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More Snow, Tax Day, Toxic Thinking, and MAKING SPACE to SHINE.

Morning view. Undoubtedly gorgeous. And cold.

My kids are on Spring Break this week. We are spending this precious family time cozied up in our family cottage in Northern Michigan. This morning we woke up to a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. Due to wishful thinking (and perhaps a wee bit of oversight on my part), "we" didn't pack winter clothing. 

When I asked my kids where their coats were, they said "Mom, it's SPRING break!"

Right. Spring MICHIGAN! Clearly they are too young to know that while Spring in Michigan may conjure up images of new blooms and mud pies, it can also mean frigid temperatures and falling snow.

This winter has been brutal. This assessment from someone who has heat and food and a reliable vehicle. Yes, all that and I still felt the impact of dark skies, cold air, and lingering doubt about whether winter would ever really end. 

I am prone to the winter blues. This particular winter was flat out depressing. There were many days I had to play mind tricks with myself to get my body out of bed. Fortunately, I'm pretty good at transforming my hopelessness into something more positive. I've had a lot of practice. And still, the sight of more snow makes my heart ache. Thank God for today's beautiful blue skies and bright shining sun though (see how I did that? I found something to be grateful for in the midst of feeling doubtful.).

Before I really even got out of bed this morning, I heard news of a tragic accident that took the life of a nine year-old girl. In her school parking lot. Devastating.

Today, Tuesday April 15, is the IRS tax filing deadline. Anxiety-ridden.

My neck hurts. Again. I hold my tension in my neck and shoulders and while it isn't too much to bear, I am in discomfort every day.

A little bit ago my kids went from playing peacefully together to arguing.

My dog is barking at me.

I'm not sure what to make for dinner tonight…

There are many, many thoughts swirling around in my head at any given moment. I have heard that the average person has between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day. Many of which are the same thoughts we have every day. Many, many of which are negative.

Some of us, especially those prone to anxiety and depression - like me, can get bogged down in negative thinking. It can be debilitating. 

There are many books, tools, and experts dedicated to finding ways to help people eliminate negative thinking, or at least alleviate the devastating impact it can have on people. I have worked with many of these resources. One of the prevailing lessons of this work is that in most things worth pursuing, a great deal of practice is required. I felt some sadness when I finally realized that because what I really wanted was a cure for what has ailed me most in my life… pain, loss, grief, shame, anxiety, depression. I have wanted it all to end. I have devoured texts and spoken to professionals trying to find ways to make it end. 

What I discovered is that none of it ever really ends. I can't stop it; however, I can learn to live with it. To live with it, to live with all of it - what I was born with, what I have learned along the way, and what I am exposed to each day - requires an ongoing practice of determining what is true and what isn't, what can be changed and what can't, and what can be held or released.

It sounds so simple. I probably should have gotten it the first time I heard Reinhold Niebuhr's Serentity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

