Finding Your Way

June 28th, 2015

My husband saw a butterfly the size of a monarch today, and he said it reminded him of how many generations it takes for those royal butterflies to migrate.

“If it takes several generations to get to Mexico,” he said, “how do they know what route to take?”

 It’s a great question. We think of butterflies as the iconic symbol of rebirth and transformation,but they also have much to teach us about trusting an inner knowing to follow a path we’ve never seen before.

Here’s what a news report said about the monarch migration:

“Every fall, monarchs in North America begin their long journey back to Mexico for the winter. Then, in March, they start breeding, and fly north to lay eggs in Texas or elsewhere in the South. Successive generations move north, before reversing their course in the fall. On average, the journey spans four generations, although it can take as many as five.”

Clearly, there’s no elder monarch leading the way, telling the others, “This way! Follow me!” Instead, each new generation along the route somehow finds the path, using the sun or magnetic fields as clues about general direction.

And how do they find the same spots in Mexico year after year? No one knows.

There are many things we don’t know, either, about our own paths and how we follow them. Why do we move forward with confidence some days, while other times are filled with self-doubt? Why do we end up in a relationship that doesn’t serve us when we make consistently successful choices in our work?

And how do we know which way to go when there is no road map, and when each new stage of life feels like another generation in our life migration?

This week, take time to journal about the inner knowing that serves as a compass along your way.

1. Think of times when you were certain about decisions in your life. How did you know they were right for you?

2. Revisit a time when you needed to leave an old relationship, job, friendship or home behind. How did you know it was time to leave…and what inner knowing directed your path forward?

3. Do you trust your inner guidance system? Why or why not? How could you strengthen it by seeing how it has served you in the past?

Affirmation: Today I follow my inner guidance. By going within and listening carefully, I know the path that’s right for me. 

What’s your story?

June 20th, 2015
 
On National Public Radio last week, a man by the name of Dave Isay talked about his StoryCorps project, which has recorded more than 50,000 personal interviews in everyday places like Grand Central Station.

In those interviews, kids pose questions to parents, husbands reminisce with their wives and childhood friends interview one another. In every interview, a treasure is uncovered–a sentiment that’s never been expressed or a story that’s been untold.

These first-person stories–which are uploaded to the Library of Congress–capture the exquisite feeling of knowing someone acknowledges your existence and cares what you know and feel.

That kind of listening is central to Tending Your Inner Garden. In every workshop, we give women an opportunity to give and receive active listening.

But deep listening is important not just between one person and another. It’s also vital between you and yourself.

StoryCorps now has an app that gives you everything you need to interview someone and upload it to the Library of Congress. But Isay says something interesting is happening.

In addition to people talking with each other, they now are interviewing themselves with questions like these:

* What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?

* How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?

* What are you proudest of?

Those questions (and many others, available on the app) are similar to the ones we pose each week, but the app format gives you the opportunity to record your answers rather than saving them in your journal.

We encourage you to take the time to honor yourself this way. Even if you don’t upload your finished interview, the act of recording it will give you a voice you may not have had before. To find the app, go to http://storycorps.org.

And, since we’re on the topic of questions, here are a few to ponder as prompts:

* I want to interview myself because….

* By telling my story to myself, I’ll be better able to…

* The question I most want to ask myself is…

Affirmation: Today I listen to myself with my whole heart, deeply honoring my story and that which matters most in my life.

Are you listening to your body?

June 19th, 2015

Your body is the ground metaphor of your life, the expression of your existence. It is your Bible, your encyclopedia, your life story.”
–Gabrielle Roth, dancer and musician

Are you listening to your body? Do you seek its advice? How to you respond to its fatigue, aliveness, tenseness, or its desire to move or be still?

Your body accompanies you throughout life, being present for both your birth and your death. That makes it the most complete and intimate record of what you have done, what you have felt, whom you have loved, who has caused you anger or pain, and what has brought you joy. Is it any wonder it wants to talk with you?

Too often we decide to change our lives without consulting our bodies. We take stressful office jobs and develop back pain.

