Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Who are THEY? (Choosing an Authentic, Abundant Life)

Who says I can't walk around with bed head all day?  I mean, come on, doesn't this look kind of suit me?

I find myself in a difficult, weird place - like major shifts and big transitions are just around the corner.  And for the first time in a long time, I feel like I'm being forced to change.  The changes I am experiencing are forcing me to take a good look at the messages I've adopted from the world, and the self-imposed, limiting thoughts I think.

Hmm, how do I say this?  Well, first off, I'm tired of rules.  I'm tired of worrying about what other people think of my choices.  I'm tired of people, society, they, telling me how to live.  Conformity, fitting in, being like everyone else - I'm so done with that.  Seriously, who are they to tell me when it's appropriate to stop nursing my child, or that my socks should match, and that I can't wear navy with black or white after labor day, or that I should keep my mouth shut and not speak my truth, or that I should own two cars, or that I should color within the lines, and seek out the best preschools, and wear the best clothes, and buy the newest cosmetics, or that the more money or credentials I have will add value to my self-worth, or if I discover a gray hair I better find a chemical to cover it up, or that I should brush my bed head and be like everyone else?  Let's conform, shall we?  Let's hide our true selves so that the people around us won't think we're strange.  Let's keep up with the Joneses because they sure know how to live the perfect life.  Who the hell are the Joneses anyway?  And heck, I kinda like my bed head.

Where is this all coming from? Well, although my last blog post was entitled Summer Time and the Living is Easy, I have to say that living isn't always easy.  Some days are fantastic, and other days are hard and challenging. That's the nature of life, the yin and yang, the night and day...  My challenge lately has to do with old feelings of lack and new feelings of abundance and gratitude.  My old way of being -focusing on lack - is what's feeling forced to change, because old habits like to have their way.  They are stubborn and when faced with change they kick and scream, "No, you can't change me!  I like feeling miserable and sorry for myself!"  However, my new abundant self is rejoicing, "Yes, you are so close.  The struggle you experience now will change you forever.  And you have such gratitude for all the little things around you.  You're blessed in so many ways!  Let go of lack and celebrate the changes you are experiencing.  Life is so good."

My husband and I are in a place where we've made some major decisions about how we want to live and raise our family.  With our second baby on the way and our desire to be fully present parents, we have decided to simplify our working schedules to provide more hands-on love, learning and experiences for our family.  This means that I will be working less to focus on staying home, and my husband will balance his work schedule to be home more in the evenings and weekends.  This also means a cut in monthly salary - and it's this shift in the amount of money coming in that is triggering old thought patterns and deep behavior changes.

We've decided to say good-bye to our TV.  What?!  Now I know some of you probably don't have TV's.  I've never experienced this luxury before.  And I'm serious when I say luxury.  Although my old, lack-self wants to scream and say, "How will I survive not seeing every episode of Project Runway?!" My new abundant-self is secretly excited at what this change will bring.  I see the stack of books I want to read, I hear my deep desire to paint more, and I love our quality family time of walks, playing at the park and caring for our community garden.  So letting go of TV is actually creating space for the things I want more time for.  And, it's going to save us money.  All good things, right?

Other changes we need to make include cutting our grocery budget, reducing the personal money we pay ourselves for clothes, yoga classes and little splurges, and reducing our entertainment budget.  Again, my old lack-self says, "Guess we'll be eating mush every meal and I'll be wearing the same clothes everyday and if it's not a free activity then forget about it.  Sounds like we'll be hermits the rest of the summer."  But my new abundant-self is rejoicing, "Wow, here's an opportunity to get creative with buying bulk and playing with recipes (like finding a gluten-free pizza crust that's only $2.50 per bag).  I can now clear out my closet for just the essential (maternity) clothes and getting dressed each morning will be much easier!  And, there are many free things to do in my area - it's going to be really fun to seek them out!"

I never knew when I started the Reduce Clutter; Create Space challenge for 2010 that it would lead to reducing the amount of money coming in.  I always thought that the more money we had, the more abundance we would experience.  Now I'm learning that it's not about the amount of money, but rather the ability to live more fully, boldly, freely and presently, despite the dollar amount.  Happiness truly does come from within, and the more I embrace the abundance around me, the more joy I can experience along the way.

