#sage

Honor the Sage Within Yourself

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“A wise woman wishes to be no one's enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone's victim.”

— Maya Angelou

 

When you hear the word “sage,” you might think first about the fragrant herb that’s a traditional part of the seasoning we enjoy for Thanksgiving dinners. Sage has one of the longest histories of any culinary or medicinal herb, and was used thousands of years ago in ancient Egyptian kitchens! 

 

But today, I want to focus on the other definition. The word sage also means “a profoundly wise person,” referring to someone who is wise through reflection and experience. When you give someone “sage advice,” you give them sound advice gained through your life reflections and experiences. Wisdom is something that we often confuse with intelligence. Both have to do with deep knowledge, but while intelligence frequently stems from study, wisdom can flow from sources other than books. In fact, it often does.

 

Having a sage within you isn’t defined by book learning. You don’t need any academic degrees to be a sage. And although we often associate wisdom with decades of life experience, having a sage within you isn’t limited by age. You don’t have to be old to be a sage. 

 

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you'll be criticized anyway.” 

–  Eleanor Roosevelt

 

In fact, one of the wisest women alive is remarkably young: Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to win a Nobel Prize. In 2009—when she was just 11 years old—Malala wrote a blog post about living as a girl under Taliban occupation. She wrote passionately about her own desire to go to school, and how important she felt it was for all young girls in Pakistan to have the chance to learn. In 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai as she rode home on a bus after taking an academic exam. She was punished for wanting girls to have access to education, targeted for her beliefs. Malala was only a teenager, but she listened to the sage within herself and spoke with courage about the importance of education for girls. 

 

Not all sages are battling for equal rights or embroiled in politics. Think of Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote so eloquently about her emotional explorations in her book Eat, Pray, Love. Her willingness to share her personal journey inspired untold numbers of readers to make positive changes in their own lives. Think of Nellie Bly whose writings were instrumental in mental health. Think of Elizabeth Blackwell, first female Doctor who forced us to think differently about who could be a Dr., and renowned writer who forced us to think the Holocaust. 

 

All are sages in their own ways.

 

Sages possess wisdom in many different areas and express that wisdom in many different ways. But they are all brave, and they are all driven, and they are all eager to continue learning. About themselves and about their worlds.

 

“It is impossible to live without failing at something. Unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”

— J.K Rowling

 

So, how can you get in touch with the sage within yourself? How can you tap into her energy and use it to talk about the things that are important to YOU? Where is YOUR platform? And when you find it, will you USE it? Accessing this wisdom and bravery within yourself has nothing to do with status or money or degrees or job titles or power. It is about self-reflection, dedication, and a thirst for knowledge.

 

And sometimes that's what it takes: An overwhelming new role or drastic life change that forces you to look inward. Sometimes the sage only emerges when you need her wisdom most.

 

But sometimes you can summon your sage just by focusing on your goals, your aspirations, the difference you want to make in the world. Or even the difference you want to make within yourself. As this new year unfolds, I hope you'll find a way to tap your inner sage and revel in her unparalleled wisdom.

 

“What you do makes a difference. And you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make."

– Jane Goodall

6 Travel Tips for Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone This Holiday Season

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I’m getting ready for another adventure. What I love about traveling is it gets me out of my routine, expands my world by helping me to meet new people, and to learn about new perspectives, different cultures and viewpoints. As Mark Twain says, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”

UNBRIDLED tells my story of leaving behind the roles of wife, mother and physical therapist in order to explore parts of myself I never knew existed. Sometimes we don’t know we like a meal until we taste it. So with life, tasting another culture allows us to grow and learn.

There is something special about the smell of spicy jerk chicken, the sound of reggae music and the feel of plunging into the Jamaican ocean that we can’t get from a book.

Meeting Rastas, I learned first hand where Jamaicans are coming from and an understanding of their perspective.

Traveling also gives us opportunities to experience the unexpected — the novel aspects of life!

Wherever you go, near of far, just getting out of your routine will awaken your senses!

Here are 6 travel tips that I hope will help encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and explore:

1. What Fate and Fortune deliver is pretty much out of our control, but our attitude is ours to control and can strongly influence our experience. Appreciation and gratitude opens the heart, resentment and fear constrict it. Be mindful of your attitude when setting out on an adventure and try to keep your mental focus on statements like: “This is going to be fun” and “I am open to however my adventure unfolds.”

2. The best way to exercise your brain is to learn and the best way to exercise your soul is to laugh, especially when you’re laughing at yourself. So, if you face a challenge while on your journey, try to learn from it, and, more importantly, try to bring some levity to it.

3. If you’re single and hoping to find romance on your trip, my recommendation is to seek out what “turns you on,” and what you love, rather than looking to be loved. Love can be found in all the right places and sometimes the “wrong” ones. You may be surprised what letting go of this expectation may lead to!

4. Fear is our opponent and our opponent deserves to be respected. Be open minded and challenge yourself, but also know your limits. After all, traveling is supposed to be fun, not damaging.

5. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Be the actor and the audience, and play your parts to the fullest. Embrace your journey, lend a hand to your fellow travelers and enjoy the present moment and all of the new, exciting and wonderful things around you: the sights, the smells, the sounds, the energy.

