Following is a series of essays on abundance written by Cristin Whiting.
The Magic and Surprises that Come from Really Listening
My son, Colin, is seven and for a long time I believed that what he thought about could be boiled down into three main categories: (1) Beyblades—a very popular game played by boys his age, similar to tops (2) His best friend, Chase and (3) Food.
Colin stands next to me in the kitchen several times a day filling a plate with food trying to fill that hollow leg of his. He chatters excitedly with his face aglow, explaining to me in great detail about which beys are best used for offensive attacks and which are best for defense. Which beys he has custom made and how they have performed against those of his best friend.
I try to hang on to what he is saying. It is clearly so important to him. But I don’t. My mind is cluttered with the to-dos of managing the business of our family and getting ready for the next workday. I phase in and out of what he is saying. I try to ask him a couple of questions to plug back into the conversation but the thread of it is too far-gone.
I give him a hug, kiss the top of his head, and make a vague comment like, “I’m happy for you, Honey” all the while feeling guilty for not paying more attention to the things he cares about; guilty for not being able to “relate.”
So, one night recently, I am lying on his bed with him having one last cuddle before he goes to sleep. My heart weighs heavy because I am looking at this beautiful boy and wishing I understood him better.
I say to him, “Colin, of all of the little boys who could have come out of my tummy, I am glad it was you.”
He kisses my nose and says, “Thanks mom, and of all of the moms I could have had I am glad that it is you.”
The room is quiet for a moment and then I ask him a question…a question I feel sort of weird asking him but I ask it anyway, “Honey, what do you think about?”
Then he begins…
“Sometimes I wonder how many grains of sand there are in Egypt. I bet there is something like a kajillion billion zillion or something like that. So many grains of sand you can’t even count…”
“I wonder a lot what how many different kinds of sand there are.”
“You think about that?” I ask him, shocked.
“Oh yeah, I think about that a lot! There is the honey colored sand and the brown sugar kind of sand…” His voice drifts off in wonder as he contemplates the possibilities of sand. Then he continues…
“I wonder what it would be like to listen to your heart in a stethoscope. Would it sound like BOOM BOOM or would it just sound regular like boom boom?”
“I wonder how many stars there are in the sky. There probably isn’t a right answer for that. You can’t just fly around and say, there is one. There is another.”
“And I wonder what is on the other side of the galaxy. Is it all just one white place? What is it?” he says with a shrug of his shoulders.
I lay next to him in silent amazement. This is what he thinks about. Not just bey blade battles, not just his best friend, not even food. He asks himself questions about science and the universe. He asks himself unanswerable questions. He wonders…
We talk a bit more and then I say to him, “Colin, I’ve always been curious about what you think about and I really appreciate your sharing all of that with me.” And what he says next was like getting lopped over the head with brink…
He says, “You are welcome, Mama. Thanks for listening.”
And there is was… I hadn’t listening to my son. That isn’t what he said, but it is what I knew.
Since that conversation lying in his bed, something has shifted between the two of us. He did feel heard that night. He did feel understood. And now, as I listen to him, I hear that he has been saying a lot more to me than I thought.
For instance there are lots of times when he has asked for more freedom. He wants to be able to run around the neighborhood with his friend. He wants to be able to ride his bike on the street by himself. He tells me that he wants to “feel the wind in his hair.” He has told me these things many times but I dismissed them as one more thing for me to worry about.
Now, that I am listening for what matters to him I am out with him on the weekend working with him on his bike. I give him tasks to work on each week so he can develop the skills and maturity he will need to grow into those freedoms. As the weeks have gone by he has developed and he has matured—and not just in the areas that he cares about but in the areas I care about too: He cleaned is room and is keeping it clean. When I ask him to do something he (mostly) does it after the first request. When an angry reaction would have erupted out of an every day frustration, he now briefly tenses up and then handles it. Gone is the tone that can stretch the word, “Mom” out for so long I want to apply for a name change.
Theologian and Philosopher, Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen” and for good reason. I have a new relationship with my son because I looked past what I thought I knew about him and I listened to what he had been trying to tell me all along. Inside of that listening, he is able to grow and expand into a young boy who seeks adventure, who loves to explore and has a thirst for experiencing life — and yes, that is something to which I can very much relate.
Editor’s Note: To make a comment on this essay click on the ““comments” button below Cris’ bio, or look for the white box at the bottom of the page. If you want more info, go here for step-by-step instructions.
This essay was created by Dr. Cristin Whiting, Psy.D: Triad Tribe author, clinical psychologist, and adjunct professor at Wake Forest University. In addition to writing for Bridges, Cristin is launching a new website and multimedia blog called The Love Tango: The Extraordinary Dance Between Sex, Love and Intimacy. Cristin also writes monthly on the topic of relationships for Dr. Lara Fernandez.com who’s tag line is “Live the life of your dreams with your soulmate by your side.” She also blogs for Triad Mom’s on Main. Beyond her writing, Cristin is the mother of two children who are the joy of her life. She also volunteers as a leadership coach, empowering others to live lives they love so they can be a contribution to their communities. Cristin currently resides in Winston-Salem and has a private psychotherapy practice.
To read Cristin’s other Bridges’ Articles from 2012 click here.
Evidence of Abundance (originally posted on January 3, 2012)
Eighteen months ago, Cheryl Schirillo, Founder of Bridges, had an idea to start a weekly blog on the topic of abundance. The timing of the blog could not have been more ironic and more perfect. Our economy was tightening and there was the anxious anticipation of just how bad things would get. From a financial perspective, the only abundance that was on the minds of most people was the lack of it.
We sat together in our favorite breakfast haunt in Winston-Salem’s Arts District (the evolution of Mary’s of Course … Breakfast of Course) one July morning and talked about her idea. Cheryl and I agree on a positive view of life; that it has a certain limitless quality, and that truly anything is possible for each and every one of us. It was probably for that commonality, as much as any other reason, that Cheryl asked me to be the one to write Bridges’ first weekly blog.
Not knowing much about writing or anything about blogging, I chose to write about abundance by writing about my life with the hope that you would relate and find your life amongst those words. Together we’ve discussed romance and friendship, parents and parenting, leaving home and coming back again. We’ve discussed being a contribution and knowing one’s purpose in life. We’ve looked at patriotism and activism, not to mention ideas of gratitude, generosity, and universal laws that govern and guide us.
This past Saturday, on the last morning of 2011, Cheryl and I sat around my kitchen table with bowls of oatmeal and cups of chai. We expressed our gratitude and amazement for the readership that has grown with the Abundance Blog, and the rich discussions that flow through Bridges each week because of your contribution. We discussed how this blog no longer belongs to one person, or even to Bridges itself, but has truly become a community blog — a community that now spans from coast to coast!
Buoyed by our respective words for 2012, mine being unstoppable results and Cheryl’s being unlimited peace, we talked once again about what is possible. We agreed on the value of holding abundance as a context for our lives, but we also agreed that to see evidence of abundance in our life, is something all together different. We talked about the words that you created for 2012 in response to last week’s blog post: Power, Determination, Listening, and Musically Dynamic. These words are a call for something beyond the life that you currently know, they communicate more than “abundance.” They communicate action. They communicate results.
With that in mind, we are envisioning a new venture for 2012 – one in which this blog is just one part of something far more inclusive and expansive. We envision a community that spans both the virtual and the real worlds; a community that comes together for the purpose of creating unlimited results in the areas of life that matter to you the most. Our goal is for this venture to also go beyond the personal and to make a community-wide impact.
In the coming weeks, we will unveil the new blog and the local gatherings we will host and facilitate.
In the mean while Bridge Builders, thank you for your readership, thank you for your contribution, and thank you for the abundance you have created with us … together we will make 2012 the year we have all been waiting for.
Throw the Door to Your Heart Wide Open (originally posted on December 21, 2011)
This morning I came across a beautiful prayer called The Siddur of Shir Chadash:
May the door of this home be wide enough to receive all who hunger for love, all who are lonely for friendship.
May it welcome all who have cares to unburden, thanks to express, hopes to nurture.
May the door of this house be narrow enough to shut out pettiness and pride, envy and enmity.
May its threshold be no stumbling block to young or strained feet.
May it be too high to admit to complacency, selfishness, and harshness.
May this home be for all who enter, the doorway to richness and a more meaningful life.
After a quick search on line I learned that the origins of this prayer come from the Jewish tradition and that it is a popular prayer to include in weddings. Nevertheless, it seems especially poignant for this time for year when so many of us are caught up in the holiday bustle, shopping for the “perfect” gift and preparing great feasts. It occurs to me that no matter your faith tradition, what is expressed in this prayer is the very thing that we wish we could give to our loved ones all of the time, and that in our heart of hearts, it is the thing we wish to receive.
With the home as a metaphor for the heart, keep the door to your heart open wide to welcome all into its love. Open it so wide, that it may even break with the richness of this beautiful, abundant life.
Happy Holidays, Bridge Builders. Much love to each of you.
Going Beyond What’s Realistically Possible (originally posted on December 13, 2011)
I was talking to a friend the other day about people who have really made a difference in the world, people who have gone beyond what we ordinarily think is possible, and who have taken a stand to empower others and to end suffering. We had both attended a conference that weekend in which we heard speakers talk about the moment when they knew themselves to be people capable of making a huge difference for others. It left us both touched, inspired and present to the contribution we were capable of making. At the end of my conversation with my friend, she said something that moved me to my core. What she said was, “I now know that my power belongs to the world!”
So often we don’t think of ourselves as great and powerful people. So often, I in particular, get mired down in the muck of every day living … of broken down cars, of paying bills and of busy schedules. I get mired down in my own self-doubt. I doubt that I truly am “great.” I rationalize my complacency by arguing that those people who are really changing the world are somehow “special,” more talented or gifted than I, and that it is those talents and gifts that enable them to make such a difference.
Yet, when you talk to those people, they are just like you and I. Their cars break down too. They have bills to pay, families to take care of, and yes, they too have busy schedules. What sets them apart though is one important thing, they move past the world of considerations, reasons and excuses. They move past the world of “I don’t feel like it” and they keep going. They keep going to deliver on the declaration that the difference they see there is to make in the world shall be.
I now see the real rip off it is when I don’t own and share my power with the world.
I’m not fulfilling my potential when I take part in that conversation with myself that I am not capable of making real change. The truth is that my power truly belongs to everyone, not to me. Further more, I now see the tragedy that it is when I don’t see each and every person as capable of being and doing the same. Because, just as the people that my friend and I heard speak this weekend are no “better” than me, I am no better than any one else.
George Bernard Shaw has a quote that I look back on time and again to remind me of the greatness that lies within each of us; the contribution we are all capable of being:
“This is the true joy of life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a might one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community; and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have to hold for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
In this abundant world, anything is possible for anyone at any time … and this shall be.
Five Lessons for an Abundant and Authentic Life (originally posted on December 6, 2011)
An article has been making its way around the web lately by author Bronnie Ware entitled, “Top Five Regrets of the Dying”. The first couple of times I saw the link, I avoided clicking on it, anticipating reading something depressing. But that link showed up over and over, and so I clicked. This article isn’t a lesson about dying, rather it’s a lesson in living.
The top regret that Ms. Ware says her palliative care patients express is wishing they had the courage to live a life true to themselves rather than living a life that others expected of them. The four remaining regrets include: wishing they hadn’t worked so hard, wishing they had the courage to express feelings openly, wishing they had stayed in touch with friends, and wishing they had allowed themselves to experience full happiness — all of which really seem to be aspects of being true to one’s self.
When you live a life that is true to yourself there is a natural peace, ease, and freedom to living. There is an essential connection between yourself and others because there is nothing hidden, there is nothing about which to be ashamed, and there is nothing that can’t be said or shared. Too often though, people live compartmentalized lives that are shrouded in secrecy and fear. Some create a refuge in communities where they have the experience of being true to themselves, but only in the context of that community. For others, living a life of truth and authenticity may seem like an ideal at best and selfish folly or irresponsibility at its worst.
When you consider the degree of loneliness, disconnection, anxiety and depression that is commonly reported, one has to begin to wonder if any of those experiences are connected to not living truly and freely. But that isn’t the only impact of not living true to yourself. For example, it is so easy lapse into feeling jealous toward those who do dare to live authentically; that jealously can take the form of casting moral judgments upon those who march to the beat of their own drummer — all the while secretly wishing to join the rhythm of the beat.
As I have begun my 40th decade, my tolerance for living a life that fulfills the expectations of others over what I want for myself, seems to grow thinner by the moment. Living my truth has been a bit of a roller coaster ride though. I make strides forward in living authentically and experience the sheer joy, elation and terror that it is before receding back into what is safe and familiar; and it is in these phases of playing it safe when my jealousy and judgment of others rise. When I feel that happening I know it is time to take a look at myself and ask, “Where am I selling out in my own life? What is it that is causing me to be suddenly concerned about what others are doing or not doing in their lives?”
In the end, the ultimate litmus test for living true to myself is when I experience freedom. When I am being true to myself there is no struggle; there is no effort; there is even nothing to do … except to live.
Bridge Builders, what abundance will you create through these lessons in living?
The Power of a Favor (originally posted on November 30, 2011)
I was given the gift of abundance this week and it came in an unexpected way. I have a car that is a few years old and doesn’t have a lot of miles on it. It has enough that the powertrain warranty has been exceeded, but not nearly enough for the engine to die, but this week, that is exactly what happened. So, as I listen to the third mechanic tell me that the engine has to be replaced (I got second and third opinions to be absolutely sure) the last thing in the world I was feeling was abundant. In fact, I was feeling pretty ripped off.
And then a friend offers to shuttle my kids and I to their pediatrician appointments, the bank and the grocery store. As we part, she tells me to be sure to call her if we need another ride sometime. Another offers to loan me her car for four days while her family is away for the holiday. When she returns, she tells me we can car share all week so that I don’t have to rent one…and her husband will drive my kids to school in the morning…and, why don’t I let her take my kids and I out for dinner just for fun?
Another friend offers to make phone calls for me to the car company’s corporate office to do a little advocacy work, while another offers to translate mechanic-ese (That’s the foreign language mechanics speak when they talk about engines) for me so I understand what the heck is wrong with my car.
All week I have the experience of being supported and loved by one friend after the other, which causes me to wonder, “Do I lend a hand to others at the drop of a hat with the generosity that has been shown to me?” I’m not sure that I do, but it puts me in the mind to find out what other people are dealing with in their life, perhaps the stuff that I might not know about, the stuff they don’t tell me when I ask the questions, “How are you? What is new?”
The other observation I made through all of this is that support was offered to me without my having to ask; and if it were not offered, I am quite certain that I would not have asked the favors. And yet, in receiving this kind of support, I want to support others in return. I want them to feel comfortable calling on me for anything, with the knowledge that the answer will always be “Yes” and without any concern that a favor was requested, except that I had not thought to offer the assistance first. In short, receiving so much abundance this week, has taught me a lesson in what it is to be a friend.
Bridge Builders, do you know what the people in your life really have on their plate? How can you lend a hand without having to be asked?
Thankful for My Parents (originally posted on November 23, 2011)
In a year where I have so much to be grateful for, there is nothing for which I am more thankful than my parents.
My parents are Yankees, born and bred. My Dad is from a Mayflower family and my Mom is of Italian and Hungarian decent. Together they made an unlikely pair in some ways but they are a combination of energies and influences that balance each other out as any good couple does.
Being in my 40s, I have come to appreciate the gift that my parents are in a way that I could not see at an earlier time in my life. My parents are people who raised two daughters to have high standards for themselves and their lives are they are people who have little tolerance for anything that they think falls outside of that range. They live their lives with integrity about what they believe to be right and true and they don’t easily comprise in order to be liked or to take the easy way out.
My parents are the kind of parents who will always be my parents; they’ve not tried to shift our relationship into a friendship, nor do they lean on me as I have gotten older, even when they have been invited and encouraged to do so. Yes, my Mom still insists on doing my laundry when I come to visit, she cooks every meal, and if I want to pay the bill should we go out to eat I have to sneak off and find the waitress to pay the bill without them knowing.
My parents take interest in my daily life and check on me to make sure that all is well in my world despite the fact that we live on opposite ends of the Eastern Seaboard: “How is the leak in your ceiling and when is it getting fixed?” “What is wrong with your car? For how long has it been running that way?” “How is your psychiatry practice? Is it full?”
After 40 plus years of life on this planet, I still have my parents. I still have their unconditional love, their unwavering support and generosity, and the knowledge that there are two people in the world who always have my back, no matter what.
Bridge Builders, for what about your own parents are you grateful?
Clearing of Peace or Bah Humbug? (originally posted on November 15, 2011)
My daughter noticed with dismay this year that Christmas decorations were up in the stores just after Halloween. Griping about how early the stores start pushing the Christmas buying frenzy has become as much a part of the holiday season as candy canes and eggnog.
Looking at the holiday season through the lens of abundance, I can see past the tinsel and blow up Santas that decorate the stores, and I can listen through the jingle bells that accent the advertisements on the radio. In that clearing of peace, what I love best about this time of year is that it is a time to give thanks and a time to give back.
One of my favorite ways to gift for several years now has been through the Heifer International catalogue. They call themselves, “The Most Important Gift Catalog In The World,” and they may well be. The catalog is full of gifts that begin as low as $20 (a flock of chicks or share-a -llama) and range up to $25,000 (The Gift of Transformation, which includes herds of heifers, llama, and goats; flocks of sheep and chickens; a pen of pigs, a school of fish and a gaggle of geese!) Once purchased by you, these gifts are given to a family who is trained in caring for the animals and given the appropriate facilities, so that they may be on the road to self-reliance.