So returning to my original question - who are they to tell me how to live?  The more aware I become, the more I realize that they is really me.  Sure, we are raised with societal norms and we have the media pressuring us on how to live and conform - but I have the freedom to choose.  I can choose to not let they become my thoughts.  I can change what I think about myself and the world around me.  I can stay curious and ask questions.  I can face my fears and take risks.  I can choose to be confident and clear about me and how I choose to live.  I can be different.  I can embrace authentic living.  I can practice living from a spirit-driven place, rather than letting my ego guide the way.  I can know deep down in my heart that no amount of money or things will define who I am or bring me happiness.  I can choose to be happy from the inside out and I can love being ME.

So today, and every day, I am letting go of my old feelings, thoughts and behaviors around lack and I'm not listening to them anymore.  I may not know where this will lead, but my new way of being is to TRUST that everything is unfolding as it should and I'm right where I need to be in this moment.  I am on the right path, because the right path for me is MY path, just as the right path for you is YOUR path.

Change isn't easy, that's for sure.  But the alternative - repeating the same pattern over and over and wasting energy trying to fit in - just ain't for me anymore.  I say stop.  And I'm truly excited about what this new space and simplicity will bring. 
Now, I better run. Kestan's taking a nap and here's my last chance to watch TV before it's turned off tonight!

Your Personal Reflection:  How have you allowed they to define how you live?  Do your thoughts create self-imposed limitations in your life?  Can you choose, today, to let go of lack in your life, and celebrate abundance and gratitude?  

Grab a piece of paper and write down three things that you are grateful for in this moment.  Try this practice daily and you'll start to notice some shifts in the way you think, the way you see yourself, and the way you see the world around you.

Abundance is not something we acquire.  It is something we tune into." -Wayne Dyer

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summertime and the Living is Easy

Your Personal Reflection:  What fun will you have today?

(Photos courtesy of Chris Duh and Matt Weiss.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reduce Clutter Update & Spotlight Interview - Meet Bella!

It's been a while since I've updated you on the de-cluttering madness at my house.  I have to say that I was on a roll from about January through April, then I gave myself the month of May off and I bet you can guess what happened from there.  June was slow.  I could blame it on being pregnant, busy and hot, but really I just started losing steam and motivation.

The theme for June is "digital clutter."  I've accomplished a few tasks, like clearing out my email inbox and keeping it clear (that's a hard one!), organizing my desktop files and updating all my computer backups.  But the list is long and June is almost over.  I'm not going to put that kind of pressure on myself, though.  So, I've made a small list to accomplish between now and next week.  

1) Clear out the 1300 photos on my Iphone
2) Organize my Iphoto library and pick out my favorite photos to be printed for our soon-to-be updated created photo wall
3) Learn Bento, a new program to help organize my mailing list

I feel inspired to continue on, especially since I know how darn good it feels when I clear out the junk.  Ahhhhh....I love space!

And I think you'll feel totally inspired, too, after reading the following interview with the lovely and wonderful Bella Sinclair.  If you have yet to visit her doodlespot, then go there today!  She's real, she's honest, she's incredibly funny and super talented.  Enjoy reading a snippet of her journey as she commits to creating more space in her life for what matters most.

1.  Why have you chosen to join the "Reduce Clutter:  Create  Space" challenge for 2010?
When life took a sudden left turn last year, I found myself having to downsize in a big way.  We had practically a house-worth of belongings in storage in New Jersey and a fully furnished apartment in Tokyo, and somehow I had to squeeze all these things together into a townhouse in California.  We had a lot of stuff.  Embarrassingly too much stuff.  Hyperventilation-inducing stacks.  I joined the Reduce Clutter challenge to motivate me in re-prioritizing and organizing and reducing. 

