inner peace

St Patrick’s Day is here and the celebrations are in full swing, from turning rivers green (famously in Chicago and even locally the Hillsborough River) to parades and parties. The reason for the celebration, according to tradition, is in honor of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland. However, as there is little evidence that this island ever had many snakes. Apparently, as snakes in biblical terms represent evil and Pagans were considered the same by Christians, it was the Pagan folks that were driven away (or converted.)
I like to use the metaphor in my life in a bit different way. I am not in any rush to drive Pagans or any other group of people out of my life, but evil can leave. Now, I am not plagued by evil, don’t mean to imply that.  However, anything that stands in the way of my true inner peace can leave now.
Ironically, I once had a horrid fear of snakes. It took some self -hypnosis and contact with the creatures for me to change that.  So, what are the snakes that I and so many others I meet deal with? FEAR is a biggie! Fear can rob us of inner peace as quickly as it becomes a thought.
We have a continuous inner voice that seems to rage on and on when we are anxious or fearful. This self-talk hugely affects our emotions and behaviors. When we start telling ourselves things that don’t line up with reality we get into trouble. We start thinking and believing thoughts that just aren’t true and these false beliefs become a prime breeding ground for unhealthy fears.
Often our first impulse when we experience fear is to avoid the source. When the danger is real, avoidance is an appropriate tactic. When fear is irrational, avoidance is inappropriate and will only make the problem more intense. Many people are in the habit of seeing the negative side of any challenging situation. When we focus on the negatives, we resist taking action and continue to avoid, becoming stuck. The more we focus on the possibility of loss the more anxiety and fear we create.
Avoidance is a serious obstacle to dealing with fear because it works. We temporarily feel good through avoidance. The problem is we can condition ourselves to avoid something rather than face it. As a result, we give a portion of our lives over to the thing we fear, letting it control us. Avoidance will never make fear go away.
You may find it helpful to make a list of any specific fears you have and get them out in the open. In each situation that leaves you feeling hesitant or fearful, try to understand exactly what is holding you back. What is it that you are afraid will happen and why? Are those things really likely to occur, or is there only a slight chance? If you take your fear to the extreme that you are worried about, what are the odd of that extreme coming through?
Next, use a separate sheet of paper and create a list of the benefits you stand to gain by moving forward. Be as specific and optimistic as you can. Remember that dread and fear will amplify your perception of the negative possibilities, which can make the positive benefits seem significantly smaller or less important. So, you may need to work a little harder at emphasizing the positive.
Comparing the two lists, you can then make a balanced decision. You will have a better, more balanced view of your options.
Recently I spoke with a woman plagued with anxiety attacks. Apparently, the onset of these attacks coincided with her beginning a job search. The more we discussed her concerns about finding the right job, the more her fears were expressed. When we took these fears to their extreme, she decided she was not likely to end up a homeless bag lady or dead on the streets of Tampabay. As we discussed the possibilities of what could go right, her fears began to dissipate.
In her case, she decided to move forward with the job search. She is not going to let fear get in her way. So, her snakes have been driven away.

Take a moment today to channel your inner St. Patrick and drive those snakes out of your life. Breathe in that inner peace, picture and imagine the beauty of those Irish hills and wonder what beauty might be waiting for you to enjoy.

Keeping up with the Joneses has appeared to have gone out of fashion. First, the book The Millionaire Next Door made us aware that conspicuous spending was not going to be wise in the long run. Now, it is far too easy to look out your window and see the foreclosures lining your neighborhood. Friends are having pot luck get-togethers instead of hosting lavish events. So, we are looking for experiences instead of status symbols.
Yet, there is one area where it seems we haven’t fully let go of the need to be the biggest, best, latest or greatest. Enter Social Media. We know better than to compare ourselves with others, there will always be someone who can claim more. If you read the posts and tweets that people put out there for all to see, you might think you aren’t going to enough events, eating enough trendy foods or having enough inspirational moments.
If one business owner puts it out there how busy they are, three of their competitors now share how much busier they are. If I am to believe all I see online, concerts and theater are no longer special events, but rather part of the normal weekly list of things to do and be crossed off. I am amazed how many donut makers want to post quotes of inspiration and motivation on their wall, instead of reminding me just how delicious their baked goods are.  We have created a whole new level of competition/Joneses. Now, in order to feel good about ourselves, we need to have the most connections, responses, retweets, likes and comments.

Perhaps it is time to put down the phone, tablet, or any other device long enough to take a walk outside. Oh, I know you enjoy walking to your favorite tunes or audio book; however, listening to the birds or even your footsteps can be so very grounding and calming. What if you took a step back from social media for a few minutes of each day to be present, really present? What if you stopped comparing your social calendar with your 5000 “friends” and instead enjoyed just being you? I wonder who we might become then?

