5 Practices to Get the Most Out of Your Gratitude Challenge!

In 5 or 6 weeks, gratitude posts are going to begin popping up all over the place. In fact, it was a 30-day challenge that I gave myself nearly 3 years ago that began my path to grateful living. I wanted to make a change in me, and as an ever-so-slightly competitive person, I respond well to challenges, even those that are self-imposed. I figured the month of Thanksgiving (Thanks Giving) was a good time to begin, so I simultaneously challenged myself to post gratitude for 30 days AND get on the elliptical machine every day, too. I was ready to finally shed the weight that I carried from having 3 kids and a French (now-ex) husband who could cook like a god. I succeeded in my challenge, and so I did it again a year later and basically, I never stopped. Aside from dropping off for a night or two, or even a few weeks here and there, I've been consistently practicing and posting gratitude for nearly 2 years and you know what? It feels darn good. 

In my amateur research on the topic, I discovered many unexpected benefits of gratitude and that there were specific ways of practicing gratitude that created the most impact. 

1. Write it down. Writing down your gratitude allows you to experience whatever you're grateful for all over again! It's like bathing your cells in goodness! 

2. Be Specific. This is the opposite of generalizing by writing, "I am so grateful for my family." Yes, and? WHAT, specifically, are you grateful about in regards to your family? An example of specificity would be like this: "I am so grateful for my family because we recognize that our bond as family is more important than our political leanings. Today, my brother and I had a deeply respectful and loving conversation about our different viewpoints, which led us to discovering our similarities." Like so. #truestory

3. List 5 Things. Sometimes my lists easily edge closer to 7 or 8 things, and sometimes coming up with 5 is a challenge. But that's the point! We are working to build a muscle, change our neurology, teach ourselves to actively look for what we can be grateful for throughout our day. Looking for moments in your day that were loving, funny, kind, and meaningful becomes a habit after a few weeks (disclaimer: habits take closer to 60 days to form; not the 21 days as previously espoused). We are actively re-wiring our brains when we practice gratitude. After a while, I began to notice that in moments of irritation I would start to wonder what, about the situation, would I be grateful for later. That was an exceptionally powerful habit to foster as I experienced divorce, I tell you, but that's a story for another time. 

4. Change it up. Be sure to find different things to be grateful for each day. Don't just say your kids every day. Getting specific helps in that, but writing about the same thing every night loses its charge. It's important to look at all areas of your day and your life. 

5. Practice first thing in the morning or the last thing at night (or both!). Many gratitude enthusiasts suggest beginning your day with gratitude. I can see how that would be powerful, and occasionally, I do, however, I'm usually in a rush in the morning. I made it my practice to write my gratitude posts just before bed. Sometimes even in bed. For me, this ensures that no matter how challenging of a day I might have had, or how grumpy I might feel after trying to get 3 kids to (stay in!) bed, I end my day feeling loving and peaceful. I end up being incredibly grateful for gratitude. 

A practice of gratitude will change your life. It will. It will change your neurology, it will change your outlook, it will improve your physical and emotional health, and it will very likely improve your relationship with yourSelf and others.  

I invite you to begin a practice of gratitude online or in a journal (handwriting has even more benefits, but my fingers can keep up with my thoughts faster on a keyboard than with a pen). I'll be posting nightly, as always, within my Facebook Create A Life You Love Group. If you're local to Metro Detroit, you're welcome to join us. If not, create your own gratitude challenge among your friends. Accountability is a powerful motivator. You can even post your gratitude in the comments below - I'd LOVE 30-days of gratitude comments!! I'd be so grateful. 

 

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Coming Out

No, not the rainbow kind... I'm coming out from shame. From the shame that an abuser manipulatively uses to keep his (or her) victim quiet. For nearly 3 years I have been healing through whispers, sharing pieces of my story with those who have also been through it, or those whom I trust implicitly because of the emotional safety that they create with their presence. And only a little, tiny bit more with a group of conscious creators that I like to call, "Passionistas." 

We have been divorced for over a year; separated for nearly 3. He periodically goes on text tangents (because he is unable to speak to me in person without losing his.. temper) about how I should look up the definition of shame; that I am shame; that I should be ashamed. He wrote recently, "Shame is all over you. Shame is what you are."  My goodness, I am only just now realizing that he - my abuser, my husband for 15-years and the father of my 3 children - is right. 

He is right, after all. I am ashamed. I am. 

