator One Stab tells of how the boy counted coup on a Grizzly Bear, and that this attitude of facing and defeating death remained with him all his life.  The message I took from the story was how we must be willing to face our fears if we want to be true to ourselves rather than slave to the will and opinions of others.  Life, in this way, is a lonely business.

The book is set in the American West in the early 1900’s and even though it’s fiction, it has a large element of truth in it: there are many characters of that time period who went West in order to free themselves of the bonds of their community (some good, some also bad); my grandfather was one of those people.

It’s hard to follow our own path. So hard, in fact, that most of us (including me) fall off the path at times and try to follow someone else’s path that’s “safer”, “easier”, more acceptable to those in our society.  Then, at some point, we loose our energy and joy of living, waking up one day wondering how we got to a place of going nowhere, wondering if that’s all there really is.

I’m here to tell you that isn’t all there is. And even more importantly, no matter your age or circumstances, you can get back on your own personal path and reclaim that energy and joy you once felt. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it.  After all, this is it, so far as we know: this life we have now, no matter how long or short, is what all we’re given to live our dream.

How do we do it then, reclaim our path? 

    • First, re-attach your head to the rest of your body.  When we feel attacked and protective (of our dreams, for instance) we go into what’s called fight or flight mode – our stress-response system kicks in and we protect ourselves.  Wilhelm Reich called this body armoring – we tense our muscles and if we do it often enough, our body keeps that tension.  We also repress the feelings we have around what we’re protecting so that, in the end, all we feel is numbness.  And when that happens, all we have is our thoughts no longer attached to the feelings they generate.  So it’s important to re-attach.
    • One way of doing this is to re-learn about what your body feels like. You can do this through the mindfulness meditation of body scan.  Body scan is a meditation technique that is designed to bring you back into body awareness.  There are many similar techniques (relaxation tapes, for instance, if they have as part of their instructions to feel each part of the body as you relax it) – the main point is to bring back into your daily or weekly routine a way of being with your body and re-discovering what it feels like in terms of physical sensations.
    • Then, notice what you feel physically – and where – whenever you are thinking something.  For instance, if I have to give a presentation and I’m stressing about it, I might feel a tightness at my solar plexus, a rawness at my throat; on the other hand, if I’m looking forward to it, I might feel a fluttering at my solar plexus and a warmth at my throat.  One suggestion is to set a timer on your phone, and every the timer goes, stop and ask yourself what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.
    • Once you’ve reconnected your head and heart, you can access your true inner knowing.  Martha Beck calls this your “Essential self”; some shamanistic traditions call this that part of the “Shideh self” that knows what’s best for us. I call it your “Gut”. In any situation where you need to make a decision, you can go to this place of knowing – your “Gut” – and see how each truly sits inside you.  Does a decision make you feel not so good – nauseous, tight, even dead? Or does it make you feel light, energized, fluid? This is called learning to “Trust your gut”, a phrase that’s often used and rarely understood.
    • Finally, let go. The most important thing about trusting your gut, once you can access this, is not fearing change. Change is a constant part of living and growing, and may mean changing relationships, changing expectations, changing direction, changing long-held beliefs. Fear of change can bind us, and blind us from our inner knowing.  Facing our fears, remaining open to new possibilities, can feel scary; and yet doing that is the path to spiritual freedom. My challenge to you is to incorporate these three steps into your daily routine – even for a mere few minutes a day – then see where you’re at with yourself in a month or a week.

Here’s a practical every-day example, using myself as the guinea pig.

I have a problem that is recurring: I want to do too much. I want to complete a course that’s meaningful to me and adds to my business experience; I want to complete a business face-lift that’s even more important to me; I want to learn how to market myself better; I want to advance in my shamanic studies.  I want to write a book.  And I haven’t even started on all the other things in my life I want to do – spend more time with my friends and loved ones, take vacation, and so on. Well, I can’t do all of them all at once, so how do I decide on what to focus on and what to put aside for now? First, I notice how I feel physically with each one: ”complete the course” leaves me feeling somewhat energized in my stomach area; “complete the business face-lift” leaves me feeling really energized; “market myself better” leaves me feeling heavy and with a restricted throat; “advance my shamanic studies” is similar to the first one.  So if I follow my inner knowing – my gut – the most important thing, no matter what anyone else may think, is my business face-lift (that problem with self-marketing is another issue).

If you have a decision to make and you feel stuck, try this out.  It may take a while – especially if you need to re-connect – but believe me, it’s worth it!

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.

Ziggy Marley – Roads Less Traveled

Quote of the Week
Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

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

Trust, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

Trust, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

I’m part of a coaching support group, where we practice being coaches on each other.  Contrary to some opinions, I find that coaches use many of the same techniques that therapists do, and being part of this group reminded me of what it was like testing my wings as a new therapist.  I remember watching the teachers conduct hot seats in front of us (a “hot seat” happens when a therapist and client work in front of an audience, generating “heat” simply by exposure for both of them; for this very reason, hot seats tend to generate fast results, when done well); as I watched, I marvelled at how brilliant the therapist was and wondered if I’d ever reach that level of competence – doubting at the time that I would.  Needless to say, over the years since, practicing and meeting with clients every day, I have reached that level – and it feels good, because I’m genuinely helping people achieve their dreams in the process.

The secret comes from trusting myself and the process.  In both coaching and therapy, the work involves the building of a trusting relationship between the coach or therapist and the client.  The client has to feel safe enough to speak openly and honetly; the coach or therapist has to be open and present and trust herself enough to go with what she sees and responds to, and to be able to say when she herself is stuck or confused.  Both need to trust that this process will lead to worthwhile results.  There isn’t a session I have with a client where I don’t learn something about myself as well as about my client.  It’s a process that benefits both of us, as long as there is trust.

When I first started to apply what I learned as a new therapist, I made the mistake of following instructions, so that I found I was completely “in my head” and equally completely out of touch with my body.  When that happened, there was no learning, no relationship-building, and no trust. The client left feeling dissatisfied and I was left feeling guilty and inadequate.

The way to trust is in being authentic and open, and in remaining in touch with our essential selves, which is always revealed in how we physically respond to our world.  For instance, if I were to think of a past event that brought me pain, my body will immediately register certain sensations – for me, it will be a feeling of tightness in my chest, like there was a heavy metal ball in the centre of it.  If on the other hand, I were to think of a past event that brings me pleasure, I feel a feathery kind of expansion in my chest.  When a client says something that grabs my attention, I feel that sense of expansion.  If I follow that interest, something always comes of it. If I ignore it, the session is pretty much done.

My challenge to you is this: discover in yourself how your body responds to painful and pleasant events. For one day, use this knowing to guide you, and at the end of it, take a moment to see how your day went, and how it left you feeling.

I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ … There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt. ― Maya Angelou

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thejoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

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 .