Dealing with the Darkness: Honoring the Life of Robin Williams

Robin WilliamsAs I continue to sit with the tragedy of Robin Williams, I am filled with mixed emotions and thoughts in how to best honor his legacy – his light and darkness.

As someone who has struggled with depression at different times in my life, I can get the despair that can swallow you up, grabbing the steering wheel, while you ride shotgun. The darkness is palpable. Even with all the tools I have learned on my journey, I am not immune to the darkness taking hold.

I have learned that if you try to fight or deny or dismiss the darkness, it just squeezes tighter like the toy – Chinese Finger Cuffs.

fingercuffsI have learned to lean into the darkness from a place of curiosity and exploration. I know this may sound counter-intuitive, but this isn’t about giving up or giving in. It’s about dancing with this part of me that is just as real and valid as the lightness within me.

While we experience the pain, there is nothing inherently wrong with darkness. It’s how we relate to the darkness–our thoughts and actions in response–that are most damaging. By removing the judgment from the dark experience, you can create more freedom to dance with the darkness and in turn grow stronger.

By dancing with my darkness, I learned to reclaim my power and reclaim my life. I can take the wheel back and steer toward the light.

You may be asking – How do you dance with the darkness?

Here are a few practices inspired by Robin’s own words:

Dead-poets-societyUse your Voice

“You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!” Dead Poets Society

So often we stay silent around darkness. It’s barely talked about in close circles, let alone in public circles. That’s how it lives and grows…in the silence, in the shame. By bringing voice to the darkness, it brings it into the light and loses strength and power.

So when the darkness descends, reach out and find someone to talk to about it, someone you trust. It can be a family member or close friend, a therapist or even someone on the end of a hotline. By simply speaking it aloud, the darkness begins to loosen its grip.

good-will-huntingLook for the Good in the Dark

“People call those imperfections, but no, that’s the good stuff.” Good Will Hunting

Life is messy, filled with imperfections and flaws and failures—filled with darkness as much as the light. If we continue to dread the darkness when it shows up…and it always does in this crazy world, then fall victim to the darkness.

If we can see the good stuff, the gift, the wisdom in the darkness, then we can begin to change our perspective on the darkness. We can begin to see what it can give us instead of all that it takes away. I often find that my darkness gives me the gift of reflection as well as connection to others.

patchadamsNever Give Up

“The most radical act anyone can commit is to be happy.” Patch Adams

I don’t say this lightly because it takes something to Be Happy, something radical. It doesn’t mean you have to feel happy all the time because that just isn’t humanly possible. We all experience the darkness, but it is important to stay vigilant and never give up in that darkness.

We must commit to return to the light, each and every time. The commitment is not to stay in the light because we will have those descents into darkness, but simply do the work necessary to return to the light without judgment, without shame.

If you are dealing with some darkness, know that you are not alone. Reach out to those who love you. If you are not able to see the light right now, let your loved ones hold the light for you until you can see it yourself. The light will come.

 

Robin Williams – You may have lost the battle with darkness, but you will be remembered for the brilliant light that you brought to the world.

 

Going for Gold? Go Within

With my fascination of Olympics, I have been in awe of all the tremendous hard work and difficult decisions that the Olympians have had to make over their lifetime to achieve their ultimate goal – GOLD!

With so many difficult decisions and sacrifices they have made to pursue their dreams, they had to look within, trust their gut or intuition to determine which way to go.

You have probably heard someone say, “Go with Your Gut!”  That’s what I often say when someone is struggling with a  decision to make.  The reason for this simple answer is that we truly do know what is best.  We have the wisdom within us to make those difficult choices.  It’s that quiet whisper that nudges you to make a choice that is consistent with who you truly are.

It’s not always the easier choice.  In fact, it is often more risky, more uncomfortable, but oh so much more rewarding.  In his famous 2005 commencement speech, Steve Jobs encourages “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.“

Every time, I am struggling with a life decision, especially the bigger ones, I waiver between what my inner voice says and what I think I should be doing.  The suffering that occurs in my head – should I – shouldn’t I.  In the end, after all the back and forth, when I go with my gut, I am so much happier and it more often works itself out.  When I follow the “should,” I often create more struggle and suffering.

Now this is not to say, seek out the advice and opinions of others or consider all options.  I am a big fan of checking in with others – the people who know me well or have some experience with the issue.  Sometimes, I seek out direct advice.  Sometimes, it’s just listening and teasing out what’s going on underneath the suffering.  They can provide new information to assist in making a stronger choice.  Who do you reach out to for advice or support?

