Resistance as an Ally Rather Than a Foe

Here's a fresh take on what can be a debilitating force.

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Photo by Becca Matimba on Unsplash

 By Cindy Yantis

"Focused attention yields the best results." - Melinda Hughes

Melinda is my personal trainer and the owner of The Strength Shoppe, a high-intensity training (HIT) facility in Pasadena, California. And, this quote, from their website, exemplifies what most I've learned from training with her.

HIT is a slow burn, really intense, focused workout where with each weightlifting exercise you exhaust an isolated muscle or group of muscles to a slow count of ten. It's also called Super Slow, Slow Cadence, Power of 10, or Resistance Training.

It takes such focused concentration to get through a set of the slow ten. The tendency is to put all of your body behind trying to lift the weight. That's when Melinda says to direct your brain to focus on the specific body part so that the target muscles are worked to their max. That wasn't something I'd done before.

I was amazed at how when you place your undivided attention, singly, on one body part, you can actually feel the isolated muscle doing its thing. The brain is so powerful. Then, the rest of the body is just there to support.

Toward the end of the set, the weight is so heavy that it barely moves, if at all. This is when the body's flight or fight response starts to kick in, wanting to give up or drop the weight. And, that's when Melinda says to "lean into the fire instead of pushing past it." It is, in fact, what provides the most benefit, leaning into the resistance.

In a recent yoga class, we were holding a lower body twist, for several moments. My hip flexors were screaming at me. That's when the instructor said in her soft zen voice, "Allow your awareness to go to the place of resistance. Focus on softening the edges, the tissues around the resistance. Now, find the place in yourself where you can settle deeper into it."

This all got me thinking about the broader force of Resistance and how it shows up in other ways. Everywhere, to be more exact.

In truth, I've been thinking about resistance a lot lately. What I’m noticing is that as I’m moving up and forward with projects in some new ways and at higher levels that I haven’t tried before, I’m meeting an internal resistance that feels like a gust of wind connected to an electric fence. It can be a really powerful force that pushes and pulls at the same time.

“Where there is power, there is resistance.” - Michel Foucault

THE LAW OF RESISTANCE

There are schools of thought that put Resistance right up there with the other powerful laws of the universe including the laws of Attraction, of Polarity, of Vibration, and of Compensation to name a few.

Jasmine Contor Dawson in "Aliens to Zebras: Dictionary for a New World" defines the Law of Resistance is: "That which an individual pursues in anguish or anxiety, will inevitably remain elusive."

In thinking about this, I was drawn to read again from Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art.” He’s my go-to expert about resistance, which he calls “most toxic force on the planet.” In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to this beautiful, terrible monster.

He says: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.” He talks about how it's the root of so much unhappiness and “to yield to resistance deforms the spirit.” Pressfield considers resistance as strong a force field as gravity or electromagnetic, in that it can’t be “seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt.”

It’s an internal force, is always there and its aim is to repel.

He also says this. “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

So, when you're at the threshold, or the crossroads, feeling the pull to where your soul wants to go, succumbing to resistance can keep you at the crossroads. Forever.

LIVING IN THE CROSSROADS

Resistance can also show up as doubt that results in inaction.

According to Stephen Cope in "The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling" - one of the most life-changing books I've ever read - in yoga tradition they term doubt as "a thought that touches both sides of a dilemma at the same time " or "the invisible affliction" that is very powerful.

People have gotten stuck in doubt, and at some point, they came to a crossroads and found "themselves rooted there, with one foot firmly planted on each side of the intersection. Alas, they never moved off the dime. They procrastinated. Dithered. Finally, they put a folding chair smack in the center of that crossroads and lived there for the rest of their lives. After a while, they forgot entirely that there even was a crossroads-forgot that there was a choice."

Ugh! When I first read that a few years ago I felt the floor fall out from under me. It was a huge wakeup call. I realized how I'd allowed resistance to stop me enough, over and over, so much so that I'd set up camp at the crossroads! I became Mayor of Crossroads, USA!

HERE'S THE GOOD NEWS

However, as Stephen Pressfield also says, “Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer resistance.”

