Monday, August 31, 2009

Don't sweat the small stuff.... and it's all small stuff!

As some of you know, a couple of my relatives that I'm very close with have recently been diagnosed with cancer. Until now, my family for the most part has been in tact and healthy, therefore, I've not yet dealt with the loss of someone very close to me. I've lived under (to a certain degree) the illusion that each of my family members would stay healthy for years to come. In an ideal world this would be wonderful. However, it seems as though this is not the reality and I've got to find a way to be 'with' it. I've got to find a way to accept this is as a reality. The hard part is I don't want to accept that I may never see my uncle again after this year or that he may not be able to come to my wedding or play with my children. I don't want to accept the reality that my uncle who I love so much may not be at our family gatherings next year or the year after. I feel rage. I feel sadness. And I feel an extreme sense of loss.

Recognizing this is a strong possibility - losing one of my favorite family members, has opened my eyes to the preciousness of life. It goes quickly and each moment is so important to cherish. As I write this, I'm aware that this may sound trite and hokey but for the first time I'm actually experiencing first hand this great sense of losing something I really care about and have NO control over. Although, I suppose this is true about everything - isn't it? I will say it's made me more appreciative of the people in my life and for the special moments I am so privileged to share with them.

This situation has made me keenly aware of what I make a priority in my life..... and what impact this has on where I spend my time and with whom. I often (sometimes unconsciously) make work and money the most important thing in my life. While I know absolutely this is NOT what will sustain me or ultimately give me lasting happiness, it's easy to gravitate toward. It's not that I even need to look at these things - work and money - as being negative. This is really more about the energy that I put toward them. How much space they take up in my head and how sometimes I will gravitate toward working rather than spending time with a loved one.

I don't want to wake up one day and wish I'd spent more time with my family, friends or partner because I worked through the weekend. I don't want to wish that I'd made more calls to my family and friends to tell them I love and care about them, because I was 'too busy'. It is easy... very easy for me to 'be' busy. I can fill up my days, nights, weekends and months with busy activity in a matter of minutes. Yes, I am grateful to have options - for this I do feel fortunate. But at the end of it all - running around like a chicken with my head cut off, having no time to deeply connect - I feel empty, cranky and lonely. I do not believe that is why any of us are here.... to work and make money. Yet, the messages that promote this mind-set are all around us. It is what many of us subscribe to - whether we acknowledge it or not. We move fast, we cram more into our already packed schedules and we beat ourselves up at the end of it all because we didn't get 'enough' done. Crazy ... isn't it?

If you just found out you only had a few more months to live .... what would your priorities be? Would it be to pack up your schedule? Would it be to work more? Would it be to travel the world? I think my priorities would be to spend my time with people I love only doing the activities that I truly love doing. Life is short - very short. And how easy it is to forget this. So, here's another reminder to you.... slow down, take time to tell people who are important to you that you love and appreciate them, focus on the quality of your life rather than the quantity of activities keeping you busy....and, as one of my favorite authors wrote, "Don't sweat the small stuff.... and it's all small stuff."

In case I haven't told you lately, YOU rock!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Unplugged, Recharged and Re-Oriented

Just back from a fabulous trip to Belize .... one of my favorite vacations yet. Why was this vacation so fantastic? Well, first of all I was with my wonderful boyfriend and when L-O-V-E is in the mix things are always better. Not only did I have great company, I also took this time as an opportunity to really unplug. Aside from a couple "I made it here and am alive and well" emails, I did no work, no phone calls, no blogging.... no nothing. What I did instead was swim, rest, snorkel, bike ride, sight see, eat good food and get plenty of vitamin D. The place we staid had no tv, no radio, no computer ..... no noise period! And while in theory this sounds very zen (people pay BIG bucks to go to noise-less places) it was a bit intimidating. I'm accustomed to having background noise on or around me at almost all times. In fact, more than I'd realized. The quietness created a calmness in me that I only sporadically experience. I also noticed how present I was throughout the vacation. I was really there - not distracted with noise or watching TV while my boyfriend was talking to me. I was there with myself and him.