6. Don’t just be, do. Just don’t do, be. Try to balance doing (activities, tours, sight-seeing) and being (taking in a view, relaxing in a cafe, sleeping in). I recently met a 90-year-old lady who was sipping on a Jamaican Rum punch, and she said, “Honey, I can’t do anymore, so i just be.” Another couple told me they’ve never sat and enjoyed a cocktail because they’re always too busy exploring. I like finding a balance between the two!

I hope my upcoming trip will be a fun balancing act of “being” and “doing,” from skiing to sipping hot toddies while watching sunsets with the locals ! As St. Augustine says, “The world is a book and those who don’t travel only read one page.”

So, this holiday season, order UNBRIDLED (or pick it up at Costco) as a gift to yourself and others. Experience armchair travel! After reading UNBRIDLED,you’ll want to go on an adventure of your own and I’d love to hear about it.

 

 

Ageless Archetypes

“As much as I loathe this aging thing, I'm beginning to recognize that I am now a healthier person in terms of self-worth and knowing who I am and where I fit in the world. That's been a good trade-off for the wrinkles.”

~ Patty Duke

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It’s astonishing how strong is our instinct to pick a favorite archetype and ignore the rest. Especially since we associate Lover, Mother, and Sage in particular with specific ages and phases of life. Somehow the Warrior transcends, since most of us know we can fight ferociously for our beliefs at any age. But how can a woman who is only 17 relate to the Mother? How can a woman in her eighties connect with the Lover? How can a woman who just celebrated her 37th birthday call herself a Sage?

Here’s a gentle reminder that all four archetypes are present in ALL of us at all times. One may dominate for a while, but the others are still there, waiting to be called forth. And the key to a fulfilled, rich, rewarding life is to find ways to integrate all four into your core identity.

Lover and Sage: Vitality Versus Wisdom

You’ll see as you make your way through this book that these essential aspects should not always be interpreted literally. Yes, the Lover embodies physical attraction, lust, and sensuality … but that’s not all. She is also boldness, joy, and passion in any form, including artistic, intellectual, and scientific. The Sage represents wisdom, experience, and hard-won knowledge … but that’s not all. She is also intuition, savvy, and intelligence in any form, including emotional, mathematical, and cultural.

Yet these two can war within us. When we are young, we fight the idea that we have an old, wise person within us. And when we are old, we often feel embarrassed when our sensual urges begin to surface, as if the youthful aspects of our true selves have died off.

But the Lover and the Sage are actually perfect partners. Age is relative and flexible. How old we are is more solidly connected to how we’ve lived our lives than it is tethered to how many birthdays we’ve racked up. And when we work to integrate the Lover and the Sage, we embrace this spectrum with open arms.

When we are young and feel directly and naturally connected to the Lover, we can invite the Sage to express herself through us. Acknowledge that we are, in fact, aging and that the process is a natural, valuable, beautiful one. As we grow and learn, we distill and refine our personalities. We become more solid in ourselves, more uniquely individual. Tempting as it is to cling to youth, aging is a gift, an experience that enables us to become more interesting, multi-faceted, whole people. We are not wearing our bodies out, we are learning to stand tall in our true selves.

When we are old and feel directly and naturally connected to the Sage, we can invite the Lover to express herself through us. We can do our best to allow youthful hope, enthusiasm, and excitement into our lives, and resist the urge to default to cynicism or weariness. We can express our sexuality freely and in ways that energize us, shunning the idea that passion has an expiration date. Our bodies may feel old, but our souls are still young. We now have the life experience and wisdom to know when it makes sense to stick to tradition and formality, but we don’t quash urges to rebel or express our views. When those urges rise up, we accept and respect them. When life issues an invitation to be bold and loud and lustful, we accept it gladly. We are not failing to “act our age,” we are honoring the vibrant, vital aspects of our holistic selves.

Think of Queen Cleopatra; She is, undeniably, a venerable Warrior first and foremost. She overthrew all other claimants to the Egyptian throne, and did so in a time when it was quite common for siblings to marry and share power. But she was a legendary Lover as well, and knew how to leverage her innate sensuality to get exactly what she wanted. One of her most famous exploits involves her shrewd courting of Julius Caesar; Apparently, she wrapped herself in a rug and paid servants to smuggle her into Caesar’s sleeping quarters. There, she pled her case to him, convincing him to support her in the raging Egyptian civil war. And while she did this through outright seduction, can you see how the Sage was present, too? Cleopatra was wise enough to know that demanding an audience with Caesar wouldn’t be as effective as insinuating herself into his presence. She had experienced enough of life to understand that asserting herself as his equal would backfire and that, as a woman, she had a better shot at getting what she needed by playing up her feminine wiles. When you add in her Mothering desire to protect her mother country at any cost, Egypt, it’s safe to say that Cleopatra lived out all four archetypes in integrated harmony.

Mother and Sage: Compassion Meets Experience

It’s so easy to take the Mother literally; to consign her to bearing and rearing children and nothing else. And, of course, these activities are some of the most rewarding and fulfilling that we women can experience! But the Mother can use her caretaker energies to show love for friends, students, family members, even strangers. The Mother represents the nurturing, healing, empathetic side of a woman, and that side has many facets and many expressions.

