Disaster hits close to home

We live in central Mississippi where spring often brings tremendous rains, storms full of howling wind, hail lashing rain and some time tornados. Last weekend we had such a storm drag its fury across the State. An F-4, 1.75 mile wide tornado swept, sucked and pulled itself nearly 200 miles across the state.  Leaving scores and scores of flatten, and wrenched buildings, homes, churches, business, humble and grand.  People are devastated. Lives have been lost and it astounds me that with the 175 mile per hour winds that sheared trees in half, thirds and ripped roots up from the ground there were not more lives lost, or people injured. The destruction is jaw-dropping.

My husband and I both saw the vast damage that Hurricane Katrina wrought along the Gulf coast and the unimaginable impact of the combined forces of Hurricane Katrina with the broken levees in New Orleans. The damage in Yazoo City and other locations in Mississippi ranks with the damage we saw in the late summer of 2005. We have also seen the resilience and steady, if painfully slow at times rebuilding of people’s lives, physically and emotionally.  We have seen the generous nature of others not directly impacted by a disaster, natural of otherwise.

For images, stories and more information about the tornado…just click here.

If you are wondering how you could lend a hand, please consider making a donation to the Central Mississippi Red Cross. I know that money is tight for so many of us, but if you can make a donation of any size that will go a long way to helping people rebuild their lives in both the short and long term.

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Upcoming Workshop

I am excited to announce my upcoming workshop, my first held in Mississippi.

Knowing and Living Your Values: A Path for Harmony and Happiness

People who live the “good life” in a fundamental way, live with happiness grounded in a deep-rooted sense of harmony and flow with the values. This sense of happiness a profound satisfaction and contentment is reflected in how they live their daily lives.

Your happiness and harmony increase when you:

¨      Are crystal clear about the values most important to you.

¨      Make decisions that are guided by your most important values.

¨      You bring integrity to everything you do

Date: Saturday, June 5, 2010                Time: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Location: Joyflow Yoga, 7048 Old Canton Rd, Ridgeland, MS

RSVP by Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 601-613-4317

Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values. – Ayn Rand

For all the details just click here: Knowing and Living Your Values: A Path for Harmony and Happiness

Perfect Moments

Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some days we all need to be reminded that beauty exists, even in the darkest moments, in spite of the most discouraging or frightening news. Not long ago I wrote about a dear friend who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  She said she was going to stop and smell the proverbial roses and if this blog had a scratch and sniff option I would perfume this post, but it does not. So instead I hope you will enjoy this photo I look on a vacation two summers ago.

The geranium was on the porch of a cousin in Lithuania. Not a romantic wrap around porch with rockers, but a small, concrete affair like a jutting lip on the face of a stark Soviet area building, only wide enough for 2 people to stand and deep enough for a folding chair or two. The view was the busy street below and the apartment buildings across the way. It was simple. But the light came through and highlighted to beauty of the wood panel along the sidewall and the sole plant on the porch and in that moment it was perfect. What is more wonderful than a perfect moment?

Boundaries: 6 Tips on how to set ‘em and keep ‘em

Boundaries are to protect life, not to limit pleasures.” Edwin Louis Cole

Boundaries, establishing them, and keeping them is a recurring theme in my professional and personal life.  New England is my home place. We know boundaries. There are little fences all over the place, many of them stone- relics of the centuries old annual rock harvest done on many a piece of land as a prelude to planting.  “Good fences make good neighbors.” an immortal line from Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall may be among the most well known proverbs about boundaries with real truth within for our lives.

Personal boundaries are like imaginary fences created to protect your body mind and spirit. Healthy personal boundaries protect our lives and selves from the unhealthy or damaging behaviors of others. They don’t shut out everyone and everything but rather indicate what you expect and will permit. You’ll want to leave some room to raise or lower the height of your personal boundaries. Maybe some of these are set in stone, and some are more like split rail fence, just remember create them to allow for the weather of life. Well made physical walls allow for drainage, air flow and in some cases take on a glorious patina of lichen, small plants, moss or vines. They become “naturalized” integral parts of the landscape. That’s your aim too.

So let me climb down from my talking fence here and share some tips on setting and keeping personal boundaries. Expecting others and asking them to treat you appropriately is fundamental to well being.

  1. Get clear about what behaviors are not acceptable to you. At work. At home. At play. For example: People may not yell at me. Others may not automatically put their needs in front of mine. People may not call me for work related issues after hours.
  2. Inform folks about your boundaries. If people don’t know what they are they won’t be able to stay on their side of the proverbial fence. Even if you think your boundary is obvious, don’t assume others can see it. Point out what behavior is unacceptable. “Do you realize it is 8 pm on Tuesday?” But use a calm friendly but firm tone.
  3. Make a request about what is acceptable.  “It seems like this is an item that can wait until I am back at the office tomorrow. “ And you might follow up with “Unless it is an emergency like______, please don’t call me after hours.” Again, remain calm and firm in your tone.
  4. Let the person know what you will do if they continue the unacceptable behavior. You might not need to do this the first go around or with every issue that comes up but it is important be clear about what you will do if you need to. “If you continue to call me after hours I will need to speak to _____.
  5. Follow through with your stated consequence. This is not a place to cry wolf. You are responsible for your boundaries, no one else. “ I am going to set a meeting with___ so we can find a way for us to work best with each other and respect each other’s working style.
  6. 6. Let go of what happens, the outcome. Someone else’s behavior is not about you, it isn’t even if it seems like it is. You can’t control what some else does, or says, you can control what you do and say and perhaps influence what others chose to do or say.

8 Tips for Mental Decluttering

If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?   – Laurence J. Peter

Decluttering seems to be going around these days. Is spring cleaning fever? It the idea that simplicity and less is more that is increasingly present in people’s conversations? Does it matter?