I am ashamed to have allowed him to shame me. I am ashamed of the hate for him that boils up inside of me when I work so hard to find some aspect of love for him for my childrens' sake and for my own soul. I am ashamed for staying silent for so long. I am ashamed for believing him when he says that it's me. That I am the crazy one. That I have made it (the verbal, emotional abuse) all up in my mind to justify my behavior. I am ashamed for the times that I believed... believe... him. 

Part of what keeps us quiet is that we... let me try that again. After a deep breath... part of what keeps me... no, what has kept me quiet, is the shameful belief that maybe they are the ones telling the true story. They are so convincing. He is so convincing. He is so sure that I am the one who has done all of the wrong that I have believed it, too. Even after two years out from under his thumb, a few sessions together in co-parenting counseling late last year had me questioning myself again. Maybe I was the one making up the story! Maybe he is perfectly fine (mentally intact) and I am the one living in an alternate reality! 

And fear. Fear for the repercussions of sharing my story. I don't know if he visits my website. I don't know if he looks at what can be seen publicly on my Social Media. I very rarely share anything directly about him, except in private conversations with  my closest friends. I don't want his anger to impact my children more than it already does. And I don't want anymore irrelevant, spiteful texts from him! 

And fear. Fear that the people who I love and who I believe love me won't believe me. That they'll say because he only hit me once or twice (and I hit him back) that it wasn't, and isn't, abuse. Verbal abuse doesn't count. Silent treatment for days at a time doesn't count. Angry outbursts and broken dishes don't count. Tiny, little (emotional) cuts don't count.

Yes, they do.

When I first told someone close to me that I was thinking of leaving my husband, she told me to "sex him up." That they're always happier when they're getting some. I was devastated. I provided that service for 15 years. It rarely made a difference in the level of alcohol he consumed or the number of insults he spit out. Apparently, I'm just too sensitive.

And No. I am not.

I am, however, someone who appreciates peace and calm and moderation. All of my life I've been a peacemaker. That, too, has kept me quiet. And no more. I can't. It is my responsibility to show others that they are not alone. That this happens. That it is real. That it is devastatingly painful and impacts the victim in ways someone who hasn't been through it can't even imagine. In ways that those of us who have been through it can hardly admit. 

So, I am coming out today. For myself. And for you. Verbal-emotional abuse is real. It is impactful. It happens all of the time and we do not deserve it. I do not deserve it. You do not deserve it. And like I did, you can find a way to leave, whatever it takes. What it really takes is simply courage. The courage to leave. 

Courage

Uncovering the Blocks to Self-Love

Today, I am grateful to have learned from my daughter. She has wisdom that few possess at 11-years-old. She often asks me random questions about life. This evening as I cleaned the kitchen after our dinner, she was flipping through a Parenting magazine. She looked up from her spot on the sofa and asked me if I knew what she didn't like about transgendered people. The question surprised me, coming from my young sage, and I tensed, ready to preach, but she followed it with, "that they don't just accept themselves as they are." Ah.

So, we talked about cultural conditioning and societal programming (a little soapbox, but she seems to welcome it still). I asked her to imagine what it would be like if she were raised to believe there was something inherently wrong with her, that she wasn't normal. I asked her if she would want to change, in that case, to be "like everybody else." And she said, "No, I wouldn't want to change anything about me, because then I wouldn't be me."

Perfect. <3

Yet, this is the same girl who tells me that she doesn't love herself. Her actions and her other words tell me differently. Somewhere she has picked up the "agreement" that one should not love themselves. That this is ego. She may well have picked it up from me in her early childhood, as I was not mySelf then. So, it is society that tells us we are unlovable; that we are not good enough for our own love, respect, and appreciation. Or, Society tells us that it simply isn't allowed, or ok, to love ourselves. And this is a lie.

The truth is that we *are* love. You *are* love. You can't be undeserving of something you already are. I am grateful to my eldest daughter for being my teacher tonight. And every night.

Tell me, where did you learn that you shouldn't/couldn't love yourself? Be Courage (yes, be "courage") and share. <3

Who told you?

Pushing Buttons

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I never imagined myself to be one who pushes other people's buttons. I'm a middle child, a peacekeeper. I'm moderate everything. I see the gray, rarely the black or the white. I want happiness for all and frequently wonder why it's so hard for people to see both sides or to simply get along. 

Then recently, I noticed that I give a little push. I hear or see the words of those lost in victimhood. They don't even notice it. They say things like, "This always happens to me," or "Story of my life..." and I say, "Oh, no wonder." And then I find myself pushing. Gently, lovingly, but pushing, nevertheless. Mirroring their words back to them so that they can see what they are creating. Some see it. Some don't. But regardless, I willingly reach out and push. 