Another favorite organization to gift through is Save The Children. You may already be aware of Save The Children’s Sponsor A Child program and they also have one-time gifts available with which, for as low as $30, you can educate an orphan through their Educate An Orphan program. Education: the gift that keeps on giving.
More locally, consider a gift to the Winston-Salem Women’s Fund made in the name of a loved one. For those of you who are not familiar with this organization they state their mission as the following: The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem seeks to improve the lives of women and girls by building a community of female philanthropists who provide grants to local programs and initiatives that address the root causes of social issues impacting women and girls in Forsyth County. By gifting the Winston-Salem Women’s Fund, you are bringing abundance to the very community in which we live.
Finally, one of my favorite gifts to give are gifts of an experience. Rather than give something I love giving someone an experience that creates a memory. I’ve treated friends to concerts held by the Fiddle and Bow society and I’ve treated friends to over night trips. I’ve taken friends on hikes and I’ve watched their children so they can have a date night. I’ve even cooked meals for friends to stock their freezer.
Bridge Builders, there are so many ways to give thanks and so many ways to create abundance for others this time of year. How will you give thanks? How will you create abundance for others?
Literary Abandon! (originally posted on November 8, 2011)
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo). We’re now a full week into the 30 days and nights of literary abandon! The experience of writing fiction is completely new to me and it is one I can already tell that I will come back to time and again.
I’ve spent the last year or so writing blogs. I explore topics that are psychological, and spiritual in nature. I write a lot about relationships and the relationships in my own life are often a template for what I discuss. Many times when I write I have the experience of holding back. It is such a vulnerable thing to write publicly. Sometimes to write freely I mentally put aside the fact that I will later publish what I write, just so I can say what there really is for me to say on a given topic. Otherwise, I can have a bit of stage fright while writing if I think about the fact that people are actually going to read what I have written.
I get mixed feedback from my writing. Some people tell me that I really bare my soul, while others tell me that I skirt around the edges and keep things on a superficial level. Perhaps it is a combination of the two. I know I have the experience of both when I write — at times I experience sharing parts of myself that I never I imagined I would in a public forum, while simultaneously having the experience of holding back and selecting what parts of myself I will share.
In writing for NaNoWriMo, the experience of writing fiction has proven to be all together different. There is very little analysis of what I am writing as I am writing it. The characters seem to do the writing for me and I am just the person that taps on the keyboard and tells their story as they dictate it to me.
While writing, I sometimes catch myself being fascinated and wondering, “What will happen next?”–As if it is not me at all who is doing the writing. Yet, I don’t know what will happen next. I only know what I know as it is being typed out and I find myself regularly surprised and delighted.
It is only later with a chuckle that I see the emotional themes that emerge; themes that are the ones that are closest to my heart that I haven’t even yet considered writing in a blog; and yet there the emerge, onto the page, without care or effort. The irony rests then in that my heart tells its true story when I am creating a work of fiction.
Bridge Builders, what has surprised and delighted you lately? When does your heart tell the tale it has to tell?
Sing it Sister! (originally posted on November 1, 2011)
I was at a workshop this weekend in which I was one of a group of twenty or so volunteer trainers in a leadership training program. At the end of the weekend we surprised the participants with a fun performance piece; we dressed ourselves as zombies and sang a song about the lessons of the weekend to the tune of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Dressing like the undead? Easy! Dancing my heart out? No problemo!
Singing loud and proud so that my less-than-average voice can be heard as I dance through the isles of the audience? Mmmmm … not so much.
As we rehearsed the number, at least three people coached me, “Cristin, SING LOUDER!”
“Good grief! I thought. Leave me alone. I’m doing it fine.”
And I was. It was “fine.” But is “fine” the kind of life that I signed up for? Not at all. Is “fine” the kind of life I want for the participants of the program?” No way.
So, as we rehearsed, I saw something. I saw that I was ready to give up “just fine.” How on one hand I was giving my all and excelling at the parts I liked doing and knew I was good at (costume and dancing). On the other hand, the part with which I wasn’t so confident, I was trying to get away with “so-so”. By that I don’t mean that I suddenly needed to become a great singer. It wasn’t about that. It was really about giving it everything I had, not matter what.
I realized, how this performance piece wasn’t just a fun little skit that we were doing at the end of a workshop, but it was actually a metaphor for life. I thought about the areas of my life in which I’m complacent. In how many areas do I say, “Well, these things over here are going really well so I am just going to ignore this bit or that bit since it’s not really going the way I’d like it to go”? The answer? A lot!
Let me give you some examples. Despite improvements made, my finances are still not sorted the way I’d like them to be. I’ve got some relationships that are just bursting at the seams with love while I have others that are stuck and stopped by old resentments. I have some parts of my health and well being that couldn’t be better and I have other aspects of it that are pretty stagnant or even not getting worse.
That way of living life is par for the course. It is typical, even predictable. But once again, that is really not what I want out of life.
So, when it came time for the performance, I sang that song. I sang it loud. I sang it proud. I sang it to participant after participant whom I passed in the isles and I did it with joy in my heart and a smile on my face because as I sang I knew, that there is no holding back in life. Life is to be lived and lived dynamically. Life is to be lived with no limits. Life is to be lived with abundance.
Bridge Builders, in what part of your life will you set outside of your comfort zone to create abundance?
Your Wild Muse is Calling (originally posted on October 25, 2011)
When was the last time you did something with abandon?
Well, from November 1st - November 30th, I will be creating abundance with abandon. Literary abundance, that is!
Let me explain. November is National Novel Writing Month, “thirty days and night of literary abandon.” You may have heard of it affectionately referred to as, NaNoWriMo.
Each year thousands upon thousands of writers participate in this month of literary abandon. Writing at the break neck speed of completing a novel in just one month offers an opportunity to prioritize production over intellectualizing. This is not an activity that affords a lot of over-thinking. The key is to write one’s heart out and to surrender to the process. I’ve had friends participate in this program in the past and I saw the joy in their faces as they laughed about the development of their novel and the unbelievable plot twists and turns that developed; twists and turns that were born out of the fevered pace of NaNoWriMo.
Why have I not participated in NaNoWritMo in the past? Well, the usual reasons — all very rational and none of them true. I told myself that I’m not a good enough writer, that I don’t know the first thing about writing fiction, and that I don’t know what I would write about.
So, why am I gearing up to participate in NaNoWriMo this year? For all the same reasons! I am participating in NaNoWriMo to give up everything I think I know about myself and who I am as a writer by throwing myself with abandon into a medium in which I (think I) know very little. Why? Because by stepping into the unknown, by giving up that I have to “know” something to do it first, I will come to know what I think I don’t know; and in the process learn what I already know but didn’t know that I knew. And that is pretty cool.
If you are interested in joining NaNoWriMo, check out their website http://www.nanowrimo.org/ There you will find all kinds of resources to make the journey into the unknown a fun and exciting one. They offer support groups and even loads of information for those of you who want to learn about writing before or as your write!
Bridge Builders, what will you with abandon for the month of November? Is it time for you to get that novel that you don’t yet know you have in your mind, down on paper?
It’s all or nothing. (originally posted on October 18, 2011)
Last week I wrote about having it all, and now this week I am thinking about nothing. By that I don’t mean that I am not thinking about anything, but that I am thinking about the thing we call nothing.
I’m imagining what it would be like to experience my life as if it were the first time. What would it be like to put aside all of my judgments and assessments and what I think I know about everyone and everything, including myself? In others words,
what would it be like to create abundance from nothing?
First I would need to remove the assumption that I really know anything anyway; or better yet, that anything can be known. When I work from the assumption that nothing can be known, it creates endless opportunities for discovery, exploration and adventure; it creates an existence in which barriers between living beings exist only if I say that they do … thereby creating the possibility of profound connectedness between all living things.
Imagine, Bridge Builders …
What would conversations with your parents (or children) be like if you put aside everything you thought you knew about them? What would it be like to make love to you partner as if it were the first time? What would it be like to taste chocolate, to hear music, to feel the wind blow across your skin as if you had never experienced that before?
Through this lens, when I look out at my future, I now see endless possibilities where just a few weeks ago all I saw was predictability. When I look at my present, I am now present to nothing. It is only what I say it is, and even if other’s agree with me, that doesn’t make it so either; it just means we agree to a certain reality that is taking place at a particular moment in time that is endless shifting toward a new and unknown future. Now that’s exciting!
No Bridge Builders, I am not writing this blog from Wonderland having slipped into a rabbit hole. But like Alice who drank the potion that made her shrink and ate the cake that made her grow, I find that life gets curiouser and curiouser (or more and more abundant, whichever the case may be) when we look at things from perspectives that are radically different than the ones we are used to.
What does it take to create this shift in thinking? Simply assume nothing (including the thing we call nothing) and watch abundance flow.
All of a sudden … you’re there. (originally posted on October 11, 2011)
A few months ago I wrote that this past summer was going to be my summer of “having it all.” When I claimed that, I wasn’t thinking about achieving any particular result. If pressed, I might have even conceded that when I said it I was just playfully spouting off with friends and wasn’t really convinced that “having it all” would ever be a phrase that I would apply to myself.
Yet, just the other day as summer subsided to fall…
I am grooving and popping in my car as “What A Feeling” from Flashdance plays on the radio. The windows are open and there is the first hint of fall in the night air. I’m belting out the words right along with Irene Cara the way I do when I am either driving alone or with really close friends. Out of my mouth come the lyrics, “I CAN REALLY HAVE IT ALL!” And in that moment, I know that to be true.
Ironically, what felt like an audacious statement this Spring when I said that this would be the Summer of “having it all”, has in fact become how I know myself and my life. So what changed in just a few short months?
Simply put, I went from viewing myself as someone life happened to, to being the cause of it. As a friend said to me the other day, “You really penetrate life.” When he said that, I understood what he meant. I have gone from being a person who waits for life to come to me, or who waits for others to bringlife to me, to being a person who goes after her life. I am now someone who seeks out experience, connection, and love at its deepest levels. I have a natural hunger and passion for that kind of experience and always have. What is new in this equation is the realization that it was only ever me who was stopping me from “having it all.”
The other thing that I realized is that analyzing the “why” of it all doesn’t pull life forward. Even if I were to get to an answer of why things are they way they are (or aren’t), that answer doesn’t make it true. The “answer” I come up with is really just my point of view at a given time – a point of view which will change again, and again and again.
What I have learned is to “have it all” is to simply accept life as it is and then to take the next step in having the life of my dreams, and then the next step after that, and the one after that. What I have learned is that I don’t have to know how to “take my passion and make it happen”, as the song says. All I have to do is take the next step, even when, especially when, I don’t know if it is the “right” one to take.
The area of my life where I am seeing this manifest the most is in writing the book on miraculous love I told you about a few weeks ago. I write and I write and slowly but surely I get to what there is to say. Sometimes I doubt myself, but I share my work with my friends and they say, “keep going,” so I do. I don’t always know where I’m going, but even so, I’m experience the magic as it unfolds.
A popular quote by Steve Jobs circulated last week after his death. He was quoted as saying “I want to make a ding in the universe.” He did just that. He saw the life he wanted and what he could create and took the next step toward it.
Bridge Builders, what next step will you take toward “having it all.”
Team Building = Community Building (originally posted on September 28, 2011)
Community building is something that I have historically shied away from, and for a relationship-loving soul like me, that is a bit of a contradiction.
Until recently, I would have said that working in groups is stressful. There can be disagreements; leaders may contradict each other; and the “right” course to take can even be unclear at times. When the going gets tough, sometimes the mission of the group, the reason we all came together in the first place, can fall away. Under those conditions, working together to accomplish a goal starts feeling like toil rather than an inspired act of love.
Though sometimes the process ain’t pretty, there is a richness and magic that exists when people work together toward a common cause. This is when ego gives way to team, when righteous submits to generosity, when martyrdom gives way to appreciation. This is when there are no stars on the team, there is only team.
What am I doing to create community in my life? I’m taking small but abundant steps.
I have joined a group of women writers and we are launching a blog web site together (details to follow)…
In my home life I joined my neighborhood association for the first time in the four years I have lived in my house; a neighbor and I have grown a lovely friendship into a true support system in which we baby sit each other’s children and help each other with house projects; and I have decided to walk my dog with my kids on the weekend so I have the chance to interact with my neighbors I haven’t yet met.
When friends call, not only will I call them back but I will also listen to the message they left. When I have a chance to spend time with friends, I will take it, rather than stay at home and “catch up on stuff.” I will dust off the pots and pans and begin cook again and fill my house with gatherings of family and friends.
Finally, I am lending my support to the causes of others to support them in reaching their personal goals. I am making what matters to others also matter to me. Sometimes that means there are specific actions to take to get a job done and sometimes that just means being a committed listener.
Those these are just small steps, my commitment is that over the next six months, I will weave a rich tapestry of unity, love, and generosity—which for me is just another way of saying, “community.”
Bridge Builders, what do you do to create community in your life?
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for (originally posted on September 21, 2011)
I am writing a book! Yes, I am!
It is a book about relationships, about creating that miraculous love that feeds, and is an expression of, our heart, mind, body and soul. To write this book is a personal calling. This is a book that wants to be written.
Our natural state is one of love and we have the capacity to love another in a full, intimate, and connected way. There are obstacles to our experiencing and creating that love with another; yet they are obstacles that can be removed if what we really want in life is to fully love and be loved by another.
The process of writing this book has been a watershed moment in my life. I have gone from saying, “I wish I could write that book” to “I am the one to write this book.” Having said that, I don’t really feel any more qualified than anyone else to write it. Certainly I can think of many people who are better writers than I am, who are more creative, and who are more experienced. But if this book was theirs to write, it would have been written already.
Embarking on the journey to write about miraculous love has been humbling. I have a jumble of ideas in my mind. I write for a bit and then I get stuck. I pick up another thread and I get stopped again. I see where some ideas really have the power to transform how we view relationships; and I see how other ideas that I write are simply my mind clearing the way for something else to rise to the surface of my consciousness.
In the end, I trust. I trust that our nature is love and I trust that the universe wants us to learn love’s lesson. I trust that the words will come and I trust that I will know how to communicate what right now only feels like disparate and unconnected thoughts scratched into a notebook. I trust my friends when they tell me to keep writing. Lastly, I trust myself and that this book will make the difference.
Bridge Builders, what book will you trust yourself to write? What abundance will you create when you say, “I am The One!”
Show Me the Money (originally posted on September 13, 2011)
It occurred to me the other day that this conversation that I am having with you and myself about money is not a new one in my life. I bet that you also have a recurring conversation about money. Perhaps you tell yourself that “some day” you will get out of debt, save money, or buy that house at the shore. Whatever it is you tell yourself, chances are you have been saying the same thing for years and not much has changed. Perhaps you have the experience of taking a few steps toward your goals and then losing momentum. Life creeps in as it tends to do and what you really want for your financial future is not realized. Maybe you get pulled off track by unexpected expenses or unplanned indulgences. Maybe you get that creeping feeling that unless something changes, the future will be easy to predict: it will probably be some version of what you already have.
Certainly that is true of myself. The reality of my predictable future causes me to question why something that I say is important to me does not change or improve over time. I keep getting the same old results because I keep doing the same old thing: I maintain a certain standard of living even though my income varies. I go to work and I pay my bills. If I start to fall behind, I just tell myself, “Don’t worry. You’ll catch up next month.” Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I justify it all by telling myself that it is OK if I fall behind as long as I always put money away for my kids’ education.
At the end of the day that is a bunch of baloney because what I end up with is bills that pile up, worry about money and guilt that I am not really taking care of my finances in a responsible way. When I tell myself the truth about it, I’m being pretty bratty about the whole thing, pretty entitled, pretty “I-don’t-feel-like-it.”
When I tell the truth to myself about it, I am being so lax, spoiled, and complacent. Work for me occurs as work, toil and obligation. A point of view that would shift this radically is that “work” is really a powerful means to contribution to the world. When work shifts from being a “half to” to something that allows me to make the world a better place, whole new avenues for self-expression are available. Suddenly, inspiration is back and innovation rises. Each client meeting, each phone call, each networking conversation no longer exists inside the world of obligation but inside of the world of opportunity and privilege. In my busy schedule where there has been “no time” to write a book, there is now time. By writing the book I have the chance to teach others how to keep the zip in their intimate relationships and even how to reignite the flame when it burns low. In my life where there was “I’m too tired” to take on a new project, there is now vitality.
What I know about myself is that unless I create a very big future to live into, I easily fall back into “fiddle-dee-dee”. Unless I create purpose and a higher calling, working gets reduced down to “paying the bills”, and that is simple not enough to carry the day. For me to sustain a high level of performance, the level of performance that it takes to create real wealth, it truly must be in the service of others.
Bridge Builders, tell the truth to yourself, what are your reasons for why your finances stay stuck in the same cycle? How would “working” to make the world a better place make a difference in creating abundance?
Money, Power & Abundance (originally posted on September 6, 2011)
Our conversation last week about money, debt and creating financial abundance has left me a little giddy. It is the giddiness that comes when I stop resisting, ignoring, or putting up with something that just isn’t working in my life. There is power and freedom that comes when I call a spade a spade. The degree to which I own when something is not working, and that I am responsible for it not working, is the degree to which I am powerful in it going the way I say it is going to go.
