Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.


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Are you sure?

My Dharma teacher from our Plum Blossom Sangha invites everyone to sit or walk in a healing and appreciation meditation for our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. He has been seriously sick for three weeks and only started eating some yoghurt two days ago.

Image courtesy to www.mindfulnessretreats.org.ukTears spring in my eyes as I realize we might lose him. I feel sadness, fear, and grief about the anticipated loss. I decide to meditate outside on the deck, where the bougainvillea blooms abundantly. That will help me celebrate Thich Nhat Hanh’s contribution to the world, and understand and accept the impermanence of life.

As soon as I sit, it starts to rain, while the sun continues to shine exorbitantly. Cloud, rains, and sunshine at the same time. Just like I experience joy, sadness, and appreciation at the same time.

The Buddha taught his students one important question: “Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure?”

I remembered that question when I felt angry and frustrated a few days ago. I went for a walk and told myself “I feel angry and frustrated”. Then it dawned on me, was I sure?

Magic happened.

Sure, I still felt anger and frustration, I still had all these enemy images racing through my mind. I still felt adrenaline pumping through my hands.

And, I felt something else. A sadness about the conflict and disconnect. A joy about all the positive things in our relationship. An openness to and compassion for my partner.

Are you sure?

I feel sadness and fear with the thought of Thich Nhat Hanh dying. And I feel trust that his energy, presence, and teachings are always available to me. And gratitude and relief that I found him and my Sangha to support me on my path of mindfulness. And a solidity within myself that nothing is lost, nothing gained, that there is just a constant change in the manifestation of life.

Are you sure?

You might like to ask yourself that question once in a while.

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You want help to connect more deeply to the fullness of your experience? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.


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Opening up to the vulnerability of life

Image courtesy to The Church in the Dale

Image courtesy to The Church in the Dale

I always thought that retreats are peaceful, tranquil, and joyful.

How wrong can you can be? This retreat was unnerving, disquieting, and disorienting.

In these two days I realized how much of my life has been dominated by my fear that I won’t get the love, acceptance, and support that I so deeply long for. I am creating my own suffering by expecting the world not to meet my needs.

Many of my critical, judgmental, and evaluative voices are my way of keeping people at a distance to minimize the risk that I will feel hurt, lonely, and scared.

I breathe into that realization. I let it sink in. A second insight comes up. These voices don’t indicate that I am not a good person, that there is something wrong with me, that I should practice harder to be compassionate with everyone. They are just a cry for help to trust that I am good enough, that I do matter, and that my presence is indeed a present to the world.

Gosh. This is what I help my clients with. And here I am struggling with this deeply ingrained fear of rejection, ridicule, and abandonment. I am so scared that I interpret every absence of a smile, every lack of a hug, every non-response as proof that I am rejected, etc.

And that’s where my critical thoughts come in handy. They reassure me that there is nothing wrong with me, and everything with them. Another brick in the wall to guard my vulnerable heart.

I wonder “What if I open up to this raw pain of loneliness? What if I gently embrace this fear that my needs for acceptance, mattering, and belonging won’t be met? What if I step into the courage to share myself nakedly, trembling in this old, habitual fear of isolation and lack of support and understanding?

It sounds pretty unpleasant and unappealing. I like the safety of the wall around me. I don’t see much of life, of the real presence of people, and I’m not sure if I’m missing out. Maybe I just want to stay inside these walls of habitual thoughts and reassure myself that everything is okay. That life is really wonderful in this dark, stuffed cave.

And yet… How would life be if I step out into what’s truly alive in me? No evaluation, just owning my experience. How would life be if I am fully aware of and responsive to how I contribute to my own suffering? No judgment, just an observation. How would life be if I create some spaciousness for other ways of being? No force, just experimenting.

It sounds scary. It sounds appealing.

Yeah.

Let’s do that…My thoughts might not be right after all.

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You want help to step fully into being you? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.


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Self-compassion, day 9: Stand your feelings

Smile at Fear, Pema ChodronI wake up and I feel heavy with fear. Literally heavy. It seems almost impossible to move this heavy weight out of bed.

I remember Pema Chodrön‘s invitation to lean into heavy feelings, to lean into the sharp points, and feel the groundlessness of our existence.

This seems a perfect moment to accept the invitation and lean into my fear.

I breathe in, and bring my attention to this dread, this apprehension, this fear. I let it cycle through me, and scrupulously observe it’s different aspects.