Mother and Sage may seem like a more natural partnership than Lover and Sage, and there are some organic compatibilities there, to be sure. Both Mother and Sage tend to radiate serenity, gentle authority, and sympathy. But while the Mother is often selfless and focused on protecting the weak and vulnerable, the Sage may turn her energies inward. Exploring spirituality and accumulating wisdom—both Sage activities—are often done solo, and involve highly individual soul-searching. There’s also an age-based hang-up here; Mothers are generally younger women, and fertile. Sages are older and beyond their childbearing years. It can be challenging to find a place where those two stages of life overlap.

So how do we integrate these two successfully?

When we feel ourselves retreating into solitary, Sage-like contemplation, we call on the Mother to remind us that nothing great was ever kept secret. We transform studying alone or praying in silence into sharing, questioning, and exploring. And then we use what we’ve learned to help, support, and enlighten others.

When we feel ourselves giving to others in a Mother-like way until we’re overextended and depleted, we call on the Sage to help us create healthy boundaries. We remember that to honor ourselves, we must care for ourselves, and that means knowing when to say no, back off, and guard our energy. And then we recharge in our own time, making a wise, considered plan to avoid overextension in the future.

And when we feel weathered and worn and decidedly infertile, we remember that fertility can manifest in many ways. We may have a fertile imagination, a fertile social life, or a fertile mind as we enter our Sage phase.

And when we feel filled with the vibrant robustness of vital adulthood, we remember that moving toward old age means accumulating experience, insight, and wisdom. And that process is a tremendous blessing.

Biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson was a compassionate Mother, through and through. She was one of the first people to recognize that human activities were injuring and decimating the natural world, and she fought to protect the Earth. Her book Silent Spring is considered to be the spark that ignited the environmentalist movement of the 1960s, and without her fierce desire to nurture and care for our planet, this work might never have been published.

But Carson’s strong secondary archetype is the Sage. She was a trained and dedicated scientist who both valued research and sought to translate hard data into actionable recommendations. She was thoughtful and contemplative, and it was her intuition that led her to investigate the effects that the pesticide DDT was having on American wildlife. The Sage guided her to distill facts into wisdom, and the Mother fueled her instinct to protect our shared environment.

Rachel Carson never married, but tapped the Lover through her passionate dedication to her work and the creativity she employed in her eloquent writings. Silent Spring eventually led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, but when it was released in 1962, Carson was brutally attacked in the press by chemical companies that wanted her work discredited. Calling on her inner Warrior, she fought back against these false claims and prevailed. Another great example of a woman who identifies strongly with two archetypes, but embodies them all!

Vision Boards with Barbara McNally - 01/27/2019

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Want to write a book and having trouble organizing your story line? A Vision Board will help with this, as well as create your story! It literally is any sort of board on which you display images that represent whatever you want to be, do or have in your life.  Also known as dream boards, these simple devices are one of  the most valuable visualization tools available to you.  A Vision Board is a tool used to help clarify, concentrate and maintain focus on a specific life goal. The purpose of your Vision Board is to bring clarity to your desires and feelings, thus bringing your visions to life.

In this workshop, we will be creating Vision Boards to help focus on, and attract, the life you want. Participants will learn how to utilize powerful techniques in order to maximize success.

Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe

Why Attend A Workshop?

1.     When groups gather, magical things happen.  The group energy can be truly exceptional.

2.     You are able to raise the level of your focused attention on your dream by being free from outside distractions. Where focused attention goes, energy flows!

3.     You have the opportunity to learn and reinforce important concepts in a shared space.

4.     There is nothing like sharing your dream with a group of like-minded folks. For any dream to come true, energetic support from a team can help to raise its vibration to the Universe.

5.     You get more energized about achieving your vision! More energy = more success.

6.     Most importantly… You go home with a Vision Board! No more procrastination. No more delay in getting one done because you will be given time to work on a Vision Board during the workshop.

I would visualize things coming to me. It would just make me feel better. Visualization works if you work hard.

What You’ll Need…

You bring an open and positive mind and let me take care of the rest! I will have all the materials you’ll need to create your fabulous Vision Board.  However, you are encouraged to bring any of your own magazines, personal photos, specific images, or other embellishments that you would like to add to your visionary masterpiece.

You do not want to miss this event.  Spread the word and invite your family, friends, and coworkers to join in on the fun!

By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands – your own.

Embrace Autumn

Coorie: So Much More than Hygge

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A little concept called Coorie is helping the cotswolds take over as the happiest place on earth. 

 

Imagine days spent horse riding through open meadows, deep forests and tiny towns lined with thatched roof cottages. Ending the day in layers upon layers of tweed. And finishing your night at a country pub with a  fish and chips and pint to warm you from the inside. Live music and singing add to the good fun.

It’s in our nature to seek out happiness wherever we go.

In Denmark (the happiest country in the world) they have hygge. When the air develops a chill, they look for small comforts to survive the long, cold nights. Like hot cocoa drunk by candlelight, it’s the epitome of coziness.

But the UK has something even better. It’s called Coorie and it doesn’t just draw on aesthetics, it’s rooted in hundreds of years of British history.

The Art of Coorie teaches us how to be happy through simple pleasures.