Once again with Groundhog Day upon us, we await to see whether Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow to tell the nation whether the winter will continue on until mid-March or if he doesn’t see his shadow, we will have an early spring and be done with the cold Polar Vortex. I find it interesting that a shadow is what determines whether he will continue to hide in his burrow. After all, don’t we do the same thing in life? We hide from our shadow side, the secrets we don’t want the world to see. 

It is in facing our shadow, that we are set free. Brené Brown, Ph.D. a research professor at the University of Houston, author and speaker explains how shame lives in silence and it isn’t until we shine the light (in a safe place with a safe support system) that we can release it. We have to fight the urge to hide and live in the cold dark winter of our souls. 

There have been times I have reached out with my pain to someone I thought might be safe, only to have it turned on me. That hurts. But, it isn’t the end, I didn’t don’t give up. If I am to be reborn into the spring, then I must continue to face my shadows and bring them into the light.

According to his official site there has only been one Punxsutawney Phil. He is timeless, as a result of drinking a secret elixir every summer at the Groundhog Picnic. Once again, the irony strikes me as we are always searching for that magical elixir. Yet, we know we are energy and energy while it changes forms, doesn’t end. 

For me, the true elixir of life is living in joy and with purpose. That requires me to stay in the now, for in this moment I am at peace. There are no guarantees for tomorrow and yesterday is a memory, but in the now I am peace.

Wishing all a day of true peace, joy and love. May those begin within and extend to all you encounter.
The recent showing of the The Sound of Music Live! found me enthralled. It brought back so many childhood memories of seeing the Julie Andrews portrayal of Fraulein Maria and how I would sing and play in the woods near my childhood home, that I was a part of the Von Trapp group. It was magical then and it was magical again with the live presentation. 
Then I made the mistake of reading comments on social media. The news was filled with comments and rebuttals. It all seemed so sad to me. However, it also made me very aware that I am glad I am not a critic, at least the professional kind. Often, the job of a critic has seemed somewhat glamorous to me. Imagine getting paid to see the best of Broadway, movies or to eat in a variety of restaurants? I thought I would love that. This recent event has made me aware of something quite different. These folks are paid to analyze and critique every nuance of whatever it is they are reviewing. They get paid to pan things!
It is often said that we are hard wired to go to the negative. I am working in my own life on appreciation and gratitude. The news is filled everyday with stories of a bad economy, slow recovery and political fighting. People I know and love are suffering in so many ways, from health to relationships to you can fill in the blanks! An escape in the world of music, art, literature, dining, is a welcome reprieve. Yet, here these critics do their best to send me right back to noticing what is wrong!

I know it is a job and the critics are doing theirs. I am just thankful that it isn’t my job. I will continue to focus on the things in my life that I can appreciate. Being thankful that I am able to share my gratitude with my clients is just one of many of my favorite things!

Wish you were “feelin’ groovy” as Simon and Garfunkel once sang? You know, able to slow down because you move too fast? It seems as though that plea has been around for as long as mankind, yet the more we create time savers, the busier we become. We watch TV while surfing the web on our iPads, we walk down the street while talking on the phone. We listen to music while driving or tweet and update statuses on Facebook and Foursquare, checking messages at the stop lights.

Now add to that our work can be stressful. The economy, bottom line concerns, fuel us to utilize all of our waking moments trying to be “more productive”. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 41% of the more than 1,700 respondents say they typically feel stressed out on the job.
Workplace stress is not uncommon, but how we deal with it can have a negative impact on mental and physical health, and can cost businesses a lot of money.

So maybe Simon and Garfunkel weren’t so far off, perhaps it is time to slow down and say “Life I love you!” Slowing down is a conscious choice and not always an easy one. It does, however, lead to a greater appreciation for life and a greater level of happiness.

Here are seven quick tips to help you slow down:

1. Do less. It’s hard to slow down when you are trying to do a million things. Instead, make the conscious choice to do less. Ask yourself, is this really necessary? Focus on what’s really important and let go of the rest. Build in time between tasks and appointments, so you can move through your days at a more leisurely pace. 

2. Be present. It’s not enough to just slow down — you need to actually be mindful of whatever you’re doing at the moment. So, when you find yourself thinking about something you need to do, or something that’s already happened, or even something that might happen, bring yourself back to the present moment. Observe how happy our pets are, they aren’t worried about tomorrow’s meal, they just want to play with you now. Focus on what’s going on right now. Be aware of your actions, your environment and others around you. This takes practice but is so very worth while.

3. Disconnect. If you carry around a smartphone or other mobile device, shut it off. Better still, learn to leave it behind when possible. If you work on a computer most of the day, have times when you disconnect so you can focus on other things. Being available all the time means we’re subject to interruptions, we’re constantly stressed about information coming in and we are at the mercy of the demands of others. 

