Archive | December 2013

My 2014 Bucket List is Filled With JOY!

 

bucket list

As you know, I have been mulling over a 2014 Bucket List for the last month.  I want to set my intention for the New Year, so that I expect and accept abundance from the Universe.  But I find myself wary of “asking for too much.”  You know the old fear of “setting my expectations too high only to feel disappointment in the end:” disappointment in the limitations of my physical body, financial resources, time, energy . . .

But I also know from experience that if I don’t open myself up to the possibility of achieving greatness, I will never achieve greatness.  If I don’t trust in my mind, body and spirit to reach beyond the familiar into the stellar, how do I expect the Universe (or God) to?  That by setting my intention and sending it on the wings of my new year’s prayers, I am sending a clear message to God and the Universe that I believe in myself.  That I believe in my hopes and my dreams.

So I decided to attack this personal assignment with gusto! – To choose some goals that my deepest heart desires, reaching just beyond my comfort zone, to where life truly begins.

In the midst of this contemplative meditation, I was gifted resources by my monthly Soul Matters group.  This month is “Living a Life of Character,” the goal being to shift our perspective from a flaw-focused view of “You should be better this year” (IE- fix your imperfections, change those bad habits) to one of building character from a perspective of joy.  I love that!

One of the suggested videos for viewing is a TED talk called “Rethinking Your Bucket List:”

http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=4029

Hospice counselor, Kathleen Taylor, discusses the shift of perspective that happens at the end of life (and can also be mimicked by those undergoing severe/life-changing illness).  That we, as humans, experience three phases in our life on the path to discovering our authentic selves: Youth = fearless, we set our course for life; Middle = we start to question that course; and End = we find answers about that course.

A renowned study discovered that the #1 regret of the dying is: “I wish I had the courage to live life true to myself and not the life that others expected of me.”

Dying (and chronic illness) teaches us that it is never too late to shed what is false and become who we are truly meant to be (authentic self).  She challenges us to think of it in reverse; “that it is never too soon to shed what is false and. . .”

Kathleen suggests we reverse the existential question, “What am I supposed to be doing with my life” into “Who am I being with me life?”  If you are living a life of authentic character, you can let go of the confines of what you should be doing, because doing flows naturally from being.  As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “God shows up in us, as us.”

Unfortunately, this spiritual revelation usually doesn’t occur until the time of death.  When people have no time or strength left to be anything other than they truly are, they become their authentic self. Psychologists have studied and identified a developmental stage of growth that actually occurs at the end of life: people “find a deeper sense of self and finally awaken to the preciousness of time.”

Haven’t you ever encountered an ill person who is completely open and honest; who doesn’t fear changing their mind; who freely apologizes and forgives; who expresses love wherever and whenever; and who finds joy, even in the smallest of moments?

Kathleen Taylor states that as the body slows down, perspective shifts, and the person’s mind, heart and soul actually expands. Neil Sulanger, wrote as his ALS progressed, “As I diminished, I grew.  As I lost so much, I finally started to find myself.”

I have experienced this; when I was teetering on the edge of death.  I’ve just forgotten.  But my own experience combined with this spiritual exercise has reminded me that we all have the capacity to find ourselves.  So, my Bucket List is going to be a combination of the traditional (physical acts) and the existential (character trait).  I am going to focus on who I uniquely am and celebrating that… finding joy in all the ways I can and will contribute to the world.

My list includes ways I will nurture my creativity and curiosity; ways I will expand my knowledge of myself and the world; activities that will change my perspective and challenge my bravery; opportunities to expand my capacity to love and be loved; ways to be a leader and to promote justice; prospects for forgiveness and humility; and many moments for transcendence: to appreciate beauty, foster hope, and increase my spirituality.

I am including my list with the caveat that it is not static; my list is not set in stone.  I am keeping it open and flexible for the abundance of opportunities that are sure to come my way this year, as long as I keep my heart open to receiving them!

Please share your bucket list experiences too!!

MY 2014 BUCKET LIST:

  1. Trip to Arizona (get health evaluation at clinic and visit healing-energy sites)
  2. Get my driver’s license
  3. Take Hubby on surprise getaway (like he has so often done for me!)
  4. Take 2 art courses: one to hone existing skills (advanced drawing or painting) and one in a “new” medium (stained glass or silver work)
  5. Return to Cape Cod for vacation
  6. Rent a speed boat
  7. Hang-glide or para-glide
  8. Bond with my sister-in-laws
  9. Take my nephew on an Auntie-Nephew adventure (as yet to be defined!)
  10. Try Paleo diet and document dietary intake/symptoms
  11. Go deep-woods yurting
  12. Learn Reiki
  13. Go on trip to Lily Dale (spiritualist center) with my girlfriends
  14. Get my art featured in a coffee shop, restaurant or gallery
  15. Engage in volunteer activities with young children
  16. Write blog entries at least 3x/wk. so by end of year have enough for a book, if want
  17. Start a Gratitude Jar filled with moments of joy, hope, beauty and love that I will review at the end of year
  18. 18.  Love widely, listen deeply, encourage others, value self, embrace joy, spread love & light, embody hope, express creatively, laugh with abandon, forgive from a deep-well of kindness, practice compassion, and be the gift as much as I see the gift of this world.
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Indecisiveness is the Killer of Inspiration

intuition3

Indecisiveness is the killer of inspiration. At times, I can be so clear with my intent that I do not question the “why?”  And at others still, I will find myself waffling and waffling to the point where I am no longer clear about anything: what I like or want to do or how I am going to do it.  I have forgotten the skills I have nurtured.