Coorie is about learning to live better using what is around you.  A coorie way of life practices small, quiet, slow activities by engaging with our surroundings to feel happy. This is easy to do even in California when we can make our homes cozy.

After the heat and light fueled social activity of summertime, our prana softens. Our energy levels decrease, inviting us to slow down and take time to reflect on our experiences and refine our focus for the coming months. Think of it as an end to summer exhale. A grounding down after the higher times of summer and a moment to enjoy the changing colors as we shed what no longer serves us.

The Scots’ word has always meant cuddling up or snuggling in – now it applies to a lifestyle. So how can we achieve coorie?  iI’s all about getting in tune with our surroundings.

Here are some Coorie-filled activities I  bring home with me as we head into fall the holiday season.

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1.     Cook a traditional meal:  Coorie cooking can be a truly special experience. Spend a day in the kitchen with some traditional old recipes. 

 

2.  Bag a munro. Fancy a wee hike? Why not tackle one of the many hikes outdoors wherever we live?

It may sound daunting, but clambering our way to the top will lift our spirits sky high. It’ll be tough. But the act of walking is a meditative one and our sense of satisfaction will only grow when we see those views.

And who could be unhappy on top of a mountain they just climbed?

 

3. Mount a horse and experience the outdoors form above the ground. Horses are amazing animals , just like dogs, they sense our emotions and reflect them back to us. If we are nervous, they get jumpy, but if we take a deep breath and relax we let them know that all is going to be ok. Horse riding is not only thrilling , but helps us stay in touch with our emotions, as we hack out for the day.  it’s a moving mediation.

 

4. Slow down and sit by your fire with a cup of tea, pat a small place on the couch and invite a friend to “coorie in.”   Maybe snuggle in with a good book or old movie!

 

5. Use our hands to make something. 
Knitting, writing, and all crafts help us live a more creative and simple life.

 

6. Decorate our home with an Autumn cozy vibe.We live in a materialistic world, so don’t feel bad about spending  a little to add a few gold or orange  colors and a sheep skin to our décor to give our home a metaphysical aura of warmth.

5 Keys to Forming (or Changing) Your Perspective

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Consider this story that American philosopher and author Wayne Dyer told. While he was living in Florida, a woman he met at a book signing explained that she had just moved there and asked, “What is it like living here?” Dyer replied, “What was it like where you came from?” The woman smiled and explained that where she came from people were warm, kind, and helpful, and that she had a close circle of friends and felt as though she belonged. Dyer replied, “That's exactly what it's like here.”

Later that same day, another woman asked him the same question: “I’m new to Florida. What is it like living here?” Again, he answered her question with one of his own, “What was it like where you came from?” She replied, “We moved because it was terrible there—people were snobby, the cliques were hard to fit into, and I never felt welcomed. I really didn't enjoy living there.” To which he replied, “That's exactly what it's like here.”

This story demonstrates that you filter any situation through your lens of beliefs to help you respond. In other words, reality depends on your perspective. The filter you choose affects the world you see. Choosing a positive filter means living a life filled with opportunity. Choosing a negative filter means a life of limitations.

What do experts say about choosing a perspective?

1. You Have Blind Spots

In her book, The Blind Spot Effect: How to Stop Missing What’s Right in Front of You, mindfulness trainer Kelly Boys presents emerging interdisciplinary research from psychology and neuroscience, showing that everyone has blind spots visually and cognitively, and through learned biases. She believes these blind spots sabotage judgment and lead you to become stuck in behavior patterns that don’t serve you.

Sometimes others see these spots more easily than you see them yourself. At other times, by using self-reflection or through meditation, it becomes possible to witness your own patterns and shed light on a hidden or limiting aspect of your nature. Once you pinpoint a blind spot, you can't unsee it. With this light, new possibilities emerge.

2. Optimism Is Useful When It Is Realistic

Often positive thinking gets a bad rap simply because people are assuming it’s blind optimism, that Pollyanna-ish way of forcing positive thinking because you think you should. Realistic optimism is the ability to see situations accurately and believe deeply that the future will be good even if the current situation isn’t as you would want it to be. The good thing is that even if you are naturally more pessimistic in your thinking, you can strengthen your optimism by practicing. When you catch yourself in negative self-talk, just change your direction.

3. Perspective Isn’t a Thermometer, It’s a Thermostat

How your perspective leads you to act or not act in a given situation is something you control. Imagine you are running late for work. As you drive, you hit red light after red light. If you see perspective as outside your control, this scenario might have your temperature boiling. If you can see it instead as a thermostat, you have the power to think in a way that supports your control of how your respond to the situation. You don’t get to control the traffic lights, but you get to manage your reaction. This is where you can turn the thermostat down using tools like reframing your thoughts, breathing mindfully, or even re-routing your drive.

 

4. How You Think Is Important

As you think, ask yourself if you are being:

·       Nonjudgmental

·       Compassionate

·       Curious

·       Patient

A first step in perspective taking is recognizing whether your thought process is helpful or unhelpful.

·       Unhelpful thinking is associated with being rigid, avoidant, and pushing against the reality of the situation. It tends to be black-and-white and can present as refusal to accept a situation, blaming others for the situation, and avoiding and suppressing feelings.

·       Helpful thinking is associated with solutions, flexibility, and acceptance of reality. It tends to be problem-focused. It prompts you to seek information, encourages acceptance of situations, and involves humor and positive reframing.