It turns into terror, then blind panic, then an overwhelming blackness and feverish nightmare. It grasps me, chokes me, I can’t wake up from it. I sweat and tremble.

Which idiot ever thought this was a good practice? Which imbecile ever thought that leaning into your fear was a good idea? Pema Chödron probably never experienced such consuming feelings. Never experienced the certainty of going crazy and lose your mind. Like forever. Like really forever being stuck in that nightmare.

I feel my breath go faster. I feel my body tighten. I am noticing I am bringing my attention to my breath. To my body. To my feelings. I feel into my experience. It doesn’t get much more comfortable, ànd it stabilizes. I’m getting calmer, more solid.

I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know how it’s happening. But after five minutes I get up. I feel light, relax, open. I made it. Leaning into your feelings might be a good idea after all.

If you want my help to deepen your self-compassion, healing and integration, contact me for a complimentary, discovery session.


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Self-compassion, day 4: Gratitude

There is something about fear that I really appreciate. Something about the moment that fear turns into blind panic and terror. When this happens and it lasts long enough, it dissolves into surrender, softening, letting go.

I’m not talking about the fear that comes up when our live and safety is threatened in this moment. I’m not talking about the fear when bombs fall, someone is coming at us with a knife, we get into a car crash.

I’m talking about anticipating fear. The fear that something will happen in the future. The fear that we won’t create enough income, that our husband is gonna leave us, that we’ll get a disease and die, that we’ll lose connection when we express our authentic truth. Those scenarios our mind chooses from all the possible scenarios and believes to be true. Anticipating fear.

When that fear grasps you long enough, there comes a moment when you cannot sustain it anymore. Your system doesn’t have enough capacity to be and terrified and continue living. It collapses.

Thàt’s the moment to catch. Thàt’s the opportunity to wake up to this moment and realize that all you have is the present moment. That there is really nothing else but this moment. This waking up is not the result of a mental exercise, trying to convince yourself that the future has no reality. It is a visceral experience of understanding your future is beyond your control. You feel in your body that the only thing you can influence is your intention, thoughts, speech and action, right now.

Once that awareness sunk in with me, I completely relaxed. My fears dissipated. All that was left is gratitude. For my hands which are able to hold a pen and write. For the four walls that keep the cold outside, and the warmth in. For the faucet that gives me easy access to water. For the carpenter that made the chair that supports me. For my husband who works, holds me, appreciates me. For my family and friends who are willing to help.

The gratitude list is endless. I giggle. My experiences are faster than my gratitude. There is só much to be grateful for, that I can’t keep up with it.


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Self-Compassion, day 1: I’m doing the best I can

Wangari Maathai shares a beautiful story about a hummingbird and the forest. The forest is on fire and all the animals flee away, terrified of the fire and immobilized by fear of what will happen to their sacred home.

The hummingbird flies off too. To the lake. He picks up one drop and flies back to the forest and drops it on the fire. Then he flies back to the lake as fast as he can and picks up another drop. And another. And another.

All the animals watch him and ask: “Why are you doing this? It’s not gonna help? Your beak is too small, the fire too big, and your wings too slow.” The hummingbird pauses a second, then replies “I’m doing the best I can.”

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with our situation, the situation of our world. We see all the suffering, within ourselves, in other people, nearby, far away. The task is too heavy, the stakes too high. Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now, but whatever we have to offer is nothing compared to the grief and suffering. There is too much to do, and we stand to lose it all. The situation seems overwhelming, and we get paralyzed.

Those are the moments that we can stop. We stop to appreciate everything we are doing. Every thought we create, every word we speak, every step we take. We appreciate how we contribute to more abundance in the world, more prosperity, more security, more love, connection, peace, joy, and harmony. We acknowledge how our efforts bring more loving-kindness, compassion, support and understanding into the world. We appreciate how we work to sustain ourselves, our loved ones, and those we don’t know yet. We might not create the results we want. But, we’re doing the best we can.

And that’s enough.


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A cry a day keeps the doctor away

A friend of my teacher Kit Miller once asked her “Did you cry today?”, and upon Kit’s surprised “No.” “Well, you should. Crying once a day is good for you.

A sort of variance of “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

I agree with Kit’s friend. Every time I call Silent unity, I cry. Whether I call in with a sense of calm and peace, or a sense of anxiety and fear, I cry during every phone call.

