Wednesday, January 22, 2014

100 Days of Kindness: Intentional decluttering made my life clear to me

Note: I'm reposting this entry that I originally published last January because some truly amazing things have happened for me. All the things detailed below I've kept up with and some serious magic has shown up especially in my career and prosperity--call it good luck, synchronicity or simply being more open and connected to opportunity--so many good things started showing up when I started loving up my house, clearing things out and paying attention to how my space feels to me.

Uncluttering is a powerful tool for getting "unstuck" and creating more flow and ease in your life. I hope you find this useful and inspiring.

I'm between professional gigs right now so I'm spending time working on my coaching business and re-claiming my living space from the chaos that crept in over the last couple of years. Its so easy to get busy/over focused and neglect care of your own space. My big plan was to finally donate my father in law's things that were still in our garage and to re-organize that space so I could work on home projects, have a nice work out space etc. This little project turned into a far more ambitious and meaningful work.

I was chatting on line with my friend and fellow coach Kristen Lee. She just sagely asked "if you don't love it or use it why do you have it?" She made the point that all the stuff we keep "for later" are just things that have to be taken care of at some point. Why not now?

I started going through cabinets ruthlessly and asking the question "who am I trying to be by keeping this?" Things started going in boxes and going to goodwill! In just over two days my garage was much emptier, organized and felt easy to be in again. I started thinking of the projects I could take on now with that space being open. I got my bicycle fixed and have been riding it around for errands. So much energy came on line I wanted to take it to the next level.

Last week on my trip to Savannah I hooked up for a retreat with Kristen and my other coaching friends. Kristen quietly worked her magic on the room keeping a state of order around us--soon the conversation switched to the topic decluttering and creating a good space. One of the coaches, Amanda Gibby Peters, who teaches Feng Shui started sharing how changing aspect of your home can help increase flow, prosperity, love etc. I could certainly relate from my recent experience working on the garage. I wondered if other parts of my home could use some help.

Honestly, I'm a terrible housekeepers--a lot of my flow problems could be solved by just picking up my socks and underwear. I love my home but I feel some serious low energy from the press of chaos around me--sometimes I feel surrounded by objects that seem to have no category or purpose that just sit there ask me to make a decision. A cloud of unclear thinking seems to descend on me when I try to figure out how to deal with some of this. Inspired by Kristen and Amanda's encouragement I decided to run the same exercise on my home office as I did on the garage.

Earlier this year I gave away a full set of jewelry making tools/supplies. I knew there were other unlived lives hanging out in the form of books, tools, supplies and other objects that only serve to clutter my thinking. Starting with my book shelf, I winnowed out every book and object no longer important or part of my life. I filled five grocery bags. I then went to the closet and started opening boxes. I filled more bags with the tchotchkes kept from old jobs, electronics, and other oddities that were using up space. I turned my eye to my cabinet desk and decided it was ok to release the lovely old Underwood typewriter that didn't properly function--it opened up space for my Olivetti that works beautifully and that I use for writing poetry (but wasn't using because I didn't have a space for it).

I started sharing my project with my coach friends--Kristen and Amanda cheered me on as I culled old paper work and other detritus.

I replaced the sloppy milkcrates I used for storing my personal papers with an attractive cabinet. I moved my photos around so I could see them more clearly and found a new home for my small wishing altar. The space started to feel different--productive and dynamic.

My front door post Feng Shui treatment
Amanda and I continued to chat online about my big clean. I mentioned that I was having some pretty slow responses on queries I'd sent out. I asked if there were there other things I could do in my home to help my personal flow. She had this to say: " Make sure your front door is inviting. Think of hosting an elaborate party but never sending out the invites. Doesn't matter how much effort you put into the planning + decor + treats, no one will show up if the invites aren't mailed. Your door is where auspicious opportunity/good chi shows up. So, wipe down the door. Replace the front door mat. Add something fresh in the spring, like a potted plant. Hang a wind chime. Anything that draws the eye to your front door is good shui."

My front door--ugh. 

Our front porch looked terrible. Dust and leaves had collected in the corners and our safety light had ceased to function. Also, the decorative door bell needed to be wired up. It looked pretty dog patch to say the least. Not only that, our driveway was littered with leaves and things that blew in from the street. Not inviting at all and a real energy sapping mess to come home to.

Amanda's advice lit a fire under me. I replaced the safety light that afternoon and pulled out the broom and some rags and thoroughly washed down the porch. I replaced the frayed mat with a new one and placed a potted rosemary by the door. I swept the driveway. I trimmed the plants in the yard of dead branches. I made an appointment with the electrician to fix the door bell. I fixed the pumps in our back porch and indoor water features (the indoor one I moved closer to the front door per Amanda's suggestion). Just as with the garage and my office, the house and yard now not only looked different but felt different.