And what is it that I have to say this week in regard to creating financial abundance? I am going to say it straight. I am causing a breakthrough in my life in creating extraordinary wealth, the kind of wealth that creates a life of luxury and philanthropy as well as financial security for generations.
There I said it. It sounds a little audacious even to my own ears, and truthfully, I’m not entirely sure how I will actually do that. What matters at this point is not whether or not I know how but that first I have the vision of that possibility. No longer are my finances defined by survival, a future of uncertainty, and “hoping it all works out.” What’s more, I am owning what it is I really want, not what would bring my life to “OK”, but what would bring a sense of deep satisfaction, pleasure, and power.
Oooh! “Power!” That almost feels like a dirty word, especially when it is combined with the concept of money. It is not though, and this is why. While there is certainly a power that comes with having money, it is by owning my personal power that I will manifest wealth. To create wealth, is to know myself as someone who is worthy of riches, worthy because I respect and value myself enough to allow riches to come into my life. To create wealth is also to know myself as someone who is trustworthy of the responsibility that comes with wealth; that I am someone that uses the power and energy that comes with wealth not to simply indulge my own pleasure, but to further the concerns of others.
I now know myself to be that person. …….. ……….. …………….. …… ……….. Bridge Builders, what do you say is your “financial worth?”
Money, Love & Debt (originally posted on September 6, 2011)
In my job as a psychologist there are two areas of life that my clients express experiencing the most stress over, love and money. The irony is there is more than enough of both in the world to go around so that no one needs to operate in a deficit. Unfortunately though, a deficit frame of mind is exactly how we tend to live.
The extent to which we as Americans live on credit and in debt is a powerful example of that frame of mind. In preparation to write this essay I learned that the average American has over $15,000 in credit card debt. This does not include the debt accrued through student loans, home mortgages (as well as second mortgages), and car payments.
What perpetuates this kind of spending beyond our means is a conversation that runs in the background of our culture that says, “There isn’t enough to go around.” When we live as if that conversation were true, rather than a superstition we have bought into, our financial lives become structured in a way that supports the “truth” of that conversation. We buy more than we need or buy things that don’t truly sustain us; we spend money on things as if we can’t live without them; and we spend more than we have and even more than we can pay off. This creates an actual financial deficit, which magnifies that sense of scarcity we were trying to avoid by overspending in the first place.
This country declares itself to be the land of the free and home of the brave but we live in fear, entrapped by the belief that there isn’t enough for everyone. How can we reclaim our heritage of freedom and bravery in this country? One way is by freeing ourselves from the financial enslavement of the debt we have saddled ourselves with.
The first step in doing that is to really take stock of what is and what isn’t in regard to our finances. When things get out of control in our life, we humans have a funny a tendency to look the other way, as if the situation will somehow fantastically solve itself. This kind of avoidance is another way that we hold in place that conversation that “there isn’t enough”, especially when we tell ourselves something like, “Why bother to really look? There is nothing I can do about it anyway.” (Or some version of that.)
Recently, I took the first step of looking at what is and what isn’t with my own finances. I made a list of all of my debt and all of my assets. It was a sobering conversation to have with myself, and sure, there are some things to handle that I had not identified before (but I knew that would be the case going in and it was frankly part of the reason I had avoided doing the exercise for so long).
I also discovered that abundance is present in my life in a way it has not been, at least for some time. It is abundance that comes from owning the real deal of my finances and not an airy “someday” hope for financial abundance that would never really come given the track I was on; it is abundance that comes from disappearing the conversation of “not enough” with a conversation of the “truth.”
Bridge Builders, what steps will you take to restore abundance in your life, regardless of what is in your bank account?
Imagining My Sustainable Future (originally posted on August 30, 2011)
I had a conversation with a friend the other day that was so great. It was one of those conversations in which my friend had something direct that he wanted to say to me. So direct in fact that he asked permission to do so before he went further.
“Sure! Go ahead,” I said in response to his request. (“Oh crud!” I thought to myself.)
What he said was this: “I notice that you make changes in your life that you say you are committed to but then in a couple of weeks (honestly he was being generous here) you go back to the way things were. And that happens a lot.”
When he said that, I understood that he wasn’t picking on me but was offering support so I could free myself from a predictable yet regrettable pattern I was in. He was also generous enough to say that what he saw in me he also recognized in himself.
What my friend was talking about is an experience that the second law of thermodynamics easily predicts. The second law states that “the entropy in the universe tends to a maximum,” meaning, as soon as we create order in our lives, there is an inevitable movement to disorder.
While it may seem that we are powerless in the face of such a commanding “truth” we are not without options. In fact, we are quite powerful in creating whatever abundance we want, particularly when we follow two key steps and sharing these steps was the reason my friend opened this conversation with me. The first step he said is to identify what new actions are there to take in an area of life that is important to me that I want to change. The second step is to envision what life would be created because those actions were taken.
While those steps seem simple enough, maybe even obvious, how often do we do them? If you are at all like me you make a promise to yourself (or even someone else) to do something different or better. Then no more than an hour later or maybe a day or two I am back to doing things exactly as I had been or at least some version of it. Though perhaps I’ve made mild improvements I haven’t really created something new.
One area of my life that is very important to me and in which I have seen this dynamic play out is my writing career. I have aspirations of supporting my family financially through my writing. Each week I spend a great deal of time planning what I will write, talking to other writers about writing, and even writing and publishing what I write. While I am fulfilled in a great many ways through those activities, I go about it as if it were a hobby rather than my job. For the most part I don’t schedule these activities into my calendar so it is easy for something else to become a priority for my time. Though I have a lot of enthusiasm and good intention around writing, good intentions don’t typically translate into actions that produce my desired result. Not surprisingly, my writing doesn’t pay the rent.
Here are the new actions I am taking: I have scheduled in my calendar two full afternoons to work on the business aspect of my blog, The Zephyr Chronicles. I am creating a business plan for The Zephyr Chronicles and am asking a friend to teach me how to construct one. I am creating daily features for the blog organized around specific topics and I am upgrading the website so it can accommodate what it is that I want to create on it. I am asking people who have an interest in writing if they would like to be guest writers for the blog because I know that what I am out to create I can’t do alone. There are many more actions to be taken than I have identified here but you get the sense of the structure I am building to fulfill on my commitment.
What future do I see possible by taking those steps? I see the discussion that takes place on The Zephyr Chronicles creating an evolution of peace, freedom and love on the planet by giving voice to conversations that were once deemed taboo. (To find out more about what I mean by that check out the blog for details). I see creating a platform for writers to have their voice heard and to create opportunities for new writers to emerge – just like the opportunity given to me by this Abundance Blog on MyBridges. I see a future in which financial abundance is created and shared with those who contribute to The Zephyr Chronicles and with the communities and people that The Zephyr Chronicles serves.
That is not a future that would have been predictable without writing down those new steps for action yet it is future that is now possible and there is abundance to be created.
Bridge Builders, what new steps will you take to create abundance in an area of life that is important to you? What life will grow from those new steps you take?
The Voices in Your Head (originally posted on August 23, 2011)
Each of us has a running dialogue with ourselves. If you haven’t turned up the volume on that voice in your head lately to really notice what it is telling you, I’ve got some bad news: a lot of what that voice says is not helpful. The voice stops us from doing what we really want to do in life. The voice blocks abundance from flowing around us.
I’m no different than anyone else. I have a voice that talks to me loud and clear all day long. The funny thing is I used to think that I did not have a voice in my head that said unhelpful things to me. How I thought I was the only one on the planet that got away with that I have no idea, ignorance was bliss.
Then, a few years ago, I went on a five-day silent retreat. Over those five days of silence, the voice in my head became more noticeable. And let me tell you, I was surprised by what it had to say.
Although much of what the voice said was not helpful, some of it I could go along with. During walking meditation it would say things like, “This is boring. When are we going to be done with this? I wish I could run. That’s funny, I hate running. But walking this slow is really boring.”
During sitting mediation it would say things like, “My back is killing me. I wish I could meditate without having to scratch my nose. (Open my eyes a little) I bet that person thinks they are the better at meditating than everyone in here. I don’t like them. They are better than everyone. I shouldn’t think that. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in. I should be happy for them. OK, try to focus on that. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in. That’s a little better. Breathe in. No, I really am jealous. I’m not happy for them.”
On day four I descended a staircase. At the bottom of the staircase was a mirror. I hadn’t looked in a mirror for days and my reflection caught me by surprise. What caught me by surprise even more was the immediate comment by the voice in my head. “You are so ugly,” it said to me. A look of utter sadness fell across my face at the cruelty of that voice and the accompanying realization that that isn’t just any voice. That voice is me.
Now let me correct that, I don’t mean Me me. I mean more like the false me that covers up the real Me. Because who the REAL Me is loving, is trusting, is hopeful, is generous, is abundant, is beautiful. That is the me that seeks to express itself. The REAL me is the one that writes these essays, that shares private moments and exposes the tender parts of myself in hopes that you don’t feel alone with yours. That is the me that says to that voice in my head, “Thanks for sharing. Enough out of you.”
That is the first step in quieting the voice in my head. Rather than try to do away with the those thoughts all together, I now understand that just because I have a thought (or even a feeling for that matter) doesn’t make it “true.” For example, if I took a survey of my friends and family, I doubt I could get one person to agree with the statement that I am “so ugly,” and even more importantly, when I look in the mirror now, I like who I am and what I see (Even when the voice in my head points out the ironic juxtaposition of wrinkles and acne).
The next step in quieting that voice is understanding that that voice is the hurt part of me, the part of me that gets a little pleasure out of suffering. Sure there are things that happen in life that cause pain. There is no getting around it. Our past is our past. What happened, happened — but suffering is optional.
So when I stay in that space where I am languishing in sorrow, in poor-me, in I’m-not-good-enough, in this-is-too-hard, that is when I know I am choosing to listen to the voice in my head and am not being true to myself. My REAL self, that is.
Since my real self is loving, trusting, hopeful, abundant, and beautiful the best cure for getting away from suffering with the voice in my head is to reach out to others because by its nature my real self seeks connection and loves people. When I am intimately connected to others, when I am listening to them and what matters in their life, I can’t stay in the conversation with the bully in my head. The two just can exist at the same time. Try it out. You will see what I mean. It simply can’t be done.
Bridge Builders, will you choose abundance over suffering? How will you express your Real Me?
Perspective & Road Trips (originally posted on August 16, 2011)
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was taking a road trip with my kids. As it turned out it was more than a road trip. It was an adventure through the East Coast and a reminder of what really matters most.
We left North Carolina and first stopped in our Nation’s Capital where we explored the museums and monuments and indulged in rickshaw rides on a rainy afternoon. Next we hit the Jersey Shore and ran on the beach at midnight and swam in the ocean by day. We breezed through New York City where we ate street food and had a scary encounter with a flock of thugs disguised as pigeons when a certain six year old thought it would be a good idea to feed them. After a few days of play and reminiscing with family in Connecticut, we headed back south. In Philadelphia we stuffed ourselves with a curious dim sum feast and were humbled by the noble symbol of the Liberty Bell. A full week after leaving home, we rolled back into our driveway in the wee hours of the morning, exhausted and satisfied.
In the best tradition of family vacations, we had found each other again. The more time we spent together over that week, the more my kids seemed to lighten; the more they smiled; the more hugs were exchanged and; the more “I love you” was said.
Sweeter still, I got perspective on my kids through the eyes of others, people who had not seen them for a long time or some who were meeting them for the first time. Through their eyes, I saw my children anew. I saw how much they have grown up, their funny quirks, their kindness, their generosity, their intelligence, their humor, and their beauty. All which left me with that simple yet profound feeling of love, of “How did I get to be so lucky that these are my kids?”
On our drive home, melancholy began to set in as I realized that in a few short hours I would be back to work, they would be back to camp and these long days together would be on hold for another time. Through this trip I was reminded of who I want to be for them and all I want to provide for them in their life so that they can grow up to be confident and fulfilled adults. And that future will be here in the blink of an eye. Before the next person can say, “Are we there yet?”
I wish you could meet my kids. They really are the best.
Bridge Builders, what is most important to you and your life? What abundance can you create by renewing your commitment to that?
Wanting it all … the relationship dance (originally posted on August 2, 2011)
If you are a regular reader of this column, you know well by now that I give a lot of thought to the relationships in my life; and few things bother me more than when they are not going as well as I’d like. For the most part my relationships are in fact going really well but “going really well” isn’t what I’m after. I’m about creating extraordinary relationships, magical relationships, “I-want-a-relationship-like-that” kind of relationships.
In the spirit of that declaration, I recently asked myself the question, “What would I want people to say about me after we spend time together?” Without hesitation the exclamation came to mind, “Cristin is awesome!”
I got a kick out of the immediacy of my response. It pointed to something — that even though I want to have amazing relationships, I wasn’t really being whom I needed to be in order have those kind of relationships show up in my life. I was still being lackadaisical in my relationships. I was still leaving a lot of the magic-making up to the other person.
That just won’t do. So I began something. With each interaction I’ve had with a person, I’ve done whatever there is to do to leave the other person feeling awesome. It might sound funny, but here is how it’s been … I’ve been engaged and attentive to people whether it is someone who is bagging my groceries or someone with whom I am sharing a meal. I’ve been easy-going and flexible. For example, when my son dropped raw eggs this morning onto the kitchen floor (something that would have previously been met at minimum with a martyr’s sigh and a roll of the eyes), I did all there was to do: I cleaned it up. I’ve been trusting, forgiving, and have assumed the best in people — especially in the relationships where I previously have not. I’ve practiced sympathetic joy: when someone has shared great news with me, I’ve been just as excited for them as they are for themselves, if not a little more. I’ve been compassionate: when someone has shared an upset with me, I sat with their disappointment and listened to what is important to them.
What I have learned is that leaving others with an awesome feeling doesn’t come from my being funny, charming, or flattering. That would have been my old approach; an approach that really boils down to being attention seeking, perhaps entertaining in the process, but attention-seeking none the less. That approach is all about me, and not really about the other person. People are left with an awesome feeling when generosity rules the day and when I am being unconditionally loving and accepting of them.
This way of being has not only changed how I relate to people and how they relate to me. It has also created a clearing for the world to show up in a new way. For example, while walking through the airport last week, every phone conversation I over heard was one person telling another, “I love you.” A few days later I was flying back home and was caught in a long line at security. My flight was in the process of boarding. No less than forty people allowed me to cut the line in front of them so I could make my flight; all accept one couple who turned down my request. Their flight was leaving five minutes before mine.
Bridge Builders, what will you bring to your relationships to make them magical? What ripple effect of abundance will you create in the world as a result?
Road Trip to Abundance (originally posted on July 25, 2011)
Abundance is planning a road trip with my kids; or perhaps only loosely planning it, as the case may be.
Abundance is the expression of delight on their faces when I surprise them with the question, “You want to go see Nanny and Pop-pop?” (The affectionate names they have given my parents.)
Abundance is heading out on the highway with a tank of gas, a cooler of food, our favorite CDs, and the anticipation of a week of adventure together.
Abundance is a ten straight days together in the summer of their 6th and 8th years, a time of making memories that I will cherish when they go back to elementary school in the fall and back to college some fall from now.
Abundance is the willingness to get lost and to find our way again.
Abundance is time off from work, from the mail, from laundry, and from being technologically plugged in.
Abundance is plugging into family and getting reacquainted with cousins, my grandmother, and friends from high school. (It has been a long time since my last trip “home.”)
Abundance is grandparents spoiling their grandchildren like it is Christmas in July.
Abundance is eating the summer time food I grew up with: fried clams (no stomach, please), quahogs, and coffee milk shakes. I am a Yankee after all.
Abundance is being back up north where despite the humid summer air, every house does not have air-conditioning and I can enjoy a cold drink, the cool of a fan, and the feel of natural air on my skin, like I did when I was a kid.
Abundance is hearing my children’s soft southern accents in contrast to their Yankee kin.
Abundance is driving around the small New England town of my youth and seeing how much it has grown, and how much it has stayed the same.
Abundance is the trip back to North Carolina: back to our dog, our friends, and the place we now call home.
Bridge Builders, what memories have you made this summer that you will remember with sweet abundance? What adventures could you create in these last few weeks we have left?
Rebel Yell! (originally posted on July 19, 2011)
I’m at the dojo at Tae Kwon Do class. One of my favorite things about Tae Kwon Do is that I get to yell, or kiai, as it is called. I’m practicing poomse (a sort of choreographed set of punches, kicks, and blocks) and I’m feeling great. I feel strong. My body feels good. My form feels good. My movements feel sharp.
I punctuate a punch with a kiai . . . then I hear a voice. It is the voice of the master. He is imitating my kiai…
I’m dismayed. And a bit humbled. My kiai doesn’t sound like a battle cry. It sounds a little flat. A little bland. And yet the sound he imitated so well was undeniably mine.
And I think, “THAT’S what I sound like?”
He walks in front of me and says, “Miss Cris, “AY!!”
I startle at his kiai. He then nods at me to indicate that it is my turn.
“Aaaay!” I yell.
“Aaaaaaay!” He “yells.” I barely stop myself from rolling my eyes at the sounds of my impotent kiai echoing back at me.
“AY!!” his kiai reverberates. He nods to me once again.
“AY!” I yell back.
As the kiai is released from my body, I go blank for a moment. Seemingly in the same moment images of aggression and memories of passionate fights with a lover from long ago flash through my mind. I feel the force of the “united spirit” that is the kiai, or the manifestation of one’s own energy or internal strength.
