Ordinary and extraordinary beauty

Note: This is a guest post by Marilyn Webster of Whimsy and Tea.

Several years ago I traveled back to India, to the foothills of the Himalayas where I grew up.  My class was having a reunion in conjunction with our school’s 150th anniversary celebration.

On the last morning our seventh grade homeroom teacher invited us to a sunrise breakfast.  A handful of us arrived on time and walked with our teacher along a narrow path to a bench.  We listened as he described the path the light would take and told us where and when the sun would appear.  The yellow light on the snow of these high mountains was stunning.

What sticks in my memory more than the details of the gorgeous sunrise though is that two other white-haired men joined us.  At least one of them wore his pajamas and a robe and they both carried cups of tea.  As I recall, they didn’t stay long.  Once the sun was up, they turned and walked back to their homes.

I was very moved to learn that these three white-haired men regularly watched the sunrise together.  I knew each of them from the classroom, school functions, church services, hikes, potlucks and meals and my family’s home and/or theirs.  Now, years later, I was catching a glimpse of them in a different context and was honored to witness this.

I got the sense that this sunrise was both extraordinary and ordinary for them.  Extraordinary because of the incredible beauty, something they valued enough to leave their warm beds to witness.  Ordinary because this was an everyday occurrence and this is how they started their day.

From my daily walks along a rural road in northern California, I understand the power of starting the day with the beauty of the natural world.  After my morning cup of tea, the dogs and I walk up a hill to a vineyard, down the other side and back.  I take these walks as much for me as for the dogs.

We walk at roughly the same time every morning and I love noticing the changes in the light, in the weather, in what’s blooming and growing, and in what’s dying.  I often ask myself, “What’s beautiful today?”  This morning it was the cool crisp air, the stillness beneath the birdsong and the waxing moon in the clear light blue sky.  Yesterday it was an unexpected warm breeze and a hummingbird sipping nectar from the purple Bear’s Breech flowers.

I cannot speak for the three men watching the sun rise over the Himalayas.  I can say that paying attention to the beauty I experience as I walk this road every morning helps me be more present to the ordinary and extraordinary beauty of being alive.

In memory of Rev. Robert C. Alter (1926 – 2011)

How do you experience ordinary and extraordinary beauty?  I’d love to hear.

“Article © 2011 Marilyn Webster, all rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission.” Whimsy Tea, 11165 Highway 116, Forestville, CA 95436, USA  http://www.aweber.com/z/r/?jKzMzMwcHLSsjCxsbAzMHLRGtIwMzAzsnBys
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Joy Found: Do Something You LOVE

“My feet ache. I am tired and look like I took a bath in sweat,” I said to my husband the other night coming home well past my regular bedtime. Joy! Joy! Joy! I spent the evening dancing. Dancing, brings me joy, even with the blisters, bruises and sore toes from the awkward steps of new partners. What struck me throughout the night and the next day was how important it is to have something you simply LOVE doing. Something that can fix all the wrongs in the world if only for a few hours. For me that is whirling on the dance floor. Tango Please!

For my husband it is getting on his bike creating his own personal Tour De France.

For my neighbor it is listing to the sounds of her children laughing, running like crazy around the yard with their dog.

Where do you find your joy?

Puzzles, Patterns and Illumination

8 5 4 9 1 7 6 3 2 0

What pattern do you see in the numbers above?

Take a minute or two and think.  Enjoy the interlude photo while you do.

When I was first confronted with the number string above I defaulted to the obvious line of thought, “There must be a numeric pattern here.” Math traditionally has not been a strong point of mine, but I kept the paradigm that because number were used it must be a number pattern.

If you have not already guessed, it is not a number pattern, but a word pattern. Now words, I like, and have been pretty good with over time. (Spelling is a separate issue.) Had I moved from my traditional paradigm (unconscious thought pattern) that number must have something to do with numbers I might have arrived at the answer much more quickly.

Alphabetical order, the numbers are in alphabetical order. Thank you Alan Weiss for providing this wonderful example of missing the obvious because of the unconscious.