(Photo courtesy of Bella Sinclair.)
2.  What does "clutter" mean to you?
Clutter, first and foremost to me, means things that just sit and collect dust, never being used.  I have so many of those "maybe-one-day" items that I've held onto for years.  In addition to material clutter, there's also financial clutter.  I had too many open credit lines and bank accounts for my comfort.  I prefer to live simply and to be streamlined.   And then there's time clutter, my constant nemesis.  Settling into a new life and a new house involved a to-do list that never seemed to end.  I felt paralyzed by all the things begging to be done.  I am still searching for the best and most productive routine for my days.

3.  What kinds of reducing have you started?
It took several months, but I managed to consolidate all our belongings under one roof.  I have donated about 30 boxes of clothes and household goods to charity.  Don't open my closets, though.  I have several of them stuffed with items that will one day end up on ebay and Craigslist.  Financially, I closed bank accounts and canceled credit cards.  Timewise....  ugh, don't ask.

(Photo courtesy of Bella Sinclair.)
4.  Have you noticed any new space  being created as you let things physically, mentally and emotionally go?  
I can't really say that I've created physical space.  I had to use every space in my home that I had.  For instance, I had no space for all my CDs, so I re-purposed drawers in a rarely-used bathroom for my CD collection.  Not the most elegant display, but it works.  The space I've created from all the reducing has been within me.  I feel like I can breathe more freely, and that I have more control over my domain.  Letting things go has been a shedding of emotional burden of sorts.

5.  What's been the easiest part for you?
When we were living in Tokyo, many of our things were in storage for two years.  Although I felt sad at having to box away the things I loved, I found that I didn't really miss anything at all.  All of it was just...stuff.  I could make do without, and I was even freed to discover new interests, new things.  I even convinced myself that if my moving truck somehow vanished, it would be okay and it would, in fact, solve my problem of having to consolidate so much junk.  So for me, it was relatively easy to just let go of material things.

(Photo courtesy of Bella Sinclair.)
6.  How about the hardest?
I said the easiest part was letting go of material possessions, and now I'm going to contradict myself by saying the hardest part was letting go of material possessions.  Specifically, I found it very difficult to let go of the gifts that my late husband had given me over the years, even if I never used them or they were not my color or style or if I secretly disliked them.  So they are with me still, up in a closet.

7.  Any surprises so far?
You know, I was surprised to find that it's harder to get rid of stuff than I thought.  In Tokyo, forget about it.  You have to pay to throw large things away.  Here in the US, I tried to sell a large collection of books to a used book store and was surprised to find that they do not accept hardbacks after the paperbacks versions have come out.  Electronics have to be recycled to specific sites.  Even old medicines have to be specially disposed.  Of course, the simple answer to that is to just donate all the usable items to charity.
(Photo courtesy of Bella Sinclair.)
8.  What are your intentions for joining other "explorers" on this journey?
My intention is not to lose steam.  Seeing someone else clean up and reduce motivates me to do the same.

9.  Any tips, thoughts or suggestions you might want to share with others who are interested in starting to "reduce clutter" so they can "create more space" in their lives?
Living in Japan where space is at a premium and discarding things can end up being a headache, I learned to control my buying impulses.  If there is something I really like, I usually put it on my wish list and sit on it for a while to see if I really want or need the item later.  Ultimately, what's really important is not all the material stuff.  What really matters is that you have love and good health and laughter, and that's the stuff you can't buy off the shelf.

A BIG thank you, Bella, for sharing a glimpse of your story with us.  You inspire me and I feel much more motivated now to continue the quest.  Onward, my friend, to inviting more love, good health and laughter into our lives.

Your Personal Reflection:  How is reducing clutter going for you?  Tell us your story! I believe there is great power, strength, and courage that comes from sharing.  If you haven't already, join the reduce clutter explorers and check out our forum.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Everyone is Born Creative; Everyone!

We pulled out the paints yesterday.  Started with watercolors but Kestan wanted something messier - so finger paints were a must.  We get messy a lot together but for some reason this day was a little different.  I was totally relaxed with him.  I put out a variety of paints and supplies (per his request).  I put white butcher paper down on two different tables and let him move between the two.  

I was fascinated watching him become fully engaged in the process of painting.  He swayed to the classical music, he used his hands, he tried a variety of brushes and colors, he poured the water directly on his paper, he splashed it around and he even used the opposite end of his brush to draw in the paint.

