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Ready to Reinvent Yourself?

Griffin and friendTomorrow is my birthday! I’ve already a jump on the celebration with the two sweet boys on the right. We went to our favorite restaurant and they kept me wonderfully entertained with “groaner” stories, jokes and riddles.

Birthdays offer a wonderful opportunity to appreciate all of your awakenings and accomplishments from the previous year and set your intentions for the next.

To make the most of your life ANY time of the year, try the steps below and let me know what you think!

In The Wisdom of Menopause, author Christiane Northrup writes, “At midlife more than any other time we have a renewed opportunity to reinvent ourselves and fuel our lives from spirit.”

Like her, I believe that midlife can inspire some huge spiritual awakenings. For that reason, I’ve drawn on Northrup’s book—and from another instant classic, Stephen Cope’s Yoga and the Quest for the True Self—to put together the following list of ways to foster a spiritual awakening in middle age.

Six Steps for Giving Birth to a Mid-Life You Love:

reinvent yourself1. Begin a Daily Physical Practice.
Over centuries, yogis discovered this truth: we begin to know reality through the body. We cannot transcend it. We can learn to listen to its messages, but we cannot ignore them.

Heart-thumping workouts are a great form of cardiovascular exercise and stress release, but the daily physical practice I’m asking you to adopt would be quieter and more meditative. You could begin a yoga practice, learn tai chi or simply get outside for a 15-minute walk every day.

2. Honor Your Body’s Messages.
Our culture does a pretty good job of teaching us to ignore our body’s cues about everything from hunger to using the bathroom. We learn very early to control our bodies as a strategy for getting along in life. We learn to deny the body’s needs instead of learning how to respond to them in a caring way.

However, one sure sign of wisdom is an ability to pay attention to things that others ignore. In mid-life, developing this ability with respect to our bodies allows us to appreciate that they are capable of sending us profound and meaningful messages—messages that when acted upon will improve our quality of life. So I’m asking you to pay more attention to the signals your body sends.

3. Practice Exquisite Self-Care.
As we begin to hear our bodies’ messages, another amazing change takes place: we begin to have more appreciation for them. We experience a new level of respect for our bodies and we find ourselves more committed to keeping them strong and healthy.

For example, when we compare the symptoms of fatigue with what we know our bodies can do when they’re well-rested, we may find ourselves more interested in getting adequate sleep. The same is true of eating well, getting exercise and making time to connect with loved ones—as well as for quiet contemplation. We experience pleasure in caring for ourselves in this manner, and so I’m asking you to commit to caring for yourself.

4. Appreciate More.
The key to a happy life—at any age—is simply to be happy. Having a satisfying daily life is way more important to most people’s sense of personal fulfillment than achieving some lofty goals like winning the Pulitzer.

How do you have a satisfying daily life? Look for things to appreciate. They can be small things like the way the light plays on the leaves, or the way your cat purrs when you rub that special spot, but when you get in the habit of looking for things that please you, you will find them.

If in a day you find more things to appreciate than to find fault with, you will feel happy and satisfied by the end of it. String together many similar days and you will have had a happy and satisfying life.

5. Decline Opportunities to Undermine Yourself.
There is always a way to meet someone else’s needs without sacrificing your own.

I often get questions from my coaching clients about how to achieve this. It can be challenging, but it is possible to be true to yourself and your priorities and at the same time stay connected and be kind to those around you.

When you speak from a place of alignment with your priorities you will most likely meet with acceptance and support from the people in your life (try it and you’ll see).

And if you don’t find that acceptance, it will be easier for you to let those relationships go—or you may be surprised to see them simply fall away. This has been my experience and the experience of many of my clients.

So be clear about your priorities. Embrace mid-life as a time to be comfortable with asking for what you need to live your best life.

6. Follow Your Bliss.
There really has never been any better advice than Joseph Campbell’s “Follow your bliss.”

My clients are often stymied when I ask them what they really want. They have deferred their true desires for so long that they are almost unaware that they have any. But given proper encouragement, they can usually come up with a long list pretty quickly.

The benefits to exploring your true desires are profound. As Stephen Cope says, “True mastery can only be built upon the energy of real interest [emphasis mine]. This satisfying new connection with real interests may be accompanied by a sense of enhanced personal power—an experience of acting in alignment with the deepest self.”

So I’m asking two questions: Do you know what brings you joy? And is there something you’d truly love to do, but you’re afraid to commit yourself to it because of fear of failure?

If you know what you want, I’d like you to start carving out more time to do it, even while you keep your “day” job. Connecting with your bliss for even small amounts of time will yield huge benefits.

And if you don’t know what brings you joy, start asking yourself every day, preferably first thing in the morning “What do I really, really, really want?” The answer will reveal itself to you in time.

How to “Accept” a Bad Situation

griffin and his coachThe photo to the right is Griffin with his coach after another great game last Saturday.

I really appreciate Coach Chris because he manages to be unfailingly positive and supportive as he inspires his players to stretch and grow.

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to coach – and to parent – effectively.

It’s interesting that in the process of coaching and/or parenting we have the opportunity to receive the encouragement and support we may not have gotten as children.

When we become parents, we can also learn how challenging it can be to offer the perfect words of encouragement and support when our own frustrations or disappointments get in the way.

(Incidentally, in seeing my struggle to parent “perfectly,” I’ve developed a lot compassion for my own parents!)

Whenever I find myself unable to shield Griffin from frustration and disappointment, it can be very challenging. I try to remind myself that all I can do is offer the tools that have worked for me when I am frustrated and disappointed.

And when I do offer those tools I often remember that I can apply them to the stress I feel about my child’s situation. If you don’t follow me, continue reading as I show how a mother’s concern about her daughter eventually allowed the mother to find her own peace.

