Tag Archives: mantra

Happy, happy New Year my dear friends!

I can’t quite figure out if I should spend some time here writing about the insanity of 2016 or if I should just ignore it and get on with the show. I mean, in all honestly, what does that horribly bizarre and traumatic year have to do with my work here?

Let’s be honest – probably a lot. Because if there’s anything we can learn from the strangeness of 2016 it’s that we don’t get a time out, we don’t get a do-over, and at the end of it all, we’ve got only one chance to live (hell, even Princess Leia didn’t get a free pass!).

What we do get is the opportunity to live each day from the heart and to spend time in reflection so that we can see the chances we’ve missed and then do a bit better the next time.

These are messages we can take to heart as we move into 2017.

I love New Years! While I’ll take the party and the champagne and the late night, it’s the next morning that really makes me swoon! When I see in front of me the clean slate of the New Year I cannot wait to get movin’. Brand new. Tabula rasa. Not even a tiny scratch.

It inspires me. It makes me giddy with the notion that, even though we can’t do the previous year over, we can put one foot forward to making this year better primed for learning and growth.

I’m not really much of a resolutions person, but I am very much a reflections and intentions person. In the transition from one year to the next, I like asking myself lots of questions. In fact, you can see some of my past New Year questions here, here and here.

This year I’m asking a lot more questions about how I can make a difference, spread love, fight for social justice and make a difference where it matters most (no matter where I happen to be living).

I’m asking myself more questions about how to better demonstrate love and acceptance. I’m reflecting more on how to live fully, how to learn more and how to create more time for fun and spiritual reflection.

I’m asking myself how best to continue to integrate my personal and professional life so that they’re not balanced ends of the scale, but dance partners adjusting to an unpredictable stage.

I feel super curious right now about each and every moment. This is another fallout from 2016, I think – when everything seems unpredictable, all you really can do is pay some serious attention.

While the questions are always evolving, my answers are guided by the 3 words that make up my personal mantra: Peace. Love. Family.

So far it feels really right. I have high hopes for 2017. I think you should too!

So again - Happy, Happy New Year to you! Thank you to those of you who’ve worked with me this year and to those who have supported World Tree Coaching!

If you're thinking of taking the coaching plunge - be sure to checkout my coaching programs here and my new discounted rates and sponsorship spots here.

I look forward to hearing from you in 2017!

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As I mentioned in my last post, I am super excited to finally be getting moved in and into a permanent home after what feels like three long, international years of transition. It doesn't even seem possible that we've lived in 5 places (overlapping 3 countries, 2 Japanese cities and 2 US states) since we first found out we were moving to Japan 3 years ago. NOT. NORMAL.

This makes it all the more exciting to announce my workshop line-up for October!

I will be offering the following two workshops/programs:

UNDERSTANDING THE HABITS OF HEART AND MIND - A WORKSHOP ON EVERYDAY MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUES 
TUES, OCT. 4, 10-11:30
Learn basic mindfulness skills to reduce stress and improve decision-making in a supportive, interactive and fun workshop. LIMIT 15 PARTICIPANTS. Read more and register here.

3-SESSION MANTRA BUILDER GROUP
NOTE DATE/TIME CHANGE FOR FIRST MEETING!

#1 - FRI. OCT. 7 11:00- 12:30; #2 - THURS. OCT. 13 10:00-11:30; #3 - THURS. OCT. 20; 10-11:30
Learn more about what makes you tick, focus in on your priorities, develop strategies to maintain stability even in the face of change and create a personal mantra to take with you wherever you go. LIMIT 5 PARTICIPANTS. Read more and register here.

Thank you for your interest! I look forward to seeing you there!

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That was then...

In less than one month we leave for Japan – almost exactly fifteen years from the day we left. So much has changed. The person I was then – a 23 year-old, recently married, college grad who was just beginning a career (in the end, a rather short-lived career) as a teacher – is both intimately connected with and very, very distantly related to the person I am now.