When I am debating between two paths in front of me, I concentrate on my center and listen to the intuitive voice within. Some call this the “voice of God” while others feel more comfortable defining it as the “voice of their soul.”  Either way, it does not steer me wrong.  I have consciously practiced decisiveness over the last couple years and have found great success and satisfaction in this approach.

What does “this voice” sound like, you may be wondering?  For me, and many others I have contemplated this topic with, it is always the first answer I hear.  My soul, through the grace of God and the Universe, knows the right step to take.  It’s my over rationalizing, over-thinking, fearful mind that muddles the thought.  Upon practice, you will discover that there is always a clear voice that speaks from within.  But you have to be open to hearing it, and then, even more importantly, open to receiving it.

Fast forward to today, and I find myself falling back on old, unproductive habits.  I hear that voice and quickly think right over it… to the point where the original intention is lost and I am left a confused mess.  For example, I am contemplating taking another art course.  I just completed my first “formal” art course since freshman year in college (!) and want to capitalize on the confidence and skills it gave me, by continuing to move forward.  I was strongly encouraged to continue my pursuit and that I could take a number of intermediate/advanced classes that would provide me with the tools to refine my style.

Not knowing what the best next class would be, I brought in a sample portfolio of my works to get the advice of the instructor. But if I want to be completely honest with myself, I did not want the “responsibility” of choosing the next class; for fear that it would not be an accurate fit.  Where does this fear come from? A lot of it is financial.  These classes cost upwards of $265! I would be eligible for a scholarship; but only my first class would be a fully covered, after that, it would be partial scholarships.  And, as us chronically ill know all too well, time and energy are precious commodities! I don’t want to “waste” them on the wrong course.  Argh! The pressure!!

There are many typical fear based reactions that can keep us from trusting our one, true intuitive voice.  I think we can all identify with financial insecurity throwing a monkey wrench into our confident, decisive selves.  We can fear making the “wrong” choice and either not enjoying what we chose, or, even worse, “missing out” on the other, better option.  We can be stifled by fear of failure or of trying something new and outside of our comfort zones.  Often, we are afraid of change; even if the present situation is not ideal (and even harmful to our mind, bodies or spirit), it is the comfortable.  And we like comfortable, the known.  We can be paralyzed by thoughts of what others will think of our choice, or by comparing ourselves.   We can be afraid of failure.  We can be afraid of wasting time, money, energy. . .

And then I hear my friend’s voice saying… “YOU MUST FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY.”

Many of us have “trust issues,” and asking ourselves to trust our inner voice can feel like a huge gamble.  I know from experience that it does feel uncomfortable at first; because it is not the way we have typically done things in the past.  But whenever a decision is made based on faith rather than fear, you are always going in the direction intended. 

It does not mean that every choice you make from a place of faith and trust turns out like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!  There are times where I have listened to my intuitive voice and have faced challenges, pain, loss, and hurt because of the choice I made. But, in the end, I have always discovered there was a greater reason why I had to go through that experience.

So, I need to get quiet; because right now I am so twisted into knots over the simple choice of what class to take, that I have lost my intuitive, creative self.  And this waffling has poured over into all areas of my life, to the point where I feel stuck in a mire of indecisiveness… constantly questioning myself about what choice is the right one and then feeling fearful afterwards that I made the wrong choice.  I am in over-thinking mode.  I am a computer about to overheat and shut down.

So these are the steps I am going to take right now…

  1. Turn off all external stimuli
  2. Quiet my mind and my body through some deep, cleansing breaths
  3. Say a prayer of intention:  “Please let my mind, heart and soul be open to receiving the messages you have to give.  May I not question my one, true intent.  May I trust in the messages I receive and may I have the faith to face my fears and insecurities.  May I embrace all the opportunities that come my way.”
  4. Then I will repeat a series of cleansing breaths and clear my mind.
  5. I will pose the question to the answer I currently seek.
  6. And then I will just listen.
  7. I will let the first thought that enters my mind grow in shape and size.
  8. If other thoughts start to intrude, I will observe, describe and let them go (for example; “I am feeling fear about making the wrong choice and wasting my scholarship money.”)
  9. I will put my hand over my heart and remind myself that I am loved and cared for.intuition1

Finding New Avenues of Joy: What’s Your Machu Picchu?

and-in-all-of-our-troubles-I-have-great-joy.-2-Cor.-7-AnExtraordinaryDay.net_

Finding new avenues of joy… several months ago I randomly (perhaps not so “random” after all!) had the T.V. on during a Good Morning America segment on the NFL player, Steve Gleason.  He’s a New Orleans Saints’ hero whose life has changed, all because of the devastating disease, ALS (Lou Gherig’s).  Yet, he does not view his life as a devastation… when told he needed to “prepare himself to die,” his first and only thought was, “I am going to prepare to live!”