We tackle an arduous home remodeling job only to recall that we aren’t as nimble, strong or flexible as we once were.

We get by on five hours of sleep a night and fall victim to a string of illnesses.

If asked, your body might give you valuable guidance. For example:

What career should I pursue? you ask.

I like being outdoors and moving about, your body says. Find something that allows us to do that.

How do you feel when I get up at 4:30 every morning? you ask.

Our ability to make decisions is impaired, your body responds.  That’s important to know, right?

What do you think of this new guy I’m dating? you ask.

When we are with him, I feel relaxed, energized and happy, your body responds.

By conversing in this way and by acknowledging what you hear, you and your body become the intimate friends you were designed to be.  Find out for yourself.

This week, try this:

Pause periodically during the day. Notice how your body feels. Do you sense pain, fatigue, tenseness–signs you need to rest? Or do you feel the aliveness and joy you desire?

Start a conversation with your body or part of your body that is calling for your attention. Perhaps that is a lower back pain, a headache or simply a feeling of constriction. Ask a simple question like “What is going on?” Or “What do you need?”

End your day with gratitude. Reflect on all you have done today. What contribution did your body make? Thank it for allowing you to participate in life.

Gabrielle Roth, American dancer and musician, regards the body as a sacred text with a storehouse of memories, wisdom, gifts and personal history. Read it with reverence, consult it with respect, and trust where it leads you.

Affirmation: Today I commit to developing a closer relationship with my body. 

Imagining your life

April 14th, 2015
Front yard March and April

What a difference a month makes! This top photo of our front yard was taken March 15, and the bottom photo was taken today, less than four weeks later. We’ve moved from dormancy to visible growth almost overnight.

At our Art of Transitioning workshop last Saturday, we talked about the way our inner gardens mirror this process of change, and the power of imagination to create the growth we desire.

If you want to move from March to April in your own life, here’s one of the activities from the workshop that you can do on your own to prompt a shift:

Think of a change in your life that you’re pondering, but which doesn’t seem fully formed yet. It might be a move, a career change, an opportunity to spend more time with family or some other step in your life that isn’t yet completely clear.

Now imagine that change as though it has already happened, and write the story of it in your journal. Write about it as though it is already completed–as though April has arrived. How does it feel? How is your life better for having made the change?

This can help you move from dormancy to growth, creating a clear intention of the direction you want to go.

Affirmation: Today I imagine my life as I wish it to be, creating the changes that will nourish my heart and soul.

“What am I here for?

December 20th, 2014

Life has a way of giving us answers to that question. But over time, the answers may change and disappear. You may think you’re here to have children and raise a family. Or to have a successful career. Or to take care of someone who needs your help.

But children grow up. Careers shift and end. Loved ones pass or no longer need our care.

And then the question arises again: What am I here for?

To get to the deeper answer, it helps to look inside rather than to the outside world.

What if we’re here to experience soul growth every day, no matter what’s going on in the world around us? What if we’re here to know ourselves better, becoming more in tune with the seeds of creativity and passion in our inner gardens?

What if the answer to “What am I here for?” comes from…

• opening up to spiritual growth and learning.

• finding new ways to ground yourself while letting energy flow through you.

• expressing yourself as a creative being.

• bringing love into the world daily.

• measuring your purpose not by how much money you make or what your children do, but rather by whether you’re willing to keep digging deeper into your inner garden.

Take a few minutes today to sit down and journal. Make yourself a cup of tea, find 10 or 15 minutes of quiet time, and ask your inner self the question, “What am I here for?” Listen deeply and, if you’re willing, please let us know what you learn.

If you’re interested in spiritual growth within a community of other women, check out our 2015 workshops, all designed to help you find peace and purpose in the coming year.

Women, we need your input: What matters most to you?

October 1st, 2014
  • How can I experience more creative energy in my life?
  • What supports or limits my growth or potential?
  • How does gratitude bring me greater inner peace?
  • Am I more committed to looking better on the outside or feeling better inside?