I didn't get it all those years ago though. I then thought I only had to say the prayer and POOF! I would be okay again. I didn't understand that an ongoing practice went along with this prayer. I couldn't have comprehended that there will always be things. That every single day more things arise. That as I grew older, the things would become more complicated. That the longer I ignored these things instead of facing them, the more painful they would be when they surfaced.
And why does it even matter? Why would I care to undertake such a practice?
Because I want to be free. And, I have work to do.
Several years ago, when the new mom fog that surrounded me began to rise and I realized that life is really really short, I came to know that I had work I wanted to do here on Earth. I was fortunate enough to learn many tools that helped me feel more at ease in my life and I felt called to share what I've learned to help others. I started with a little blog and then a business. 
I can't continue to move forward if I continue to let my negative thinking weigh me down. None of us needs to stay bogged down in negative thinking. We were never meant to live in that dark, heavy, bogged down place. We were meant to experience freedom, light, and JOY! It's true. 
As soon as I opened up to that possibility, that maybe part of my purpose is to share what I've learned, I committed to practicing what I learn along the way. I'm so much happier for it.
Now it's time to share what I've learned in an even more powerful way.
My dear friend Libby Nelson is a life coach. She recently shared this on Facebook, "Friends, here's what I know to be true: each of us is here on Earth for a special purpose. We have gifts and callings that are uniquely ours to share. When we allow that to happen and we let our lights SHINE, the world is a better place and we are happier, more alive and a force for love and good in the lives of the people we encounter. So often, the way we think about and talk to ourselves gets in the way of all of that. We beat up on ourselves, we fall into overwhelm, we believe the myth that we aren't good enough, smart enough, thin enough or lovable enough. We hold ourselves back, we hide our precious lights and we suffer for it. So does the world."
Libby and I have created an e-course called Make Space to Shine: Transform Your Toxic Thinking and Let the Light In. Our intention is to help other people determine what is holding them back, and to help clear that space out so they can shine as they were meant to shine. 
About our e-course Libby says, "We'll share five weeks of rich, life changing and easy to manage course content including techniques to transform the way you think about and communicate with yourself. We'll combine coaching with easy-to-follow art projects (no experience or fancy supplies required!) which will give you access to yourself in a whole new way...we promise that you will leave this experience feeling more connected with yourself and other women. You'll have made more space to really SHINE -- and when you do that, anything is possible."
Imagine this if you will…a world where we shine together. Close your eyes and let that image sink in for a minute. Our minds are free of clutter, our hearts are open to the love that surrounds us, we are in community together, shining brighter than ever. I LOVE that vision. I love what Libby and I created together and I cannot wait to share it with you.
I hope you will join us. It's time. Make Space to Shine.
To learn more and to register for Make Space to Shine, click here. Earlybird pricing ends Friday!
Thank you! I'll see you in class! xoxo
Libby and I in Santa Fe, NM getting ready to help you SHINE!

My Word of the Year: Intention

tangles used: crescent moon, fescu, florz, and the word: intention

Mandala Monday is back! YAY!!!

Hmm... I'm not even sure where we left off with Mandala Monday. I'm guessing it was sometime in November before four billion tasks rose to the surface and begged for attention in December...

I missed Mandala Monday. I LOVE visiting The Bright Owl for Erin's templates and using them to create cool Zendalas. I also found that when I stopped doing this I more or less stopped tangling altogether. That just won't do. Zentangle as a practice is very important to me and this is a great way to supplement my practice. So, away we go!

Erin (Erin is the author and artist at The Bright Owl who posts a new Zendala template each week) wasn't pleased with her template and she challenged us to think BIG, then bring those plans to fruition. As I sat with my template all I could really think is that my stomach hurt. I decided to start with the tangle: crescent moon. I thought it might be fun to only use crescent moon for the entire Zendala! I didn't think of it at the time, but I think crescent moon appealed to me because my belly is sticking out like a crescent moon today! I stuck with crescent moon in the beginning, which was the center for me, but then the rest of the space seemed too big to continue so I introduced a few additional tangles and my word of the year: Intention.

When I was all finished I turned to my assistant and very best girl to ask her opinion. Do I keep it black and white? Or add some color? She stared at my Zendala for a good 15 seconds.

We spent a lot of time like this today. She coughed and I belly ached.

Then she said, "I think you should make the whole thing purple."

As is most often the case, it would have been hard to do anything BUT what my almost five year-old purple loving artist daughter suggests, and so I pulled out my new chalk-pastel coloring pencils (which I love madly, by the way) and colored the whole thing purple. Voila!

So, this word of the year thing. Yes, I have heard of it in years past and no, I have never chosen a word of the year before. It sounded very intriguing to me. I spent a lot of time thinking about just the right word and changing it around before I settled on intention.

1   a determination to act in a certain way: resolve

a : what one intends to do or bring about
b : the object for which a prayer, mass, or pious act is offered

Thank you

Zendalas are all about intention. You can set an intention before you make one or as you take a look at one, a lot like walking a labyrinth or working on a maze. You would set an intention in the same way you set one for meditation or before yoga practice. It's the perfect way to empty your mind of all its confusion, focus on one task, which in this case is repeating patterns with deliberate strokes, and end with some clarity - another reason why I love Mandala Monday. It's a wonderful way to start the week.