It is refreshing, releasing, relieving. I call them, they pray for my abundance, prosperity, they tell me that all good comes from God, through Go. They reassure me that He will show us ways -both known and unknown- to make enough money to keep the house. And all this time I cry.

I love it. A safe haven to let go off my anxiety, my worries, my tiredness. No questions asked. They describe the picture of what I want so much, affirming I have everything I need and that God provides for us. And I can rest in that trust and redirect my energies to that which is positive and within my circle of influence.

The first thing I do, is ask God to take away my negative thoughts. This is new for me. Usually I empathize with my negative thoughts. I connect to the feelings that come up with these thoughts. I explore the universal, human needs underlying these feelings. I follow Pema Chodron‘s advice to lean into this experience. To use this experience to expand my compassionate understanding of what it’s like to be human.

Not these days. These days I ask God to take away my negative thinking, my looping, habitual, reiterative thoughts of scarcity, lack, not enough. And I happily have energy to do what needs to be done. Creating the conditions my husband and I need to be able to concentrate on generating income. Joy, love and harmony. My mom’s motto: Rust, reinheid en regelmaat. (rest, cleanness, and regularity).

So far, I am successful. My husband is chunking along on a deal that will generate our abundance and prosperity. I am expanding my web presence, so I’m easier find to by potential clients. We’re eating well, sleeping peacefully, exercising enough. We’re in it for the long run. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon. We’re prepared.

Crying certainly cleans up the inner space to be ready and run.


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Surrender to love

Surrender to love

Surrender to love

Dear Child,

I am very proud of you. I see how you’re finding ways to deal with your fear and thoughts of scarcity. I am very happy you found Silent Unity. I understand that you like their affirmative prayer. I can imagine how relieved you feel every time you hear them say that abundance and prosperity are yours. I know that God opens ways for you to earn the money you need to keep the house.

Trust your intention and your gut instincts. Those are God’s way of talking to you, showing you your next step.

I feel relieved that you asked the archangels Michael, Gabriel, Rafael and Uriel to guard the four sides of your home and keep you safe. I see how strong and solid they stand. Unwavering in cold and storm. Shining and radiant, powerful. They will keep all harm away from your door.

Don’t forget to pray till God. He is the source of all life, all love, all light. She will provide for you in all the ways you need.

All you need to do is open your heart. Let love and faith and trust grow in you and make you strong. Support your husband the best way you can. Nurture him, cherish him, embrace him. Make sure he gets enough sleep and food to generate the income you need.

Surrender to love. Surrender to the power within you to create what you want. A sanctuary for all life. A warm welcome for all creatures on earth. Your friends, your family, the friends-you-haven’t-met. Your home is a safe haven for the mice who chose your home as theirs. The scorpions, lizards, ants, spiders. You ferociously protect them. Against the water of the shower, the cleaning cloth, the vacuum cleaner. You are the protector of the trees and plants around the house. This home, this land is not just yours. It is the land and home of all living beings.

This is a sacred home. You’ll keep it, my beloved child.


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My trees, my business

Trees

Trees (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I venture out in the woods. I walk slowly. Carefully. Joyfully. I feel my feet touch the earth, and let the energy arise through me. Every step a connection to the earth. I enjoy the sun. The bright colors of the leaves: red, green, orange, yellow. My friend told me how rich she feels this time of year. The golden leaves fall on her, fill the streets with it’s riches. It’s golden abundance is available to everyone. I feel cherished and welcomed in the woods. Nurtured.

I have no plan. Just to spend 30 minutes in nature. I see a little creek I have never seen before. The heavy rains created it on the rocky path. Small, tenderly dripping away. It is quiet. Just the sounds of my breath, my footsteps, the breeze.

I hear a tree. It calls out to me. A juniper. It’s branches spread out wide and evenly. Inviting.

I hear my heart. Climb!

I hear my mind. NO!

I climb. One branch. Looping to the other side for the next branch. Avoiding getting stuck in the twigs. A next step. Taking a break.

My heart starts racing. I’m scared. I’m here on my own. I have no belay. If I fall, it might take hours before I’m found. I can’t afford a broken leg. I hug the tree. Lean into it. I feel how solid I am, how strong. I trust my body, myself. I take a next step. I feel fear. I rest, connect to my belly, to my heart. I respect my fear. I treat it with great reverence. It takes minutes. Then I take a next step. I see out over the tree tops. I see the valley, and all the autumn trees celebrating fall in splendid colors.

I rest. I celebrate. My agility. My trust. My strength. My fear. My steps.

