Living Free

On, independence is described as freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.  This morning I read an article about why Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise – who knows if it’s the truth or not, but allow me to use it as an example that could be true.  The article gave many examples of how TC has not allowed KH to live independently – where he stifled her ability to live her life in a way that made her feel free to make her own choices.  The reason I use this example (not just because I secretly think I could have been a celebrity reporter – a legit, respected one! ) is that I think this type of relationship can be common.  I would bet each of us knows of a couple where one of the people is overbearing in a way that is not healthy.  It comes from a place of fear – for both the one controlling and the one allowing themselves to be controlled.

On this day, the day our country gained its independence, my wish for all of us is to recognize when others are attempting to control us or influence us in a way that does not resonate with our core values and belief system.  Oprah often talks about when something in our life is not quite right (a choice, a relationship, a job, etc.), that the universe lets us know and when we really pay attention, we truly know the right thing to do.

“I say the universe speaks to us, always, first in whispers. And a whisper in your life usually feels like ‘hmm, that’s odd.’ Or, ‘hmm, that doesn’t make any sense.’ Or, ‘hmm, is that right?’ It’s that subtle. And if you don’t pay attention to the whisper, it gets louder and louder and louder. I say it’s like getting thumped upside the head. If you don’t pay attention to that, it’s like getting a brick upside your head. You don’t pay attention to that—the brick wall falls down. That is the pattern that I see in my life and so many other people’s lives. And so, I ask people, ‘What are the whispers? What’s whispering to you now?'” — Oprah

Oprah’s mentor and friend, Maya Angelou, says – ‘when you know better, you do better’.  I think the knowingness of what we need to do and the reality of putting it into action can be scary.  Another powerful woman, Pema Chödrön,  asks us to ‘smile at fear – live from the heart’ and be filled with potential.  You cannot do that if you are controlling someone else or when you are living a life controlled by another person.

‘Be honest with yourself and be open to the world.’
Pema Chödrön

Imagine. Believe. Manifest.

ImageYour imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.
Albert Einstein

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What you hope, you will eventually believe. What you believe you will eventually know. What you know, you will eventually create. What you create, you will eventually experience. What you experience, you will eventually express. What you express, you will eventually become. This is the formula for all of life.
Neale Donald Walsch

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Every thought we think is creating our future.
Louise L Hay

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Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change.
Wayne Dyer

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photo from Azanna Wishart.
Thanks for sharing, Azanna. xo

Be Who You Are!

Dr. Seuss said, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

I’ve written about authenticity before and the topic came up again a couple of weeks ago during week one of the most recent Yoga & Wellness session that I am facilitating.  The word/concept inevitably comes up when we are talking about core values, beliefs and living yoga on and off the mat.

So, that led to my posting the Dr. Seuss quote yesterday morning on my Living Life, Making Choices Facebook page (if you haven’t ‘liked’ it yet – click on the link to the left) and then the topic of ‘keeping it real’ arose again when I spent time with a good friend yesterday.  Where is this leading me, you might ask?  I’m not sure – I don’t really have a detailed, thoughtful post here, but feel that it’s important to trust my instincts that someone needs this message today.

So, I’ll keep going with the flow…. I’ve been thinking about how even when authenticity is one of our core values – it can be challenging to be real all the time. I pride myself upon being authentic and truthful.  I do, however, find myself thinking carefully about how I word things when I am delivering a message that I think might disappoint someone.  My friend reminded me of the importance of Dr. Seuss’ words…. if someone ‘minds’ my truth – and/or I find it difficult to deliver that truth, then I should ask myself how much it matters since I am not responding authentically.

This is not new information to me – I know this – I practice this in my life pretty regularly, so what does it mean when I find myself spending too much time thinking about how to word something …. nothing, really – just a gentle reminder.  No judgment of self, no harsh words for others… just a gentle reminder.  Those who matter – they really won’t mind.  So say what you want to say.

Then I think – well this might not be realistic for us to do with everyone in our lives 24/7.  So if we think about times when there is someone who we can’t say ‘it’ to, we can consider if anything needs to be said at all because most times – it doesn’t.  Pay attention and you’ll be surprised how many times you feel like you REALLY need to say something and when you think about it, you really don’t.

Thanks to my friend, Tee – for her wise words and to my friend, Linda for the beautiful photo in this post – from the North Country of New Hampshire!  And thank you, readers, for accepting this post as is…. usually I take more time and edit, edit away, but this one – I want it to be as it is.  Thanks for not minding!

End of one year, beginning of another

As I scroll down my Facebook news feed, everyone is, of course, talking about the new year.  There are quotes and posts about:

Giving gratitude.
Setting intentions.
Sending love.
Special thoughts.
Extending blessings.
Letting go.
Making dreams come true.
Abundant Health.
Dealing with changes.
Living life fully.
Being happy.