Japan will be the first foreign country I’ve ever called home and then returned to, to call home again. And like those before and after shots of people who’ve lost a hundred pounds or gotten complete make-overs, I have this sense of all of the emotions and thoughts and assumptions wrapped up in my first time there running parallel to what my experience will be like this time.

For the most part I’ve been ecstatic about our return. Our time in Japan was a good one. Not without its challenges, but good nonetheless. Living in Japan was the first significant opportunity I had to learn to let go of what I thought to be true and accept a different, subtler truth that comes from recognizing for the first time that we all live completely from our own perspective. Of course that journey’s ongoing and has been paved with ups and downs, but without a doubt one of my biggest personal mantras was born out of my time in Japan –

The minute you’re certain you know, you stop knowing anything at all.

So there’s this strange dynamic to going back this time. Having lived in Japan before, I know so much more about what it’s going to be like. That’s comforting. But I also recognize that the key to survival is recognizing that my assumptions and beliefs must be filed away for reference, not written out like a game plan for my survival. Things will be different. I’m different. This has seemed a bit daunting – knowing what it’s going to be like and simultaneously remembering that things will have changed. However, I’ve recently come to the realization that this filing and sorting of past experiences is something most expats (myself included) do all the time.

I can most easily relate this to what it’s like to go home. In the course of our international adventures, I’ve come and gone home from Austin countless times. In the early years, it would upset me that it wasn’t the same, that I wasn’t the same, that things felt different and that for all the ways I felt perfectly at home, there were all these ways in which I could never feel the same sense of belonging again.

However, with time, I've learned to see and then file my assumptions and beliefs away. I don't ignore them, but I don't live by them either. I can pull them out, check their validity, wonder about their reality, but I don't have to use them as my only guide. Keeping my eyes and heart wide open without needing anything to be a certain way, seems to work much better for me. I can't say it is always easy…but there’s no question it makes me feel happier, more at peace and more satisfied with whatever actually unfolds before me.

I think this is one of the biggest keys to living more mindfully as an expat. When we develop the ability to know that things may not always turn out the way we expect them to and when we learn to recognize that our past experiences provide us with only part of the insight we need to understand our current situation, we can more fully settle into a place of curiosity and contentment. From that place, we’re more open to appreciating what we may find upon landing in a new home- regardless of whether or not we’ve been there before.

Japan will be like this I think. It will be both somewhere I know and somewhere completely unfamiliar. My mental file will help me make sense of things when I need it to, but some of the aspects of Japanese culture and language that I most remember will likely turn out to be irrelevant this time around. In fact, even some aspects of my own personality will fit (or not fit) differently than they did before.

So, with just a couple of weeks to go, I'm comforted about returning to a place that holds so many memories and excited to know that there will still be so much learning left to do. And then there's sushi...so, you know, how complicated can it all really be?

This blog post is linked at these great expat websites. Click on the links below to find it and other great expat blog posts! #MyGlobalLife Blog Link-Up and #ExpatLifeLinky

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Expat Life with a Double Buggy

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Worried-

As we come up on the one-year anniversary of my son’s Type I Diabetes diagnosis, I am thinking a lot about worry. When we moved to Madagascar with our children ages 6, 4 and 2 months I was really worried about the lack of health care. It seemed like a silly worry though. Actually, it didn’t seem silly to me at the time, but I kind of knew it was ridiculous to worry about it. My mantra for unpredictable health issues was, “Could happen. Probably won’t.” Now, while that’s technically still true with any health-related worry, for obvious reasons I’m finding it less reliable than I once did. I mean, what could happen did indeed happen!

In this last year, I haven’t completely abandoned “Could happen. Probably won’t,” but I do find I’m moving towards something a bit more solution-focused. And that’s got me thinking - have you ever noticed how sometimes worry can lead you to be more productive and at other times it can leave you feeling completely paralyzed?