Now you may be saying to yourself, “How can I trust that voice? I have made bad choices in the past, I don’t know if I can trust myself.” Self-doubt can run rampant in tough decisions.  Look – I get it.  Why do you think I suffer so much in decision wavering?  I am afraid of making the wrong decision. So I sit on the fence, which can be really uncomfortable – Ouch!

So it’s time to get off the fence and make a choice.  Remember you aren’t married to your choice – you can always make another choice later. As I look back on those bad decisions, I realized that I wasn’t following my inner wisdom, my fear or need to prove myself.  It was more in quick reaction rather than taking a breath, settling in and finding what was the deeper wisdom.

So the next time, you are going for gold or simply struggling to make a decision, take a breath, listen to that quiet wisdom, and step forward!

A Deeper Look

  • What would you do if you listened to your inner wisdom?
  • Who can you seek out for support?

Creating Your Definition of Success

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We all want to be successful in life, but what does that really mean?

Well, if you go by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Success is defined as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.” But what if you have wealth and fame and no happiness?  There are plenty of cases where we have seen wealth and fame backfire on celebrities and other people in places of power.

We learn the meaning of success from our family, friends, and society as a whole from a very young age. And that definition continues to be reinforced as we grow older and new expectations are inserted – job, salary, family, etc.  Sometimes that works for people, but many times it causes undue suffering.

What if what’s important to you isn’t in the standard definition of success?  Does that mean you won’t be considered successful?  In my humble opinion – Of course not!

The danger is that if we aren’t considered a success by others, we won’t consider ourselves successful.  Even more dangerous – we may consider ourselves a failure. I have definitely traveled down this dark dangerous alley – beating myself up along the way.

After a good self-inflicted assault, I realized that I must create MY OWN definition of success.  I haven’t been one to follow the path of others; I like to take blaze my own trail.  So why wouldn’t I blaze my own definition of success?

So I invite you to take a deeper look as to how you define success.  Is that what you really want out of life?  Or is that what other have said that you should want?  Are you striving for that will make you happy?  Or will it make others happy?

It is your life, so you get to define the terms…you get the final say in your success!

Looking Deeper

  • How would you define success?
  • What’s important for you to feel you have a successful year, a successful life?

Fire Re-ignited

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Last month, I had the awesome opportunity to attend the Omega Institute’s Women & Power Retreat and felt the Fire Reignited!  Inspired into action by listening to Omega’s Co-Founder Elizabeth Lesser, Vulnerability Expert Brene Brown, and Roshi Joan Halifax, I was ready to reconnect to my passion and purpose to make a difference.

This past year that fiery passion had been doused with doubt and struggle.  I had been on the economic roller coaster where my self-worth had been tied to the money in my bank account.  Even with a decade of inner work, I still struggled to find some peace in the matter.

With the amazing support of my partner, friends and family, I found the strength to keep holding on when all I wanted to do was jump off the ride.  Finally the financial roller coaster has slowed down and leveled out, I am incredibly grateful for the lessons the ride has taught me and ready to get back to my work on this planet – radical self-acceptance.

While it’s not all figured out, I have learned some great lessons along the way that I would like to share.

1.  You are not your circumstances. While I have heard this one many of times and even said it to others, I didn’t realized how much I tied my identity to my work. I found myself flailing when my career was in limbo.  Not sure where to go, not sure who I was. I had to keep telling myself, I am not my job.  I am not my bank account.  Even if we don’t attach to that, we may attach to other things like how smooth our day goes or how many likes we get on Facebook or Instagram.  We are sooo much bigger than those details.  If we can see our worth beyond our circumstances, then life’s challenges aren’t quite so debilitating. Our worth is unwavering.

2. Community is key. One of my saving graces has been and continues to be my community.  I am incredibly grateful for friends and family to listen when I needed to vent, hug me when I needed comforting, and the kick in the butt when I wanted to give up.  It’s important to reach out, get real and share what’s true for you in times of struggle. While often challenging to be vulnerable and reveal we don’t have it altogether (believe me, I can relate), it’s a crucial component to surviving the struggle.

3.  Get in action…Stay in action. This is easier said than done, at least the staying in action part.  By getting in action, doors opened for me, opportunities were created.  Despite my fantasy and desire that money would come in by watching marathons on Netflix, it didn’t work out that way.  By getting into action, energy was created and the world responded with something positive, some doorway to walk through.  While I must admit I didn’t walk through all the doorways, I know momentum was created with each threshold I passed, physically, energetically, emotionally.  I didn’t always know what was opening up, but I kept walking through.  By keeping enough momentum with each action step, shifts can occur and life can unfold in your favor.