Few of us know exactly why we're here on this Earth. That existential question plagues so many of us. I am grateful to know exactly why I am here. I am a button pusher. The button? Its label reads, "Growth." 

Why are you here? Need help discovering it? Take the Passion Test with me. It's so much more than you think. 

Love and Snowflakes

My son, the youngest of my children, has recently developed a particular wardrobe preference. He's obsessed with wearing shorts and knee-high socks. Because the Michigan weather is not yet shorts-worthy, he has instead taken to pulling up his socks over his jeans or pants (that's trousers for you UK English speakers). Honestly, it looks silly to me... and to my daughters who seem to be embarrassed and annoyed by his choices. They were complaining at the bus-stop, asking me to "make" him take his pants out of his socks, a request that I refused. 

This snowflake landed in my 9-year-old daughter's hair. While the picture isn't perfect, the snowflake was. 

This snowflake landed in my 9-year-old daughter's hair. While the picture isn't perfect, the snowflake was. 

Recently at home, we've been talking about values and integrity. My children are 10, 9, and 6 years old, and like I learned from Stephen Covey back at Uni in the 90s, I've begun my parenting journey with the end in mind. I'm raising human beings with the intention that they grow as positive forces of love in this world.

Hopefully, I consistently model our morals and values, so they've been learning along the way, but now they are old enough to learn the words that accompany the daily actions that define us.

I asked them what our Value was about acceptance. Don't we value accepting others completely and lovingly as they are? As we talked about the unique aspects of their wardrobe choices (one of them barely pays any attention and throws on whatever she reaches first and the other has a rather quirky sense of style that reminds me of Punky Brewster), I could see them start to let go of their firm belief that I should "make" him change his style ways. If he loves it and feels good, I asked them, then why should he change anything? 

"Do you feel good about yourself when you're dressed like that?" I asked my adorable little guy. He absolutely beamed. "Yes!" Then that's good enough for me.

My daughters shrugged and laughed and just then, I noticed the snowflake that had landed in "Punky's" hair. It was a star! Another snowflake floated gently into her long, brown hair. It was perfect - like the cut-out clings we stick on our windows at Christmas. I had just enough time to snap a picture before the school bus appeared. 

As I walked back to the house, I reflected. Why is it so easy for us to respond with awe and wonder to the beauty and uniqueness of a snowflake? We celebrate the fact that no two are ever the same. School children are taught this in a way that feels magical and the knowledge fills us with delight. Why, then, don't we feel that about one another? We are each one of Nature's unique and perfect creations; as different and as beautiful as snowflakes. 

We never judge a snowflake, do we? Or ask it to change or conform to be like we are. Why do we do that to each other? Just for a day, I invite you to look at others the same way you would a snowflake - with awe and wonder. See each person for the perfect, magical, unique expression of Nature and humanity that they are. 

How to Handle Bumps Along the Road of Life - Tools to Get You from Contraction back into Expansion

The Passion Test is like a map or a GPS, guiding you along the path to your ideal life. The formula shows you how to love the journey as much as the destination, but as with any road-trip, sometimes there are bumps along the way. Maybe a portion of the road is closed and you have to take a detour. Perhaps there's an accident up ahead that delays you for longer than you'd hoped. Or, maybe the car breaks down and parts have to be replaced. 

Plenty of obstacles can crop up on the way to our ideal life. So what can we do? How do we get back on track? The answer is simple:

Tools. Anytime something breaks, you pull out a tool to fix it, right? Any time a screw comes loose, or a nail sticks out too far, you grab a tool and put it right again. 

As you walk your path of living and creating a life that is more joyful and fulfilling, challenges arise. Screws come loose. And so, there are tools. 

This week, I'm sharing a specific tool to help you keep your nuts and bolts securely in place. EFT, commonly known as tapping, is an incredible resource to utilize when things begin to feel messy and overwhelming. It's called "tapping" because you use your fingers to "tap" on points on your body. 

It's like having acupuncture at your fingertips, only free, always available, and no scary needles. You can tap on anything at all, physical or emotional and you can't do it wrong. You tap on specific points as you talk (or think) about the issue at hand (no pun intended). 

I'm not an expert, but I have been tapping for a few years now and regularly recommend tapping to clients, friends and family.  Recently, I've become part of a focus group, tapping for parents. It's still astounding to me how much emotional weight can shift with a few rounds of tapping and I've seen it make huge impact on my children in a very short amount of time. 

The Tapping Solution is my favorite resource, but all over YouTube videos and scripts are readily available. I love Brad Yates (he's funny and covers a variety of issues), Carol Look (she's fabulous for helping you break your inner glass ceiling) and Margaret Lynch (have financial issues? This is the one for you!). 