In my own vast experience with worry, I’ve come to find that productive worries are usually ones that are based on true and immediate facts. For example, I feel worried that my kids won’t be ready to start at a new school, but the reason is that I’ve done absolutely no work on their applications. In these cases, I usually get my list out and get down to business. The worry subsides.

But paralyzing worries are usually based on uncertainty, unpredictability or what I like to call “disaster thinking.” It’s the kind of worry that goes from a Point A like “My 2 year-old has hives,” to a Point B like “My 2 year-old has developed some strange nervous condition that will result in her hospitalization, my husband’s reassignment and our family’s confinement to Washington, DC…FOREVER.”

So I’ve been trying out a new little worry-test for myself. I’m no expert yet (and trust me, I’ll tell you when I’ve abandoned all worry), but I’m finding it works pretty well. I’m calling it FACT OR INVENTION.

Here’s how it works.

Let’s say you’re faced with a worry. Like this one (keeping with the Type I Diabetes theme from above), “Sam had a really active soccer day today. His blood sugar might go low over night. I should probably test him again before I go to bed. But I don’t want to test him too much. What if one day he’s angry about having Type I? What if he goes years without testing his blood sugar? What if he goes blind? What if he blames me for dragging him around the world and has no permanent home and no one to care for him…when he’s blind?”

Here’s what happens when I use the FACT or INVENTION test on this scenario.

First I ask,

What are the facts here?

  • Super-active day playing soccer
  • Lots of activity increases his chances of having low blood sugar overnight

Then I ask myself,

What am I inventing? What unnecessary burden am I creating for myself here?

  • What if some day he’s angry?
  • What if he stops testing his sugar?
  • What if he goes blind?
  • Then the big snowball – What if he hates being a TCK and that all culminates in a big TCK/Type I Diabetes Nightmare!!

See the difference? One worry is based on real and immediate facts, has a solution (an extra blood sugar test) and therefore has the potential to release me from worry. The other is based on the fear of some daunting, uncertain future, has no immediate solution and traps me in a mental tape of disaster thinking.

By asking these questions I take a step back, sort it all out and come up with the stuff that’s solvable based on fact and the stuff that is cluttering up my tenuous sense of calm and increasing my stress levels.

And get this! I’m not going to tell you to stop worrying. Sure, there are things you can do to keep worry from running amok, but a certain amount of worry is just part of being human. But – I do want to invite you to focus on what you gain by putting this FACT or INVENTION question to work for you.

Identifying the practical, fact-based worries helps you focus on solutions. Make a list, take some action, put that doubt behind you by doing what needs to be done.

But what about those pesky unproductive worries? While it’s true that unproductive worries can be paralyzing, we still learn from them. They serve as powerful reminders to reach a little deeper into our survival tool kits and rely on those things that keep us steady (a nice long run, a good book, a quiet night in, a Skype session with a friend).

And the big take-away from all of this is that as life continues to be unpredictable and worry stays a part of the normal human experience, you can focus in on what you’re telling yourself about how you face what’s in front of you, make decisions about where to go with what you learn and reapply the insight you gain again and again.

 Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength. Corrie ten Boom

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

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Confession time. I’m not a packrat. In fact, I’m like the opposite of a packrat. Which I guess is someone who not only constantly gets rid of their own things but harbors fantasies of cleaning out the closets, shelves and toy rooms of others as well. Yep – that’s me.

But wait! That’s not the confession. The confession is this. There’s one little tiny, packrat-like thing that I do. When I find a receipt or card or movie ticket stub or even a crumpled old parking garage pass hiding in the bottom of an old purse or coat pocket – I keep it. I take these things out from their hiding place and I look over them and I smile. Sometimes I even cry.

This weekend I found the receipt in the photo up there. It’s almost two years old and it’s from the time when I just gotten over the 6-month culture shock hump. I felt in my groove in my little life in Antananarivo, Madagascar. I had friends. I knew which store to go to buy toilet paper, tissues, dark chocolate and parsley. And even now I can still picture the produce guy who would weigh my food and print out my sticker at the Leader Price on the dusty, crowded, chaotic Hydrocarbon Road in Tana. I look at this receipt and I can actually feel what my day was like that day.