This is how I run my business. One step. Feeling my fear. Leaning into life. Finding my balance. My solidity. My trust. Then a next step. Let fear arise, loneliness. Worries. Give them space to talk. Listen. With empathy and compassion. No fixing, reassuring, arguing. Just listen. Listen to life and how it supports me. Then a next step. No fighting the branches for being to far apart. No impatience with my fear. No comparing myself with other, faster climbers. That’s not my path.

My path is to experience what it is like to be me. My path is to experience which conditions support me. Take a step. Connect to what’s alive in me. And then a next step.


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Playing business

Smile!

Smile!

Want to boost your business? Create a package. Something unique, something special. Offer it at 10x your normal price. Suggested by Patrick Schwerdtfeger. (More suggestions at Write Nonfiction Now!)

What? My heart starts racing. My armpits start sweating, I’m getting excited.

I imagine a retreat center. In the mountains, beautiful and serene. Eagles fly in the sky, trees stand tall. The theme is failure applause. To celebrate our efforts, and accept our failures. To free us of attachment to results, comparison with others and to life now. Building blocks: Individual coaching. Healing work. Group sessions. Silent meditation and creative arts.

And ask $2000 for it? Are you kidding? I don’t think I add enough value to ask that! I don’t think I am better than any of the other fantastic coaches out there! I don’t think I am worth that money!

And yet… Something tickles me. No one needs to sign up for my package. I can see it as play. To play being a successful, confident business woman.

I giggle. I think of a game my sister and I played at my grandma’s house, when we were young.

My grandma lived in a park, opposite a castle. There were trees around the house, a lake, rhododendrons. Visitors strolled on the premises, enjoying the beauty.

My sister and I would get dressed up in long, white dresses. Fancy shoes, lace gloves, brimmed hats. Then walk up and down the balcony, waving at people passing by. Graciously. Self-confident. Happy. We are princesses. We smile, and they smile back. What I never had the courage to do in normal life, I am perfectly happy to do in play.

Life is play. My business is play. I create a unique offer and ask 10x of what I feel comfortable with. Just for fun. I smile. I see people smile back.


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Climbing a tree

I’m climbing a tree. 100 Feet high. I am terrified of heights. I  tremble with fear standing on a ladder. Diving of a diving board is beyond my comfort zone. Let alone climbing a 100 feet high tree. Okay, I was anchored to a belay. It made no difference. The fear was shaking my body.

I made this a sacred journey. Into my fears. To my dreams. A unique opportunity to be fully present with my terror, be touched by it, open up to it.  A holy practice of trust. Of the tree, my community, of myself. Trust that life and light arise from embracing my feelings.

I wake up at 6 am, meditate and write a poem. I walk up to the tree, and hug it. “Please, allow me to step on your branches. Talk to me. Share your wisdom. Hold me and keep me safe.” My belay drums the drum and sings a song. My two friends bow to me. I get into my harness, and take the first step. I am terrified. I tremble. I sweat. I put my arms around the tree and cry. Tears of existential fear. I wait till I hear the tree tell me my next step. It seems incredibly far away. I take my step. I tremble. I sweat. I cry. I wrap myself around the tree. “Talk to me. Hold me. Keep me safe. Show me my next step.” I don’t move till I regain trust and courage. In the tree, my belay, myself. I see the next step. I tremble. I sweat. I cry. I continue.

Halfway I am complete. I did my inner work. I stood my feelings. I don’t have to reach the top. I don’t have to force myself to get results. “Ann, I am ready to get down!” Ann responds: “Look down, and feel your feelings. Look up and feel your feelings. Then make a choice.” I look down and see my community, patiently waiting and honoring my choice. I look up and see myself exuberant with the total sense of freedom of having journeyed through my fears, terrors, and obstacles to life, to choice, to trust.

I take another step. And another. And another. And within minutes I am at the top. I look out over the canopy of trees, it is beautiful beyond imagination. I look down, and feel no fear. Just extreme freedom and joy. I am one with the universe. I yell so loud, that it can be heard at camp. “I AM AN ANIMAL!!!”. I take off my shirt, my bra, and I let the universe touch my very skin, my bones, my cells. There is no “I”, there is no “you”, there is no “here”, no “there”. There just is. Right here, right now.  Being.

I have a kissing reminder of the tree on my leg. Some call it a scar. I call it the proud mark of my courage, the tree and living life to the fullest.