Life is messy, uncertain and full of challenges. One day it can take you to the top of the mountain; the next day in the deep ravine.  That’s what makes it so beautifully mysterious.  It is that fire within each of us that keeps us going, that gives us grit and determination to not give up.  Push through the challenges, rise up out of the ravine and seek the summit of the mountain.   Join me and let your light shine for all to see!

Turning Crisis into Triumph

The last few weeks, ok…more like the last few months, I have been struggling with a problem that I haven’t had to deal with ever before. If I was being truthful to myself, I would even call it a crisis, a financial crisis. It has pushed me and pulled me in ways that I could have never envisioned I would experience at this point in my life.

Now I have struggled financially off and on over the years, but never to this extent. Due to some life circumstances and some mental roadblocks, I find myself in new territory.

You may not be experiencing a financial crisis, but you may have some other challenges that are testing you, whether it’s a relationship, an academic or work situation. Unfortunately, as part of being human, we all are tested now and again.

Rather than focusing on problem and feeling disempowered, what we can do is reclaim our power and find a route to overcome the challenge. While I haven’t fully resolved my financial crisis, I have found some steps to begin to turn the challenge in the direction of triumph.

1. Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but…

Telling the truth in this area can be very challenging for me because I want to appear successful both to others as well as myself. However, ignoring the problem only made it worse. However, my work is about being authentic, so I thought I better walk the talk. So I sucked it up and began to tell the truth to myself and the people who loved me. When I did, the sense of relief was palpable. I found out I wasn’t alone and it didn’t diminish their image of me and my success. In telling the truth, I was able to finally take real action to shift the crisis into triumph.

2. Look for the Lesson

This is the crux of turning any challenge into triumph. While isn’t always easy or fun to look for the lesson or gold while in the middle of a crisis, this has been the quickest way for me to turn the tides. Sometimes I resist the lesson because I secretly like the drama of being in crisis. I am definitely good at the drama too. :) Yet, I know the struggle and suffering leaves me feeling powerless, so I look for the lesson or gift to reclaim my power in the situation.

As I look for the lessons in this financial crisis, two come to mind immediately. The first is my stepping up in financial responsibility – essentially putting my big girl panties on. I am now intimately connected to my bills and bank accounts in ways that will set me up financially for the rest of my life. The second gift is willingness to accept help. Being fiercely independent, I always hesitated to really depend on people because I didn’t want to be a burden. However, in this situation I have to make many requests for assistance, depending on people on a deeper level than ever before. This leads to the final step to turn challenge into triumph.

3. Seek out Support

The support from others was essential in helping me find solutions to turnaround the financial crisis. Whether it was simply a consoling conversation, advice on pinching pennies or job referrals, I was grateful for all the support I received to know that I wasn’t alone. Most people, especially our loved ones, are eager to help out in some way. The more specific we can be in our requests, the easier it can be to for supporters to step up. With our support team by our side, we can step up and out of our crisis and into triumph.

Whenever I am in trouble or even in the midst of a crisis, I am reminded of Christian D. Larson’s wise words. “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” Whether it’s a health crisis, a financial crisis or a relationship crisis – we can all find ways to not just survive the crisis, but more importantly you can find a way to thrive from it.

Honoring the Heroes of 9/11 with Love

As I sit and listen to the names of all those who lost their lives on 9/11, I am overwhelmed with the amount of loss and grief that still exists for the families and country  eleven years later. I am also equally present to the incredible  love that lives on in their memories.  The reading of the names is such a beautiful tribute to honor each individual, especially as they are read by the family members of those who were lost.  With each name, there is a hero who is remembered.

I am especially moved by the young children speaking of their fathers and mothers who they lost at such a young age.  The love they have for their parents is so profound and evident when they speak of their heroic parents.

While wiping my tears, I wonder what I can do in honor of these heroes.  What can I do to make the world they leave behind a better one for their children and generations to come?  The only word that comes to mind is LOVE.

Love the ones we lost and love those who are still here.  Love those who risked their lives to save others.  Love those who are sick as a result of 9/11. Love for the country who united together for one another.  Love for those deployed and their families who serve with honor.  Love and embrace my loved ones.  Love to continue to bring people together and create community.  Love to counteract the fear, ignorance and hate that still exists in the world.    Love for all of our heroes!

What will you do today to honor our heroes?  Where can you show love in your life and community?

Befriending Fear to Create True Happiness

Befriending fear is the first and crucial step to creating the happiness you want. While it may seem counter-intuitive to finding happiness,  looking at the ugly stuff creates a clearer vision for true happiness.

Believe me, I am good at avoiding this ugly stuff myself. However, what I have found is that if I do step over this step and try to jump straight into finding what makes me happy, it often crumbles like a house with a bad foundation. The foundation of truth is crucial.