He experimented, explored, and discovered - without limitations.  I didn't tell him "no."  I didn't freak out about spilt water.  I didn't care that he got paint on his face (chin, ears, elbows, and knees).  I simply let him be in a place to be guided by his innate creativity.

I've given myself permission to take my e-course alongside the other fabulous explorers in class, so I have my art journaling supplies and special space set up.  I've been creating more this week - and I feel blessed that I get to do a lot of this playing alongside my little boy.

And what I hope for you is that you give yourself permission to play, too!  We are ALL born creative - yes, even YOU!  I'm reading this fabulous book, Ignore Everybody - and 39 other Keys to Creativity, by Hugh MacLeod, and he puts this point very simply.  He says, "Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.  Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc.  Being suddenly hit years later with the "creative bug" is just a wee voice telling you, "I'd like my crayons back, please."

That is what I hear time and time again from people searching for their artist within.  We all have that inner voice that whispers and gently guides us towards creative expression, and it's usually our adult, linear, critical voice that points us to the rational, "do it right," be responsible, "you aren't creative," place that keeps us from ever returning to our crayons.

Here's what I want you to do:  Take out some paper, crayons, paints and simply allow yourself to play.  Set the timer for 15 minutes, turn on your favorite music and cover your page with color.  Feel like a beginner, just like Kestan, and get your hands messy, paint with two brushes at once, close your eyes while painting, and let the movement of the music guide you.  Have fun and remember this - YOU ARE CREATIVE!

Your Personal Reflection:  If playing with paint feels intimidating and you don't feel creative (like most of us) then take some time to get crayons and paints back into your hands.  Only YOU can decide when it's finally time to let your innate creativity shine.  Life is short - do it today!

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's Never Too Late

I am loving the way I feel now by taking your course.  It opened up a lot of feelings and is letting me enjoy myself and each day.  I so much enjoy expressing my feelings through doodling and writing, and I'm loving my own sacred place while being true to ME - instead of letting myself just drift along.  Thank you so much, Shannon, for giving me a wonderful place to learn, explore and express myself.  
I am finding immense joy in so many things.  -Iris

I received this lovely note over the weekend from an explorer who participated in my last e-course.  It's feedback like this that warms my heart.  Even though I know I'm on the right path, it's nice to hear that others are feeling such inspiration from the deep connections made through my Inside Out community. 

Whether you are in your 70's (like Iris), or still in your teens - your age, your personality, your past, your stage of life - none of that matters.  What matters most is that we keep an open heart and an open mind so that we can be ready for life's greatest possibilities.  We are all looking for the same things.  We are in search of meaning, connection, love, abundance, joy, celebration, purpose, creativity, growth, happiness...  I love that we can come together to share, to learn and to support each other along our life's path.  The opportunity to learn more about YOU and get completely inspired, while putting YOURSELF and what matters most to YOU first - starts today!
As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

There is still time to enroll for Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery - so get on over there - make some BIG changes and join another amazing group of women who are eager to live more fully, boldly and freely.  (Registration closes at midnight, US Central time, tonight!)

Your Personal Reflection:  To see great change in your life, you have to be willing to take healthy risks and try new things.  What is one thing you can try, today, that you've never had the courage to do?  Take one small step towards something that matters to you - because YOU MATTER, and it's never too late to try.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fun With Felt

Now that I'm focusing more of my "free-time" on summer fun, I've been enjoying messy mornings with Kestan.  I found a stash of scrap felt and thought that finger puppets would be a fun project.

Kestan enjoyed it, but I have to say, his favorite part was dumping out all of the buttons.

*Scrap felt

*Embroidery thread and needles

*Variety of buttons

(Glue, scissors, pipe cleaners, yarn or any other fun materials you can find around the house

Let your kids have fun making a mess with you.  My little guy has trouble handling scissors but he got involved in other ways - like telling me what animals he wanted me to make, picking out the colors, helping with the glue and of course...playing with the final product!