Puzzles are a favorite of mine, and puzzles are bout about recognizing patterns and putting together pieces that seem disparate. Now that is a paradigm to use- What is the connection between these seemingly unrelated things. Maybe there is not, but maybe there is something and it will be illuminating and how can you resist that idea?

What unconscious patterns of thought are you using? Are they helpful or are they limiting?

PTSD Doesn’t Have To Be: Coping With Trauma

Note: This blog is a bit of a departure for a coaching blog, but here I am drawing on my experience as a counselor. This is a topic I simply felt compelled to address, given the events of recent months. The information provided below is not a substitute for mental health care.

In recent memory here in the Deep South we have witnessed devastating hurricanes, tornadoes, explosions, oil spills, and floods.  These are in addition to an economic recession and slow recovery, the ongoing impact of deployment on soldiers and their loved ones and the everyday stress of an increasingly complex demanding world. Stressful events that are too frequent, too long or too intense lead to distress.  Distress is what we commonly refer to as stress. Some events like explosions, hurricanes, and combat, are keenly stressful. They are traumatic. It might seem a wonder that people are ever relaxed and at peace. However people are resilient, we bounce back from hard times.

Most people cope better with tragedy and trauma when they are well-informed about the issues at hand and understand the worse case scenarios.  You can then develop plans for yourself, family and/or business that have specific steps and actions to take.  You effectively maintain a sense of control in situations where you may have very little control. At times the only measure of control you have is over your reaction to the abnormal that become “the normal” in traumatic situations.

There are few important points to underscore about stressful or traumatic events. Every person reacts to disasters, loss and trauma in different ways. No one who experiences one is untouched. Many of the symptoms we associate with posttraumatic stress disorder or other anxiety disorders are really our normal reactions to these events. These may be emotional or physical such as:

  • Feeling on edge, nervous or anxious
  • Feeling tired all of the time
  • Intrusive thoughts that just will not go away
  • Nightmares or sleep disturbances
  • Anger or irritability
  • Disorientation, fear of being alone or in a crowd
  • Crying easily or often
  • Feeling hopeless or number
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Appetite disturbance
  • Memories/feelings about previous losses or events resurface

Trouble begins when these symptoms do not go away or become more severe over time.

Children are not immune to impact of stressful or traumatic events. How they react is dependent on their age as well as their individual developmental stage. Common symptoms include:

Young Children  (ages 1-6)

  • Nightmares or sleep disturbances
  • Headaches, stomach aches
  • Fear separation from caregiver
  • Regressing (e.g. bedwetting, loss of speech or previously acquired skills)

School-Age Children (ages 6-11)

  • Feelings of guilt
  • Concerns about safety
  • Changes in mood and/or behavior
  • Anxiety

Pre-adolescents & Adolescents (ages 12-18)

  • Rebellion at home and/or school
  • Change in school performance
  • Change in relationships
  • Depression and/or social withdrawal

Most people will not go on to develop persistent anxiety disorders or PSTD. Time works its magic, along with a few other important elements, and people have fewer symptoms or these are not as severe or fade away entirely. In fact a PTSD diagnosis cannot be made for at least 30 days after the event.

There are things you can do to help after a stressful or traumatic event. These are some examples:

  1.  Set a routine and do your best to stick to it. People are creatures of routine and structure. We like to know what is going to happen when, with whom and for how long.  Sometimes to the best route to getting back to normal, is creating the normal again.  This can be a simple as having dinner at the same time each evening. A regular routine can help lessen the feeling everything is out of control, as well as worry, stress and anxiety.
  2.  Stay connected. Maintaining connection with your community, your friends, your family, your co-workers, your church, etc, is critical. In fact is one of the strongest predictor about who bounces back successful from traumatic or stressful event. Avoiding people and places can be a sign you may need extra support.
  3.  Validate feelings. Feeling sad, a real sense of loss or anxious is normal.  Yes, it is important to be strong, but strong does not equal holding everything inside.  Strength in stressful situations is knowing you have powerful sometimes uncomfortable feelings, while also knowing  (or being willing to find out) what you need to do to move forward.  The aftermath of a traumatic event may require individual strength as well as the support of others.
  4.  Self-care. This might feel counter intuitive, or even selfish in the middle of a stressful time.  Exercise, is a great way to burn off stress. Contemplative time in a house of worship, in prayer or constructive reflective thinking (not brooding) can lessen the severity and sting of stress. Get enough sleep to be rested. Eat well. Take some time for pleasure, yes pleasure. A 5-minute laugh can do a lot to help heal the soul and manage stress as can listening to music, journaling, mediating, or some fuzz therapy (e.g. patting or playing with a cat or dog).