And because my surroundings felt different, I felt different too--more relaxed but engaged at the same time. The kind of feeling you get after having a good nap and a cup of tea.

As I look around my home I see clear markers of who I am today in the world and not the reminders of the lives half lived that I was holding on to. By the process of elimination I painted a clearer picture to myself of who I want to be. By extension, that same message is shared out to the world as well.

Oddly (and not coincidentally I believe) I started to get some responses back on my queries--including an invitation to interview at a company I'm very interested in! All very exciting developments. 

This morning I walked outside and appreciated my bright new entryway, walked in my garden and enjoyed the feeling of calm radiating coming from it all. My mind started taking note of little things I'd like to move around or chage but mostly I savored the state of perfect undone-ness. 

What if I paid as much attention to my surroundings as I do to the care of my insides and physical body? None of these are quick fix, one time projects but ongoing efforts in care and mindfulness.

I highly recommend taking a look at your own environment to see where you can free up some flow--not by necessarily taking on a manic cleaning project but by carefully selecting what you choose to share of your life through the expression of your living space. In this way less is definitely more.

If you have an epic tale of decluttering or other home/life experiments I want to hear them! Please leave a comment or send me a message.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

100 Days of Kindness: coming out!

It's no secret to anyone who knows me even peripherally that I'm a lesbian. I had a pretty torturous adolescence trying to make my attraction to other women fit into the constraints of life I was taught--especially the ones laid down by my Christian faith. I had some really twisted logic such as wondering to myself if my future husband (HA!) would be ok with women occasionally sleeping over for cuddling.

Yeah, creative.

Deep down I couldn't conceive of a life without the love and warmth of another woman. That would be a life where I never would be fully happy. Sure, I would find happiness here and there but never the full soul happiness that comes from real love--the love I ached for and was destined to have once I started telling myself the truth.

On the day I officially "came out" there was a noon time celebration of Samhain going on in the courtyard of my college. Samhain celebrates the change of seasons between light and dark and coincides with Halloween. Many of the women I met that first month away from home were practicing pagans. They set up a spontaneous celebration in the courtyard with a tape player and were dancing. Someone set up a small alter with a pomegranate on it. It was a perfect sunny day with no autumn nip--warm with golden light coming through the tree tops. The world seemed to shimmer.

One woman took my hand and led me to the dance. As we moved with the music I felt all the twisted logic fall away and I whispered to myself the truth of my being.

A few minutes later I took one of my friends aside and told her I was a lesbian.

She wryly smiled and said "oh, no kidding".

From that moment forward that feeling of relief became my litmus test for truth. It gave me courage to face all outcomes--even rejection from people I loved and cared about.

I'm not saying coming out was easy. There was some very hard stuff that came along with my truth telling. But here I am to tell the tale--my life would never be as incredible as it is today if I didn't surrender my whole self to what my heart knew from an early age.

In short, what I'm saying is that coming out was really worth it.

The process of coming out is really about confronting the judgements you believe others might have about you (that you actually have about you) and deciding to embrace and live the truth anyway. And the deeper the truth, more coming out you need to do.

Last week I was on a cross country flight to attend a meetup with some of my fellow coaches. Because I was mostly confined to my seat I took the opportunity to meditate and mentally prepare for the weekend.

I put on my head phones, started some soft music and focused on my breathing. My meditation seemed to go by very quickly. As I came out of it I turned my head to look out the window. Off in the distance I could see a swirl that looked like a plastic bag caught in a whirlwind. My first thought was "damn plastic bags are everywhere". Then I realized this was an impossible sight and the swirl straightened out and became a fast moving dot trailed by thick grey vapor.

I watched the dot as long as my visual range would allow. As I gazed after the dot a thought popped in my head "you really coach about law of attraction". I sighed deeply--I was overcome by the same deep relief that I had all those years ago when I was pulled into the dance.

It serves no one to mute my talents and enthusiasms. Even though the things I write and teach have a deep neurological component, there is as much in it that is intuitive and metaphysical. I try to find language that meets people where they are--however, there is more to the story than what can be explained rationally.

I'm giving myself permission to be more open about the aspects of my work that aren't so easy to explain. I know some people will be scratching their heads over this revelation--or not! My reluctance to speak about these things more openly speaks more about my own lack of comfort than a genuine worry about anything anyone might say or think. All I know is that truth telling leads to more richness and beauty than half told tales that please only some (or none).

What is your true story? What are you waiting to come out about? 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

100 Days of Kindness: the weight issue!

I had a meeting this week that required I wear a suit. I very seldom have to do this but some occasions call for showing up wearing all the signs that "I Mean Business".