Your Personal Reflection:  How do you nurture your children's creativity, as well as your own?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Few Lessons Learned and Winner Announced!

What I've learned this week:  That nature helps me connect to my heart.  That letting go, especially of things I love, is hard.  That being authentic and true to myself is the only way to live.  That connecting on a deeper level to a community of free spirits is enriching beyond belief.

Thanks to each of you for your support of my last post and for sharing how you are working to embrace your own authentic way of being.  I appreciate you all so much.

The winner of a spot in my upcoming Inside Out e-course is:

You all still have a few days left to register, so check out the link and give yourself a gift that will truly celebrate YOU this summer.  Isn't it time to put you and your dreams first?

Here are what some explorers have shared that they learned on their Inside Out adventure:

I've learned the importance of reviewing intentions and honoring the process of practice - profound change doesn't happen overnight and making space and time for oneself takes practice and...intention!

I've learned that I can be more than one way.  I can be a serious, ambitious medical student without sacrificing the joyous, free-spirited, light hearted, creative side of myself.  It's okay to pursue meditation and yoga and doodle in my journal.  In fact, it makes me more who I am, it makes me stronger, and instead of taking away from parts of my life, it adds to it. Thank you for that!

I have learned so much already (and I'm only on day 17.)  I've learned I need to make time in my life for solitude and stillness, that I also need to make the effort to connect deeply with other people.  I've learned that I need a space to be creative, and that I need to travel and write.

The best thing I have learned is that I have been able to take all that life offered and turn myself into a strong person, fun loving, adventurous and a support for all those in my life, and that I have no doubts about what I am anymore.  I needed a catalyst and this course has helped me take my true self beyond tomorrow.

I've learned that I CAN.  That my inner artist is there...waiting for fabric, pen or yarn to shine on through...

I have learned that I have lost my own personal confidence.  And most importantly I have learned that I can get it back!  I have learned that I can be a creative person, that I am a creative person, that I am good enough to be the person I have always dreamed of being!

I have learned how to change my world from black and white to technicolor!

If you would like to read more testimonials about my e-course from past explorers, visit here.
If you are interested in learning why I created this course and how I found my inner artist, visit here.

Your Personal Reflection:  Do you want one more day to go by where you aren't fully LIVING the life you've imagined?  What steps can you take, today, towards creating the life you love?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Slowing Down to Honor ME, My Family & NOW

Nature often holds up a mirror so we can see more clearly the ongoing processes of growth, renewal, and transformation in our lives. -unknown

This little boy is discovering the world around him,

becoming an explorer all his own.

Touching nature with his hands,

he sees great beauty in the simple things.

He goes with the flow

and helps me see the world with fresh, new eyes.

He reminds me that being silly...

is a great joy.

With a new baby boy on the way, 

I am full of complete gratitude for the gift of motherhood.

I know I'm going down a new path

and I don't know where it will lead.

Inviting a new angel into our family

is reminding me what's most important in life.

We live.

We grow.

We die.

Our spirits live on...forever.

Reconnecting to nature reminds me to listen to my heart, to return to a simpler way of being, and to let go of more, so that I can fully embrace the present moment.  

As I listen more deeply to my natural rhythm and energy, I've decided that rather than launching my Summer Camp e-course in August, I'm turning my attention to slowing down.  I know that this stage of my life,

being a mother to young children, is so fleeting.  I'm choosing to enjoy a lazy, breezy, relaxed kind of summer, enjoying time with my son, and I want to be restored and ready for this next little soul to enter the world.  

So I'm choosing to work a little less and play a little more - to slow down and let go.  

As we continue to discover the world together, let us all embrace our unique brilliance and live from a place that vibrates love, complete wonder and authenticity!  Will you choose to LIVE NOW, too?

Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery is the last e-course I'll be offering before I'm on maternity leave this fall.  It starts in one week!  In honor of my path and in honor of your path, I'd like to share one last give-away.  Leave a comment by Wednesday morning, June 16th, to the following question:  

Your Personal Reflection: What is one step you are taking TODAY to live a more authentic life?

(*All the photos in this blog post are courtesy of my lovely husband, Chris Duh.)