I see this receipt and I’m back there. I’m reminded of all the parts of myself that I leave behind in all of these little places. I’m reminded that I only really think I leave them behind – they’re still with me. Like little slips of paper hiding in the pocket of the jacket I haven’t worn in years…just waiting for me to bring them back out again.

And so, I never throw these little things away. I can’t. After my moment of remembering, I re-hide them. I slip them into books. I put them back into new purses. I slide them under the socks in my bottom drawer. It’s all like a little ritual now. They’re my little reminders that wherever I go I take a bit of my old life with me. Wherever I go I never truly leave behind the things I think I’ve left behind.

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Here’s a question I’ve been thinking about lately – Do we sabotage our success at certain things by purposefully limiting our enthusiasm, our curiosity or our genuine interest? I’m thinking specifically about things like greater happiness, better diet, improved exercise or expanded faith or spirituality – although I’m sure there are others.

This has been on my mind for two reasons:

First, the topic came up in a class I’m taking. It’s an online class on the Science of Happiness and is being offered through the Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. In the first week of the course, in addition to learning about the scientific research behind what makes people happy, we were encouraged to take up a week-long happiness project. The task was based on the benefits of gratitude and we were asked to write down each day, for a week, 3 good things that happened each day. As part of the instructions we were told that we would likely benefit more from the activity if we set aside any notion of it being “hokey” or “woo woo” and really got into it.

The other reason is this - I’m a pretty enthusiastic person. I get excited about things. Even things about which I’m skeptical or unsure, I’ve found I’ve always been able to rein that in a bit and remember to just go forward with a positive mindset. Recently, I expressed to my mom my thrill in finding a babysitter that would be a perfect fit for us. Her response? “Well, don’t get your hopes up.” “What?! What’s wrong with hopes up?” I thought. I mean, I’m well aware that it might not work out, but when good things happen, I kind of like to enjoy that feeling.

So, back to the sabotage. Social worker, researcher and author, Brené Brown, (kind of) covers this in her book The Gifts of Imperfection (although she doesn’t use the word sabotage). She writes,

We hustle for our worthiness by slipping on the emotional and behavioral straitjacket of cool and posturing as the tragically hip and the terminally “better than.” Being “in control” isn’t always about the desire to manipulate situations, but often it’s about the need to manage perception. We want to be able to control what other people think about us so that we can feel good enough.

She’s talking about this in the context of the ways in which shame gets in the way of what she calls wholehearted living. Regardless of why we do this, I think it’s safe to say that we do. I believe that most people are naturally curious, generous, loving, and open to possibility. But, our fear of failure, of looking stupid or even looking too smart, too goody-goody, too emotional or too cheesy makes us hold back – especially when we’re trying something new.

This is an especially challenging issue for expats, because we’re ALWAYS in new situations and faced with a decision to go for it 100% or to hold back and see how things go. And here’s where my question lies. If we were to stop holding back, would we be more successful at living our transitions in ways that are more true to ourselves? I really think so. But, what if opening up to your natural curiosity and inner-enthusiast doesn’t come easily for you? I’ve listed a few starter ideas below. Go ahead and give them a try.

