Seek Solitude

Solitude

“We live, in fact, in an age starved for solitude.” -C.S. Lewis

Today it takes a conscious effort to be in solitude, with noise and interruption swarming around us… emails, text messages, social media posts, meetings and obligations, and all the countless new intrusions from technology.

These intrusions keep us from taking the deep dive to where reserves of inspiration live within us. Ergonomists say information overload distracts and clutters our thinking.  The only way to achieve clarity is to seek out moments of solitude. All the great leaders in history sought clarity, creativity, emotional balance, and courage via solitude.

No matter who you are—a parent, a CEO, a celebrity, a teacher, a neurosurgeon—you must seek regular intervals of solitude. It is essential to self-awareness. In order to lead and inspire others, you have to lead and be inspired yourself.

Constant connection to intrusions, such as phone alerts, deaden the mind and soul. Part of the solution is simply to unplug; to make yourself inaccessible. This is not the norm, and you will feel uncomfortable at first. You might perhaps try for small amounts of time first until you get used to being inaccessible. The other part is just being aware of what is lost inside. What thoughts are swimming around that you never have time to consider, or to even let materialize? What is inside of you that deserves examination?

Solitude is where things in your subconscious take form and become tangible. It allows you to access intuition. I love this quote from Jim Collins: “To engage in disciplined action first requires disciplined thought, and disciplined thought requires people who have the discipline to create quiet time for reflection. The net results is not doing more, but doing less. ‘Stop doing’ lists reflect great discipline more than ever-expanding to-do lists of frenetic activity.”

And here’s one of Warren Buffett’s best phrases: “Inactivity can be very intelligent behavior.”

So take some quiet time. Engage with this suggestion and commit to the hard work of time alone. It might feel like an indulgence, or maybe even a waste of your precious time at first—but through regular periods of solitude for reflection and self-examination, you will be amazed at the benefits you receive.

A great follow up resource: A book by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin: Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude.

 

Solutions

“Don’t focus on the problem. Focus on the solution.” -Roz Moskovits

How many days months and years go by with you tolerating a problem instead of seeking or hunting down a solution? Like a dripping faucet. The dripping irritates you, but you keep putting off calling a plumber or learning how to fix it yourself. You know logically you’ll be happier when it’s fixed and the dripping is over, but you keep telling yourself you don’t have time, you’re not sure where to start, you don’t know who to call, or whatever the reason is. It’s not so disruptive to your life that it spurs you to make a change immediately, so you keep tolerating it. But the faucet keeps dripping, and it keeps bothering you.

We all do this for many different situations, and that is why having a great coach is one of your best allies.

For example, during my western dressage riding lessons, it was obvious that I was fidgeting with my stirrups. My coach, Roz, asked about it and reminded me a solution was the answer. Western riders greatly benefit from “turning” their stirrups. When a rider turns their stirrups, they train the stirrup fenders and the leathers beneath them to twist outwards, which turns the stirrups outward from the sides of the horse at a right angle. Turned stirrups offer a rider easier and safer mounting and dismounting, less strain in their legs while riding, and far greater ease in regaining a lost stirrup while riding.

The solution was wonderful. Less distraction, more focus and ease during the ride. Why hadn’t I done it sooner?

What is the problem or irritant you’re tolerating right now? What are the possible solutions? What is stopping you from seeking out these solutions? Are you too focused on the issue and not focused enough on finding the answer?

Top 4 Reads for 2016 (So far!)

Allow yourself to benefit from the wisdom and experience of others. Take some time for yourself, have a cup of tea, grab a cozy blanket, open one of these four fantastic books, and learn how to grow, heal, and love yourself. Expand your limitations and possibilities.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
By Elizabeth Gilbert

From Amazon: Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,   embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion,  Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

Pretty Happy: Healthy Ways to Love Your Body
By Kate Hudson

From Amazon: In almost every interview she gives, Kate Hudson is asked the same questions: What do you eat? How do you stay so fit? What workout do you do? What’s your secret? Well, the secret is that the sound bites the media loves so much don’t tell the story, and the steps you need to take to have a healthy, vibrant and happy life can’t be captured in a short interview. The key to living well, and healthy, is to plug into what your body needs, understanding that one size does not fit all, all the time, and being truly honest with yourself about your goals and desires.