The thing that I love the most about tapping is that you get to be totally honest about how you're feeling. There's no rose-colored glasses going on here. If you're feeling crappy, chaotic, depressed, in pain, angry, or even fantastically happy and successful, you can tap on that. You tell the truth of your experience as you tap. Suddenly, layers start to peel back and underlying issues come to light.

Once you've tapped on the negatives, then you transition into affirmative rounds of tapping, always telling the truth of your experience, and opening up to a new way of feeling and being, using words like, "I want to feel relaxed," or "I choose to let go of this anger," for example. 

Try it out and see what happens for you. Then, come back here or on the Facebook page and let us know! 

I'll be sharing more tools all month long to help you live a life you love now

Image courtesy of thetappingsolution.com 

Image courtesy of thetappingsolution.com 


Shadows and Light

I have this tattoo. It's on my left shoulder blade. I've always described it as two souls intertwined. Today, a new knowing emerged. It isn't two separate individuals at all. It is one. My own. The dark and the light parts of me. Those that I reveal to you and those that I have hidden even from myself. 

This week I've been delving into my shadows. Not the shadows of the world, simply my own. 

The Shadow is where the light is hiding. - John Newton

I've had this tattoo for 20 years. Today, for the first time I understand why I was so called to the artist's design; compelled to permanently mark my body with this expression of rapture, this linking, full-body embrace. The spirit body. My Spirit body embracing, loving, accepting all of who I am. 

The shadows are where the light is hiding. The other day I jumped into the darkness. A visualization, of course. What I found there was beautiful. What I found there wasn't a shadow at all, but the truth of my light. It is our light that casts the shadow, my loves. It is the contrast of life. these contrasts, as Esther-Hicks talks about frequently, that move us to discover more of ourselves, move through more of our growth, reach for our higher and highest states of Being

When you willingly open yourself to all of the things you think are your shadows, when you look, you'll see that there is nothing there at all. The shadows are the fiction of your Mind. Your light is the truth of your heart, your soul, your I Am. 

Deepak Chopra asks us to sit in meditation and simply as the question, "Who am I?" Ask until you know the answer. It isn't a finding out of the answer or a discovery, it is a revealing of all that you are. You are Love. You are the light. You are, simply, light. 

Until you can clearly see and feel that, keep shining your light into your shadows. See what you find. 

The Passion Test - Scam or Treasure Map?

The other day someone very close and important to me voiced their opinion that what I do, giving The Passion Test, is a scam. "Who would pay $300 to find out what their Passion is?" 

First of all, I don't charge quite that much. Yet.

Second of all, it's a great question, isn't it? My Ego stood up straight and stomped its feet for a few minutes, but once I breathed into it, I was grateful for the opportunity to consider the answer, to find the gift

Who would pay to learn their Passions?

I let my mind drift and flow through the river of my thoughts and  wondered, is that really what people are paying for? 

Absolutely not. No one is coming to me just for the answer to what lights their fire. Deep in their hearts, they know what matters and they know they aren't living in a way that honors themselves. They feel discord in their lives and they want harmony. People come to me to find their voice, to see an example of courageous living, to see proof that it can be done.  What they are paying for, what they really want to know is, "How can I feel alive again?" 

How can I feel? How can I return to my essence after a lifetime of programming to live from the outer as opposed to the inner? How can I reunite with that state of wonder and joy that I came into this physical form experiencing? Who will give me permission to do so? 

I will. I give you permission. I am a light that reflects yours - the one you can no longer see, yet you feel is there somewhere. This is my gift. To help you see yours and only if you want to. I help you to acknowledge and allow into your life a feeling of happiness. I help you allow the awareness that it's ok to be happy, even when life isn't perfect. The awareness that it is ok to be happy, even when others around you aren't. The awareness that you are not your story. The confirmation that life is meant to be lived joyfully.

People are paying for directions to their ideal life, to joyful living. You buy a map or a GPS to help you navigate from your house to your vacation rental or from the countryside to the big city. It's the same, only this destination is much more important. People are paying for The Passion Test because it teaches them how to navigate their lives in a more joyful, purposeful and fulfilling way. 

If that doesn't resonate with you, that's cool. You're not my client. You're not going to pay me a thing. If it does resonate with you, if you value living a joyful, positive life in word and action, then it only takes a phone call or a message to become my client. 

Someone I love doesn't value what I do and that's ok. Because of The Passion Test and other tools that I've used along my way, I don't require the approval of others to feel good about myself or what I do. I value me. I value my work. I value you. Do you?