I dipped into my closet and discovered all my dress shirts were in the dry cleaning basket. I pulled the suit slacks out and put them on. They fit perfectly. And then I noticed that these weren't the slacks that went with the suit but the slacks I bought for when I gained weight in the past. Crap! I dug through the dry cleaning and found the suit slacks and pulled them on. I could barely button them and they were a mass of wrinkles.

Keri and I hopped in the car and drove to the local mall--it was an hour til closing. I was pretty grumpy and about to wander around searching for a dress shirt but Keri intervened, asked the clerks where my favorite maker was and quickly discovered that the shop no longer carried them.

I became even grumpier. We went to the shop next door where I've had good luck with finding things I like and started searching. I looked at a rack of shirts and started going "no, no, not this one, no" and was about to walk out when Miss Keri motioned me over and said "how about this?". A fitted navy dress shirt. I found my usual size and strode to the dressing room with Keri on my heels.

I put it on. I thought it fit fine. Keri looked at me with an even, calm expression.

"Can I get you a size up?"

"No, this fits fine besides its just this one meeting"

"I'm getting you the next size up."

I was muttering under my breath and feeling pretty impatient but I know better than to argue when Keri is already in motion.

When she handed me the shirt I looked at the tag and cringed. I put it on anyway. Of course it fit--draped nicely, no gaps either. I could take a deep breath and swing my arms around my chest. Once again I had a properly fitting outfit. Also, the shirt was 75% off! Win!

I tried everything on together when I got home. I couldn't argue with the mirror. I looked great--exactly the way I wanted to look for my meeting. Composed, put together--solidly professional.

I'm abashed that I was nearly victim to my own "smaller size" gremlin. I hate owning that I have one of these. So much of what I teach is about self acceptance. Why then, am I so bothered by this?

It's not the clothes--like I said, I looked great in my suit. I'm grateful to have things in my closet that flatter my appearance and especially grateful that I had a pair of suit slacks that were perfect for the occasion. That's not the issue at all.

It's not the size of my clothes. It's the fact that they are reminding me of an uncomfortable fact. My body isn't in the shape I want it to be in. There are lots of contributing factors--even though I workout daily, I'm very sedentary most of the time. There are many studies that show a work out won't remedy an otherwise stationary life style. Also, I eat very fast which results in me eating more than I need to eat--it's a life long habit that used to be counter balanced by a highly active lifestyle. I was never perfectly thin but hours on my bike plus the gym made vacuuming up my food a more or less non issue.

Last summer I worked on becoming more sensitive to my appetite and experimented with using a hunger scale. On a belief level however I never unwound my personal beliefs about how much I needed to eat to feel satisfied (that belief coming from years of eating huge to match extreme activity). Also, when the weather got colder and my outside activity came to a near standstill I regained the weight I lost plus some more.

When I stand in front of the mirror I see a body I love--despite the weight I see strength and durability. A body meant to go the distance. And a body that loves motion and loves the pleasures of the table. There is nothing wrong with this body. Still, I think I can do better for myself and my body.

This good servant that my soul inhabits needs better--not back breaking workouts in the gym but a variety of motion and activity. Also, I'm an opportunity eater (hey look, donuts!) and these opportunities to eat come into vision when I'm not deeply engaged. Idle hands may be the Devil's workshop but boredom is an appetizer for unconscious eating like no other.

So part of my strategy is get out more. I sent my bike to the shop so I can run errands on it. Also, when I find myself getting ready to sit down to browse the net or other sitting activity I just get out of the house to move around and gain fresh perspective.

Another strategy I'm employing is to use the hunger scale again. Also I learned a couple of other tricks to help with that. I know I hit my ideal satiety at around 2 cups of food--about the size of both my fists together. So when I look at my plate I make a mental note of what two cups looks like and arrange that amount out and enjoy that--additionally I look at my watch to see how long it takes to eat that amount. I try to make it take at least 10 minutes (people, I can clean a plate in under 5 so this is radical for me). By then if I'm still not quite sated, I allow myself single bites of the yummiest things on the place taking note of how I feel--and then stopping!

I have one other small ritual that I do before I even have my first meal of the day. I enlist my senses to provide me perfect feedback on my hunger and my state of mind so I can wisely act on my own behalf. I write out my commitment to support my body and I then go about my day.

I did set an actual weight goal but I won't be using the bathroom scale very much to monitor it. I have a pair of suit pants that will be my first guide post. When those look as sleek and flattering as my current pair I will then check the scale and reassess. Also, if those pants aren't fitting in a couple months I will see what other adjustments need to be made.

With the new year I know so many people have goals around weight and fitness--it's practically a national passtime! Is losing weight on your list of things to do? Drop a line and let me know how that's going.