The Urban Monk: Eastern Wisdom and Modern Hacks to Stop Time and Find Success, Happiness, and Peace
By Pedram Shojai

From Amazon: We all struggle to discover satisfaction and contentment in the modern world and yet the more technology we use, the more things seem to get worse. What are we all missing? What will it take for us to find our centers? Pedram Shojai shares how the calmness of Zen masters is attainable in today’s fast-paced world, and with practice, you too can stop time, refuel, and focus on the things that really matter.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
By Bessel van der Kolk, MD

From Amazon: Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In  The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists,  The Body Keeps the Score  exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.

 

Soil

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Every living thing needs energy to survive, but where does the energy come from?

The sun.

And can we use this energy to provide us with all the things we need to survive? Actually, it’s quite simple: by using SOIL. Plants absorb the energy from the sun and this makes them grow. The plants then provide us with food, shelter, clothing, and countless other things we use every day. All of these things can be traced back to soil.

Now… what would you think when you hear the words “Buried Treasure?” Most of us would think of pirates and adventures. What treasures did pirates search for? Gold, silver, metals, fossil fuels, salt, etc… Where did they come from?

The Earth; the land! All the treasures you can think of come from the earth. Thus, the earth is a treasure. Let’s examine our most precious treasure.

The earth is 75% water and the remaining 25% is the the part on which we live.

Soil is a renewable resource, but we must use it wisely, as it takes a very long time to develop.

The earth is dynamic, which means that it is always moving. As you know, the earth is in constant rotation around the sun, but it happens so slowly that with casual observations we cannot feel this action. The same is true for the slow, constant movement happening within the many layers of the earth.

Soils are living systems. There are wide varieties of organisms that make their home in the soil. Some of these organisms are microscopic—meaning they can only be seen under a microscope—while others are easy to see. Without creatures that live in soil, soil fertility would be greatly affected, and decomposition of animals and plants would not occur.

Now let’s take a much broader view. Pretend that the apple is the earth. How much of the earth’s surface is used to produce food?

Cut the apple into quarters and eliminate ¾ as representing the oceans and other bodies of water. The remaining quarter represents the total land mass of the earth. Cut this quarter into 4. One forth represents mountains, the second sixteenth represents deserts, the third sixteenth represents tundra, icecaps and other non-usable portions. The remaining one sixteenth represents all the land suitable for growing crops. Cut the remaining one-sixteenth piece of apple in 2 and set one aside.  This represents the land that could produce food but is buried under cities highways and other structures that people have built.

This leaves us with a small slice representing barely one 32nd slice of the earth. Carefully peel this slice. This small thin piece of apple peel barely3% of the apple’s surface represents the topsoil on which we depend to grow our food. Soil is an important resource—We must look after it.

An Engaged Life

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Imagine you were given a small, plain houseplant. You watered it regularly, made sure it had enough light, fed it fertilizer, and maybe you even played music for it. Over time, the plant grew strong and bloomed. It became beautiful and it filled you with joy every time you looked at it.

Now imagine that you forgot about that plant. You forgot to water it and it drooped. It started looking pretty sad, so you put it in a dark corner. It wilted and turned brown. Leaves fell off. You threw it out in the trash. And you missed out on that joy it would have brought you.

This is your life. This is everything in your life. If you do not care for things, engage in everything around you, they will wilt, and you will miss out on many opportunities.

Deepak Chopra, renowned doctor and writer, states, “The moment you stop interacting with anything, show indifference toward it, or even just go through the motions—whether it is a relationship, activity, or object—is the moment it starts to become less relevant to your life and starts to wither away” (43). Contrary to that, when we purposefully engage with relationships, activities, or objects in a positive and caring way, those things in our life will grow.

Think about a relationship that’s important to you. It may be positive or negative. Now, what would happen if you paid more attention to it? What would happen if you communicated more often? Or if you did kind things for the other person? If you told them something about themselves that made you happy? Chances are, the relationship would yield more blossoms, rather than wilt.

Of course, it’s hard to change. If you’ve always just called your mother on holidays and birthdays, it may be uncomfortable to start calling every Sunday. But think of it this way: Chopra tells us, “Our brains literally lose the capacity to expand, adapt, transform, and evolve if not challenged. As a result, we doom ourselves to a world of repetition, boredom, and stagnation.” Does “repetition, boredom, and stagnation” sound like something you want to perpetuate in our short time here on earth? Chopra goes on to say, “We settle for something far more predictable because it feels safer, even if it dulls our very experience of being human” (NEED PG #).

So, yes, it’s safer to keep doing what you’re doing. You know the outcome, if it’s something you’ve always done. But if you truly want to grow and have a richer, more fulfilling life, you need to engage.