5. Perspective Falls Into Three Areas

There are three types of perspective:

1.    Thoughts

2.    Feelings

3.    Actions

Action sometimes feels like the realm most under your authority. Actions refers to doing something observable. The action is your response to the stimulus after your thoughts and feelings create a filter. You are not a puppet; you are in charge of your actions.

Your thoughts, on the other hand, can feel out of your control. Your inner critic runs a constant commentary of what you are doing and how you are doing it and isn’t always kind. It can also feel challenging to turn the volume of this voice down or to set your mind free of the patterns of thought that have been part of your life since childhood. Meditation practice helps.

Feelings may be the realm where you feel the least in command. In psychologist Daniel Kahneman's book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, he explains the two-system approach to choice and judgment.

1.    System one is the fast system that operates quickly with little sense of voluntary control. This system has deep influence on your choices and judgments before you have time to think.

2.    The second system is the effortful mental activity system that requires you to slowly process your thoughts.

System two believes itself to be where the action is, but system one is the hero.

Reflection on past actions, time spent examining your beliefs, or a meditation practice will help you develop the skills of metacognition (thinking about thinking) and be a witness to your own life (observing your thoughts, feelings, and actions in a non-judgmental way).

It takes effort and practice to change your perspective. Over time, you will become more aware of your perspective and with this awareness comes the ability to try on another person’s perspective. This allows for connection to those who may seem different or unrelatable. Use your perspective-taking skills regularly and, like a muscle, they will grow.

 

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Tell Your Story, Heal Yourself

Part 4: Connecting to Your Inner Self Through Writing

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Many women have asked me to write their stories after reading my memoir, Unbridled, and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife. Writing these books taught me the healing power of storytelling. While it is sometimes challenging to be honest and raw about aspects of our journey, the more we open up the better we can see our lives from a different perspective and make clearer decisions going forward. Putting our experiences into words transforms and heals.

 

With that in mind, here's the fourth post in my series on the power of storytelling.  Every journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. Let’s begin writing the stories of our lives whether we publish them or not. In August, I'll be leading a writing workshop for the wives of wounded warriors in partnership with Hearts of Valor, and will dig even deeper into these themes! If you're interested in attending, you can apply here to join Hearts of Valor.

 

But for now, let's talk about the power of automatic writing and how it can help us understand our own psyches.

 

A different kind of journaling

So much of our formal education focuses on writing the “right” way. From a young age, we're taught spelling and grammar, then sentence format and paragraph structure. We're given strict parameters and told to wedge our writing into them.

 

Journaling can feel less rigid. With no assigned topics or grades to be earned, we feel freer to express our innermost feelings and yearnings. But even keeping a traditional journal may be a bit confining. Once we've learned the “rules” of writing, it can feel strange and unnatural to break them. So we journal using many of the same constructs we apply to formal writing assignments.

 

To truly tap your inner voice, try automatic writing or stream-of-consciousness writing. This means literally writing whatever words flow into your mind, with no judgment and no editing.It can feel odd at first and you will definitely end up with some passages full of gibberish! But only by giving your mind and soul totally free reign will you be able to access the deepest, most well-hidden aspects of your true self.

 

Journaling exercise: Free your writing mind

Set aside a solid chunk of time—at least an hour—and situate yourself in a quiet, calming spot. Get your journal and pen, and breathe deeply before you begin.

 

If your mind begins to rev up all on its own, follow its lead. Write down every thought, word, and sentence fragment that floats into your head. Do it all fluidly and never judge what is coming out. In fact, try not to analyze at all. Just let the words flow onto the page. You can read them over later.

 

If you need some prompts, here are a few probing questions that can help you learn more about your inner life and hidden desires:

 

  • Write about the moment you knew something important had ended.
  • Write about a gift you gave to someone which was not appreciated.
  • Write about your ideal day.
  • Write about a vivid sexual memory.
  • Write about being sick in bed.
  • Write about a selfish fear.
  • Write about an old dream.
  • Write about where you would travel to today if you could.
  • Write about your values.
  • Write about something you are no longer sure of.
  • Write about something you wish you could still do.
  • Write about homesickness.
  • Write about confusion, and how it feels in your body.
  • Write about satisfaction, and how it feels in your body.
  • Write about the person you hope to become.

Tell Your Story, Heal Yourself Part 3: Creating the Space for Your Story

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Many women have asked me to write their stories after reading my memoir, Unbridled, and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife. Writing these books taught me the healing power of storytelling. While it is sometimes challenging to be honest and raw about aspects of our journey, the more we open up the better we can see our lives from a different perspective and make clearer decisions going forward. Putting our experiences into words transforms and heals.

With that in mind, I'm launching this series of posts on the power of storytelling.  Every journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. Let’s begin writing the stories of our lives whether we publish them or not. In August, I'll be leading a writing workshop for the wives of wounded warriors in partnership with Hearts of Valor, and will dig even deeper into these themes! If you're interested in attending, you can apply here to join Hearts of Valor.

But for now, let's talk about how to create the space in your mind and life that will allow creativity to flow in.