In 2015, we’ll offer four workshops, each themed to the most common questions on women’s minds. Each one-day gathering will provide a safe, comfortable space for you to talk with others who share your interests—and explore your own thoughts and dreams.

So here’s what we want to know:What questions are on your mind? The ones above are samples, but we want to hear what you’re thinking about these days. What are your concerns? What do you need help with? If these workshops were designed specifically for you, what would your questions be?

Tell us your top four. Nothing is off limits.

We want to get to the root of what matters most to you, so please comment here or contact us with your input. After hearing from you, we’ll choose the four topics for the workshops and announce the themes for each of these 2015 dates:

  • January 24
  • April 11
  • July 18
  • October 17

Thank you for giving us your input by November 30. We’ll keep you posted about the results!

 

 

 

Independence Day

July 3rd, 2014

We hold these truths to be self-evident…

  • Women often try so hard to please others they forget to take care of themselves.
  • Your joy is in you, not outside of you.
  • The universe is working for your good, even though it may not seem like it some days.
  • It’s okay to say no.
  • Peace comes not from trying to control your world, but by seeing the gifts in it.

We’ve all heard these truths and others, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded. Especially on a day like Independence Day, when we celebrate freedom. This is a perfect time to spend a few moments with your journal and ask yourself: What truths are self-evident for me?

No matter where you live or what situations you face, you get to choose freedom in your own mind. It might mean choosing forgiveness so you’re not imprisoned by anger or blame. It could mean choosing to say no so you won’t be constrained by obligations or relationships that don’t serve you. And it could be choosing what’s right for you and speaking up about it, no matter what anyone else expects of you.

On this Independence Day weekend, take some time to explore your own truths. Say no. Ask for help. Look for joy. Take time for yourself. Journal. Walk. Meditate. Remember. Trust your gut.

When the fireworks go off inside, signaling an ah-ha moment or the excitement of what’s to come, you’ll know it’s time to celebrate your own personal Independence Day. Have a freedom-filled Fourth…and Fifth and Sixth, and all the days to come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling with sore feet: Part II

May 12th, 2014

Diane is blogging from France about the mindfulness of traveling—especially with limited mobility. Here’s her latest post, with tips that apply to everyday life:

Don’t go with the flow. This is a strange thing to say on a cruise, yet to experience fully the pleasures of this trip down the Seine River, I need to resist my natural inclinations to keep going beyond my physical limitations. Here’s what I’ve learned…

Rest when you’re tired. This is the second day we’ve bypassed the opportunity to visit the Musee de l’Orangerie, a gorgeous Monet museum, in favor of lounging around the hotel (yesterday) and the boat (today). I’ve opted for rest.

Focus on what’s directly in front of you rather than what you’re missing. Having decided to skip the museum, I now watch Parisians frolic with their dogs in the park on the other side of the river. Five dogs of varying sizes chase one another back and forth as their owners sit on the ground and watch them play. Do these locals know one another—friends who are out running together—or have they become acquainted by virtue of their pets? Tails wag so exuberantly. Dogs run excitedly after balls. A new dog arrives and tugs at the owner, as if to say, “Oh, please let’s stop and play.”

Don’t worry about what others think. “What did you do today?” other guests on the cruise inevitably ask. “I watched some dogs frolic in a park” feels like an inadequate answer as others recite the list of sites visited and tours taken. Yet at this moment, as I observe people doing ordinary things, an unexpected happiness overtakes me.

Evaluate how you’re doing. Guidebooks list the top ten attractions of Paris, the  “don’t miss” sites. It’s hard to ignore such recommendations, yet my intention, in honoring my physical limitations, has been to set my own pace and focus on a few things.

So now it’s time to do that—minding the mystique of Mona Lisa at the Louvre, whiling away time near the weeping willows of Monet’s garden at Giverny, contemplating the courage of the soldiers who landed at Normandy Beach. Unless, of course, I resist the flow of even my own plans and stay grounded just where I  am.