  1. Find an enthusiasm buddy. Know someone that seems to get excited about things? Tell them about a change you’re wanting to make, a new activity you’re hoping to try or a dream you’re ready to pursue and see if he or she will cheer you on.
  2. Try it out in private. Love to sing, but feel self-conscious? Listen – that’s what the shower and the car are for…right? Take advantage of privacy to get comfortable with your enthusiasm. Working on giving it your all when you don't have an audience, can free you up to let that enthusiasm trickle out to other places.
  3. Get enthusiastic about the little things. Found a dollar bill in your pocket? Yay!! Did you manage to get the kids out of the house with only one small meltdown (yours or theirs – doesn’t matter)? Yee-haw!! You rock! No accomplishment is too small for you to celebrate when you’re working on an enthusiasm boost.
  4. Celebrate someone else’s success. Sometimes being enthusiastic for other people can be easier than admitting to ourselves that we’ve got something to be excited about. This doesn’t need to be fancy. Simply saying, “Wow! Good for you!” can be enough. If you can manage to cultivate excitement and interest in someone else’s accomplishments, you’re teaching yourself how to get excited about what you have in store.
  5. Write down 3 things you love and totally, absolutely and completely admit it. Personally, I think there are few things more attractive in a person than someone who can admit that they love something that’s traditionally seen as nerdy, uncool, strange or silly. And my husband grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons so you can trust me on this one.

Still curious? Wanna’ boost your natural enthusiast? Check out my FREE pdf of this activity on accessing your curiosity from The Expat Activity Book. It's sure to help you focus in on raising your enthusiasm and might just help you find success in a new endeavor!

emerson quote - enthusiasm

 

Every morning, after taking the kids to school, I go for a walk or run at the hike and bike trail near my parent’s house (where we’re staying until we head on to Washington DC in August). The trail is full of amazing wildlife – herons, frogs, insects, vultures, and deer.

One of my favorite everyday sights is the snails. Each morning the trail is covered with them. White, silver, grey, black, brown. Short and fat, long and skinny, slow moving and slower moving. They lumber across the paved trail, leaving behind their slimy paths that are then left glistening in the sun, creating an intricate map of their comings and goings along the pavement. There they are slowly, slowly, every morning from one side of the pavement to the other.

I’ve come to love them. And, as these walks are invariably an opportunity for me to reflect on the ups and downs of our nomadic lifestyle I can’t help but think more and more that these snails are trying to tell me something. So much like us. Slow down. From one end to the other – you’ll get there.

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Eight years ago I decided to give up.

Here’s what happened.

Right after my oldest child was born, I missed a meeting I’d scheduled. I’ve long since forgotten what the meeting was, but at the time, the pure fact that I had forgotten it appalled me. Who had I become? How in the world was I going to save the world, be the best, run my own business, become executive director of…something, if I couldn’t remember to keep a meeting?

Then, when my son was about 6 months old, the straw broke the camels back. We were grocery shopping. It took me two hours to do something that I’d always prided myself in completing in less than 30 minutes. Pride? Craziness. As if grocery shopping is a race. And, anyway, I worked at that store for 4 years in college, so completing a 30 minute trip gave me a significant competitive advantage over my…competition?

And then I gave up. Approximately 90 minutes into the trip and after at least 2 diaper changes, one nursing session and (maybe) a few tears (mine and his), I stopped and looked at him there. I was at the culmination of too many years trying to do way too much. And the words came to me out of nowhere: I do not have to be the best. I only have to do my best.

And now it’s my mantra.

I know that every day I do the best I can with the information I have available. I find this view brings me comfort in letting things go that used to drive me crazy. Mistakes used to freak me out. I’d play them over and over again in my head. Now I’ve worked out a process for bidding them goodbye. I’ve always been impatient. I still am, but I do my best to keep impatience as a piece of inspiration and not a set of handcuffs. I surround myself with people and experiences that bring me joy and try to take it easy on the ones that get me down. In the decision to stop striving so hard for the things I wanted, I found the freedom to accept my dreams when they landed at my doorstep. And, sometimes I actually fail. And that’s where giving up is so rewarding. I’m not the best and never will be, but even in failure I’ll know I was (and am) trying my hardest.

 

 

Recently, I found a box of old photos and letters from the early days of my international adventures. Those were such crazy times. No village was too remote, no sea too shark infested, no meal too meager. As backpackers, my husband and I really loved to rough it. One of our favorite tasks was to see how long we could go on as little money as possible. We were disdainful of tour groups, convenience and any mode of transportation that gave you your own private seat or didn’t include caged (or free roaming) chickens.