Telling the truth about what makes you nervous about your future. Is it the fear of failure, fear of not knowing, fear of hard work, fear of swallowing your pride, fear of success, fear of asking for help? All of these, if continually avoided, can stop us from creating a life of happiness and fulfillment.

The reality is that these fears are completely normal. Expect to have these fears and concerns. Make friends with them because they aren’t going away. They will be with you throughout your life at different points.

While I have experienced all of these, my frequent visitors are fear of asking for help, not knowing, and success. These will often paralyze me and keep me trapped into what is familiar and comfortable. I even had these fears visit as I am creating my upcoming webinar – I Got the Degree – Now What?

Oprah defines “COURAGE as not the absence of fear, but having fear and acting anyways.” To be powerful is not in getting rid of the fear, but befriending it so you have power over it.

What does it mean to be Friends with Fear? I know that seems a bit crazy, but it is incredibly useful. First, you have to shift your thinking that it is your enemy or shouldn’t be there. Fear is a normal and healthy emotion and filled with helpful information and gifts. Just like your friends brings something of value to the relationship, so does fear. It is just a matter of finding out what that value may be.

The value could simply be a reminder that you are stepping out of your comfort zone or to pay close attention. Or it could it serve a deeper purpose like a red flag to self-reflect and see if there is something you may need to consider.

In the last few weeks, I have experienced a lot of fear – the kind that feels like a knot in your stomach. I have even had a few sleepless nights. It wasn’t until I stopped avoiding it and befriended it, that is has finally allowed me to breathe deeply and fully. This fear was here to have me look at what I have been doing – playing it safe rather than going after what I really want.

Recognizing that it’s time to go after my dreams, the fear doesn’t magically go away, but it isn’t controlling me anymore. It now sits in the passenger seat rather than the driver seat. With courage, I can take the steering wheel and drive toward my dreams. And fear can ride along to remind me that this unfamiliar road is the path to my purpose on this planet.

What is fear telling you?  What can you learn from your fear if you stop avoiding it?

If you would like to know more or register for my upcoming webinar -
I Got the Degree – Now What?
Click here.

A Lesson of Sandusky Trial – Speak Your Truth

This week has been filled with reminders for me to Speak My Truth.  On Monday, when Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of nearly all of his charges of sexual abuse, I was incredibly proud of the immense courage it took for the young men to stand up and speak their truth, especially in such a public setting.  They were heard and believed.  As a survivor of sexual abuse myself, I am proud to see that they stood strong against the defense’s questions and were believed by a jury of their peers.  What an amazing reflection of the power of Speaking Your Truth.

On the other side of this case, you are met with more and more suspicion of Penn State administrators not speaking their truth.  While we don’t know exactly what they knew or didn’t know, it seems to be that they knew more than they had said.  They chose to keep themselves safe and comfortable, rather than speak their truth and keep the young men safe.  It is not easy to speak your truth, especially if it may not be believed or may cause upset or conflict.  But if it’s the right thing to do in your heart, then it needs to be done. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

It takes an incredible amount of courage, because often we are trying to avoid the conflict or drama that may ensue with speaking our truth.  Well…that is what I am usually avoiding.  Even though I know that speaking my truth and saying what is there for me is the best thing I can do to truly relieve my suffering, I still find myself swallowing my words and suffering in silence.

This last month, I have found myself in many moments where I have wanted to speak my truth at work, in my relationship or in life in general, but have said nothing, sat in silence.  Many nights and weekend it look like me laying on the couch doing absolutely NOTHING, struggling between calling on a friend to seek support and Speak My Truth  and wanting to avoid the feelings just under the surface.   I didn’t want to look at them and I know I didn’t have the time to do it.  But the feelings still lingered.  I could numb them out for a while, but they always remained just under the surface waiting for the next trigger to re-open the wound.

So finally in the last few days I have been willing to do some exploratory surgery on this wound hiding under the surface.  Yes, there were tears and ugly feelings that surfaced.  However, what was revealed, as usual, that my fears and judgments about the situation and Speaking My Truth is what was creating most of my suffering and paralysis.  If I can show some compassion for myself, for my silence and the situation, I have more freedom and courage to explore and address the pain.

While it often takes something to deal with the aftermath of Speaking Your Truth, because the wound is now exposed and needing attention, it is the only way to truly begin to heal.  The band-aid of avoidance just isn’t doing it anymore.

I want to thank the young men of the Sandusky trial for their courage to Stand Up and Speak their Truth.  I hope that it inspires more people, as it did for me, to stand up and speak out in whatever ways they have been silenced.  We all deserve to live a life filled with more power than pain.