We are all connected to each other. And not just to people, but the world around us. Chopra states that the wisest “look at the trees as their lungs. If the trees didn’t breathe, they would not breathe. And if they did not breathe, the trees would not breathe” (34). Realize that every one of your actions affects everything around us. When you realize that, you may want to consider what you’re putting out there. Is it negativity? Indifference? Is this what you want your surroundings to become?

I hope the answer is no. To make positive changes in your life and that which surrounds you, you must be purposefully engaged. Pay loving attention to the people in your life, start to care for things you may have inadvertently neglected, and get in the game! Become truly involved in your life. Don’t just wait for things to happen to you. Be the catalyst of your life. You are the one responsible for change and growth.

Beauty, In and Out

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Many women look at the mirror, and instead of appreciating what they see, they pick it apart, piece by piece. They don’t see a beautiful woman. They see a droopy chin, flabby arms, a crooked smile, or grey hairs. Instead of feeling confident and satisfied with their reflection, they list what they feel is unattractive.

This brutal, daily take-down of our self-esteem isn’t doing us any good. Pervasive, negative thoughts can poison our minds and spirits, and when we feel bad inside, our outside suffers, too, whether through frown lines, poor posture, or just not caring or trying anymore.

Breaking the cycle of negative thinking and judgment is possible. You just need to be diligent about it. And while you’re working on your inside with positive self-talk, consider enhancing your outside.

Some of you may be thinking that sounds shallow; that what matters is inside, and you can’t judge a book by its cover, and the like. You’re partially right. What’s inside is most important, of course. There’s no denying that.  But boosting your outside appearance can have positive effects on your inside, too.

Or maybe you’re thinking you don’t have time to worry about your look, or you don’t want to spend money on yourself. Perhaps you’re always putting others ahead of yourself. Maybe you even feel you don’t deserve to indulge.

But you do deserve it. And your loved ones deserve to have a happy mother, sister, aunt, or  friend.

Wearing colors that flatter, clothes that fit properly, and a hairstyle that you love and that looks great can lift your spirits. You’ll find more positive things in your reflection. Maybe you’ll stand a little straighter. Smile a little more. Walk more confidently. Your good-looking outside will start making you good-looking on the inside, which, in turn, will make your outside even more beautiful! Your inner light and happiness will shine through. Marianne Williamson tells us “Beauty is an internal light, a spiritual radiance that all women have but most women hide, unconsciously, denying its existence. What we do not claim remains invisible.”

Here’s how you can start feeling better, inside and out.

Perhaps you’ve been wearing your hair the same for the last 25 years because it feels safe, or your makeup hasn’t been changed even though fuchsia isn’t really your color. Maybe you’ve been wearing yoga pants and a pony tail for the 234th day in a row. It doesn’t matter. If you want a sleeker, more updated look; if you want to find colors and styles that flatter, you can do it now. You can find the courage to make a change.

Here’s a great tool to help get you started on your beauty journey: http://dressingyourtruth.com/. Designed by bestselling author Carol Tuttle, Dressing Your Truth is a fantastic website and course that can help you identify your strengths and help you learn how to look your best, through finding clothes that flatter your body type to learning new makeup techniques.

Discovering your type takes into consideration how the natural expression and movement of each type influences your personality, behavior tendencies, thought and feeling processes, gifts and talents, personal space, body language and your physical features. It truly resonated with me. And, I’m pleased to report that my profile is called The Bright, Animated Women.

Believe that you deserve to feel good, inside and out. Take the free Discover Your Beauty quiz, and start watching the videos. That’s all there is to it to get started celebrating YOU.

International Women’s Day Celebration Notes

Hello I just attended an International Women’s Day Celebration and here is the take away Time for Women to Dream.

Ever since the beginning of humanity, women have assumed the role of caregiver and nurturer. They birthed and raised the children. They were the gatherers, rather than the hunters. It wasn’t necessarily that roles were unequal; the importance of each role was understood and both sexes depended on each other to survive.

As civilization and government developed, of course we know that women became marginalized, to say the least. From not being able to own land, prohibited to vote or participate in government, to being thought of as property themselves.

And even since the birth of the women’s rights movement, first thought to have begun in the 1700s, women’s roles and stereotypical behaviours have remained largely unchanged. Women are still the primary child and home caregivers. While we’re now allowed to vote and own property and work (albeit for less pay!), we’re still engrained to be the caretakers—the ones who put everyone and everything ahead of our own needs and desires.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a caretaker. In fact, quite the opposite. It is a beautiful and crucial role, and can be played by both women and men. Caretakers make the world a better place to live. But all too often, at their own expense.