I want to act with resolve this year. I want to be very deliberate, thoughtful, and mindful of what the choices I am making and who I am being each day this year. In 2012, I went balls out. I was all over the place - learning, trying new things, meeting new people, and moving at an often frenzied pace. I missed appointments, forgot things, and stopped taking really good care of myself (which is important to me because I want to be able to play on the floor with my grandkids one day). It was a GREAT year! (hee hee) Really and truly it was, but now I need to be a little more careful. I need to figure out what is most important. Sacred even. And move forward with intention in the spirit of supporting those sacred things. It will be another great year and I am SO excited about it. I am really excited about my word too. Intention and I... let's just say we go together in 2013.

For Mandala Monday, I invite you to set an intention and if you aren't ready to make a mandala, spend a few minutes looking into the purple, letting go of the confusion in your head, and paying attention to what comes up for you. It might look like this:

1. Set an intention, let's say to be grateful.
2. Take a deep breath (breathing is a great practice in general).
3. Quiet your mind... maybe draw circles over and over again, stare into the purple, or do nothing...
4. Wait. Listen. Take note of anything that comes up.
5. You're done.

You may not even realize it, but deliberately choosing to be grateful for those few minutes was of benefit to you. You may have relished in the image of someone who graces your life with their presence, and like a little prayer, your gratitude warmed that person. It's a lot like prayer.

Try it. It works! It may take some practice, but it definitely works. I like to begin a Zendala with the question, "What do I need to know right now?" By the time I'm finished I often have an answer to something I've been wondering about. Answering the questions that plague us is so much easier when we stop trying so hard to answer them with our minds, and instead quiet our minds and open up to the messages in our hearts. No stress, no worries - just have fun with it.

Thank you! xo

Epilogue: after all my talk about intention and hitting Enter on this post, I immediately left to take my girl to dance class. We were running very late. I was so intent on getting there that I DROVE RIGHT BY HER STUDIO! I didn't even realize it. Okay, it was dark oustide, but geez! These are the types of mindless mistakes I'd like to minimize in my life! Thank God for practice. Maybe I ought to add "practice" to the front of intention? But that would be two words. Sigh...

Practice, Practice, Practice

Zendala Dare #30, tangles used: pinwheels, intersection, eke, poke pumpkin, and ennies

For this week's Zendala Dare, the challenge was all about Thanksgiving...PIE! In my opinion, along with the stuffing, cranberry-apple crumble, corn casserole, and bread with real butter, the pie is the best part. I'm getting a little hungry here now. In the name of PIE, the challenge is to use tangles that start with the letters P, I, and E. Plus, a tangle we have never used before.

Easy as... pie!

Well, not so easy, actually. I am not in love with the way my Zendala turned out. I'm not loving the tangle - Intersection, the one on the sides that comprises a bunch of lines intersecting. I tried to embellish it with a swirly tangle, but I don't know, there is just something about straight lines that rarely appeals to me. But, I tried something new and in the process remembered the importance of seeing tangling as a practice. The point is to try new things, to fall into the process, and to practice, practice, practice.

For the last several years, I have practiced gratitude each day for the 30 days of November by posting something I am grateful for on Facebook. When I first started it, in 2009, I was in the midst of a bad news storm. It seemed like all I was hearing from friends and family was bad news. I decided to bring some positivity into my life by focusing on the things that made me happy. I was amazed by the response. Several of my friends joined me by doing the same thing through November. This year, so many of my friends are practicing gratitude on Facebook and I love hearing what people are thankful for each day. It is always a great reminder that no matter what is happening in my life, there are truly so many things for which to be grateful.

For Mandala Monday, let's all reflect on the ways in which we practice gratitude. A real shift in energy occurs when gratitude plays a part in our daily lives. Practicing gratitude is like medicine for the soul. It heals our hearts. And, there are no adverse side effects! If you haven't already begun a daily practice of gratitude, I highly recommend it.

Thank you!