Make Yourself Happy – Stop “Shoulding” on Yourself!

Do you find yourself saying “Should” often?  I should be doing better in school.  I should be finding a job for the summer.   I should be thinner.  I should be happier.  I should be a better friend.  I should be a better…fill in the blank.

If we put “should” in front of something we want to change, then it removes any opportunity for choice and inserts a lot of guilt and shame that we aren’t already there. We are “shoulding” all over ourselves and our lives, making a big mess. Once we can clear the “should” out, we can begin to find our own path instead of following the path others want for us.

Once the “should” is out of the way, we can see what we really want, what will make us happy. Our own path may contradict the norm, in fact I can almost guarantee it.  It takes extra courage and strength to follow your own path, to buck the system.  It may not make the family thrilled, it will likely be questioned by those around you, but you are the one who is living your life, not anyone else.  It is up to you to follow your own true path, and make you truly happy.

The best way to find that path is to listen to your inner wisdom, that quiet voice inside that knows your deepest desires and knows what’s best for you.  You may call that voice your gut, your intuition, your soul, Spirit, God, Goddess, or the divine within.  Whatever you may call it, it is important to listen to that voice.  For the purposes of this article, I will refer to it as intuition.  Our intuition is speaking to us all the time, but we may not always be listening.

So how do begin to listen?  Well, first we need to learn why we don’t.  In this society, we are taught to ignore our intuition because it’s just a feeling.  It’s not reliable to make decisions.  We are told to rely only on our logic and the physical evidence.  However, intuition is more than a feeling.  It takes in additional information beyond what our logical minds absorb.  It reads the energy and mood of a situation.  It taps into something bigger than ourselves to guide us in the direction we need to go.  Even if it is counter to our logic, we need to practice trusting our intuition and moving forward from that space.

There are many strategies to listen to the inner wisdom.   Listening to your intuition requires a sense of silence, a few moments where the committee (the chatter in your mind) is quieted enough for the intuition to be heard.  You may already have a few you use: journaling, meditating, prayer, or yoga.

Here is a suggestion that I use all the time. In order to quiet the committee, I take at least 3 long deep breaths. Sometime more if the committee is extra chatty. In that quiet moment, I ask my intuition one of two questions, “What is in my best interest?” if I need to make a choice or  “What do I need to know right now?” when I am experiencing a lot of drama or confusion in my life.  Sometimes it helps to write down the question and then write whatever answer arises.  Whatever strategy you use to listen and follow your true path, do it and do it often.

Once I began to trust my intuition and listen to it more closely, I have found myself to be happier and more fulfilled in life.  It requires courage and strength to go out on your own, but the satisfaction from making your own decisions and following your heart is priceless.

Valentine’s Day – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

heart-in-hands200x150Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that is often loaded with mixed feelings and thoughts. Between the countless ads on TV, store aisles filled with candy and cards, this day has become overshadowed by capitalism than it’s original intention – Love.

I too find myself forgetting about the true purpose and getting sucked into the things rather than the love. So why not look a little deeper at this holiday named after St. Valentine. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and even the ugly:

The Good Stuff – The cool part about Valentine’s Day is that it’s a day about all types of love, not just romantic love. In a society where we can get caught up in our busy lives, we can forget to stop and celebrate all the love in our lives. Love is an essential part of our lives and for the world to keep us happy and healthy. So the more we remember and celebrate the love that we have around us, the better.

Suggestion: Tell the important people in your life that you love them: message on Facebook, send a text, or go old school and call them.

The Bad Stuff – Expectations…unfortunately this holiday is loaded with them. With advertising everywhere you look, it’s easy to get caught up in the expectations around romance, flowers, cards and candy. The problem is not that we have expectations, but that we aren’t talking about them with our loved ones. When we think our loved ones should just know what we want, we set them up for failure and ourselves for disappointment. Even more problematic, when we believe our expectations aren’t met, it’s can become evidence that we aren’t truly loved by that person. The best way to alleviate some of the disappointment and stress is to talk about it, get it all out on the table.

Suggestion: Chat with your significant other around expectations for the day to make sure the both of you are on the same page. And try not to make it mean anything if your expectations aren’t met.

The Ugly Stuff: Singles can often be left out of the Valentine’s Day festivities. Even though the holiday is about love in general, the commercial side makes it about romantic love. But the day isn’t just for the couples – celebrate being single and love yourself and the friends around you!

Suggestion: Grab your friends, your family and other loved ones and have a V-Day Party! Celebrate with the great loves in your life! You could even exchange cards and candy.

Whether you are single or in a relationship, celebrate this Valentine’s Day by appreciating the ones you love!