While we’ve long-since left behind the backpacker lifestyle, I’m often reminded of the competitive edge that this type of experience implies. It is, in a sense, the “Go Native!” philosophy of travel. It’s the idea that if you don’t strip yourself down and challenge yourself to some predetermined standard of awesomeness, you’re not really living at all and that the experience is without merit or value.

For the record, I’d like us to do away with that notion. Here are my top five reasons why:

  1. Life is not a competition! Yes, life is to be fully lived, but you can only know what full living is when you ask yourself how you want to live. Wanna’ go climb Mt. Everest? Go for it! Prefer to climb the small hill outside town to get a better view of the countryside? That’s fine too. No one person lives the expat life better simply by doing more, having “bigger” adventures or taking on more risk. It just doesn’t work that way. So stop comparing yourself to others and pack your suitcase just how you like it.
  2. You like what you like. I’m all for trying new things. In fact, I love to try new things. But, I wonder why we so often force ourselves to keep doing things we don’t really like. You might move to Japan one day and you might really, really hate sushi. That is fine. Be kind to yourself. Own up to it. Move on.
  3. Your priorities and interests change. We all know this is true, but so many of us feel like if we trade a sleeping bag on the floor of a random person we met on a train for a comfy bed in an actual hotel that somehow we’re selling out. This is not a sell out. This is you deciding that you want a good night’s sleep – nothing more. The same goes for transportation, food, and the amount you’re willing to spend for comfort, ease and safety. It doesn’t mean you’re old or boring or uncool, it means you have preferences. That’s all.
  4. You can’t actually Go Native. This is true. To the extent that any of us are native to any particular place on Earth, we are all unique. We can strive to understand others and help others better understand us. That’s the best we can do. We can always do better to be present in whatever place we seem to have landed, but the minute we think we have arrived is the minute we cease to continue to get to know the new things we see.
  5. You’re evolving and so is everything around you. Life is in a constant state of flux and this is even truer when you get out of your element. There is so much that is unpredictable in the great big world out there. And – look at you! You’re adapting to every twist and turn and always doing the best you can with the information you have available. What more can you hope for? I say cut yourself some slack and enjoy the twisty ride!

So - adventure on! Near or far, here or there. In all ways, exactly as you are now, with an eye on how you hope to be tomorrow.

I posted a great video from Brené Brown on the World Tree Coaching Facebook page today. I find her bravery, wisdom and just plain human-ness incredibly compelling and insightful. There’s so much to learn from her research into what makes people tick, what motivates us, what makes us live fuller, braver and more completely and, in the end, what factors join us in a spirit of wholeheartedness.

In the video – which you can see here – she references the following quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The quote is commonly referred to as the Man in the Arena quote and it comes from a speech delivered by Roosevelt in 1910, in Paris. I can’t imagine a soul not being moved by the powerful and heartfelt strength of these words. How true they are.

But, in my quick (and admittedly rather limited) research into this quote I stumbled upon something perhaps doubly powerful – the comments section of the websites where the quote is presented. The beauty of these words has and does serve as a mantra for many. Many commentators speak of failure and rebound, loss and discovery, heartbreak and new love fortified. Many simply said, “Words to live by.”

From Shakespeare to Steinbeck, Mandela to Mo Willems (not kidding here – few things can inspire my inner child like Elephant and Piggie) words can very much be what we live by.

So, what words inspire you? What’s your mantra? What messages do you carry with you, in your heart and your head, that move you on through thick and thin, around the bend and back again? Here’s a gentle reminder to keep them close – on your desktop, your fridge, even scribbled on the back of your hand on a particularly rough day (although I’m guessing Roosevelt’s a little lengthy for this one). When your heart feels heavy, cuddle up to these words that give back, hold them close and keep right along your windy, pebbly, occasionally bumbling path. One. Foot. In. Front. Of. The. Other.