Although it has been 6 months since I first viewed this stunning story, it has never strayed far from my thoughts.  I’ve wanted to share it with others, but until today, have not been able to “find” it on the internet.  For a while, I thought perhaps it had been one vivid, prophetic dream!

Then I awoke this morning thinking of “bucket lists,” and once again, the empowering tale of this man came to mind.  I began my futile searching again, but this time I must have strung together the right combination of words, because it appeared at the very top of my search results.  I have faith that there is a reason today was the day I finally re-discovered this tale of strength, perseverance, and above all, JOY.

The idea of creating an annual “Bucket List” has been tumbling around my daily thoughts.  Not sure if I wanted to jump on this trendy bandwagon, I have resisted this idea.  Yet, there is something so appealing about following others yearly journeys as they check things off their bucket list.  As I read others, I am surprised and, admittedly, intimidated by the audacity of their goals.  My mind immediately goes to all the reasons why this will not work for me… all my limitations: not enough money, not enough time, not enough physical well-being, on and on and on!

I think, why set myself up for failure?  But then there is that little intuitive voice that never steers me wrong saying, “why not set yourself up for success?  Each bucket list is a personal endeavor; it can be shaped to fit my unique set of circumstances, needs, and dreams.  By setting goals, I will be more apt to make a game-plan to make them happen.  By writing down my annual hopes and dreams, I will be setting my intention with the Universe.

And so I’ve begun to toy with what my 2014 Bucket List will look like.  For example, I have a deep desire to dance once again.  It would be unrealistic for me to set a goal of dancing the Suite of the Sugar Plum Fairy en pointe, like I did when I was 18, healthy and fit!  But, I am graced with living in a community that encourages creativity in people of all ages and abilities.  Dance studios and open-classes have exploded over the last few years, now including an abundance of opportunities for the community to engage in a wide variety of dance styles, at all levels.  I’ve begun by getting out and experiencing these offerings as a patron.  And I have been proud to support and celebrate these burgeoning endeavors.

But now it’s time for me to get off my audience seat and onto the stage.  But, what does this mean for me?  I am not blind to my limitations, but I am not going to let those stop me either!  As Steve Gleason so eloquently puts it in this interview…

“I now search for new avenues of joy.  With each loss, [I] have worked to find a beautiful replacement.”

And my dance replacement looks something this… finding a way to move my body in a fluid and free-form motion.  I am drawn to Carribean danceCaribbean styles, where the dancers of all ages, sizes, shapes and abilities are smiling from ear to ear as they engage the music fully.  There is a freedom and openness to this style that is very appealing to me. And, Volia!… I have the first item on my bucket list!

This is the beauty of creating this list annually.  Now that I have set this goal (my intention), I am already developing a plan of action in my head. First step?: researching studios and open-dance nights.  And that’s all I have to worry about for now… just taking that first step.  Taking the risk to say, “I am worth it.”

I will not allow my physical limitations to limit my ability to experience joy!  My Bucket List may look a helluva lot different than the ones floating around the web.  But, I choose to use those as inspiration… not as a point of comparison and feeling “less than.”

machu picchu steve gleasonIf anything, the most intimidating “list” I’ve seen is Steve’s.  Once his diagnosis was delivered, he made the conscious choice to always have something to look forward to.  His most recent goal and accomplishment?.. climbing to the top of Machu Picchu!!  How on earth does someone without the use of their physical body climb Machu Picchu, you ask?  He does not do it alone!!!  And, to me, that is one of the best legacies he can pass on to others.  Not only that he “chooses to focus on the beauty of now,” but that he relies on the love and support of others to achieve his goals.

My Bucket List is not going to be a singular endeavor.  The goals and dreams will come from my inner soul, but the steps to achieving them will be paved by the love of my friends and family.

I would like to offer the same gift back to you: to be your support and cheerleader in any way needed as you create and then implement your 2014 Bucket List!  In the coming weeks, I will slowly unveil my own list as it evolves.  And I hope you will take the journey with me as I check off the items in the coming year.

Please share your bucket wishes, too.  For inspiration comes from without.  And without all of you, I would be lost.

I encourage you to take just 5 minutes of your time to watch the GMA interview with Steve Gleason.  I dare you not cry. I dare you not to smile. I dare you not to come away inspired!

http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/steve-gleason-embraces-challenges-lou-gehrigs-disease-battle-121402622.html