Some things can worsen or prolong symptoms. These are indicators that professional help maybe needed.

  1.  Avoidance. If you notice that you are avoiding activities, situations, or people who you normally you would not, this is a sign your symptoms could get worse.  We all get anxious, what makes it worse is avoiding things. Avoidance reinforces the idea that something should be feared and that anxiety is problematic. Avoidance doesn’t solve anything things will fester and grow worse.
  2. Using other unhealthy coping strategies. If your notice that you are drinking more, using drugs, isolating yourself, picking fights, etc. this is a sign that certain thoughts and feelings are not being dealt with in a healthy ways.
  3. Symptoms begin to interfere with your life. If you have prolonged problems concentrating at work, feel emotionally disconnected from your loved ones, or your lose interest in the things that once were fun or pleasurable, these are all signs things may be getting worse. The more symptoms interfere with your life, you are more susceptible being depressed or developing an anxiety disorder.

If you or someone you know is experiencing some or all of the symptoms above there are resources available to you.  For more information on mental health services, in Mississippi, contact the Department of Mental Health (DMH) Helpline at 1-877-210-8513.  Trained DMH staff members are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Others in include the America Psychological Association Psychologist Locator, National Social Worker Finder, The Anxiety Disorders Associations of America, links and descriptions are provided below.

  • American Psychological Association Psychologist Locator: The American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator can help you find mental health providers in your area. Enter your zip code or your city and state, you will then be provided with contact information for psychologists who provide mental health services close to where you live. This search engine does not provide the specialty of therapists.
  • National Social Worker Finder: The National Association of Social Workers finder service can help you find mental health providers in your area who provide counseling services.  Enter your zip code or your city and state, you will then be provided with contact information for social workers who provide mental health services close to where you live. You can look for providers who specialize in anxiety, grief/loss, trauma/PTSD as well as age ranges, with specific populations, who speak specific languages and are in certain geographic locations.
  • The Anxiety Disorder Association of America Find a Therapist Website: The Anxiety Disorder Association of America Find a Therapist website can help you find mental health providers in your area that specialize in the treatment of anxiety disorders (including PTSD). To find a therapist, all you have to do is enter your city and state. You will then be provided with a list of providers in your area, as well as their credentials. The Find a Therapist website also provides additional suggestions on how to find a therapist in your area.

References:

  1. American Psychological Association, Help Center, Mind/Body Health: The Effects of Traumatic Stress, http://www.apa.org/
  2. Personal correspondence, Mathew Tull, PhD., Director, Anxiety Disorders Research, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior University of Mississippi Medical Center, July 2011
  3. Mississippi, Department of Mental Health, Disaster Information, http://www.dmh.state.ms.us/
  4. Tedeschi, R. G. & McNally, R.J., Can We Facilitate Posttraumatic Growth in Combat Veterans?, American Psychologist, Jan. 2011, Vol. 66, No. 1, p.p. 19-25
  5. Sapolsky. R. M., Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Third Edition, 2004
  6. Wheeler, C.M., 10 Simple Solutions to Stress, 2007

Pursuing Happiness, Fulfilling Priorties

The pursuit of happiness is a terrific right, one I am sure many of us celebrated in style over the weekend. Happiness is a wonderful, but fleeting emotion. Of course we want to feel happy- a dopamine release feels just great!  But the United States was not founded on fleeting principles or fleeting purposes. What supports our ability to be profoundly, madly, deeply, truly “happy” is flourishing in life.  One where you are fulfilled, your life is one of deepest joy because a) you feel life is entirely worth living (even the messy bits) and b) you feel you are fulfilling a greater purpose.