“I’ve been playing it safe!” I thought to myself with surprise.
“Much better, Miss Cris,” the master says to me with his heavy Korean accent.
The lesson in abundance I learned that day is to stop playing it so safe. There is no telling what lies beneath the calm waters of our carefully cultivated lives and our carefully maintained selves. There is no telling what currents of energy are waiting for release to rise up and out. There is no telling what abundance we could manifest if we trusted ourselves completely to be just as we are.
Bridge Builders, when was the last time you released and let go? What did you learn about yourself in the process?
When You Want More Than Good Enough (originally posted on July 12, 2011)
“The only love there is, is the love we make.” ~ Prince
Leave it to Prince to capture in a lyric what I have learned about abundance this year.
I used to think that the world of abundance had to do with New Age spirituality and something akin to positive thinking. While that may be partially true, it is even simpler than that. The abundance we have comes in direct proportion to the abundance that we create.
I used to think that I had a pretty good life but always felt like there was something missing. My relationships were good but I knew they could be better. I was decent at my job but also knew I wasn’t tapping into my full potential. In essence, I was tolerating being unfulfilled and had gotten pretty complacent about that. “Good enough” was the name of the game.
But if you are at all like me, “good enough” really isn’t. There is that quiet nag that doesn’t let us off the hook when we know we aren’t giving life everything we’ve got. Irritating, isn’t it?
I have found the cure to make that nag go away.
The nag goes away when we start seeing ourselves as the big, awesome, forces-of-nature that we are and we live a life that matches that view of ourselves … even when we don’t feel like it. Even when we want to pull the cover over our heads and say, “Who me? I can’t really make a difference!” or “Why me? Isn’t there someone more qualified? More talented? Who has more time? Who has fewer responsibilities?”
No. There seriously is not. It really is up to you.
Some may say, “I am happy with the quiet life. I don’t want to change the world.” To that I say, you don’t have to live on a big stage to change the world. You only have to live into your full potential, no matter what it is you are doing.
I have a foot in both worlds on this issue. There is a part of me that feels like I could die happy if I knew I had raise truly happy and healthy kids and created a family that works. Then there is a part of me that feels like I have something to contribute to the world at large, a gift to give (if you will) that can only be expressed by my swinging out far and wide. Whatever path(s) I choose, my commitment is to live with integrity, with passion, and to not leave anything on the table. My commitment is to live in abundance.
Perhaps you have heard this one before …
“Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty, well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming … “Holy crap! What a ride!”
Bridge Builders, in this year of exploring abundance together, what ground have you taken in your life to create abundance? What are you doing to live into your full potential?
The World Can Change with Just One Word: EVOLUTION! (originally posted on July 5, 2011)
Independence Day! The day we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a declaration of the separation of the 13 colonies from the rule of the British Empire, a declaration that quite literally called into being the birth of a nation, The United States of America.
It is extraordinary when you consider that in the most fundamental way, what it took to give birth to a new country was to DECLARE IT into being. Certainly there was a lot to handle after that in actually implementing a new government, yet none of what was to follow would have been without that initial declaration. That is the power of our word.
In the world of abundance, there is no limit to what we can create with our words. The idea of creation through language is as old as language itself. “Abracadabra”, an incantation of healing and magic stemming from second century AD Aramaic language translates into “Create as I Say.” We create as we say, in what we say, and in how we say it.
For example, when we marry, we stand with witnesses and create a union with another through our words. The declaration itself calls something new into being that goes beyond the spoken words of “I do”. That particular declaration creates devotion and a family, a commitment that is embraced by the community in which it is expressed.
On this weekend of declarations, I make one of my own. To honor the words of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, “Every generation needs a new revolution.” Rather than create a revolution, I’m out to start an EVOLUTION, an evolution that has as its mission to remove the obstacles that allow us all to return to our natural states of freedom, to pursue what our forefathers called our “inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Why an Evolution and not a Revolution? Because where a revolution overthrows one group’s ideas in favor of another’s ostensibly “better” idea, to evolve is to transform from one level of being to a higher level of being. In this case, moving into increasingly higher forms of freedom through the authentic expression of our selves. Ironically, what this requires is not to take on new ideologies but rather to remove that which blocks us from being the self we were born to be.
Join me, Bridge Builders! What declaration will you make that creates abundance in the world?
Brace Yourself … She’s Mixin’ Things Up (originally posted on June 28, 2011)
I’m going to switch things up a bit . . . Ya’ ready?
Up until now, these conversations on abundance have been a lot about gratitude and acceptance. The fact of the matter is we can’t have an experience of abundance in our lives without those two essential elements. Everything we could ever want may be right there, and it can go unnoticed if gratitude and acceptance are not present.
Yet, missing from my writings has been the element of how very responsible we are for how our life is going … including the flow of abundance. Much of what I have written to date has treated abundance as if it is a mysterious force that comes and goes and we don’t have much say over it; as if what we need to do is to simply be grateful and accept things as they are.
To a certain extent, that is a great way to view life, but it masks something. It masks that I still don’t have what I really want in life. Not only that, it masks that I have been a bit lazy about making my life happen, maybe even irresponsible. When I simply accept things as they are I can easily step over that I haven’t done what is necessary to create the life I want. And what is missing from my life is a really great, long-term relationship.
Phew! I said it. The worst-kept secret in the world is now out there in the blog-o-sphere. I want to have a great relationship and don’t have one. It is not because of a lack of good guys out there and it is not because I can’t attract a man into my life. It is because I haven’t been the kind of woman who would attract the kind of man that I want.
That is not easy to admit, but it is true. When I look at the guys that pass through, they are as I have been, great people but not really “relationship material.” And then I wonder why I don’t have one, a relationship, that is.
So what is there to do? The first thing is to clear the deck of everything and everybody that is not a match for creating the life I want. There isn’t much sense in spending time with people who aren’t really playing the same game that I am. So, Good-bye Roberto…I’ll miss you Antonio…au revoir Louis… (OK, there really weren’t that many but makes for a good story.)
This is where acceptance comes in. At some point we must accept that in order to have the life we want it is up to us; our actions and who we are being in life must line up together, whether we are talking about creating relationships that work, financial security, having our dream careers, or experiencing spiritual fulfillment.
And how will we know that our actions and who we are being line up with the life we say we want? The life we want will be the life we actually have, and with abundance.
Bridge Builders, what do you need to get in line so you have the life you want?
Dancing with Dad (originally posted on June 21, 2011)
This past Father’s Day I did something I had never done before; I wrote my Dad a card and shared my favorite things about him.
The first thing I love about my Dad is his sense of humor. My Dad is a funny man. He has a sharp mind and quick wit. He creates jokes by playing on words in a way that I found hilarious even as a kid. His humor can be pretty high-brow, reflecting his substantial education, but it can also be earthy and delightfully unvarnished.
My Dad has a deep spiritual side. Though my Catholic Mom provided my formal religious education, my Dad’s spiritual leanings have influenced me as well. He reads spiritual literature, explores meditation and does not allow his relationship with the divine to be defined by anything other than what is right for him.
My Dad is a photographer and as a photographer he took a lot of pictures of my sister and I growing up. I am not above admitting that I found that deeply flattering. I felt cared for, because in addition to taking my picture when playing in my back yard, he also came to my sporting events and recitals and caught them on film as well. Sweetly, now my children are amongst his favorite subjects.
My Dad is also one of those people who knows a lot stuff. This sounds funny, but when I was growing up he was a rocket scientist. I don’t mean that his adult knowledge of the world seemed awesome to the childhood me. My Dad really was a rocket scientist. Some of my favorite memories are of sitting at the dinner table and listening to my Dad talk about how things work; mysteries like how rainbows are made and how the music is recorded onto records.
Oh yes, music. My Dad loves music. Every Friday my Dad would bring me home a new 45 to listen to, and sometimes even albums. The first 45 he bought me was the Eagle’s “Heart Ache Tonight.” He also exposed me to Jimi Hendrix, Simon and Garfunkle, Paul Simon, Donna Summer, John Lennon, and Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors album remains a favorite to this day.
Not only does my Dad love music, he also loves to dance. My sister, my Dad, and I used to dance on a regular basis in our basement with its fake wood paneled walls and indoor-outdoor carpeting. I loved every minute of it and when I think about it, it still makes me smile.
When I look over this description of my Dad, I realize I am also describing the qualities I look for in a mate; that I am describing some of the best qualities of the men that I have loved; and even some of the qualities I like the most in myself.
Thanks, Dad for being my Dad and for all you have so generously given of yourself. I love you very much.
Bridge Builders, what are your favorite things about your Dad? Love him with abundance!
A Blank Slate for Summer: Excitement or Terror (originally posted on June 14, 2011)
Every once in a while we are blessed by being given a blank slate in life. For me, this is one of those times. It is the start of a new season (I love a long, sultry summer); I have been single for few months now; and I am about to turn another year older. With this blank slate before me, I feel no rush to put anything on it. In fact, I love it.
For the first time in a long time I have no idea what my life will look like a year from now or even six months from now. There is the feeling that anything is possible and I’m content to be with what is right there before me. This isn’t a matter of aimless floating, quite the contrary. I am building a steady foundation through which will flow whatever expression is to follow.
The peace and rest I find in this new open space stands in such stark contrast to a handful of years ago when the open space I was facing felt more like an abyss. I was newly separated with two children young enough to ride each hip. I wasn’t well established in my career being new fairly new to North Carolina and having spent the previous couple of years home with little kids. In short, I was terrified.
Instead of taking my time and letting a new life unfold a step at a time, I created a Chia life (You know, just add water and it springs up over night like a pet plant you buy off the TV). While that Chia life did the trick to fill in the void, it was never meant to last. And it didn’t. When the Plan-B-Chia-life didn’t work out, I fumbled into Plan C. Guess what, that didn’t pan out either. Trying to build a new life on top of the rubble of another never works. I know. I tried.
So now it is time to breathe in.
And breathe out.
And enjoy the abundance of a blank slate.
Bridge Builders, what blank slate is there is in your life? Can you be with the abundance of it without rushing to fill it in?
Lessons in Abundance (originally posted on June 8, 2011)
July 2011 marks the one-year anniversary that MyBridges.net founder Cheryl Schirillo invited me to write this abundance column. The practice of writing and dialoguing with Bridge Builders about abundance every week has taught me a lot about what abundance is and what it isn’t; how I create abundance in my life and the ways I stop the flow of abundance around me. And as you have learned from me, I learned from you.
Many of the lessons that I have learned this year can be summarized in a story shared several months back by Bridge Builder, Alex Freemont. In a conversation thread that followed one essay Alex noted that the buffalo represents abundance and plenty. This symbol is such a powerful one in the spiritual and culture fabric of the Lakota people that the prophet, the White Buffalo Woman, has a central place in their religious belief system.
The primary teaching of the White Buffalo Woman is that everything in the universe is inter-related and inter-connected. Since we are all interconnected, our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and ways of being gets transmitted throughout the universe and reverberates back to us as a reflection of ourselves.
The power to contribute something positive to the zeitgeist belongs to us all. We all have control of and responsibility for how things go on this planet. We are responsible for what pain and suffering exists and where things are not working. We are also responsible for where love, beauty and grace flow freely. It is our manifestation.
In his comments Alex went on to say that because of the interconnected nature of the universe, “it is not necessary to struggle to have abundance.” The question is not, “Where did abundance go?” when things feel tough. It never goes anywhere. Abundance is omnipresent. The better question is “What am I doing that is blocking the flow of abundance around me?”
One clue to that, in Alex’s words, is “to appreciate what you already have.” Native people’s use of natural resources is one example of this. Every part of an animal that is killed is used, including the bones for tools and jewelry. To create abundance is to not waste our natural and material resources nor our spiritual, emotional, and intellectual ones as well. To create abundance is to live a life in which nothing is left on the table; to live a life in which each and every last drop of our talents are used and share with others.
Bridge Builders, thank you for creating abundance with me this year. What have you learned in our conversations about abundance? What does abundance means to you?
Thank You for Summer & Soldiers (originally posted on June 1, 2011) …………………………………………………………………………………..
It is unofficially official. Summer is here. Ushered in Monday by Memorial Day, the season of long sunny days and hot starry nights; the season of back yard BBQs and road trips to the shore; the season of flip flops and nights on the back porch is upon us once again. Welcome back, summer. I’ve missed you.
There is something about summer that is nostalgic unlike any other season. Songs and movies of summer’s past, teen age romances, and childhood vacation memories pop back into mind with frequency once the days get long and warm again. Our attachment to summer is an emotional one. It is almost as if summer exists in its own little world separate from the rest of the year with memories, friendships, and experiences all its own.
With Memorial Day being our national holiday of remembrance, it is somehow fitting that it leads a season so rich in cultural reminiscence. With the excitement of mountain hikes and family gatherings that this past long weekend brings it is easy to step over the fact that Memorial Day didn’t begin as a weekend to spruce up the garden and to take the first dive off board into the neighborhood pool.
Memorial Day was first observed in the mid 1800’s to remember the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. Over time, Memorial Day was expanded to include American soldiers who have died in all wars. In it’s most contemporary expression, it is a day to remember those who have passed by placing flowers on graves, whether they served in the military or not.
From a cultural perspective, it is fascinating how the original meaning of a holiday morphs over time. While there is still vast media coverage of the rituals in Arlington National Cemetary as well as local ceremonies that honor fallen soldiers, the pull over time has been to deemphasize this aspect of the holiday and instead to focus on sun-kissed fun.
Yet the fact remains that whether we agree or disagree with our government’s foreign policy that eventually lead to soldiers giving their life, we owe each of them our abundant gratitude and remembrance as we enjoy the pleasures and freedoms of another sultry summer in this land of the free and home of the brave.
Bridge Builders, join me in a moment of thanks. Thank you to the mothers and fathers that gave birth to children who grew up to protect our own. Thank you to the spouses who raise the children while your soldiers are away. And thank you soldiers for your valor, your bravery, your courage, and even you life. Abundant thanks to you!
Are you living the life of your dreams? (originally posted on May 24, 2011) …………………………………………………………………………………..
I’ve had a question roll through my mind lately at different points of the day. The question is this, “In this moment, am I living the life of my dreams?”
I ask myself that question when the day starts to feel mundane or hectic. When I am folding my fourth load of laundry of the day or when I am sitting in the pick up line at my kids’ elementary school in the afternoon. It is at these times when boredom slips in, or complaints about being too busy, permeate my mood. It is at these times when I assess how much easier life would be if I didn’t have this or that to do. It is at these times when abundance dissolves away.
Then I ask myself, “In this moment, am I living the life of my dreams?” And the answer is no. Not because of the never-ending piles of laundry we accumulate. Not because the pick up line at my children’s elementary school moves at a snails pace. But because of whom I am being in the moment that I am doing those things, in the moments that make up the gift that is my life.
When I stop my fussing and complaining, suddenly I am present to the reality that there is nothing wrong. In fact, everything is perfect. Appreciation melts in as well as some humor at how tempting it is for me to create problems when there aren’t any. I ask myself again, “In this moment, am I living the life of my dreams?” And the answer is a most definite, YES!
I ask myself this question when I am with my best friend. I love him more than words can say, and yet we tend to butt heads over silly things. When I feel the urge to argue with him, or feel suddenly aggravated, and impatient the way we sometimes do with people we are close to, I ask myself that question, “Am I living the life of my dreams?” And the answer is no. Not because there is anything actually wrong with my friend or in what he is saying or doing. I am not living the life of my dreams because there is tension between us; our affinity is strained; and it is strained because of how I am being with him in that moment that we are together. So I take a breath, and I look at my friend, and presence myself to the love I have for him. And I shut my mouth, because whatever I have to say next is not nearly as important as listening to what he has to say, or is as important as understanding his point of view. Then I ask myself the question, “Am I living the life of my dreams?” And the answer is YES.
What I am suggesting is that living the life of our dreams does not come from the context of our life: Whether we have the ideal job; are married to the ideal mate; how much is in the bank account; or even if we are very, very busy or have an abundance of leisure time. Living the life of our dreams comes from how we are being with what life brings to us. And therein lies our power, our freedom, and true abundance because we can be with our life, and in our life, any way we choose.
Bridge Builders, this week, ask yourselves, “Am I living the life of my dreams?” Then be who you need to be in that moment to create abundance and to answer the question, “Yes! Oh, Yes! Oh, Yes!”
Have it Your Way (originally posted on May 17, 2011) .………………………………………………………………………………..
What is the most important thing to you?
Some might say it is their relationship or their children. Others might say that it is their career or financial security. Still others may contend that it is a sense of connection to a community, or perhaps even to all living things.
Consider for a moment, that the thing that may actually be most important to each of us is our point of view.
Having said that, I’m not so attached to that point of view to consider that it may not apply to everyone. Yet as I look at the way we relate to each other as people sharing this planet, I see how powerfully humans are driven to defend our point of view. In the most dramatic of instances, planes are flown into buildings because of someone’s point of view; Special Forces are trained to kill, also to protect a point of view. Wars are fought and gods are worshiped ultimately because of dissent in or joining around a particular point of view.
On a more personal level, our point of view shapes our lives in the most intimate of ways. We gain and lose affinity with loved ones over what can amount to small disagreements. Sometimes these disagreements are so trivial that we forget what we disagreed about to begin with. But that doesn’t matter, we maintain our ground and allow relationships to wither over what we might call “the principle” of the thing. (More commonly know as, wanting to be right.)