People I encounter, from friends, family, clients and colleagues, it seems we are all decluttering, physically, and I dare say mentally/emotionally too.  The common thread for the folks I am connected with is wanting a clean well light space (Thank you for that lovely phrase Mr. Hemingway), in their homes, their offices, the lives. Once we have those clean well light spaces, its is easier to breath, to think, to focus on what not only needs to be done but also what we want to do. The stuff mucking up the works are gone. The physical decluttering, well I wrote about that not too long ago, but what about mental declutter- that is getting your inner-workings cleaned up and neat.

1. Know your most sacredly held values, your personal bottom line of what you will not compromise and use these to help clear away the other stuff. It is easy to get swept up in the thoughts, wants and priorities of others. And sometimes we need to, but not always. If you know hold sacred your values, no one else will either.

2. Be mindful.  Practice being present in your present moment- shift back to manual from autopilot- and check in with what is going on around you and in you. Be deliberate in what you choose to do, experience and react.

3. Ask yourself “W.A.I.T.?” Why am I talking? Silence can be a magical thing offering a place to rest, to reflect, to be inspired, or gain some clarity and insight.

4. Take a break. Yes, stop and take a break. Our bodies are made to work in cycles. So if you have been at something for 90 to 120 minutes, take a short break do something not at all related to the task at hand, then start again. You need to recharge you batteries- we all do.

5. Prioritize, then cut your list in half or even a third. I like to think I can take on an awful lot some days. And I can, but the results are not always desirable.  And guess what? Most of us don’t multitask as well as we imagine we do. Focus on what is most crucial to get done in a day, do it well. And if there is room to done more – hurrah that’s a bonus.

6. Step away from the electronic distractions. My motto for email is “You can have a quick response or a good response, your pick.” Personally I would rather give a good response.

7. Don’t forget to breath. I mean activity take some deep, lung filling, oxygen coursing through your blood, bone and muscle breaths. In. Out. In. Out.  It’s calming. It’s clearing.

8. Make a clean well lighted place for yourself. What ever that means for you. Super minimalist glass desk with 1 pad of paper, 1 pen, 1 lamp… or an arm chair with a foot stool, near the southeastern window with a simple side table… or an architect’s table place where you can see your favorite picture. A place where you can think unencumbered by distractions, but is inspiring and calming for you.

Try these tips and see if some of the internal clutter does go away. I’d love to hear your tips on how you declutter your mind and heart.

Making Meaning, Casting Anchors and Planting Roses

To incorporate new information into our lives,  people must make meaning of the new information. This is a very personal and idiosyncratic process in which each individual selects information that aligns with their values and makes sense in their particular context, at work, at home, wherever. If after the initial glow of “hum…?” you can’t make sense of something you are more likely to leave it be.

So what to do when confronted with information that you simply cannot make good sense of, or find rhyme of reason in? Like learning that a beloved friend has been diagnoses with Multiple Sclerosis. This vital, vibrant, determined, funny passionate woman with a wonderful husband, a 3 year old child and an excellent position at a large State University. My heart is adamant, “This does not make sense and it is NOT fair !” My mind tells me, “Life is not fair, get over it.” And all in all I think it stinks- which are not exactly the words I used when she told me. I’ll leave that to your imagination.

She said the next year of living with MS would be as much about understanding what it means to her, to her husband and family for her to live with MS. What meaning will they attach to this new information? I have no idea, but I was struck by the anchoring this sentiment gave my friend. Incorporating this new thing, this new information would be a process for her and her loved ones. It would unfold overtime as she continues to act as a mother, a wife, a lover, a colleague , friend, patient, daughter and all the roles she plays.

One part of the meaning she has made, is to “stop and smell the roses, more.” For her this information is not only about her physical health, but also about how she chooses to act, do and be in the world.  She’s not one to run from adversity, frankly she’s been known stir it up when maybe she should not, but she’s using her values of standing-my-ground and focusing-on-what-I-want,  to frame things in a positive light. And when the days are not positive, she’ll be able to find that anchor.

What a good reminder to seek out anchors and have them at the ready to help stabilize things when the inevitable lousy days and times roll around. I am going to send her a rose bush to plant in her garden and plant one of the same in mine. I think they will be the prettiest anchors on the block.

Why bother with speaking from a place of empathy?

A client, struggling to improve her communication with her Mother asked me: Why bother speaking with empathy? Good question.

In reality we are often judged and often harshly for identifying our needs and requesting that they be met. But if they remain unexpressed it as if these needs are not of importance to us. And if they are not important to you, they are unlikely to be important to others. So what happens? We erupt into demands, of “shoulds” and “deserves” which generally do not result in a compassionate response, but instead resistance.  And can make us angry, or entrenched. Neither is going to get you what you want in a way you don’t regret in the future.  A win-win is always better then a win-lose or lose-lose conversation. Here’s example:

Dana: “All day I have been running from one thing to an other, groceries, laundry, schlepping the kids around, Oh and going to work. Now how about you making dinner?”

Pat: “ No! You  are not the only one who’s a had hard day, let me tell you…”

Sound familiar?  Dana’s list of what I need in a day maybe true and it may be true that Pat has had a hard day.

What if..?

Dana: “I don’t know about you, but I have had a long day. I’m wiped out and would like to take some time to myself tonight. Would you be willing to make dinner if I wash up after?” Might that have moved the conversation towards a win-win outcome? Maybe Pat will whip up some thing tasty. Maybe they will deicide to order take out. But probably none will feel the sting of a “yea, but…” comment. There is less space for misinterpretation and consequently more space for finding common ground that holds good for both.

For more information see: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. or The Center for Nonviolent Communication