One of my coaching clients recently went through a divorce. She has worked hard to get to a place where she can appreciate all the good that came from the relationship.

Her teen-aged daughter is foremost in her appreciation. But it is also in relation to her daughter that she struggles with the most persistent difficult feelings related to her ex.

You see, the ex is now withholding emotional and financial support from his daughter. My client sees that her daughter is hurting as a result of her father’s neglect and she wants to know how to best support her.

Although on the surface it may look like the problem is the no-good ex and the daughter’s hurt feelings, the solution lies deeper. In any event, we probably won’t be able to “fix” the ex’s behavior or the daughter’s hurt feelings.

letting go of disappointmentGranted, it is wonderful when people do the right thing at the right time, but if they don’t, it is our responsibility to make peace with the present situation. The way to do this becomes clearer when we appreciate that circumstances don’t determine our happiness, but our thoughts about the circumstances do.

Byron Katie’s Loving What Is provided me with the tools (what she calls “Inquiry”, or the “Work”) that became a key for me in identifying and letting go of my stressful thoughts. I have learned that I can be happy or, at the very least, peaceful in any conditions.

I still have stressful thoughts but I know that it is my thinking that is the problem, and not some unpleasant person or situation.

To do the “Work” you ask yourself four questions.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do I react when I think that thought?
  4. Who would I be without that thought?

And then you do what Katie calls the “Turnaround.” You try to imagine yourself in the position of the person you have judged, or whose situation causes you distress.

It is sometimes challenging to do this, but you will have huge awakenings when you can. In fact, you will often find that you have also transgressed—or are also suffering—in some manner similar to people or situations you have judged.

In this instance I encouraged my client to do the Work on the stressful thought, “My daughter is wounded because her dad will not be ‘there’ for her—emotionally, psychologically, financially—as other dads are for their kids. She does not get how he can be so detached and unavailable. She is hurting.”

I asked my client to investigate those thoughts by applying the turnaround. Suddenly “My daughter is hurting” became “I am hurting…I can’t get how he can be so unavailable to our daughter.”

I know that even if you see the truth in this realization, you may be wondering how it helps my client to see her own suffering in this situation—and especially how it helps her daughter.

It helped because seeing her own suffering allowed her to exert control over her own feelings. She now had the power to find a better-feeling thought, or do the Work again to explore her own feelings toward the ex, or even talk things over with a trusted friend.

In all of these ways she could come to accept the situation without judgment. And whenever we accept a situation without judgment, we experience more peace and we can offer greater emotional support to those who are suffering.

In short, by recognizing and letting go of her own negative feelings for her ex, my client will have more energy to care for her own needs and those of her daughter.

She will be able to validate her daughter’s feelings—whatever she says is troubling her—and say “I know this is really hard right now. You and I both wish your dad “got” what an amazing person you are and wanted to celebrate and support you in every way.”

When her daughter’s feelings were validated she could then say, “I know you will find your way. You have everything you need inside you to be happy no matter what the conditions and this is more important than anything else. And I’m here for you, no matter what.”

Her support would come from a completely authentic place because she has found this to be true for herself.

Of course, maybe none of this will take away her daughter’s hurt. But again, we really can’t “fix” anything for anyone else. We can only let go of our own stressful thoughts and hope that by doing so we are more present and available to help others in their suffering.

We can shine a light for others on their path only after we have done the same for ourselves.

How to Be Mindful (with the help of a book or two)

October 18, 2016

This week was remarkable because I attended a book event with two of my all-time favorite authors—Ann Patchett and Barbara Kingsolver. The photo shows Ann on the left and Barbara on the right. We were celebrating the release of Ann’s new book Commonwealth—her first novel in over 5 years and absolutely worth the wait. Fortunately

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Unconditional Friendship (for yourself and others)

October 11, 2016

Have you ever heard the saying, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold”? We used to sing it in rounds when I was a Girl Scout. The photo to the right is me with dear friend of almost 20 years – taken at the special dinner she treated

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Ready to Reinvent Yourself?

October 4, 2016

Tomorrow is my birthday! I’ve already a jump on the celebration with the two sweet boys on the right. We went to our favorite restaurant and they kept me wonderfully entertained with “groaner” stories, jokes and riddles. Birthdays offer a wonderful opportunity to appreciate all of your awakenings and accomplishments from the previous year and

Read the full article →

How to “Accept” a Bad Situation

September 27, 2016

The photo to the right is Griffin with his coach after another great game last Saturday. I really appreciate Coach Chris because he manages to be unfailingly positive and supportive as he inspires his players to stretch and grow. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to coach – and to

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How to Forgive

September 20, 2016

Last week Griffin had two days off for school to allow for Parent Teacher Conferences and we spent one of the days with one of his best friends by the river. It was a lovely celebration of great friendship and nature. If you’ve been following along for the last few months, you know that the

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how to stop putting yourself last on your list

September 13, 2016

The photo to the right is Griffin with his soccer team after their first game of the season. You can see from all the happy faces that they are off to a great start! This is Griffin’s fifth year playing soccer—the longest time he has ever devoted himself passionately to any activity—and he recently told

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How to let go of resentment after a betrayal

September 6, 2016

That’s a photo of me, Griffin and his best friend, Elijah, after a very satisfying and sweaty soccer session! Doug and I played soccer with them for over an hour - and then they continued to play long after we left. The play date lasted over 5 hours and Doug and I hardly saw them

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How to Let Go of Guilt

August 30, 2016

Last week Griffin started seventh grade! He keeps saying that each day gets better and better – don’t you just love that? One of the things I work with my clients on most intensely is getting them to look forward to their days with the same enthusiasm. Often, though, one of the things they have

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