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Write with Your Nondominant Hand
You'll be amazed at the wisdom that pours forth. Joni, a therapist I worked with, introduced me to this concept many years ago. At first, it felt awkward to hold a pen in my left hand, not to mention my penmanship, which looked like that of a 7-year-old. But one day, while struggling with a recurring issue, I grabbed my journal. I could feel something shift as I switched the pen from my right hand to my left. The words that poured forth comforted me, allowed me to relax and reminded me of the power of "letting go and letting God." I began to realize that I was drawing on wisdom that was universal. You access a different part of your brain, since the left side of the brain governs the analytical while the right side governs the artistic.
Over the years, I have used this technique often; and then, long periods of time will pass when I don't write at all with my nondominant hand. Something will trigger me to try it again, and I'll marvel at the insights I receive. Just yesterday, I was writing about a situation and the appropriate answer, which my personality-self and dominant hand clearly would have missed, was to think of this world as a playground rather than a school. When the world is a playground, it can be playful and fun. When it's a school, I need to learn lessons, pay attention, do the right thing. I totally loved the idea of thinking of myself as being on a playground, and will try to keep that front and center in my awareness as I go about daily life.
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Look for "Meant to Be's"
Things happen in your life that may not make sense at the time, but when you look back on them, you can say, "Oh, that was meant to be!" Like my friendship with Eve, which began when I used to travel to Portland, Oregon for work. I called on Eve, who, at the time, was the supervisor of facilities planning for PGE (Portland General Electric). We became friends over the course of many sales calls and lunches, to the point where I became a regular at Eve's home for dinner when I traveled to Portland. One day Eve's mom, Ardis, asked Eve if she knew any artists, because she was looking for someone to paint a cover for the book she was self-publishing, Facing Age: Finding Answers
. Ardis had an idea of what she wanted: something botanical. Eve knew I had a talent for painting flowers. It just so happened that I was in town that day, so Eve invited me to dinner to meet her mom. As Ardis and I talked, we kept laughing because it all seemed so "meant to be."
Ardis had been a journalist, among many other types of professionals, and still wrote a weekly column for the local paper, the Lake Oswego Review
. I was honored that she considered my art for the cover. I selected climbing clematis as the subject for the painting. Not long after, I quit my job and began painting greeting cards and calendars full time. Looking for things that seemed meant to be became a practice for me; and though it's years later, my and Eve's friendship has remained intact. Who knew how our respective lives would shift and change as time passed? But we've been there to watch and support each other—and it's always felt meant to be.
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Find Your 101 Things
In 1990, I took a goal-focusing workshop. One of the exercises involved writing down 101 things that you would like to do, be or have. I couldn't wait to do this, thinking it would be a piece of cake to come up with 101 things. The instructor had warned us that many people start out gung ho, but at about number 50, the writing slows down. She explained that after you commit to paper the obvious ones, like a bigger house, new car, a job you love, it gets harder to come up with ideas. You are stretching yourself beyond the everyday realm of what you think you can do/be/have in your life. You are going to be going out on a limb as you open your mind to new possibilities. And you might find that some resistance comes up. The voice of your inner critic can grow loud in protest as you begin to consider outlandish things. And that is where the fun of the exercise comes in. As you begin stretching yourself, you'll see yourself doing/being/having things you want without any concern for how they'll show up.
Just list them. Here are some examples: riding a bike through the wine country of France; cruising down the Rhine River in Germany; being recognized in your field by winning a prestigious award; living each day with happiness overflowing; owning a condo in your favorite vacation destination; kayaking four times a year; living debt-free. You get the picture. As a by-product of the list, you may overcome fears, realize dreams, relish simple pleasures, achieve your goals and surprise yourself with how much fun you have as you live your ideal, inspired life!
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Create a Circle
Form a circle, or gathering, of people who come together for a specific purpose on a regular basis. It could be women only, or men only or both sexes. Many years ago, in Seattle, I joined a shaman circle. At that time, I really didn't have a clue what a sacred circle was, let alone a shaman circle, but circumstances conspired for me to meet Christine, who would become my shaman teacher. Christine, an amazing person, brought a diverse group of women into her circle with the intention of teaching us about the shaman world. Our shaman circle met every two weeks on Wednesday evenings. Friendships were formed and a lot of healing occurred as we learned to trust our instincts and be open to the way nature communicates with us.
It didn't happen overnight, but I did create my own shaman circle, with the help of my friends Michaela and Lauren, after moving to San Francisco. Now, there are five of us: Michaela invited two of her friends she met working at the Reiki clinic. We spend time connecting, telling stories about our lives, sharing about specific issues confronting us and then doing a "journey." A journey in the shaman tradition is similar to doing a meditation. Entering an altered state of mind, one communicates and interacts with the spiritual realms. I feel so honored and blessed to have found a very supportive group of women to be witness to my process in life. That's what a circle can do for you: provide friendship, support, advice and encouragement for your journey through the trials and tribulations of life.
You can create a circle with any group that gets together on a regular basis. Whether the focus is on food (gourmet club), reading (book club), connecting (networking groups) or crafting (quilters' guilds, knitting groups), a circle allows you to form bonds and share life, creativity, interests and enjoyment. As a bonus, you'll develop a whole new circle of friends, as well!
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Shift Your Perspective
"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." — Wayne Dyer
That quote has been a driving force for me since the day I heard Wayne Dyer discuss how changing his perspective on his relationship with his father changed his life in a dramatic way. It was a remarkable story that taught how powerful forgiveness can be.
As a daily practice, I've decided to take a rather lighthearted approach to changing the way I look at things. Imagine shifting your perspective by looking at a situation from a totally different physical perspective. Is there a hill where you live that you can walk up for a more expansive view of the surrounding area? Can you drive to an overlook and see a vista stretching before you, where you can begin to see a bigger picture?
I hadn't given any thought to climbing trees in, oh, maybe 45 years, or so, when I saw this amazing tree with limbs shooting out in all directions, many of them low to the ground, one day while on an urban hike in John McLaren Park in San Francisco. I flashed back to the days of my youth, when I could often be found up in the branches of the large oaks that grew to the side of our house. My brother and I used to challenge each other to go out on a limb quite far, and then gently push down on the branch with our feet, shaking the limb up and down.
I placed my foot on a branch and reached overhead for another branch to hoist me upward. Repeating the process—placing my foot, reaching overhead, hoisting upward—I climbed. I didn't get too high in the tree, maybe 10 to 15 feet up. What an interesting perspective to view the park from this vantage point! I realized I could apply the insight I gained to other areas of my life. Here I was now, decades later, recalling the lessons of going out on a limb and getting perspective from a different point of view.
This adapted excerpt is from Imagine the Life You Want to Live, Then Live It: 52 Inspired Habits and Playful Prompts.