I know that some people reading this may be a little uncomfortable about now. Maybe you are seeing yourself reflected back at you in these words. Maybe some of you think I’ve got it all wrong. Or perhaps as you read this, you wish that you could show it to that one person that you know that really gets stuck in being right (and you feel pretty right about that). However you are relating to this essay is absolutely perfect because the bottom line is that to have a point of view is what makes us uniquely human.
The beautiful absurdity of it all is that it is also our humanity that allows us to see the world through someone else’s eyes; and when we do we create abundance. There is a freedom and wonder that comes from getting into another person’s world and seeing things from their vantage point, as well as from our own. In doing this we begin to awaken to the somewhat radical notion that what we once held as “truth” as “right” and as “wrong” may simply amount to our point of view.
In the words of the Beatles, “Life is very short. There is no time for fussing and fighting my friend. Try to see it my way.”
Bridge Builders, whose point of view have you been resisting? What abundance could you create if you tried to see it their way?
Dreaming Beyond Fear (originally posted on May 10, 2011)
Have you ever let fear stop you? Yup! Me too. I’ve got a story to tell you though about how I created abundance by putting my fear aside and following my dreams …
When I was in graduate school I wrote a dissertation. It is a curriculum for an after-school program for teen-age girls within which girls develop an authentic and powerful sense of who they are. On the encouragement of my faculty adviser, I submitted my dissertation to publishing houses. And wouldn’t you know, a publisher bit!
When I got the acceptance letter from the publisher I was overjoyed and I thought, “There is no way my writing is good enough for this.” Ironically, the publisher disagreed with me. She said, “Your idea is so good and so timely. Would you be willing to expand this into a series and write a companion volume for boys?” At that point I thought to myself, “That would be way too hard. I don’t know anything about teenage boys. I don’t think I have it in me to do this. No one will probably read it anyway.”
So, I stopped responding to the publisher’s correspondence and my dissertation never got published.
Not only that, I stopped writing all together and gave up the dream I had for a short time of being a published author.
That is one example from my life of how fear stopped me from pursuing a dream. Despite all of the positive accolades I got from the faculty at the university and the publisher, the feedback I gave myself told a different story. Fear fed thoughts like, “not good enough” and “don’t risk really wanting something and have it not be a success.” Fear shrank my dreams with thoughts like, “If you do this and no one buys your book, you will only look like a fool.”
Fast forward in time about ten years to last July . . .
I am sitting in Breakfast of Course, Winston-Salem’s awesome eatery (You have to try the Mendoza Benedict if you haven’t already. It is essentially eggs benedict on top of a bed of yummy grits and steamed spinach) with MyBridges’ Founder, Cheryl Schirillo. We are taking about life, love, and the mysteries of the universe. From this conversation, Cheryl gets an idea, “Why don’t you write a blog for Bridges on the topic of abundance.”
I was so excited that without hesitation, I said “yes!” The first blog post was published within days and is now published every week. Over the last ten months it has gained a loyal readership and is passed along by readers from coast to coast! Even as I write those words, part of me still can’t believe it is true. And yet, it is.
The funny thing about it is, each week I still doubt myself I may love an idea that I have written and then I wonder if anyone will read it, or if it is “good enough.” Those are just thoughts now that pass through my mind. They are not imbedded with fear that prevents me from living my dreams. And I also now know, that they are not true.
The confidence I have gained from writing this blog has spurred other projects. I created a second blog called The Zephyr Chronicles, which explores the topic of freedom. I am writing a book on the untapped potential of psychotherapy in transforming people’s lives and how it can be practiced so that it fulfills on that possibility. I now call myself a writer and have joined two writer’s groups so that I have a supportive creative community to share inspiration.
Fear no longer stops me. Don’t let it stop you.
Bridge Builders, if fear were removed as an obstacle from living your dreams, what dream would you live? What abundance would you create?
Dancing in the Rain (originally posted on May 3, 2011)
I have a friend, Cyndi Briggs, who writes a wonderful blog called The Sophia Project. You should check it out if you haven’t already. Several months ago, she wrote a blog post on how her life changed when she was asked the right question at the right time. Last week, somebody asked me my question. And my life changed in an always-and-forever kind of way.
You want to know what the question was? The question was, “Who are people for you?”
Who are people for me? Well I can tell you who they were; people for me were a little scary, a little too critical, a little too demanding. I often felt the press of what I took to be people trying to control me or to impinge on my freedoms.
Somehow though in the moment of being asked that question, years of angst were transformed. Old struggles I had as a teenager with my parents came into sharp focus; struggles I had forgotten about but were clearly still holding onto. For the first time I saw the struggles for what they were: my parents’ expression of their fierce love for me, their unflinching belief in my talents, and their refusal for me to settle for less. Those areas of persistent disagreement I had with past lovers I now saw more as their commitment to get our relationship on track rather than an attempt by them to control me. I even saw quieter but uncomfortable moments with friends reinterpreted through this lens.
And then I realized who people are for me now. People are amazing! They’re loving and generous. They stand up for and take care of each other. I thought, “Wow! I am loved so much by so many people.”
As if that molecule-rearranging experience wasn’t enough, she then asked me, “Who are you for people?” With that came the gentle encouragement, “It can be anything you want it to be.”
The first word that came into my mind was “loving,” then “accepting.” A deep appreciation for the people in my life came over me. As well as a commitment to how generously I want to give to them. I want to share the kind of commitment some parents describe feeling for their child the first moment they lay eyes on them after giving birth. The kind of commitment that once you have it, it doesn’t go away.
With that my universe literally tilted on its axis, an experience I voiced in this way: “Oh My Gosh! That is so cool. Everything that wasn’t now is!” Hearing the groovy amazement in my voice I felt a little like I belonged dancing in the rain at Woodstock with flowers in my hair. So I added with a chuckle in the best Cheech and Chong voice I could muster, “You know what I mean, Man?”
Now I know what I know, which I can’t ever not know again. I’ve been welling up easily these past few because I feel so loved and I see the beauty and abundance of my life, as if for the first time.
Bridge Builders, I ask you: “Who are people for you?” “Who are you for people?” How do your answers to those questions create abundance?
Dreaming Beyond Fear (originally posted on April 26, 2011)
A couple of weeks ago I attended Winston-Salem’s International River Run Film Festival and saw the documentary film “Space Tourists” by Christian Frei. The film asks the compelling question, “How do you put a price on a dream?”
The protagonist of the film is an Iranian born, American émigré by the name of Anousheh Ansari who pays tens of millions of dollars to journey into outer space and spend approximately a week’s time in the International Space Station. What is most remarkable about this story is not the amount of money Ms. Ansari was willing to pay to fulfill a childhood dream. It is not the months of training and study she was willing to take on. It was not even the time she was willing to spend away from her family that resonated the most. It was that she said, unflinchingly, that she knew that there was a risk that she might not survive her journey through outer space, and that she was willing to risk death, in order to live out this life-long dream.
Then this Easter Sunday I attended church service with family and friends. The message of the sermon was, “Fear not.” Fear not to be that which truly you are. In listening to the sermon I was reminded of the question that Christian Frei poses in Space Tourists and how often the price of a dream is not a monetary one but rather comes in the form of facing and over coming a fear.
Facing a fear is something that so many of us avoid. Our fear of fear is evident in expressions like “being scared to death.” I don’t know the genesis of that expression but it occurs to me that when overcoming a fear to fulfill a dream, we often need to accept a kind of death. Perhaps not a death of our physical body, but the death of a part of ourselves that gets in the way of our living fully.
There is no place in my life where getting in my own way is more evident than in my relationships. When I was married I thought the answer to having the relationship that I wanted was to get divorced. Five years have passed and what I know now is that I am at the source of what does not work in my life and my relationships. Moreover, it does not further the dream to look to someone else to blame for why it hasn’t happened or isn’t working. As Gandhi said we truly do need to be the change we want to see in the world, and that includes the kinds of relationships we want to have. That is the good news because now I also see that I too am at the source of all of the love that I have in my life and the closeness I have with others.
While I don’t have this whole thing figured out, there is one relationship in my life that is a testament to what we can create with another person when we let go of fear and we let a dream be our guide. And that is the relationship I have with my ex-husband’s wife.
After getting divorced, one of the biggest fears that I had to face was when my former husband got remarried. I felt threatened by his new wife’s presence in my children’s lives and initially I was a swirl of insecurities: What if they love her more than me? What if they LIKE her more? I imagined this new woman with a fresh perspective sweeping my children away from me and living a perfect life I hadn’t been able to figure out how to have with their dad. Augh! It felt terrible.
And then I got over myself and invited her to lunch. I told her about my fears and about a dream that I had that we could mother the children together and do so in a way that everyone felt honored and valued; that we could expand the usual idea of family so that the children experienced divorce and remarriage through a lens of abundance rather than limitation. To her credit, she graciously accepted. Now over a year later, we have built a relationship that fulfills on that dream. Our children have two very different women who love them and raise them as a team, with the open-minded partnership of their father. Our roles and relationship within that partnership with our children overlap in some ways, but mostly are very distinct and different. Our children are all the richer because they have the love of us both, as well as the freedom to love us each openly and without fear.
So, you can imagine the image this past Easter Sunday of our blended family … together we sat in church: myself next to my ex-husband and his wife, her mother and her mother’s friend, and our two children. The minister preached for us to “Fear Not!” I looked around at this family we have grown together and thought, “Fear not, indeed.”
Bridge Builders, of what life do you dream? What fear would you let die in order to live your dream?
Life’s a Trip — Part 2 (originally posted on April 19, 2011)
I put another call into Winston-Salem’s local shaman, Sandy Phocas, and told her that I wanted to create a death ritual. Like any self-respecting shaman, she answered, “Ooooh that sounds great! Let’s do it!”
A few days later I am sitting in Sandy’s office and describing to her what I hope to accomplish in our session. I tell her that I am stuck in a way of being that is stopping me from living a full and abundant life. I hold on to sadness much longer than is helpful; I tend to make myself the victim of my life circumstances instead of living powerfully the way the tiger guided me to do in my last shamanic journey with her. (If this business about talking to tigers is new to some readers, refer back to myblog post from last week to get the details.) I tell Sandy that I want to let my “false self” die and that I want to shed all of the obstacles within me that prevent me from living my full, authentic self.
Sandy’s eyes light up with my own. There is excitement and anticipation for the ritual we are about to begin. After consulting with the spirits with eyes-closed meditation, Sandy tells me that the key for the ritual’s success is for me to willingly surrender that which I want to die off. Fair enough. As a friend once said to me, “Nobody can pee for you.”
I lie down with the pillow under my head, the bolster under my knees and a comforting blanket covering my body. The drumming music begins and Sandy and I fall into meditation once again to surrender whatever there is to surrender to the spirits that guide us. Sandy creates herself as the medium between this world and the spirit world, and I give myself to both in peaceful release.
At the close of our appointment, I sit for a final time facing Sandy as we review what took place in the ritual. What I am most aware of is the presence of nothing. There is nothing “there” that used to be there. That sadness, the old familiar pull of stress that weighed me down, that nag of ill-defined angst … gone. There is just a sense of nothing, a nothing from which an authentic something can begin to grow. And then I realize that in the ritual, there was no struggle, there was no drama, and there was no pain. All there was, was surrender. And to surrender is to simply let go. Not to struggle to let go. But just to really, finally let go.
And now Bridge Builders, with what am I left? The most beautiful abundance I could imagine; the abundance of nothing from which anything is possible.
Bridge Builders, if you would like to find out more about Sandy’s practice, she can be reached at 336-287-0061 or by e-mail at email@example.com. In conjunction with her practice, Sandy formed Co-Creative Evolution, a diverse group of mind/body/spirit practitioners who believe in the collaboration of personal healing in order to transform the world.
Life’s a Trip (originally posted on April 12, 2011)
I believe in living a life of no limits. And I’m not the only one. There are people all around us who are carving out unique places for themselves in the world; unique niches of satisfaction, inspiration and determination. I’d like to introduce you to one such soul. Her story is an example of what it means to live a life of abundance; to live in a way that pushes past the realm of the expected and the probable; to live a life of one’s own creation; and to inspire us all to do the same.
Allow me to introduce to you, Shaman Sandy Phocas. That’s right, I said “Shaman.” You may have heard of shamanism but you might not know what it is. How Sandy describes shamanism in her article “Your Wild Soul is Calling You”, first featured in the popular blog, The Sophia Project, is this, “Shamanism, with its ancient healing and spiritual practices, allows access to the deepest levels of self and universe — the energetic, spiritual, and soul levels. It can bring about healing of physical, emotional, and spiritual imbalances, as well as bring deep guidance and wisdom.”
Sandy was formally known as, “Dr. Phocas.” That was when she was 39 years old and had a popular psychiatry practice, a house, two dogs and a cat. Then Sandy turned 40 and went to Arizona for a week to sit at the feet of a Yaqui medicine man to honor her fourth decade with an spiritual experience she assumed would be profound and meaningful. She got far more than she’d bargained for. She received a clear call to walk the shamanic path in all areas of her life, a path which led her to close her traditional psychiatry practice and to learn about healing and spirit from indigenous healers in the U.S., Ecuador, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Botswana.
Now, Sandy practices as a Shaman here in the Triad. In her Winston-Salem, North Carolina office Sandy currently offers Shamanic healing, soul work, hypnosis, past-life regression work, Holotropic Breath Work and Mentoring. She also offers some services and classes on line. I am lucky enough to have received her healing first hand in both healing sessions and in shamanic journeying to meet my spirit guides.
Last week I went to see Sandy. I’ve gone through a big transition in my life. My relationship with my mate has come to a close. What I’ve come to realize this week is that a break up at 40 really feels no better than it does at 17 years old, the only difference is at 40 I have perspective which softens the drama of a heart ache. Nevertheless, I’ve been a bit adrift and it right now seemed like the ideal time to reconnect with myself and get some grounding, or something . . .
The afternoon of my appointment, I sat in Sandy’s office and talked to her about the transition I was going through and wanting to be able to access my spirit guides and to learn more about them. The truth is, I didn’t really know what I meant by that but a friend had just recently had a session with Sandy and met her spirit guides and in a word it sounded, “cool.” As we talked, my eyes fell on a figurine of The Hindu goddess, Shiva that sat on a small shelf. I shared with Sandy that I had often wondered what Hindu gods and goddess I would most relate to.
Sandy prepared me for the session by first discussing what I wanted to get out of our work that day and then I took a restful position on a table with a pillow under my head, a bolster under my knees for back support and my body was covered in a blanket. Sandy helped me to relax into a hypnotic state using a combination of ambient drumming music, verbal guidance, and my own breathing.
What opened up for me in my journey was beautiful, complex, affirming, grounding, and life-changing. Of the many spirits I met, one I will share here. A tiger walked up to me across an open field. As it approached me it bumped me off balance with its mighty head, not to hurt me, but to say hello. I grabbed the fur along its jowls to stop me from falling. I can still feel how surprisingly thick and dense the fur felt in my hands. Without words the tiger invited me to hop on its back and I rode it as it bounded across the open field. I felt the joy and exhilaration that came with trusting its power. Then I got that this adventure was also about trusting MY power. We rolled and played on the grass and the tiger gnawed on my head as I reached up above me and pulled back at its fur. I never felt fear or pain; only the joy of surrendering to the great power of the tiger and power held within myself.
When I came home that afternoon, I googled the phrase: Woman riding a tiger. Tears came to my eyes when what came up was Durga, the Hindu god who rides a tiger. He represents unlimited power and fierce compassion as he fights evil in the world and delivers the world from suffering.
So now, I not only have a spirit guide, but with Sandy’s help, I have a goddess. And she is not the only one I met. There are others, but that is not the point of this post. The point is to introduce to you how much your consciousness, your spirit, and your world can expand by knowing someone who dared to go first in making that leap. And that person for me is Shaman Sandy Phocas.
Bridge Builders, if you would like to find out more about Sandy’s practice, she can be reached at 336-287-0061 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. In conjunction with her practice, Sandy formed Co-Creative Evolution, a diverse group of mind/body/spirit practitioners who believe in the collaboration of personal healing in order to transform the world. Now that is abundance!
Abundance. You’ve heard the word, but what does it mean? (published July 27, 2010)
The folks at wikipedia offer this definition: Post scarcity or post-scarcity describes a hypothetical form of economy or society, often explored in science fiction, in which things such as goods, services and information are free, or practically free.
Wiktionary offers this: An overflowing fullness or ample sufficiency; profusion; copious supply; superfluity; wealth; Frequency, amount, ratio of something within a given environment en.wiktionary.org/wiki/abundance
What about looking at abundance through the lens of an overflowing supply of whatever matters to you in life, such as: love, money, spirit, creativity, and joy? Through this lens, these words amount to more than a composite of letters that represented hopes and wishes for a better tomorrow. By claiming these words as our personal calling, they become an incantation to create all that we want in our lives.
Imagine feeling so moved by the impact creating abundance has had on your own life that you are moved to share your calling with others. Imagine that through your sharing, others become moved and inspired in kind—and the impact of your inspiration causes them to create their own abundance, and then share that with others. In doing this, the world as we know it would be transformed. What began as a private wish, would become a contribution to the world.
How can this become reality and more than merely a utopian ideal? By giving up the idea that we can’t create the life we really want. By giving up the idea of scarcity (the evil twin of abundance) that tricks us into thinking that there isn’t enough to go around. By giving up the ways we block the natural flow of these resources to us. And maybe even by giving up a more radical idea, that we need more than we already have.