My wish is for us to live in this awareness every single day.  To make the choice to find time every day to think about what is important, what we want from life, how we want to BE (with ourselves and others)… living with purpose and intention.

Living Life, Making Choices – what are some of the ways your choices will impact the 365 days of 2012?!


Photo courtesy of my niece, Olivia Barker.

Guest Blog post: Job-Related Stress: How it affects You, Your Family and How To Beat It

by Elizabeth O’Malley

Today’s high level of job-related stress has reached once unimaginable levels. There is a definite correlation to the stress experienced on everyday jobs and the related illness reported by a generally long-living American public. There are essentially two kinds of job-related stress: physical and emotional. Both affect us and our families on a daily basis. However, they can be dealt with and lessened so there is hope at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Physical Stress
In most jobs, you are training your body to perform tasks that don’t come naturally. This can be a cause of physical stress. Whether it is as a fork-lift operator at a warehouse or Certified Nursing Assistant, (CNA) working at an assisted living facility, much of work-related stress can come from danger and frequency of work-related injury. A nurse or nurse assistant who does not knowing how to properly lift, move or turn over a bed-ridden patient may suffer a life-long back injury. One fairly recent 1999 Ohio University study listed patient handling as a hazardous job, causing frequent low back injury. In particular, the following most commonly used lifting techniques were not considered safe enough to use in health care facilities.

Physical Stress can manifest itself in other ways as well, such as through migraines from staring at the computer or varicose veins from sitting or standing too long in an office or retail position.

Its effect on families: If someone is working in a job with a high level of physical stress, their injury and risk of injury may harm their family. Getting hurt at work can leave someone susceptible to other health problems, and leave them unable to earn money. For those with children, this is a big danger. Partners and children may become stressed by worrying about the worker getting hurt as well.

Emotional/Psychological Stress Related To The Families of Workers
Persons experience emotional stress in most any work environment but particularly susceptible are those who regularly deal as “helpers” or “facilitators,” police and first responders, social workers, air traffic controllers and teachers among many groups. A large factor is how much time the employee spends with people on a daily basis.

Its effect on families: When someone works with people all day, they may come home from work feeling emotionally exhausted, and have a difficult time responding to loved ones’ emotional needs. This can cause partners and children of the worker to feel like they are being left out of the worker’s life, or may even cause feelings of grief and abandonment.

Methods To Combat Job-Related Stress

Below are a few of several effective methods used to help deal with job-related stress. There are practical, simple to implement and above all, they work every time they are put to work.

Time Alone
For most, being alone helps with time and space to organize one’s thought patterns, evaluate one’s inner-most feelings and get away from it all. Saving time for ourselves is an important factor in dealing with stress. Finding at least 15 minutes for quiet reflection can help you reconnect with others again and feel refreshed.

It is important to move around at work- sitting or standing for too long can cause stiffness and soreness, or even medical problems later down the line. Getting up every hour or so from your desk at work, or walking around and shifting weight from leg to leg in a standing job can really make a difference in how the body feels once work is over.

Prayer, Meditation, Yoga

As tools for helping clear the mind, yoga, meditation, and prayer can be incorporated as part of any daily routine. Yoga is especially helpful as it focuses on relieving the physical and mental stress simultaneously, calming the mind and stretching the body.

Today’s high level of work-related stress has become a danger to our health and well-being. However, incorporating some relatively simple and inexpensive techniques can help you safely navigate through life’s minefields with less damage to your body and mind, keeping you healthy for yourself and your family.

Elizabeth graduated with a degree in Public Health Administration before relocating with her family to Seattle.  She is currently writing, and her favorite topics include health care, work-life balance, and travel.

My top three considerations when practicing yoga on & off the mat.

1)      The Breath

On the mat:
Once we get the concept that yoga postures will be easier when we breathe smoothly – then we begin to find the meditative quality of the practice. This takes our practice to a level beyond the physical.

Off the mat: If your breath is erratic pay attention, consider why it is that way, and intentionally slow it down. If it’s too shallow bring your awareness to the breath and purposefully increase the quality. A steady breath = a steady mind. A steady mind = peacefulness.

2)      Gratitude

On the mat:
Be grateful that we can move our body – that we have the capacity to get ourselves on the mat and in the moments when a posture is challenging, be in the moment, be with the posture – ask yourself – what is this here to teach me?