To flourish I have found you need to be crystal clear about 6 things:

  1. Your roles in life
  2. Your priorities
  3. Your core values
  4. Your signature strengths
  5. Your trip-ups and tolerations
  6. Your refreshers

If you are clear, absolutely “windexed-window, bird-bonking clear”, then you can more easily cultivate a flourishing, fulfilling life. You can solve lingering problems that interfere with your ability to focus on priorities and roles at work, home and play. So that you can realize goals, explore your interests and attend to your needs as well as those of people important to you. You can create a fulfilling, invigorating life where you are in control, even in the midst of chaos.

Being crystal clear about these 6 things requires you take a good long hard look in the proverbial mirror and assess what is working and what’s not in your life. You begin to identify where things are in sync and where things get wonky. Many of clues about where you are grounded, balanced and fulfilled and where you are not make themselves clear once you start really digging in.  Knowledge is power.

You can avoid the “As Soon As Trap”, the life dulling habit of planning on getting around to the joys of life and accomplishment “as soon as….” You can have a life where you are engaged. and there is meaning, serving or belonging to something you believe is bigger than you. Achievement or accomplishments are pursued for their own sake, even when there is no immediate positive emotion attached. A life with positive relationships- few things we do that are really happy are along- think about sharing a laugh, or a hard trek and how much closer that makes you feel and how much richer your life becomes.

“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.”  Albert Camus

Is Now Your Chance To Be Better? 

Are you ready to thrive and create a life that is profoundly fulfilling?  I have an exciting new program, Priorities Fulfilled© that is designed to help you solve the lingering problems interfering with your ability to focus on priorities at work, home and play.  This program is designed specifically to help people who:

  • have competing personal and professional priorities,
  • take on too much,
  • are stuck in neutral spinning their wheels,
  • and are ready to move forward and put bad habits and outdated ways of thinking behind them.

What will you get from Priorities Fulfilled©?

  • Make substantial progress towards realizing your most important priorities.
  • Develop a crystal clear picture of your core values and signature strengths these and how to best leverage them.
  • Powerful personal tools to address the mental, emotional and physical clutter that gets in the way.
  • Learn how to create and keep sacred time for you and your priorities amid the complexities of a busy modern life.
  • Cultivate an internal sense of calm control that allows you to hold your priorities front and center and take action.
  • Become skilled at making decisions in alignment with your priorities, values and strengths, with greater ease, clarity and confidence.
  • Receive real concrete help in achieving your goals.

There are three ways we can work together in the Priorities Fulfilled©  program: a 3 hour super Session, a 5 week Private Intensive Series or a one day VIP Intensive. Each one is specially designed to met different needs and different timelines.

I am offering the first 5 people who commit to fulfilling their priorities special introductory pricing.  Use the code PF5711, good from July 1 – July 8, 2011. 

For more information please contact me to schedule a complimentary 30 minute telephone session to discover what’s right for you.

Happy Independence Day

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” ~ Erma Bombeck

The pursuit, life, liberty and happiness is a noble one, which has become skewed at least in part in recent years.  The pursuit of happiness as it has been more recently defined- where fulfillment is confused with the accumulation of stuff, status – external things,  is truth intended to be the quest for a rather more profoundly held sense of fulfillment. We are abundantly fortunate to live in a country where we have the right to pursue a life where we do feel satisfaction and happiness and other positive emotions. A life where you are engaged, where your lose yourself in the moment in a task, falling into flow, where time seems to stand still. There is meaning, serving or belonging to something you believe is bigger than you. Achievement or accomplishments are pursued for their own sake, even when there is no immediate positive emotion attached.

A life with positive relationships few things we do that are really happy are done alone. Think about sharing a laugh, or a hard trek and how much closer that makes you feel and how much richer and more balanced your life becomes. Families are a wonderful example of this, they embody the challenges and pleasures if life. Raising a child is never easy, and at times down right heart breaking and hard. Navigating family dynamics, highs. lows and personalities can bring real achievement and enjoyment as well.  For most of us we can laugh at funny stories from vacations gone awry.

So this July 4th Holiday, I hope you celebrate with people important to you, who push you to be your finest self awhile also letting you best your worst self. That you cheer each other on in the joyful and messy times.  And you let some ants eat themselves silly.