 

Creativity through stillness

If you walked through a mall or school or coffee shop or park, how many people would you see who are doing nothing? Staring into space, contemplating their tea, or gazing at the clouds? With the proliferation of mobile devices and a culture that increasingly encourages us to do something — anything! — every moment of every day, we are conditioned to keep our brains constantly active. My guess is that you wouldn't see a single person on your walk who wasn't absorbed in reading or typing something.

But if we want to allow our creativity to grow and blossom, if we want our inner selves to step forward and speak, we need pockets of stillness. We need quiet time without distraction or activity, meditative moments in which we let our rational mind sleep and invite our creative mind to awaken.

We also need to allow our minds to wander without judgment. Especially when we're returning to stillness after a long time away, it can be tempting to censor or evaluate all of the untethered thoughts that flow in. It's so easy to impose learned meaning and interpretations on the images and ideas that enter the stillness … but giving them time and space to settle is essential.

Here are some mediation and journaling exercises that will help you reacquaint yourself with stillness.

 

Meditation and journaling exercise 1: The language of imagery

Get your journal and pen and set them to the side. Sit or lie down and focus on the sound of your breathing. Concentrate on being in your body, think about relaxing each limb from your head to your toes, bit by bit.

Allow your mind to free-associate. In all likelihood, you will be visited by a stream of images. Some will be memories, some will be fantasies, some will be things you can't explain. Let them all flow through you unimpeded.

 

When one that feels particularly emotional or significant arrives, try to linger there. Let it unfold, explore it as deeply as you can. Then open your eyes, grab your journal, and write as much as you can remember. If you feel moved to do so, continue the action where your mind paused it. Write fluidly and without judging yourself. Don't worry about spelling or grammar or even if what you're writing makes sense. Just let it flow from imagination to paper.

 

Journaling exercise 2: Becoming a conduit

Pick a topic, scene, or story that you'd like to write and hold it in your mind. Then release it and make yourself present in your body for a few long moments. Close your eyes, breathe, let your mind wander. Then pick up your pen and begin writing whatever comes out, whether its related to your original topic or not.

By doing this, you are channeling more than creating; You are letting your subconscious do the driving. The words and images that flood your mind may seem unrelated to your pre-selected idea, but if you let them come naturally you're likely to see deep connections forming. Creativity does not travel in straight lines. It flourishes in the undefined spaces in between.

 

Journaling exercise 3: Tapping memories

Find a photograph of family members, a past lover, or a treasured memory. Gaze at the image in quiet contemplation, allowing your mind to drift into the past. Close your eyes and try to remember the smells, textures, and sounds from this scene. Write everything you recall and feel, focusing specifically on the emotions that return to you. Let go of your busy mind, sink down into your body, and allow the image to work on you.

 

Meditation and journaling exercise 4: Encountering your deepest desires

Close your eyes and concentrate on the rhythm of your breathing. As you exhale, think or say aloud, “I release all fear of this inner journey.” Repeat this thought on the next two exhalations. Once you feel grounded, begin the next phase of this meditation.

Imagine yourself on a long and winding path. Perhaps it flows through the woods or across the mountains, in a place you know well or one you've never seen before. Travel the path in peace until you reach a large metal gate, sturdily locked and wound through with vines. Reach into your pocket and you will find a key, also metal, sturdy, and heavy. Insert the key in the gate's lock, turn it, and watch as the gate swings open. Breathe again, and release your fears. Walk through the gate.

Inside, you'll find a garden brimming with vibrant plants and flowers. Imagine the garden's layout and design in a way that feels welcoming to you; Perhaps it's an Asian garden with still pools and flowing bamboo, or a rambly English garden filled of bright blossoms.

Now imagine a house within the garden. This house holds your dreams, so create it as a place that is beautiful and comfortable to you. You approach the door and find it locked, but again find the necessary key in your pocket. Unlock the door, and enter.

Stand inside the house and breathe into the feeling of having come home. Find a spot, your favorite spot in the house, to settle and imagine a physical manifestation of your soul in the room with you. Many people envision an animal or bird, but you might see a flower or jewel or other precious object. Sit with your soul for a few moments and commune. Then ask it, gently, “What do you want most of all?”

Don't expect a simple or singular answer, but instead open a dialogue. What you hear and learn will not be the only or final answer for all time, simply the one your soul offers to you today.

Open your eyes, and write down anything that floods into your mind and heart. It often works best to begin by writing the question, “What do you want most of all?” Then write everything that comes to your mind, without thinking or judgment.

 

Re-learn trust

Many of us turn to meaningless busy-ness because we don't feel comfortable letting our minds wander. We fear what might emerge if we allow formlessness to take over. But re-learning to trust ourselves and our imaginations is essential to unlocking our deepest desires and essential stories. I hope some of these exercises help you begin to rebuild that trust yourself.

And if you are the wife of a wounded warrior yourself and would like to share your story in person with other spouses, I would love for you to apply here to attend SPA Day in April! By opening up to others you will heal yourself, connect with others to feel less alone, and help those around you begin the healing process.

 

Can't wait to share more on the power of storytelling with you next week!

Tell Your Story, Heal Yourself Part 2

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Embracing Both Light and Dark

Many women have asked me to write their stories after reading my memoir, Unbridled, and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife. Writing these books taught me the healing power of storytelling. While it is sometimes challenging to be honest and raw about aspects of our journey, the more we open up the better we can see our lives from a different perspective and make clearer decisions going forward. Putting our experiences into words transforms and heals.