We caregivers accept less than our hearts’ desires, instead of going for what we want. We unfailingly encourage others to believe in themselves, all the while listening to the voice of fear, doubt, and disbelief of our own potential. We deny our greatness and our divinity.

Why does this still ring true in 2012? It has been engrained in us for millennia. Women have been socialized to be givers for centuries. It’s hard to get out of a rut that long. And while giving is certainly a virtue, we have been taught through generations upon generations that taking is not what women do. And for a great number of years, we’ve been taught we don’t deserve to take anyway.

But aren’t there some women who feel free, happy, successful, and proud? Yes! There are. Some fortunate women have been taught better, or they’ve come to realize that they are deserving of happiness and success. I want all women to experience this; to know that they have a right to dream, and can give and take at the same time. I want them to know that by bettering themselves, they are bettering the world around them as well, whether that is setting good examples or uplifting others. Women need to quell that destructive voice inside that stems from centuries of oppression, and listen to their higher voice—the one that allows them to become the being they’re meant to be.

We are certainly better off now than we have been in the past. We are not required to have children. We aren’t required to stay home while a spouse works. There are laws protecting women from violence and exploitation. We have a voice. And all of this is a work-in-progress, we need to remember. Women’s welfare is not the same around the world. Women still face violence, discrimination, and judgment every minute of every day.

Women still sabotage themselves. They still believe they are not worthy of their own dreams and desires. They still feel the need to give to everyone else first, until there’s nothing left at the end of the day. And it’s up to all of us to bring all of us up.

 

Raising Your Standards

Your standards are how you choose to behave; what you deem acceptable. They can apply to anything, from how you fold your clothes to how you take care of your health. When you raise your standards, you raise yourself up, and thusly, better your life.

Think about something simple, like keeping your car clean. Maybe right now you wash it occasionally, and throw out the trash that accumulates. It’s not as if the dirt impedes the car’s performance, so you don’t put a lot of effort into it. And it’s not a big deal—you kind of wish it smelled nicer or had less dust, but you’re busy and have other things to do.

But let’s say that one day you decide to raise your standards. You spend a couple hours cleaning your car. Really, meticulously cleaning it. You wash it, wax it, clean out the clutter, vacuum, wipe everything down, wash the windows, the tires, everything. You even buy a new air freshener.

Now you take pride in your car. It looks and smells great. You love being the one with the spotless car. And once you did the initial hard work and cleaning, it was a lot easier to maintain that higher standard. Sure, it’s just a clean car. But it made you a little happier. And that’s the goal, right?

Now think of something more significant. What if you decided to raise your standards at work? What if you chose to become a better employee, or become a better boss? Imagine you set some higher standards, such as: not gossiping, being more encouraging to others, being more organized, spending less time slacking off, ensuring work was completely error-free, helping others, or other goals.

Only good things could come of that! Possibilities include recognition, better pay, better relationships, more respect, more satisfied clients, less stress—the list goes on and on! By setting higher standards and choosing to be the person you want to be, you are making your life better. And, just like the clean car example, it’s easier to maintain once you’ve done the initial work. It’s about making habits, getting into routines, and making your goals become your normal, everyday standards.

If you decide you want to be better and to live a better life, you can do so. Use these following ten steps to help you determine what kind of person you wish to be and how you can achieve the higher standards you desire:

10 Steps to Raising Personal Standards

1. List ten people you admire and identify their qualities. What standards could you raise that would have you be more like them?

2. Be unconditionally constructive every time you open your mouth, yet still say all you need to say.

3. Stop gossiping, good or bad, about anyone.

4. Let go of standards you “should” have, and make a list of 10 standards you most want.

5. Understand that standards are a choice, not a requirement.

6. Fully respond to everything that occurs in your “space.”

7. Always put people and relationships ahead of results.

8. Always put integrity first, needs second, and wants third.

9. Always honor the standards of others.

10. Always maintain a reserve of time, money, love, and wellbeing.

Of course, improving your life is more work than just setting your standards higher. Once you identify the kind of person you want to be and choose to raise your standards, you have to work to meet those standards. You have to hold yourself accountable. Don’t let excuses enter into it—make a plan and stick to it. The rewards will be much, much greater than the cost.

Now, think of this: who are you? Are you a person who gets things done? Are you someone to be relied upon? Are you someone who takes good care of themselves? Are you a contented person? Give yourself a mantra. I am a person who _______. Then repeat it every day. Ten times a day! It is time to look inward and choose who you are. Honor that person. Be who you are meant to be.