Change the Vibe (published August 2, 2010)
A Bridge Builder posted a great question last week: How do we change the vibe we are feeling to abundance when that’s the last thing in world we’re feeling?
Every day life is fully of everyday hassles. There are jobs to go to, bills to pay, errands to run, family members that rely on us. And that is when it is all going well. Then there are the times when the basement floods, someone hits your car, and your drier breaks all in the same week that your relatives are coming for a visit. Not to mention the much more sobering times: when your well being or that of someone you love is jeopardized or you are in a real financial crisis.
How is it that we maintain a feeling of abundance in our lives despite the fact that life happens? Jack Kornfield, the founder of the Buddhist meditation center in Northern California called Spirit Rock wrote a book a few years ago, entitled, After the Ecstasy The Laundry. In this title, Mr. Kornfield so well captured the truth that even with the highest highs of life, there is the ordinariness and the hardships with which we all contend.
So the compelling question is, is it truly possible to maintain abundance in our lives in spite of all that’s happening? Is abundance derived from the context of our lives or can we actually create abundance with intention no matter what?
I had a very interesting lesson in this through a friend several years back. A good friend had suffered a great loss in her life. Someone very dear to her with whom she had been very close to for decades died suddenly and unexpectedly. Being the person closest to him, the responsibility/privilege of arranging his funeral fell to her. I stopped by her house to offer support and help. I asked the question we all ask of friends in that situation, “How are you?” Her answer surprised me, (and I’ll clean it up here since this is a public forum). Through tears and with a very sad face, she answered, “Everything is really “messed up” but there is still a place inside that is perfect.” And as she said this she touched her hand to her heart.
I have reflected back on that day and that brief conversation many times. What I learned from my friend is that we are not our circumstances. Our worth or happiness is not defined by what is happening in our lives. So many of us experience a plummet in self esteem when we aren’t able to pay our bills with ease or afford the next shiny thing, or when the person we’ve been in love with leaves us, or if we aren’t selected for the job we really wanted. But can those challenges still exist in our life and we still experience abundance?
I say yes we can, but it comes down to choice and intention. We have to be vigilant in noticing how we tie our happiness to things that are outside of us, and outside of our control. We have to carry the belief that we are complete and whole in the form we come, that our very essence is one of abundance. Anything else that is added to that (money, a relationship, a job) is just that, something that it is added on. It is not who we are. And anything that is taken away from that is just that, something to grieve and let go of.
Once we get that for ourselves, whatever comes our way, we can more easily accept life for what it is. It does not have to dismantle us. And that original feeling of abundance, that perfect place inside our heart, remains ours.
In this ongoing series of essays on building a sustainable (and abundant) life/community, author Cristin Whiting explores forgiveness.
Abundance Through Forgiveness (published August 10, 2010)
Forgiveness. This is a big one, isn’t it? It is a topic so many of us grapple with, fraught with so much complexity. So let’s talk about it….
Many Bridge Builders write in with questions about relationships. In this StoryLoop we discuss the importance of giving, sharing, and having an open heart. But what about when the rubber meets the road? What about when we are hurt? What do we do then? Is our tendency to create abundance or is it to recoil in pain. Do we vow to not open our hearts again, or at least never again to the person who hurt us?
How does it feel to NOT forgive? It can give us the illusion of power: “I’m right. You’re wrong. And we both know it.” Self-righteousness is a seductive reason to not forgive. Or we can get a pay off for being the victim in a situation, “You did this to me. You hurt me.” When we take on the victim role we never have to take responsibility for how we contributed to what happened to us, even when, or especially when, we think it was all the other person’s fault.
But that kind of power is just an illusion. We feel we are right but we also feel stress. Our bodies can hurt. It can be hard to sleep at night. We spend time perhaps talking to others about how we were hurt, convincing others of how right we are. We might even miss the friendship we had with the person, despite the fact that we are hurt. It takes a lot of energy to not forgive and to hold resentments.
Despite all of those seeming convincing reasons to forgive, it can still be hard to do. Sometimes we feel if we forgive someone, we are not holding him or her accountable for hurting us. But there is a distinction between forgiveness and letting someone off the hook. Letting someone off the hook is pretending that what he or she did was OK even though it was not. When we let someone off the hook, we negate our feelings in the process and go on in the relationship as business as usual.
In forgiveness, we don’t agree with what the person did but we accept that what happened, happened. Acceptance of what is, is not the same as condoning what happened. What’s more, in forgiveness, we forgive independent of whether the person asks for forgiveness or even if whether or not they think they did anything wrong. Shocking, right?
Why would we forgive someone if they didn’t think they had done anything wrong to us? You might say that they don’t deserve it. No matter the case, we forgive for ourselves. We forgive because when we live from a victim position or from a place of self-righteousness, we are never really free. When we don’t forgive, we turn our back on abundance. We are only free in our body, mind and spirit when we release the resentments and self-righteousness that comes with hurt.
Forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight or even all at once. Sometimes it happens one piece at a time and with each piece of the burden of anger and resentment we let go of, the resulting peaces sets us free. Sometimes, if not every time, forgiveness simply comes down to a decision. A decision to chose the abundance and empowerment of forgiveness over the seduction of self-righteousness and not having to take responsibility for our part in things. Or even a decision to create a new possibility for the person who hurt us. And part of that possibility might be to accept the person for who they are and not who we wanted them to be. Because only when we accept others for whom they are can they live fully into the abundance of their possibility with us.
Author Cristin Whiting explores the idea of feeling deserving of the abundance in your life in her latest Bridges’ Essay. Her series is focused on how we can build a sustainable (and abundant) life and community.
Deserving Abundance (published on Bridges August 17, 2010)
“No matter how qualified or deserving we are, we will never reach a better life until we can imagine it for ourselves and allow ourselves to have it.” –Richard Bach
We can pray, dream, wish and work our whole lives to achieve a certain something: professional success or validation, recognition for our achievements, finding real love, or perhaps financial rewards. Until one day, we get it. Then what? How do we respond when we actually get what we want? What do with do with abundance when it arrives in our lives?
A question sometimes asked of us when we are particularly focused on a quest is, “What will you do once you actually achieve your goal?” It is a worthy question. In some cases, it turns out that the whole point of our quest was the journey and adventure getting there. At times, just moments after achieving the goal, the joy of victory dissipates or feels hollow. A new goal is quickly created to replace the old one that fell flat. Sometimes we get so focused on the quest, we forget to evaluate whether the goal is even actually still a good fit, worthy of questing for.
And sometimes, sometimes the fit is just right. The goal we’ve obtained is everything we thought it would be. And more. Our success is greater. The love is richer. The recognition is more glorious. Then what do we do? What do we do when life is more abundant than we had even dreamed it could be?
Some of us bask in the glory. We may feel a deep appreciation and sense of gratitude. Others of us shrink away from it. We may distort the arrival of this much sought after abundance into our lives. We may decide that it creates new, unexpected obligations that bring to us even more pressure and stress. We may decide it is not a gift after all.
Certainly there is some validity to this point of view. We can’t anticipate the changes that abundance will bring to our lives. With every blessing there can be unexpected responsibilities that come with it. But sometimes we turn those unexpected responsibilities into something they are not. Sometimes we decide that the cost of abundance is too high and we don’t really want it after all.
There is especially a tendency to do this if we doubt whether we are worthy of receiving what we’ve always wanted. And if we doubt whether we will end up not fulfilling on the gift we are given. In our darkest moments, that doubt can be so strong, that we end up confirming that fear. We actually destroy the gift we receive. We set it aflame and watch burn the very abundance we prayed for and have received.
It is not easy to admit, but it can be hard to receive abundance. It can challenge our sense of worthiness in a whole new way. Old rascally self-doubts can crop up beckoning us to revert to more familiar, yet more destructive ways of being.
This is the down side of abundance. Or perhaps rather, this is the challenge of our humanity, the challenge to receive abundance with grace and accept ourselves as worthy of the gift.
Perhaps the key to transform this challenge exists in acceptance. Accepting the abundance that has graced our lives. Accepting how perfectly flawed we are. Accepting all we are and all we are not. And finally, recognizing ourselves as deserving anyway.
The Joy of Rhythm and Surrender:
Dancing Our Way To Abundance (essay posted on Bridges August 25, 2010)
Sometimes it starts with a drumbeat that can’t be ignored. Any fan of swing dancing knows the hypnotic call of the drum solo in the intro of “Sing Sing Sing” performed by The Benny Goodman big band.
Other times it is just the hint of the hook of a song that can make us drop our conversation in mid-speech and head out to the floor: Think of Will.I.Am calling out, “Oh myyy gosh…” Anyone who has turned on a radio lately knows that what comes next is one of the best dance tracks of the summer, thank you Usher.
Dance. There is nothing like it. When I am asked about my favorite music, the reply is always the same, “I like anything I can dance to.” But it is not the music in itself that I feel the passion for, but it is what it creates in me. When I hear the rhythm, sometimes it is all I can do to not dance, even just a little.
When I was little, I took Russian ballet. One day my Dad came to the studio to pick me up from class. I happen to be dancing across the floor toward him when he entered. I remember as I leapt in the air having the sensation of flying over his head and looking down at him; feeling perfectly relaxed and free. Later in the car on the way home he remarked, “You look really happy when you dance.” I was eight.
Last week, my fella took me out on the town to dance the night away. The next day he said to me, “I’ve never told you this before but you look really happy when you dance. Your energy is really positive.” Now I am 40, still dancing and nowhere near stopping.
For those of us who love to dance, it is not typically an “intentional decision,” as we discuss a lot in this column. It is more often an energy that exists in our blood, in our spirit, in the very fiber of our being. We can’t not dance because to dance is create abundance: Dance brings a sense of peace, joy, oneness, exhilaration, authenticity and truth all at once.
And the beauty of it is the fact that to simply love to dance is enough. The concept of whether someone is a “good” dancer is irrelevant. We dance for ourselves. Not for other people. When we dance for others, we are thinking not dancing. We are wondering how we look, what the other person is thinking, and we are usually evaluating their dancing too.
Dance brings us into the present tense. Dance asks us to risk ourselves and to risk silliness. It asks us to risk abandon and to surrender: to surrender to the rhythm, to the moment, and even to our partner. (Gasp!)
“Surrender to our partner?!” And you thought we were talking about dancing, not relationships! The truth is they are one and the same because how we do something is how we do anything. In this way, dance is a metaphor for how we live and how we love.
In traditional partner dancing, the woman surrenders to and trusts the man’s leadership. The man lets go in his own right and takes command. And together the two must stay present and listen to each other. They must find ease together—and when it works, it is three and a half minutes of magic.
People can fall in love dancing (or at least certainly in lust). People can learn to trust each other dancing. People can even just realize how much the like each other by dancing together. And people can learn to accept themselves by dancing.
So it begs the question, if we can create abundance in our lives by surrendering to dance, what else could we surrender to? What abundance could that act of surrender create?
Creating Abundance Through Fulfilling Your Life’s Purpose (essay posted on Bridges, September 16, 2010)
A friend once said to me, “Tonight and every night from now I can rest easy because I have answered the “Why?” of my existence.”
At the time that struck me as quite a bold statement, one that spurred me to wonder whether I was as fully expressed in living into my own life purpose. Even though I understood the importance of what he shared with me, I found myself quietly intimidated and resisted the idea of whether we really need to be so intentional in living into our life purpose or really even needing to know what it is. But now, with some perspective, I will argue that not only is it important to know and embrace a purpose for our life, but it is even necessary; necessary not only in order to live a life of abundance, but also a life of ease.
Why is that? It is because when we know our life’s purpose we are free. We are more efficient and priorities have a distinct clarity. We flounder and fret less about whether we are on the right path—because we are on the path that is our gift to the world that will resonate with abundance long after we are gone.
Once we decide who we are meant to be in the world, the journey has only just begun. This is because we will loose sight of our purpose over and over. We will get distracted from our plan A and begin to settle for Plan B, because that is our nature as human beings. Within that, life then is a process of creating and recreating our purpose. It is a process of committing and recommitting to who we say we are in the world.
When we commit to the process of fulfilling on the “why of our existence,” we can indeed rest easier at night knowing that we left the world a better place than it was when we first awoke. We can rest easier knowing that the imprint we left was one of abundance.
So Bridge Builders, what is the “Why” of your existence? What do you do to fulfill on that purpose?
Create Abundance: Live a Life with No Expectations (essay posted on Bridges, September 29, 2010)
“I am not in this world to live up the other people’s expectations, nor do I feel the world must live up to mine.” ~ Fritz Perls, German-born psychiatrist and psychoanalyst
Can you imagine for a moment what it would be like to live a life without expectations? The word expectation itself is heavy with connotation ranging from something inspirational to something more limiting or obligatory. Regardless of what the word means to each of us, the thought of letting go of all expectations in life can be frightening.
Instead, consider that to live a life of no expectations is to live a life of unconditional love. A kind of love that extends not just from us to others, but begins with a love for ourselves. Through this love, we could release ourselves from living for the approval of others. Reciprocally, we would take ourselves out of the center of other people’s decisions and return them to the center of their own world.
Rather than create selfishness, I imagine such a life would create the exquisite balance of self-full-ness through which self-less-ness could abundantly and freely flow. With self-full-ness, we act from a place of living freely expressed through our own truth. We accept that truth and believe in its value because of the inherent value we have for ourselves. If others don’t hold our truth with the same value, self-love gives us the security to compassionately let go of those relationships and invite others in that do mesh with our personal mission or ethos.
More over, in valuing ourselves, we would recognize the absurd futility in trying to control other people’s decision, feelings, and behaviors through our expectations of them. We would recognize that rather than creating security in our relationships, our expectations risk creating a chasm instead. When we release another to live in their truth it is only then that we know their heart fully. It is only then that we truly know the authenticity of their choices because their choices are based in freedom and acceptance rather than requirement. And only then is real intimacy created and allowed to lovingly and abundantly thrive.
Love, Fear, and The Willingness of Bravery (essay published on Bridges on October 7, 2010)
“What we call the secret of happiness is no more a secret than our willingness to choose life.” ~ Leo F. Buscaglia (American guru, tireless advocate of the power of love, 1924-1998)
I am part of a writing group and five of us meet each week to discuss our current projects. There are very few requirements for being a part of this group but one intention we have in particular is worth sharing here. That is to bring to each meeting “a willingness to inspire and to be inspired.” It is easy to see how we can create abundance through inspiration. But I think an even more important part of that agreement is the idea of willingness.
Nothing in life can happen without a willingness to make it so. Forgiveness begins with a willingness to let go. Transformation happens because of a willingness to grow. Faith is possible through a willingness to believe. Courage happens because of a willingness to face fear. Love manifests because of a willingness to surrender. And so it follows, abundance is created from our willingness to live fully, to always push the edge of the challenge, “How great can you stand your life?”
It is often said that there are two main emotional experiences: love and fear, and all other emotions fall under one or the other. The experience of abundance is certainly created through love. It follows then that fear is the energy that blocks abundance in our life. Therefore, to live a life of abundance is to be willing to be brave and to refuse to let fear hold us back in the pursuit of our dreams.
One of the bravest things I have done lately is to write these essays on Bridges. I never considered myself to be a writer. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if what I had to say might be of interest to others. But the more I write, the more I risk. I get a little braver; my writing gets a little freer. And the risk has paid off. I know it has because you tell me so. You read what I write; you comment on it; you pass it on to your friends. Now a whole new world of expression and a new possibility for contribution has open up for me because I was willing to face a fear. And in return you willingly opened your hearts and minds to the ideas in these essays, and let abundance grow.
Celebrating Our Children as a Path to Abundance (published on Bridges on October 27, 2010)
Remember that old song, “Time In A Bottle” by Jim Croce? If I could save time in a bottle … The first thing that I’d like to do … Is to save everyday, ‘til eternity passes away … Just to spend them with you. (Pure vintage 1970’s corniness, I know.)
I don’t know about whom he was thinking when Croce wrote that song, but there is probably no lyric that goes through my mind with more frequency than that when I think of my children. So this essay on abundance is in celebration of my two little ones, Julia and Colin—and all the children that are near and dear to you and yours.
As I say of Colin and Julia, who turn six and eight years old, respectively, this month: Julia taught me how to be a mother, and Colin taught me how to enjoy it. After Julia was born, I marveled at the ease with which I dropped so much of what I call, “Princess Behavior”. That is my cheeky word for selfishness. Though there are still miles to go for me in that department on some days, the gift of learning to give to another without care for myself has been a treasure. With Colin’s birth, I learned that laughing and enjoying the moment has far more value than anything else: including being organized, being punctual, or even having taken a shower.
Parenthood isn’t for everyone, and this essay isn’t about that. I suppose like most of what I write, it is about love. And it doesn’t matter who or what ends up being that agent of love in your lives (Be it God, your mate, or your dog), but I know in mine, no people have taught me how to open my heart more than my children. There are no two people I cheer for more; no two people I forgive as quickly; no two people I want to protect more; no two people I want to think well of me, as them.
So Julia and Colin, on your birthday, all the gifts and parties that you are being given can never compare to all you have given to me. With love and gratitude I thank you both. You have given me a life and a love that is beyond compare. You have given me a life of abundance.
Bridge Builders … what have children in your life taught and given to you?