Traveling with sore feet

May 8th, 2014

Diane is blogging from France about the mindfulness of traveling—especially with limited mobility. Here’s her latest post:

Paris is easy on the soul, not so much on the sole. It offers many allures and diversions, most reachable through long walks and not particularly accessible by public transportation. Get to your destination, and long admission lines await.

Yet in our three days, soul and sole have aligned. Foregoing the two-and-a-half-hour tour of the Notre Dame Cathedral, I chose instead to  meditate in the cavernous, relatively quiet space. Then, discovering a beautiful 13th-century Mary and child, I gazed with wonder at her wise, gentle face and a baby Jesus appearing to be discovering his hands for the first time.

When lines wound around too many curves at the Musee de l’Orangerie, we instead joined thousands of Parisians sunning themselves at a nearby reflecting pool and fountain. As Jeff went off to buy ice cream, I found one chair and began the search for another. An elderly woman carried one over to me.  Was it that apparent my feet hurt?

Parisians have been consistently gracious—running after us to return a dropped tour guide, offering seats on buses and speaking English without hesitation after our awkward attempts at French.

What have I learned so far about traveling through the day with my nerve-impaired feet?

Give your curious mind something to feast on that doesn’t always require moving about.

Indulge your eyes, ears and nose wherever you may be.

Surrender to what is pleasant and easy.

Vacationing doesn’t have to be hard work. Use your common sense, which I neglected to do when walking to the Latin Quarter last night for dinner. As Jeff continues to say, “Now remember, we have to walk back!”

Tomorrow we move to a boat that will take us up the Seine—more opportunities to cultivate soul and care for soles.

Reflecting on Mindfulness at Easter

April 14th, 2014

With Easter coming, we thought it would be the perfect time to talk about mindfulness.
No matter what your spiritual beliefs, this is a season of renewal and reaffirmation, and much of life’s inspiration arrives in the small everyday details that are easy to overlook or undervalue.

We can’t think of a better way to explore mindfulness than through this excerpt from Spring: Women’s Inspiration for the Season of Hope and New Beginnings, one of the seasonal books of women’s essays and poems we published over the past year.

This essay, by Sarah Klaassen, begins with her move from Seattle, Washington, to the Ozarks in Missouri. While her partner began a new and satisfying job, Sarah started to question her own self-worth.

She had left behind a meaningful position as an interim pastor and wasn’t able to find a job in their new community. So she set to work on everyday tasks, questioning who she was and when she would find the work that was hers to do.

Here’s an excerpt from the end of her essay, “For Work That Is Real.” We encourage you to read it and then reflect on its connection to your own life through the questions that follow.

Now spring is upon us here on the edge of the Ozarks, offering with it a few glimpses of bright summer.  

I wake each morning to the sun in our east-facing window and to birds chirping.  

I get up and wash last night’s dishes as I listen to Morning Edition on our small kitchen radio.  

I eat breakfast: one piece of toast from homemade bread I bake each week.  

I sit down with my laptop at the kitchen table.  

As I browse through the classified ads, some days all I hear is the wind running through trees, and underneath the wind, the ticking of the clock on the wall.  

I just started some seeds the other day in the basement, my hands working through wet potting soil, and I began to see in the growing light of the advancing seasons the real work that I’ve done. The apples and walnuts and baking, the sleeping, the waiting, the living.   

It’s not what I’d expected or what I’d hoped in a job or paycheck, but somewhere underneath, life has carried on anyway, all along having been the calling of living and the work that is real.

Questions for reflection:

  • Practice mindfulness by noticing small, life-affirming moments through the day.
  • What is the rhythm of routine tasks and patterns in your life?
  • How does that rhythm represent “the work that is real” in your inner life and relationships?
  • How can noticing and honoring these small moments help renew the light within you?
  • How has life “carried on anyway,” even during times that didn’t meet your expectations? What can you learn about yourself by reflecting on those times?

If you have any “ah-has” you’d like to share, please post them in the Comments section. We’d love to hear from you. Enjoy this time of new beginnings!