With that in mind, I'm launching this series of posts on the power of storytelling.  Every journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. Let’s begin writing the stories of our lives whether we publish them or not. In August, I'll be leading a writing workshop for the wives of wounded warriors in partnership with Hearts of Valor, and will dig even deeper into these themes! If you're interested in attending, you can apply here to join Hearts of Valor.

But for now, let's talk about the importance of embracing your shadow self as you explore your story.

Without darkness, how would we see the stars?

Some of the strongest forces in our lives push us toward goodness, being good, striving to be full of light and hope and positivity. We hear these messages from our parents, our teachers, spiritual leaders, writers and philosophers. And of course striving to be optimistic, kind, forgiving, and selfless is admirable and important.

But we all have a shadow side, an inner darkness. And denying its existence is just as unhealthy as allowing it to rule us every hour of every day. 

Leading a healthy, fulfilling emotional life isn't about forcing happiness. It's about finding balance between joy and sadness, peace and anger, light and dark.

My own fascination with archetypes is what drove me to name my foundation for four powerful ideals that reside within every woman: Mother, Lover, Warrior, Sage. Renowned psychologist Carl Jung's fascination with archetypes drove his entire body of work, much of which encouraged people to explore and embrace their shadow selves. He believed that every person is a synthesis of contradictory attitudes, that we all possess opposing traits and the tension between them is what causes us to act. Many of us know our own faults, the parts of our personality that seem negative, even destructive. But without those traits, we would not be ourselves.

Jung once said he thought his worst trait was obstinacy, but acknowledged that without that trait, he would never have achieved so much. His stubbornness made him relentless, ambitious, curious, and driven—all things that helped him become successful.

As you begin to tell your own story, consider your shadow self. Remember that negative traits can have positive outcomes, and that your supposed “faults” are essential to your true self. Let's look at some journaling and meditation exercises that can help you re-cast your own inner darkness.

Journaling exercise 1: Balancing the negative

Make a list of your own personality traits that feel negative. Focus on the ones that you believe are keeping you from achieving your full potential or blossoming into your true self.

Then go down the list and identify which traits are driven by logic, which ones are driven by fear, and which ones might be a bit of both.

The purpose of this exercise is to understand what is keeping you from your true purpose. To name it, claim it, and find ways to move forward mindfully. Perhaps your need for stability is preventing you from chasing a creative dream, or your feelings of inadequacy are hold you back from becoming a bold leader. You won't achieve those goals by eradicating the darkness. Your challenge is to integrate the two selves, find ways to turn those “weaknesses” into strengths. It's the opposing pull between the two selves—the stability-lover and the creative, the timid one and the leader—that gives you the momentum to act. In fact, without the traits that appear to be “holding you back,” you might not be capable of identifying why a certain goal is so important to you.

How can you leverage those “negatives”? How can you tap into the internal tension between light and dark to propel yourself forward? Write down any thoughts or ideas that come to mind.

Journaling exercise 2: Giving voice to your inner desires

Change can be frightening, but without it we stagnate. And your inner self knows this, and has been nudging you toward change, whether you realize it or not. Take a few moments to center yourself in a still, calm place, then answer these questions:

  1. What tiny hints or quiet voices have been reaching you from your own unconscious mind? What are they saying? What changes do they want you to make?
  2. Has this happened in the past? What happened when you ignored these internal signals?
  3. Are you living the life that is right for you? Or are you living a life that someone else imagined for you that fails to sync with your own soul's purpose?

When we feel we aren't living our true life, we often cast about for someone to blame. Parents and spouses are easy targets, since their needs and desires have such immense impact on our own. Their voices may shout down our own inner voices, and cause us to be delayed on our journey. But delay and abandonment are not the same thing. If you've been paused because of other voices, other desires, remember that you can begin your journey again as soon as those voices hush and you feel ready to continue.

Journaling exercise 3: Reasons and fears

Write down something you've desired or dreamed of doing for a long time, but have hesitated to really pursue. Underneath this, make two headings: Legitimate reason, and Fear speaking. Consider your reasons for inaction, and be honest about which falls into which category.

You may find that some of your reasons are linked to other people in your life, that you've not taken action because you worried that doing so would hurt someone you love. It's true that following our inner guides may hurt those close to us, at least temporarily. But it's much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, and most families have an easy time forgiving happy, fulfilled human beings. When we walk our walk, the Universe supports us … and in the end, so do our loved ones. Even if they misunderstand or resist at the start.

It's a trap to let that fear of hurting others stop us. When we fall into that trap, we fool ourselves into believing that other people are standing in our way. The truth is, with rare exceptions, the only person to blame for not living our bliss or listening to our inner voice is ourselves.

Mediation exercise 4: Seeing your shadow self

Create a visualization of your own dark side. Pick something resonant and conceptual; an animal, bird, archetype, or object that resonates with you.

Face your shadow form in whatever shape it takes. Try to become comfortable with its presence. Then ask the question, “What is the shadow side of my soul?” Write this question down, then write absolutely anything that comes to your mind immediately afterwards. Don't judge yourself, just let the words come.