Off the mat:
The passage of time – when things are going well, time seems to go by swiftly and when life is presenting us with challenges, time seems to go by painfully slow. Either way – we must remember – the event and emotions are impermanent…. it will change…. which is why it is important to embrace the present moment. Whether it is enjoyable or difficult is not really the point – the point is – the experience is presented to teach us something and within the lesson, there is always an opportunity to be grateful.


3)      Intention

On the mat:
There really is not any reason to spend our time (or money if we are going to a studio/class) practicing yoga without an intention. Everyone’s intention, on each day, will be different. When we step on our mat, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves – what is my intention for the next 60 minutes?

Off the mat:
Living with intention requires dedication to awareness. Paying attention to our choices, our actions, and how we react to others. Every day we make choices.  We choose one thought over another, we choose one behavior over another, and we choose to take one path over another.  When we investigate our lives, existing with awareness, and taking responsibility for our choices, we are choosing to live an authentic life.

Make an amazing day!


HalfMoon Pond photo by my good friend, Melanie Dostie.

What do we want for our children?

To be happy.  To give and receive love.
To be well in body, mind & spirit.

How to do this?
Mindful Parenting.
Instilling self-esteem and self-confidence.
Being an excellent role model.
And a whole lot ‘o love!

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development states when children are preschoolers, they try to behave in ways that involve more ‘grown up’ responsibility. At this age when they take initiative, it is important parents react in a positive way to instill self-esteem and self-confidence otherwise the child may feel confused and/or guilty about their behavior.

Sometimes we confused shame and guilt, so let me take a moment here to talk about the difference between them. In her wonderful book, The Gifts of Imperfections, Brené Brown defines shame as – I am bad, and guilt as – I did something bad. In the chapter Origins of Guilt, from the book Guilt and Children, Karen Caplovitz Barrett states that Jerome Kagan’s Theory proposes that guilt is not possible until children can recognize that they can choose how to behave and he states that does not happen until the age of four.  In a journal article (yup – I’m a Grad Student) from 1982, Martin Hoffman describes ‘healthy guilt’ as an appropriate response to harming another and is resolved through atonement, such as making amends, apologizing or accepting punishment.’ He describes ‘unhealthy guilt as ‘a pervasive sense of responsibility for others’ pain that is not resolved, despite efforts to atone.’

As a Life/Health Coach I frequently hear many clients talk about feeling guilty, so let’s take it just a bit further so we understand for ourselves (if we tend to feel guilty) and so we have some information about how to address this if we are still raising children. Brené Brown’s  research shows that children who use more shame self-talk (I am bad) versus guilt self-talk (I did something bad) struggle mightily with issues of self-worth and self-loathing. Using shame to parent teaches children that they are not inherently worthy of love.  (Thank you, Brené, for that last sentence, which may explain a lot for so many.) Furthermore, in research about shame and guilt in preschool depression (say – what?! – preschooler depression?!), it was determined that high levels of shame and pathological guilt are a known feature in adult depression. So, it’s easy to see the importance of being mindful of how we deal with our children from the emotional standpoint.

How do we act and react with others? What is our communication style? How do we spend our time? When we live with intention and purpose, we are modeling for our children. Brené Brown (2010) writes in The Gifts of Imperfection: Where we are on our journey of living and loving with our whole hearts is a much stronger indicator of parenting success than anything we can learn from how-to books. I believe that when we evaluate our own values and beliefs and determine if we are living in alignment with them, it can be an important part of evaluating our parenting style.

Think about the following when parenting (really when in relationship with ANYbody)

  • Treat children with respect, always.
  • Show them unconditional love, especially when disciplining.
  • Set limits and be consistent, challenging and a must!
  • Spend time with your kids. Not just ‘with’ them – but WITH them.  Be present.
  • Decision-making – give them choices rather than telling them what to do.
    (exception would include – when it involves their safety)
  • Demonstrate by example. Be an excellent role model.

They are all important, for sure, however, in closing – I’d like to take a look at the fourth bullet. It is about spending quality time with your kids. This reminds me of the song written, and performed, by Harry Chapin – The Cats in the Cradle. It’s about a father who is too busy for his son. As he is growing up the son says ‘you know I’m gonna be like you, Dad’.  The son wants to play catch. The son asks the father to spend time with him in various ways, but the father is always working or busy and doesn’t make time for his son. Then when the son is grown, and has a family of his own, the father is not as busy.  The father asks his son to spend time with him and the son says ‘I’d love to Dad, if I could find the time. You see my new jobs a hassle, and the kids have the flu. But It’s sure nice talking to you, Dad, It’s been sure nice talking to you……..“ And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me – He’d grown up just like me, My boy was just like me…………..’

Living Life, Making ‘parenting’ Choices – what are they for you?

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.
~ Hodding Carter, Jr.