This experience made me ponder - why is it so difficult for me (and others) to be with silence? Is it because it is more comfortable to be partially distracted? Is it because it's incredibly vulnerable to be in silence with someone else? Is it because I'm insecure that I wont be enough if there isn't some kind of distraction to entertain me/us? Is it because I'm afraid of what I might find about myself/him if there isn't 'something else' to focus on? I think to some extent, all of the above. Apparently, I've been subscribing to these myths for years without realizing it. And, walking through this experience liberated me from these fears (at least temporarily). I realized that the silence actually creates a special intimacy that isn't available with distraction/s. I was present with myself and my boyfriend in ways that I'd not been before.... it was eye-opening and illuminating - in good ways.

Similar to when I clear physical clutter and feel more 'spacious' and light - that is what silence seems to give. Our world seems to condone and promote filling space with 'stuff' - cars, homes, boats, nik-naks, clothing, accessories, etc..... and, it seems we make this 'stuff' to symbolize 'success'. It seems the more stuff I/you have, the more 'successful' you must be. Or maybe this is only the myth that I've made up (although, I suspect that others have or do subscribe to this mindset). I do believe that this myth is sneaky and inconspicuous - some (including myself) am not always aware when I'm 'under the spell' of more stuff = success. What I've become increasingly aware of is that when I have more 'stuff' I seem to be more stressed, overwhelmed and anxious. It's as though my brain cannot contain it all. Too much content = overwhelm.

Just last night I helped a friend re-organize and clear her dining room out. A room that hadn't been evaluated in years. It took 2.5 hours of laborious work, we cleared, cleaned, swept, organized and filled many garbage bags of un-needed 'stuff'. She texted me this morning saying "I LOVE IT". I'm guessing she loved it because she felt to breathe, let her creativity flow again and watch possibilities open up. Obviously, I'm simplifying this process a bit here - the truth is that it was important that I was there to help her release the 'stuff' that she'd be holding onto - many of which held memories for her and many of which were simply taking up physical space with NO useful purpose but to clog the energy flow. She is now filling up with ideas on how to shift things in other areas of her home. Funny how that happens.... you start to shift the energy in ONE area of your home, your life, you job .... and other energy starts to shift as well.

Whether it's creating physical space OR simply turning down the volume around you, I strongly encourage you to create some space for yourself. As humans we're not meant to have stimulation around us 24/7. We need time to reflect, recharge, unwind, breathe, use our creativity, and feel relaxed in order to keep the energy moving through us, which gives a sense of balance and possibility. So, if you're finding yourself bogged down or feeling heavy about an area of your life - I STRONGLY urge you to take time away from it. Give yourself some space. And I guarantee if you do this you WILL come back in a new 'space' with new insight that wasn't there before.

You definitely do not have to go to Belize to give yourself 'space', but if you have the chance, DO IT! San Pedro Island to be specific..... as Madonna puts it, "La Isla Bonita".

Here's to some breathing room,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Measuring Productivity

One of the 'greatest hits' that plays in my head is that I'm not productive enough. It's a rare occasion when I feel like I've had a 'home run day'. Why is this? How do you measure your level of productivity? Do you keep a check-list of things to do each day....? And, if you accomplish everything does it qualify your day (OR YOU) as productive? I've tried lists to no avail. As a coach, you can imagine .....I've kept lists, charts, dream boards, diaries, journals and so on..... all of which have and continue to keep me focused and moving forward. However, they don't necessarily serve to help me feel productive. That said, I do notice that it's on a much less frequent basis that I take the time to reflect on my accomplishments.... and even when I do I have a committee in my head always ready to chime in with something like "yeah, haven't done xyz or abc...." Clearly there I have a drive to get *there*, which inevitably keeps me on the hamster wheel, running hard to keep up!