Abundance, Family and Friendship (essay published on Bridges on November 10, 2010)
Friendship! The word itself is almost synonymous with abundance. Friends give us a sense of community, a sense of place, and sense of loving and being loved. Interestingly, the same is true of family. And for some, the word family inspires similar feelings of peace, security, and love. For others, the word is more complicated and layered with feelings of strife or even obligation.
Friendship also has a ring of fun and lightness to it that the word family does not always have. Perhaps it is because we have a fixed view of our family members and they of us; fixed ideas that are based on how we were at a younger age and tinged with past hurts. With friends we live more in the present. We tend to be more forgiving and we allow friends to evolve and our view of them accommodates that growth.
We have all heard the phrase you can choose your friends but you can’t choose you family. So perhaps another key difference between the two is just that, the element of choice. Friendship is intentional. Yet, the idea that we are members of our family primarily as a function of a genetic fluke is really only an illusion. We do have the choice to choose our family as well.
When we choose our family anew, the way we do our friends, we in fact create abundance. When we choose them with intention rather than deferring to a predetermined fate of relatedness, we honor them. We honor them by accepting and acknowledging the people they are, not how we decided they are. What’s more we honor them by sharing with them the people we have grown into; and that may be different than who they thought we were and maybe even who they ever thought we could become. With that choice comes all that we treasure and value with friends: the freedom, the acceptance, the loyalty, the lightness and the love. But while friends can really only feel like family, when we create our family as our friends, we truly have the abundance of both.
Gratitude (or What Do You Have to Lose?) (essay published on Bridges on November 17, 2010)
With Thanksgiving upon us, it is time to renew our appreciation for the abundance in our lives. To borrow the wisdom of JFK, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
In my last essay, we considered the idea that we can powerfully choose the kind of relationship we have with our family by enriching these worn-thin relationships with friendship. The consensus in our Bridges’ discussion here on the web site was that it is easier said than done.
Consider that to truly appreciate our family requires that we practice unconditional acceptance. This idea of unconditional acceptance, or even unconditional love, is another topic we have pondered together. What that means to me is to give thanks for all we have with our family, but also to let go of what we wish were different.
Life doesn’t always give us what we want or even what we think we deserve. But we’ve got what we’ve got. So I suggest that during this holiday give thanks with a clean and clear heart. Give thanks for all of it. Every last bit. Without that, it is sort of like being given a plate full of delicious Thanksgiving cuisine and then holding a grudge that there isn’t gravy.
Once we accept our lives and accept the people in them we truly can be thankful. Without acceptance there is a tendency to lapse into feeling sorry for ourselves for what we don’t have (Yes, I went there!) When we feel sorry for ourselves, we become stingy with others and even blame them for what is wrong in our lives. When we live in that emotional space, the fact that we are no day at the beach either is easily forgotten.
Now a few of you may be insisting at this point that what I’m offering here doesn’t apply to you. But within the privacy of your own mind, try it on. All there is to lose are old resentments you’ve held on to; pointless suffering, really. And you know what there is to gain, the abundance that comes from accepting life as it is.
Abundance and Music (essay originally posted on Bridges on November 22, 2010)
As I write this, I sit in the auto mechanic’s shop. In pondering the topic of abundance in preparation to write this essay, I find myself reflecting on some of the simple truths in life. One of them is that there are things we can count on and there are things that we can’t. For example, we can’t count on our to car start every time we want it to. And as wonder how much it will cost to have my car fixed, it occurs to me that we can’t always count on having money in the bank to pay bills. These things aren’t good or bad necessarily, it is just the way it is. Still, there are things in life we can count on without a shadow of a doubt. For me, one of them is music.
It doesn’t matter the mood I’m in or what challenge the day brings. I can count on music. I can count on music to smooth out the edges; to make the highs higher; and to bring poignancy to a tender moment. Some say that music is what emotions sound like, and I am inclined to agree.
I had the opportunity recently to attend a 50th birthday party for a vivacious, music-loving woman. The birthday girl (forgive the use of the term “girl” here. “Birthday woman” sounds a little awkward.) strutted into the party after all her guests had arrived. She waved hello to her guests as she made her way directly to the dance floor. With that simple gesture she signaled to everyone, “I’m here. The music is groovin’ and we are going to dance all night.” And that is exactly what happened. Even when the guests were tired and tried to leave the dance floor, those old jams brought them back. People were shaking everything that God gave them, laughing and flirting as they danced. Mature women in their 60s were caught up in the magic, showing off how funky they still can be. It seemed that every third song the crowd cried out with the joy of hearing an old joint they hadn’t heard in years. The party went on well into the wee hours. As the revelers left at the end of the night, you could hear them chuckling with each other at what a good time they had. They shook their heads and smiled satisfied with the memories from the night. And that was all possible because of music.
Music reminds us of how simple life can be and yet how complicated we can make it. There is so much drama we get caught up in; so much fretting over things we can’t control; so much wasted time. You have to wonder how important things are in are life, if we are so easily transported away from our worries with the power of just one song.
So as the Doobie Brothers once famously said . . . “listen to the music” . . . and enjoy the abundance in your life.
Listening as a Path to Abundance (originally posted on Bridges on November 30, 2010)
When we talk about abundance, we use words like “generosity” and “acceptance”. Ultimately, though we talk about love. The underpinnings of abundance always seem to come back to love; loving ourselves and giving love to others. And one of the most simple yet over looked ways that we can create love and abundance with others is through the art of listening. In the words of theologian and existentialist philosopher, Paul Tillich, “The first duty of love is to listen.”
When I think about what word best describes how I listen to people, “impatiently” is what first comes to mind. And if I’m being honest, what the impatience is all about is a pretty strong commitment that I have to being right. Now I know that is not flattering fact about myself, but again, it is true. When I “listen,” I am really doing little more than just waiting to speak so that I can be right about something. And that is not listening (or loving) at all. Still, I share this with you here because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. We all have our own version of “listening” that falls a bit shy of abundance.
When we truly listen to another person, there is no place for us in the conversation because we surrender control to them. We aren’t steering the direction the conversation goes; making judgments; convincing; or even offering opinions. I know I am really listening to someone when I’m not merely focusing on the other’s words, but more on what matters to them.
We all know the moment when listening is actually happening because it has a feel all its own. There is an undeniable intimacy that comes from listening, an intimacy born out of surrendering control to and generously accepting another. Because when we listen we are not trying to get anyone to be anything other that who and what they are in that moment we share with them.
So Bridge Builders, I am renewing my commitment to listen for what matters to others. What abundance will you bring to your listening?
Manifesting Abundance in the New Year (essay originally posted on Bridges on December 8, 2010)
As we move toward the end of the year many of us resolve to do something different in our lives to make them better . . . Yes, to create sweet, sweet abundance! Sometimes we know exactly the thing we want to be different and creating a plan and moving into that plan is easy. Sometimes though we are just stuck. We know we want something to be different but we don’t know what. There is a yearning for something more and we want to make a change but we don’t know where to start.
Several years ago at a lecture she gave at Salem College, author Elizabeth Gilbert discussed a journaling exercise that not only got her “unstuck” in her life but created a tremendous abundance over the next several years. That abundance came in the form of world travel, an international love affair, and writing a best selling novel, which became a major motion picture. You may have heard of it? … Eat, Pray, Love
Gilbert suggested spending a few minutes each day writing down two things. The first is, what is it you really, really, really want. And she emphasized that the importance of the three “reallys” was to distinguish these wants from the passing wants that so easily float in and our of our hearts. The second step is to write what was your happiest moment of the day.
Having done this exercise myself, I was amazed at the clear and consistent themes that quickly emerged through answering those two simple questions. Suddenly in my own life, I was unstuck. It no longer made sense to spend time on the things that didn’t bring me my greatest joy or weren’t what I really (really, really) wanted. And the things that I thought would be so difficult to let go, nearly melted away. And weren’t even really missed, at least not much.
So Bridge Builders, move powerfully and abundantly into the New Year. Dare to get unstuck and declare your abundance here:
What are your happiest moments of each day? What is that you really, really, really want in your life?
Asking for Abundance (essay originally posted on Bridges on December 14, 2010)
In many of our conversations together we discuss how we create abundance by giving to others. What we haven’t yet talked about is how we create abundance by allowing others to give to us.
I was given a lesson in that not so long ago. Up until recently, I was really lousy about asking for help. Even when it was obvious I needed help, I wouldn’t ask for it. Worse yet, I would turn help down when it was offered. This was the case with needs both small and large. My answer was always be the same, “That’s OK, I got it.”
I had a situation come up in the last couple of weeks. I was tempted to do the same old thing and shoulder it on my own. For reasons that are still not clear to me, I decided not to. I asked for help, and not just from one person. I sent emails and made phone calls letting people know what I was dealing with and asked for advice. With a couple of people, I even asked for help in a specific way that required them to do something in their personal time.
This situation is still not solved. Even though I reached out to others there still may be nothing that anyone can do. So in the end, the benefit of asking for help may not be that the problem gets fixed. But the gift that emerged from reaching out is that now I feel a little closer to people with whom this was shared. A little bit more trust and intimacy is there that wasn’t between us before. And ironically, it could have been all along, except I had never reached out and let them into my life in this way
This is a time of year when all feelings are magnified, both feelings of love and good fortune as well as feelings of scarcity and aloneness. And there are many characters that make their way across our cultural scene that symbolize the spirit of the season: Jesus, Santa, Hanukkah Harry. This isn’t the season however of the Lone Ranger. So reach out to others. You will give a gift to yourself by allowing other’s to carry some of the load (Yes, even though they have their own load and even though that load may seem like it is even heavier than the one you are carrying). And others will be grateful and appreciative that you let them in.
Abundance = Focusing on that which binds us vs. that which divides us (essay originally posted on Bridges on December 22, 2010)
As the evening winds down in my house, I am eager to return to writing these essays after having taken a little hiatus over the holidays. There is a sense of kismet in that today is the day that I continue the thread of our conversation together. The reason being, today is the first day of Kwanzaa, a seven-day celebration of African-American heritage and principles that support and enrich and bind the community. The principle that is being honored today is one from which we can all benefit and one that is very dear to my heart. It is the principle of unity.
Unity is akin to abundance because it has love at its core. With unity, we focus on that which binds us over that which divides us. There is no blame in unity. The focus is only on how we can support each other to live into our highest selves both individually and as a community. The only sense of the past that comes with unity is that of time-honored devotion and the pride that comes with perseverance. Unity is a principle that I have intentionally taught to my children. I often use the famous phrase from the Three Musketeers, “all for one and one for all” to instill the ideal that we are for each other and remain loyal together.
I am of the mindset that there are few accidents in life. That being said, perhaps it is more than mere coincidence that this particular community of Bridges has come together to share in this message of abundance at this time in our world culture. Indulge in the idea that because you read these essays and share in and nurture this message of abundance you are contributing to the unity that exists within your families and that extends into our local communities and beyond. Appreciate the inherent interconnectivity that comes with unity. When we create abundance together and we share a unique opportunity intentionally make the world a better place. So embrace 2011 with your light shining brightly. You are the unity and love you create. You are abundance.
You Can Only Fill An Empty Cup (essay originally posted on Bridges on December 29, 2010)
A friend gave me a wonderful book recently, “Ancient Wisdom for Life Fulfillment,” by Michael R. Foley, MD. The book is a collection of age-old tales, the first of which is that of The Empty Cup. The basic point of the story is we can’t fill our cups (e.g. ourselves, our minds, our hearts) with anything if they are already full. We must first empty them so that they may be filled both intentionally and abundantly.
This story seems especially relevant at this time in the year when so many of us are looking for, and maybe even counting on, a fresh start. Sometimes our fresh start is haunted by the Ghost of Fresh Starts of The Past; the ones that didn’t pan out the way we hoped despite our efforts to do things better or to work harder. A fresh start really isn’t a fresh start when it is marked by doubt (or promises to ourselves or others) that “it will be different this time.” Think of it like beating egg whites. In order for egg whites to foam up and form peaks, there cannot be even a trace of fat in the bowl. If there is, they just won’t work their egg-white-magic. The bowl truly needs to be completely clean of the stuff that prevents egg whites from expanding into their lofty, glossy, most-excellent selves.
How do we empty our cups? The only way to really empty it is to know what is in there in the first place: self-doubt, resentments, shame, and blame are all good places to start to look. And then there is the inevitable question of how do we empty our cup? The irony is, it’s not difficult; we make it difficult. And we make it difficult because sometimes holding on to the thing that is holding us back seems easier than to simply let it go and to fill ourselves anew. To let go means to let go. And if we choose to not let go and to not empty our cup completely, we are actually deciding to preserve in our cup the very thing that holds us back.
What is there to empty from your cup? With what will you abundantly fill it? (Editor’s Note: to respond to Cristin’s essay click on the “contribute” button at the end of this column.)
Finding Your Inner Artist (essay originally posted on Bridges on January 12, 2011)
For a long time I had a desire to be an artist. I’ve always felt a wellspring of creativity inside me but hadn’t quite found a form of creative expression that satisfied. Then along came the invitation to write these Abundance Essays on MyBridges. No one has been more surprised than me at the great joy I have found in the craft of writing. I say surprised because as I mentioned before, I never considered myself to be a writer. And what is even closer to the truth is, I didn’t even like to write much at all. Yet now, I find not only do I love to write, I have a need to write. Writing has become not just my creative expression, but the thing that grounds me, my refuge, and my inspiration. So Bridge Builders, this week I encourage you to create abundance in your life by finding the artist within you.
The truth is, we could replace the word “artist” for any creative pursuit that is your own. Just as there are those who have been secretly sitting on book ideas for years, or who shyly wish they had the courage to start a blog, there are also people who would love to paint, sing, act, do stand up comedy, or dance. We all have a creative voice that needs to be heard. And we all have reasons why we don’t pursue our creative dreams. Maybe we think we aren’t good enough or that no one would care what we have to say. Maybe we think we wouldn’t make money from it or that we don’t have enough time in our day. Or maybe we think the time in our life to be an artist has passed.
Everything in life has a time and a place. I turned forty this year and reaching that milestone has caused me to reflect a great deal on time and my conceptions about what is available to me in my life based on my age. I noticed that thoughts about being “too old” to do certain things started to rise, as well as a corresponding unwillingness to surrender to an arbitrary notion of “middle age”. What I now know is that I can still experience what I had always wanted to do. Not because I can still capture what time is left, but more powerfully, now I am old enough.
So Bridge Builders, your life is a cup to be filled with abundant creativity. Empty from your cup your reasons for not being the artist that you are. And fill it with the creative expression that is your gift to share. Dare to claim your dreams here so that you can manifest them in your life. Who are you really? Who is the artist that lies within?
What’s Your Story (essay originally posted on Bridges on January 18, 2011)
“A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.” This is the opening line from Henry Graham Green’s The End of the Affair.
When was the last time you read a great book that drew you in from the start? Perhaps it has been a while or perhaps you are a nightly reader who gobbles through the stack on your nightstand with relish. Either way, there is much abundance to be had by rediscovering the delicious pleasure of a good read.
The non-fiction realm offers treasures of its own through which we discover not just ourselves but others as well. Case in point, a friend swore that Sharon Salzberg’s Loving Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness would change my life. She was right, as was the friend who said that The Autobiography of Malcolm X had the same effect on him. Russel Brand’s, clever and self-effacing, My Booky Wook made a big impact on me as a writer. While Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Committed, opened my mind to a new view of long-term committed relationships.
Fiction in particular has a way of carrying us into a fantasy realm that offers relief from our every day stress. Sometimes the settings are intentionally fantastic, as in C.S. Lewis’ richly depicted Narnia, or J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The fantasy setting allows us to examine issues that effect our very real lives through the ironically objective lens of make-believe. Even if the setting is rather ordinary, we still get drawn into the story and the characters become friends, friends we miss even after we have finished reading the novel. Think of J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield and Louisa May Alcott’s, Jo.
Our lives are shaped by culture and books remain a vital part of that. Create abundance by nourishing yourself with books that will feed your soul, expand your dreams, and inspire you to live into a greater reality. Reading is one of the few solitary leisure experiences we enjoy, which also shows us that our experience of life is a shared one. So create abundance this week by rediscovering yourself and the world in a book.
Bridge Builders, now that you know what has been on my bookstand over the past few months, what has been on yours?
Once You See It There’s No Going Back (essay originally posted on Bridges on January 28, 2011)
As I write these essays, I wonder how much personal information and insight to share. Yet personal experience informs everything I write and today is no exception. I hit a crisis point recently where I realized after six months of creating abundance with you, I was talkin’ the talk but I wasn’t walkin’ the walk. But now I see it, and there ain’t no going back. Bridge Builders, its high time we walked the walk of abundance!
Simply put, as we consider together this beautiful topic of abundance, we’ve yet to discuss the fact that there are thousands of people in our community for whom there is truly not enough. As we consider topics of unity, one’s life purpose, a willingness for bravery, and gratitude, there are others who are considering whether they will have enough food to eat; access to healthcare; and a safe place to sleep at night.
As citizens who believe in the power of abundance, I encourage you to do your part. Create abundance by opening your hearts to the suffering of others in our community and dedicate yourself in some way to giving back all that has been given to you. We are all busy and we are all living with our own version of financial stress. Yet it is because we’ve left the responsibility to share abundance up to others that there are others in need in the first place.
So let’s come together! We are a powerful community that sits on the unfulfilled opportunity to be a model for how other cities take care of those in need. This week, create abundance by contributing to your community and to those who live in it. Share on Bridges some of your favorite ways to give locally and to create abundance for others.