When you've finished, read over your messages from your dark self. Say aloud, “I accept this part of myself without judgment. Though I choose to stand in the light, I will listen to the voice of my shadow and learn.”

Your shadow is you

Remember that the darkness within you is as essential to your story as the light. Ignore the shadow, and it will start coming out sideways. You're better off to look it in the face, accept its role in your journey, and make peace with the natural conflicts within.

And if you are the wife of a wounded warrior yourself and would like to share your story in person with other spouses, I would love for you to apply here to attend SPA Day in April! By opening up to others you will heal yourself, connect with others to feel less alone, and help those around you begin the healing process.

Can't wait to share more on the power of storytelling with you next week!

Tell Your Story, Heal Yourself Part 1

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Asking Ourselves Important Questions

Many women have asked me to write their stories after reading my memoir, Unbridled, and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife. Writing these books taught me the healing power of storytelling. While it is sometimes challenging to be honest and raw about aspects of our journey, the more we open up the better we can see our lives from a different perspective and make clearer decisions going forward. Putting our experiences into words transforms and heals.

With that in mind, I'm launching this series of posts on the power of storytelling.  Every journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. Let’s begin writing the stories of our lives whether we publish them or not. In August, I'll be leading a writing workshop for the wives of wounded warriors in partnership with Hearts of Valor, and will dig even deeper into these themes! If you're interested in attending, you can apply here to join Hearts of Valor.

But for now, let's talk about storytelling as a tool for reconnecting with ourselves.

Exploring your inner past

Sharing our stories is vital to our healing processes. When we write, we show ourselves compassion.  Navigating the events of our past can help us access own inner Sage. Our inner wisdom, our intuition, what some call the voice of God.

Journaling requires more of us than just talking and thinking. Writing forces us to access different parts of our mind and opens up other realms within our psyche. Write drunk and edit sober! Meaning, write first uninhibited and don’t worry about the finished product. For some, the final transformative step in recovering from or understanding the past  is to edit on a computer and publish their work, but just journaling is transformative, too, and the first step toward publishing. Write truthfully and fully, but with great compassion. 

Telling your story, sharing your struggles and triumphs, is one of the most powerful actions a person can take. Casting yourself as the hero in your own tale, seeing your journey on the larger stage of the world, and recognizing your power to create change helps you cultivate empathy and perspective. And when you won't or can't tell your story, you can end up feeling trapped, alone, lost, and constantly wondering what's missing from your life. Telling your story to just one person will connect you out of your isolation and will heal other people realizing they are not alone.

So what's the first step in writing your story?  Mindful journaling.

Journaling exercise 1: What do you want?

Before you can undertake mindful journaling in earnest, you need to unlock your goals. Writing uninhibited about anything that comes to mind can be very freeing, but healing requires more focus. So ask yourself:

  1. What do I want?
  2. Can I admit this is what I want? Most of us feel guilty saying what we want or don’t even take the time to ask ourselves this question.  Can we give ourselves permission to ask for what we want and own it?
  3. What are my options? How can I move toward getting what I want?

Be honest and open as you answer these questions. You don't ever need to show your answers to anyone!

Journaling exercise 2: Changing vocabulary

Think back to a specific event in your past that was disturbing or difficult. Now make a two-columned list and label one column “Negative” and the other “Positive.” Under the first, make a list of negative words or feelings you are holding onto about this event and would like to release. Under the second, either try to capture the flip side of the negative word (instead of “frustrating,” try “challenging”) or just add a gentler, more positive word or emotion you'd like to associate with this experience instead.

We can do this in one of two ways.

  1. When you encounter a trigger and would ordinarily think, “I feel frustrated, pissed, angry” try removing yourself a little. Say, “Frustration is there” instead.
  2. When your “frustration” trigger comes up, think back to the flip-side version of “frustration” that you listed in your Positive column. (Challenging.)

These changes sound small, but they can have an astonishing impact!

Journaling exercise 3: Perspective and the active narrator

Consider a troubling event from your past. When you re-visit this episode, and feel the emotions associated with it, does it feel like something that is being done TO you? Step back, breathe, and re-envision it. Write a new version of this story from your past. You can do this in one of two ways:
Create some distance by writing the story as yourself today. When you summon the memory, you drop yourself back into a younger self. Instead be the current version of you, and write about the event as someone who has a different perspective, more knowledge, and the emotional support to cope with whatever happened back then.
Allow yourself to fictionalize the episode. Make yourself an active narrator, or even better a hero. Write a version of this story where you take control, shift the power dynamic, and create a more satisfying ending. Think this is lying? Well, the way we remember past events may be more influential and important than the events themselves. And in some cases, completely rewriting those events can help us heal.

Attitude and control

The events of your past are in the past, and you cannot change them. You can rewrite them, shift your perspective, and do your best to heal, but you cannot fully erase them. And you shouldn't want to. Instead, focus your energy on what you CAN control: changing your attitude toward them. These mindful journaling exercises will help you do just that.

If you are the wife of a wounded warrior yourself and would like to share your story in person with other spouses, I would love for you to apply here to attend SPA Day in April! By opening up to others you will heal yourself, connect with others to feel less alone, and help those around you begin the healing process.

Can't wait to share more on the power of storytelling with you next week!