So, I ask, "what is it to be productive?" And, furthermore, how is this to be measured? Actually, the REAL question is "what is it to be enough?" If I truly felt enough, then I believe that this feeling of 'lack' would dissipate. Feeling ill-productive is believing that something is missing - right? So, what's missing?!! A good friend pointed out to me that this nagging sense of feeling unproductive is really negative thinking and fruitless. And, the way to counteract this is to turn it around to gratitude, appreciation and truth (where I really spent my time). I am so accustomed to being hard on myself and holding the bar extremely high, that I fail to see how destructive these thoughts are.... not to mention the enormous amount of energy they suck from me!

I'm sitting at the cafe right now watching all these fabulous people sitting, chatting, laughing, engaging, reading the paper and enjoying themselves. Can this be measured as being 'productive'? My impulse response to this question is no. Although, from a more spiritual perspective and with more thought, I change my mind to believe it IS 'productive'. People - we - I - need time to relax, laugh and enjoy myself because this is how I replenish myself and fuel my 'tank' to keep going. Just like a person cannot workout 24/7 at the gym. There has to be time in between of working out to rest, refuel with food and drink and give the muscle/s time to build. Right? So the time off from exercising is actually equally as productive as the workout itself.

I notice there are some people in my life who are fantastically skilled at resting and taking time out to enjoy themselves. And ironically, these are also the people I know who are very focused and thorough when they are engaged in work. It seems as though my definition of productivity (i.e. constant work and activity) needs to become more expansive and include times of play, creativity and rest. It all matters and it's ALL necessary to achieve my goal/s .... which, at the highest level is to create a balanced, fulfilling life!

And, furthermore, what I *produce* in a day, is NOT the measure of my self worth! OR YOURS!

Mantra for the day: "I am enough, I have enough, I do enough!"


Monday, August 10, 2009

It's a GOOD life

Today I'm keenly aware of the fabulous-ness of my life. Do you ever have these moments where you wonder how you got so lucky to have such a good life? I don't have these all that often because usually I'm stuck someplace in the land of "if only I had that then...." It's really a shame because it really robs me of appreciating how rad my life is today. I have a job that is flexible, (so I got to spend part of today celebrating my boyfriend's 40th b-day!), I have a boyfriend who adores me (and I him - AMEN to that!), I have a family I adore, enough money to allow me to go on fun, fabulous vacations and most important or at least equally important, I have friends that are SECOND TO NONE! Just writing this right now I realize I have NO room to complain or whine about a thing. It's all good. The sad thing is, that just about everyday my mind will tell me something that often convinces me that my life isn't quite as good (as yours or hers or his....). And the crazy thing is that my mind really has my number dialed because it gets me with things that are really convincing to me; most of which are material items. It takes me getting news two days in a row that one of my closest cousins has just been diagnosed with breast cancer and then the following day getting news that her dad, one of my favorite uncles has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That's when I know for sure that life is not about material items - cars, homes, jobs, money, vacations. It's about love.

And how do I know this? Because in both conversations with my family members who were relaying these hard facts to me, all I could think about was how much I loved both of these relatives. Not because they were/are rich or dress savvy or drive a fabulous car, but because of who they are and what they represent in this world. My pocket book doesn't hurt when I think about losing either of these precious people - my heart does!

I'm getting it S-L-O-W-L-Y.... life is about love. Life is about giving, receiving, opening my heart, sharing myself, taking chances on behalf of my heart and most important it's about appreciation. I am beginning to realize just how much I take for granted the way things are - I have what I call an "of course" attitude. An attitude of entititis! Nope, things change... ALL of it - eventually changes.

So... just for today I'm going to appreciate all the goodness in my life. I'm going to savor all my interactions today as if it's the last time I'll speak to that person. This is a mental shift that will take some concerted effort and work - but I'm a firm believer that if I can change my mind, my life will change as a result..... for the better!

Here's to living with appreciation in the moment.

Love, Nikki