What are my favorite venues for creating abundance? The Community Care Clinic provides free medical services to those in need; The Winston-Salem Woman’s fund provides valuable funding to local philanthropic organizations that better the lives of women and girls; and The Ronald McDonald House provides support for the health and welfare of children and their families. That is only three organizations at work in the Triad and there are so many more whose contribution we can celebrate here. Let’s commit together to be a part of that and to create a ground swell of abundance in the Triad like it has never seen before.
What’s Your Reputation? (essay originally posted on Bridges on February 1, 2011)
Bridge Builders, have you ever asked yourself what abundance you would create if you were to fully live into your personal potential? What impact would that have on your life, your family, and the world?
These are big questions to consider, but ones from which we tend to shy away. There are few if any of us who knows our true brilliance, or who have dared to believe we could impact the world in a remarkable way. The funny thing is, although many of us already know this about ourselves, we tend to go along with it, as if it doesn’t matter.
Trust me, it takes one to know one. I was the kid growing up whose parents, teachers, and guidance counselors asked with worried expressions why I didn’t get grades that matched my aptitude. At the time, my answer was that I thought my grades were fine. Rather than fight the label of being somewhat of an underachiever, I embraced it. I figured if people had low expectations of me, they’d eventually stop asking for more out of me. Problem solved.
But this conversation isn’t about marks in school grades, promotions in work title, or performance bonuses earned. It is about the essence of each of us, which can’t be determined or rewarded according to those kinds of measures. Rumi tell us: “Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.”
Perhaps it is time for each of us to consider destroying the reputation we’ve built for ourselves over the years. Perhaps it is time to remove the limitations and labels others put on us at an earlier time and that we have taken on as our own. Perhaps it is high time we create our own name for ourselves. A name that is an expression of who we really are, that is an expression of our full potential and essence.
What would I call myself to fulfill on my personal potential? I’d call myself an inspirational writer and leader, an activist, and a humanitarian. I’d call myself a loving and devoted mother, a loyal and trusted partner, and a grateful daughter.
What would you call yourself that would be an expression of your full potential? What abundance would that create in the world?
Throw Out the Plan and Surrender (essay originally posted on Bridges on February 8, 2011)
There is something in the air these days. Have you felt it? Something transformative and abundant is in the works but hasn’t quite manifested. There are signs of change everywhere. Warm days tease of spring. The birds are chirping again as I awaken in the morning. The sun is setting later in evening reminding me that warm summer nights on my front stoop are not far away.
Spring brings with it rebirth and growth. With the promise of Spring, life feels oh so expectant right now. Some days are calm and peaceful, while others feel like the world is shifting at a dizzying pace, making it hard to keep my balance. Repose gives way to unrest, and then back again.
It is times like these when I have a tendency to grasp for meaning and security in small things so that I have at least the illusion of deep roots. Not this time. This time I’m going to enjoy the discovery of what is yet to be, moment by moment as it blossoms. I won’t create disaster scenarios when it seems that life is shifting in a way that contradicts my plan. In fact, I’m willing to throw out the plan and surrender to whatever it is life is carrying me towards. Every tide draws back and rolls forward in unstoppable rhythm. The tide of life is no different.
In the words of North Carolina’s own, Cheri Huber, “You don’t need to figure anything out. You don’t need to see how it all fits together. All you need is to practice directing your attention to the life you want.”
So Bridge Builders, this week, I suggest creating abundance by surrendering to the flow of life and trusting that maybe life itself knows a little something more than we do.
Let the Truth Set You Free (essay originally posted on Bridges on February 15, 2011)
We have reflected together over the last several weeks about creating abundance by walking the walk. Another way to say that is to live with abundant truth. Like most things in life, that is sometimes easier said than done. The Bible says, “The truth shall set you free.” Why then is the truth so difficult to say? Why is it so difficult for our word and deed to be in harmony?
In the words of Galileo, “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered, the point is to discover them.” Perhaps that offers an explanation. Some truths are hard to say because they remain in a semi-conscious place in our psyche resting in the murky waters between our awareness and unconscious. They bubble up to the surface of our consciousness for us to grapple with for a while (or to try to ignore). When they are not acted on, they gradually they sink down into the murk again. These are the truths we intermittently know we are avoiding and the avoidance keeps us stuck in our lives and relationships. Their cycle of surfacing and receding challenges our authenticity and courage. We know this on a gut level, so when opportunities to live our truth are passed by, a little piece of our self-respect goes with it.
Let’s now ask ourselves, “What truth am I not saying?” The first answer that comes up is the right one; the one we’ve been avoiding. These truths are sometimes hard to acknowledge because we are afraid of the reaction of others or what impact this truth telling might have on our lives. Yet, there is an immediate and abundant rush of freedom in speaking and living the truth. The truth rings true in our hearts, minds, body and spirit. The truth elevates us as we elevate ourselves by living in truth. Self-respect is restored and peace melts away the unrest.
I recently had the experience of speaking such a truth. I’d avoided letting someone know the real me out of fear of loosing their love. The irony being, the untruth had been a palpable wedge between us for a long time. The outcome? Truthfully, that remains to be seen.
So Bridge Builders, what truth is there for you to tell? What truth will set you free?
Confidence + Grace + Humility = Pride (essay originally posted on Bridges on February 22, 2011)
I have a little bit of a quirky belief system. One belief that I have is that life wants us to learn lessons and that life will teach us the lesson it wants us to master until we get it right. Experience has taught me that the sooner we get the lesson the better; so I’ve come to respect the signs and symbols life presents as possible learning opportunities.
For example, for several days now, I’ve noticed cardinals building a nest in the bush outside my bedroom window. I’ve watched them each morning tending to their home and it got me wondering. I researched the symbolism of cardinals and what I learned is that the striking regal beauty and melodic song of the cardinal reminds us to carry ourselves with pride.
Pride. That word has gotten kind of a bad rap. Pride is often considered a vice, like ego, arrogance or vanity, not to mention being the prelude to certain downfall. While such egotism blocks abundance and is paradoxically more concerned with the opinion of others (not to mention the inevitable catering to that opinion), pride resonates richly within and allows our choices to be maintained as our own. To borrow the wisdom of Jane Austin, to have pride is to value and treat oneself with dignity. Pride reminds us of our earned worth; to stand tall with our chin up; to imbue our life with our natural confidence; and to know humility with grace.
To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, pride is what we earn when we do what is right and important, even when it is difficult. Said another way, pride is the enchanting air with which we carry ourselves when who we say we are what we do are in harmony; when we live with integrity; when we walk the walk. To live with pride is to live with courageous truth.
So it seems that in order to create the life of abundance we’ve always dreamed, cultivating a sense of pride is a necessary step. Bridge Builders, what steps will you take in your life to create abundant pride? What challenge will you rise to meet with your natural confidence and gracious humility?
Inspired Conversation or Monologue (essay originally posted on Bridges on February 29, 2011)
You know the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” It’s advice we’ve all heard before; an old adage that reminds us to be mindful with our speech and to use our words responsibly. It also hints at an underlying question: What is the purpose of speaking? Consider this … when practiced with intention, the purpose of speaking is purely and simply to create abundance.
I am the loquacious type. Meaning, I like to talk a lot. Part of the reason is that I’m very relational and talking is a way for me to connect with others. I love the charming banter that gets passed between friends, full of witticism and humor. I also like to talk because frankly, when I talk I sound smart. Simply put, that makes me feel good. I enjoy being entertaining and making people laugh. Though it isn’t the worst vice in the world, if I’m not careful, it can end up being a pretty self-centered experience that doesn’t have much to do with the person with whom I am speaking.
A wonderful quote by the Indian guru, Shirdi Sai Baba urges us to use modesty when speaking. He said, “Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it necessary? Is it true? Does it improve on the silence?” What we can glean from his wisdom is this: practice speaking only as a contribution to others. Speak with the purpose of leaving others feeling inspired and enlivened. Unlike the wisdom of only saying “nice” things, sometimes we leave others empowered when we also say those things that are hard to hear or hard to say. There is a difference though in practicing “brutal honestly” and being straight with someone with compassion. We know the difference because when we speak without compassion, the other person is left small; and we carry a feeling of smug victory, perhaps even tinged with the aftertaste of regret. When we’ve spoken from a place of abundance, for the purpose of making a difference in someone’s life, both people leave the conversation elevated, enlightened, and proud.
Are You a Gypsy or a Nester? (essay originally posted on Bridges on March 8, 2011)
A wreath hangs on my front door and every spring wrens build a nest there in which they raise their chicks. My kids and I love the return of the wrens; and just the other morning our faithful wrens were checking out the wreath once again. It is curious to me that the movement of the door does not concern them in the least; that they don’t seek to build a home in a more stable and predictable place.
But that is the nature of the wren. The wren is a bit of a gypsy and easily finds a happy nook in which to make a home. That is why for some, the parable of the wren is captured in the saying, “home is where the heart is.” Our heart, our abundance, does not grow from our possessions. It grows from the experiences and adventures we have, as well as the relationships that we make along the way.
I too am a bit of gypsy. I’ve lived all over this country but for nearly the last decade, Winston-Salem, North Carolina has been my adopted home. That is a long time for me to stay in any one place; so over the last couple of years, I’ve spent much of my free time journeying away from the Piedmont exploring new territories.
Recently though I’ve come back to the nest. I’ve taken a fresh look at Winston-Salem and recognize the abundance that is right here at home….
On one beautiful Saturday evening a few weeks ago I walked with a group from one friend’s new digs in Old Salem over to Willow Street Bistro. Willow Street opened this summer and in a few short months they have been blessed with much abundance. The dining room was full and my friends and I happily claimed the last seats at the bar for Sangria Saturday where we talked about life, love, blogging, and road trips.
I’ve revisited favorite haunts and have taken an informal survey of who makes the best martini in town. In the running are The West End Café (a.k.a “my Cheers”), The Village Tavern, Downtown Thai, Firebird, and 6th and Vine…you decide for yourself which one you like best. I’ve also discovered newly-sprung dens in which to dwell like the Screaming Rooster where I indulged in Eggs Benedict, pancakes, and hot chocolate with my son. I grooved to live music at The Garage’s Cash Bash hosted by The Bo Stevens; spun until I was dizzy at Club Therapy’s Latin night; and explored the offerings of Liberty Street Tattoo (Thank you, J).
All of this reverie was rounded off with walks through the trails of The Reynolda House estate where a sea of the daffodils are making their presence known. I visited the gardens of SECCA and Graylyn and appreciated the rich beauty, history, and artistry that we so easily take for granted in Winston-Salem.
It took some time away to get a fresh perspective. It took some time to miss this place to make it feel like home again. But Winston-Salem is my home and I’m proud of this surprisingly eclectic city.
Bridge Builders, no matter from where you are reading this essay, consider reawaking your inner gypsy…and your hometown pride. Has it been a while since you have ventured out into life’s unknown abundance? Is it time to come back to the nest and appreciate the abundance that has been there all along?
Please take a moment and share your favorite haunts, both well-loved and newly-discovered.
How to Build a Home Where Your Heart Is (essay originally posted on Bridges on March 22, 2011)
I asked my kids the question recently, “What makes a home a home?” My son replied, “A home is the place where you have a life since when you were a baby and there is food to eat.” My daughter answered, “Home is where you are loved and can be yourself.”
Though my son is just six years old, he captured the idea that home is a place where we have history. It is the place where people knew us back-when, a place of creature comforts and simple satis- factions. For my daughter, at age eight, home is more about having an emotional soft place to fall.
There is something about home that makes it different than other places we seek refuge along life’s journey. It has a unique “always has been, always will be” mystique for which it is held so dear. It is the place we feel like we can show up just as we are and be taken in with acceptance. Perhaps it is why Glinda The Good Witch of the South incants the spell, “There’s no place like home” to return Dorothy back to the safety of her bed and family in Kansas.
Naturally, there is reason why I’m giving this concept of home so much thought right now. Mainly, it is because it has come to my attention, thanks to some brave and determined friends, that the people in my life don’t always feel at home with me.
I’ve become reluctantly aware of the wedge I have been driving between myself and loved ones. My kids seemed to be confiding in me less. They seem more serious around me, more tentative, even placating. Other relationships have taken a turn that I did not want them to. I’ve been argumentative and defensive. I’ve been quick to blame and walk away.
When I pause and look out over the future I’m creating if I continue this trend, I don’t like what I see … I see my relationship with the beautiful and strong man in my life drawing to a final close. I see my children confiding in me less and less and eventually finding other ears to listen to their life, other hearts make them feel loved and accepted. I see my children’s friends becoming their authority on the world and my wisdom becoming irrelevant. I see them grow into adults and move far away from “home,” having little time or need for me in their life.
So I’ve asked myself, what is missing? What is missing that would make all of the difference in these relationships that are slipping into mediocrity or falling apart all together? The answer I’ve come to is “home.” Home is where the heart is. Home is where we are loved, accepted, welcome, and cared for. Home is the enduring port in the storm, the now and the always. Home is where we have our lives. Home is abundance.
Bridge Builders, I’m repairing the relationships in my life and I’m starting by creating home. What does home mean to you? What abundance can you create, starting with home?
Good Fortune (essay originally posted on Bridges on March 29, 2011)
My son, Colin, earned his yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do last week and it was cause for much celebration in our home. As Colin’s happy news spread in the days that followed, friends reached out to congratulate Colin on his victory. One night while tucking my daughter, Julia, into bed she said to me, “Everyone is talking a lot about Colin these days, aren’t they?”
This is not simply a story about six and eight year old siblings navigating the space between friendship and competition. We can all find ourselves in their story. We have all experienced a time when someone we are close to enjoyed a hard-won success, got unstuck in their life and made changes for the better, or had abundance come to them in some other way. In those times, as much as we have been happy for them, or at least recognized that happiness would be “appropriate”, we may have also found ourselves experiencing a more complex mix of feelings.
I’ve had this happen in my own life when I wanted to be happy for a loved one’s good fortune but the smile on my face felt forced or the easy congratulations was somehow stuck in my throat. I don’t think any of us are proud of these moments when we don’t bask in the abundance of others the way we would like them to do for us.
Why is that? So often how we feel about ourselves is based on a comparison we make to other people and we have a tendency to compare ourselves as not measuring up. Let’s face it, even the times we evaluate ourselves as “better than” is really just a cover up for feeling deficient; because why else would we need to feel “better than” anyone in first place?
There can be a darker side to this too. Sometimes when others make changes in their lives for the better, we can feel so threatened that we may even undermine their success. We may do this overtly or in ways that we aren’t fully aware. We may subtly or not so subtly provoke or invite temptation for them to their return to the way we are used to them being; the way that doesn’t challenge us to live differently as well.
What is the answer? One approach is to practice what Buddhist theory calls Loving Kindness. Loving Kindness teaches that happiness comes from empathizing with others and holding the happiness and suffering of others to be as important as our own. This goes past the notion of “I’m happy for you” and encompasses a basic connectivity between all living things. It is through practicing Loving Kindness that we cultivate love on its most fundamental level.
Another approach is to look within ourselves and to simply get real. Feeling envious of or competitive with another’s success may be a sign that it is time to reach past the limits that define our lives. Imagine what abundance we could create if we transformed envy into inspiration! Imagine what could be possible if we pushed far past the boundaries we’ve known for ourselves and rewrote the story of our lives!
Bridge Builders, who has been inspiring you lately? What abundance will you create through that inspiration? What story will there be to tell?
The Thrill of the Hunt (essay originally posted on Bridges on April 4, 2011)
We are all hunters. Even those of us whose spirit and disposition is more prone to gathering, in the end, we all hunt for survival one way or the other.
I am a huntress in the primal sense of that word. Friends joke that I am like a tiger. When I catch the scent of something for which I hunger, I am passionate and even fierce in my pursuit of it. I protect my children that way, I pursue love that way, and even play that way. There is one area of life though in which I have ironically not brought that hunting spirit. That is in being a provider and the pursuit of financial abundance. I’ve lived my life mostly as a gatherer who hunts a little on the side, ya’ know, just to keep my skills up.
It is not as if money is not important to me. It is. I have bills to pay like everyone else. I also aspire to have a retirement nest egg and to be able to contribute to my children’s college education. I have dreams of traveling and am a sucker for fashion. Not to mention that it is a great joy to be able to share financial abundance with loved ones, the community in which I live, and social causes that make a difference in the world.
So what gives? Why haven’t I hunted for financial abundance and moved powerfully into the role of provider? Up until now, I’ve looked at providing through a narrow lens. I’ve seen how the pursuit of financial abundance can take a person off the track of the rest of their lives; and I know that huntress in me is not very balance by nature. I’m not easily thrown off the scent of something that I am pursuing. That scares me a little. Would I too get caught up in the pursuit of independent wealth once I got my first taste?
It is time for me to make peace with the fact that I want to know what it feels like to be the one who feeds the crowd not because I am the cook, but because I brought home the “bacon.” It is time to allow myself the thrill of the hunt and to trust I that I will know when it is time to come back home and tend to the den and the cubs waiting for me in it. It is time for me to trust that I will still remember to romp in the tall grass and sleep in the afternoon sun.
Bridge Builders, what does being a provider mean to you? How do you balance your spirit as a hunter with upholding hearth and home?
These essays were created by author Cristin Whiting. Cristin enjoys abundance in her life through her love for music, dance, and her children. She creates bridges through a community of friends and family collected from rich experiences living in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. Cristin currently resides in Winston-Salem and has a private psychotherapy practice as a clinical psychologist.