4. Appreciate nature. Many of us are shut in our homes and offices and cars, buses and trains most of the time, and rarely do we take the opportunity to go outside. Often, even when people are outside, they’re on their cell phones. Instead, take the time to go outside and really observe nature, take a deep breath of fresh air, enjoy the serenity of water and greenery. Exercise and play outdoors when you can. Find outdoor activities to enjoy such as nature walks, kayaking, swimming, etc. Feel the sensations of water and wind and earth against your skin. Try to do this daily — by yourself or with loved ones.

5. Eat slower. Instead of cramming food down our throats as quickly as possible — leading to overeating and a lack of enjoyment of our food — practice eating slowly. Take three deep breathes before beginning a meal or snack. Be mindful of each bite, taking time to appreciate the flavors, aromas and textures. Eating slowly has the double benefit of making you fuller on less food and making the food taste better. 

6. Daydream. Let your mind wander. Most of us have been told daydreaming is a bad habit, but research shows that it actually allows us to be more creative. When we reduce stress, our minds are able to access regions of our brain not available when we’re stressed out. So, close your door, turn off anything electronic and close your eyes for five to 10 minutes. Let your mind wander. Who knows, the flashes of insight that come could be your next million dollar idea?

7. Breathe. When you find yourself speeding up and stressing out, pause, and take a deep breath. Take a couple more. Really feel the air coming into your body, and feel the stress going out. By fully focusing on each breath, you bring yourself back to the present, and slow yourself down. Again, notice our pets and how they breathe. Their bellies go up and down, as the air goes in and out of their diaphragms, babies breathe the same way. Try your best to do the same. 

If you want to take a moment right now to slow down and relax, visit my website here for the free audio: Serenity 

Tampa made a top 10 list, in fact it made it to the number one spot! But, not a list we like to brag about around here. 
Sperling’s BestPlaces, a research firm specializing in livability rankings, has released its new study of major cities with the most and least stress.  The study analyzed a variety of factors associated with stress, including suicide, divorce, crime, joblessness and lengthy commuting. 
With that in mind, I decided to do my part to help reduce the stress. It may not be the cure, but if it even helps change one attitude, I believe the butterfly effect may begin.

 Click Here For Calm

Be sure you have a few minutes to enjoy, uninterrupted. Then please, share with anyone you might know that could use a moment of comfort. 

Working Women Of Florida hosted a conference on September  5th and 6th at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, FL. I was honored to be asked to speak on the subject of fear. Standing on the stage with 400 women present was an awesome experience. (Notice the picture at the top of this page.) The love and energy of this group of women inspired me to keep doing what I love most. I met some pretty amazing ladies, whom I hope to share with for a long time to come.
The presentation included the 5 “A’s” to remember when you desire to overcome fear. Those include:
  • Acknowledge
  • Awfulize
  • Appreciate
  • Ask (Afform)
  • Act
Acknowledge your fear and what it really represents for you. Is there a deeper reason for the fear? For instance, I once experienced a fear of driving that was more about a fear of success than it was about driving. Once I acknowledged that, I was ready to let that go and move forward!
Awfulize those dreaded experiences. In other words, take it to the extreme. That can help you realize that things aren’t going to be quite what you imagine. If in fact they are pretty bad, you might be surprised at the tools and skills you have in place for handling the situation.
Appreciate that in the past those feelings have served a purpose. Once you can accept and honor that, it is time to understand that you have outgrown other old behaviors (i.e. thumb sucking for comfort).  You no longer need these limiting thoughts and beliefs.
Ask questions that will help you. Rather than continuing to ask questions based in negative programming, begin to ask the questions that a changed you might ask. Instead of asking, “what if this went wrong”, imagine asking, “what if this went right”? (More information on questions that work for you can be found in the works of Noah St. John, originator of Afformations.)
Act on your new beliefs and understandings. To decide you have overcome a fear of elevators is great, to ride in one is real victory. Find someone you trust to support you in taking those first steps and celebrate the new you!

Take steps today to begin creating the life free of fear that you desire. Please, let me know your stories. I’d love to share your successes with others.


Written by:
What qualities would you like to be remembered for?

Loving, friendly, creative, steadfastness, warm-heartedness, reliability, humor … what is it for you? Practice those qualities now. 

  • Monitor your thoughts and be compassionate with yourself. 
  • Take time each day to feel the gratitude for simple pleasures in life. 
  • Breathe deeply. (Just by practicing deep focused, breathing for 2 minutes daily you will discover your body becomes used to responding in a calmer, more focused manner.)
  • Exercise daily, it is as good for your head as it is for your body.
  • Turn off the television, internet or anything else that prevents you from getting good rest at night.
  • Eat healthy foods, taking time to enjoy the taste, smells and textures of each bite.
  • Eliminate clutter, it sticks in your head and to your butt!
  • Forget guilt, it is an after the fact, unnecessary emotion.
  • Find a reason to smile and laugh.
  • Find and follow your Spiritual path.

You can evolve into who you aspire to be.  What you practice is what younger generations will learn. So, what will your legacy be?

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