In addressing how to get out of the crossroads, Stephen Cope quotes the teaching in the "Bhagavad Gita: the Path of Inaction-in-Action," where Krishna says, "There is a certain kind of action that leads to freedom and fulfillment… an action that is always aligned with our true nature." Cope says this "is the action motivated by dharma. This is the action taken in the service of our sacred calling, our vocation."

So, then it's possible to embrace resistance, as an ally rather a foe.

"In dharma, it is possible to take passionate action without creating suffering." - Stephen Cope

To my way of thinking there’s something kind of comforting about that. When you think about it, if you welcome the resistance and recognize it as a threshold or crossroads through which you must pass to accomplish the next step toward your dream, purpose, and destiny, then when you make it your ally, it becomes part of your journey rather than a hindrance keeping you from moving forward.

"Hey, Luke. May the Force be with you." Hans Solo

When you fight resistance or procrastinate because of it, you're not present. Get present by talking about and releasing the fear that's underneath and fueling the resistance.

LEANING INTO THE FIRE

I know for me, I know when I'm in resistance about something, nine-times-out-of-ten it's something I need to do - for my body, for my work, for my life, for my soul. So leaning into it feels easier, and not only doable but necessary, and powerful. 

“If you try to force the soul, you never succeed.” John O’Donohue, "Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom"

SO...

  • Focus on it. As in my yoga and HIT experience, focusing on the resistance softens its edges because your awareness and attention are pointed towards it.
  • Be with it. Get present. Being in the now with the force restores inner strength and balance.
  • Get vulnerable. Brene Brown says, "Vulnerability is not about fear and grief and disappointment. It's the birthplace of everything we're hungry for…Most people believe vulnerability is weakness. But really, vulnerability is courage. So -
  • Be courageous. Lean into the resistance and go forward.
  • Get creative. Creativity and spontaneity are energizing positive forces that help counterbalance the negative force of resistance.

And, Trust. Trust in all of these - focus, presence, vulnerability, courage, creativity and spontaneity.

They carry you through the threshold of resistance and across the crossroads of to your soul life, your purposeful life.

Interestingly, Pressfield also says that the resistance is only there when you’re faced with an up level. There’s no resistance going down, only up. Think about that for a moment. So, when resistance comes, welcome it because it only means you're on your way up.

“To fly we have to have resistance.” Maya Lin

So, I’ve decided to lean in, to be with resistance. I know it’s always going to be there. So instead of fighting it, I’m going to walk through it. Take one more step. Stretch beyond what I did yesterday. And, tomorrow will stretch beyond what I did today.

Who's with me?


Are You Living In Your Divinity?

Here are a few ways to find out...

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By Cindy Yantis

I was marveling during a recent email exchange with some girlfriends at how things are really cooking for them, whether it's dream-coming-true career opportunities, new potential love interests, new connections with conscious people and a general feeling of high-vibration purposeful wellbeing. I asked them what's changed in their daily lives, what have they been doing differently for all of this good stuff to be happening. They both talked, separately, about how a deeper surrendering to their connection to spirit, to God, to the divine has been the game-changer. And, a result more and more they are tapping into their own divinities.

I recalled an interview awhile back with Sheryl Crow. "He was in his divinity."  That's what she had to say about watching Michael Jackson in action. She toured with him early in her career and remarked about standing in the wings off stage, witnessing his genius at work, how he seemed to go to a different place. "He was in his divinity."

You may know, or have seen, people who seem to be doing exactly what they were put on this earth to do.  You know it when you see it. There's nothing sexier or more attractive than a man or woman in his or her element. Sometimes they even appear to glow. They are grounded, confident and things drift easily to them, whether it's opportunity, money or circumstance.  

It got me thinking again about purpose and mission and why-are-we-here. We are here to evolve into our higher selves and to continually seek our own divinity or genius element. When you're there, you're connected to the cellular you, your divine purpose.

"Trust and value your own divinity" Wayne Dyer

Have you had a glimpse of your own divinity?

Slow down for a moment and think of a time when it felt like all cylinders were clicking at once; when time and space became inconsequential (because in the place of divinity, time and space don't exist); when you felt closest to, or one with, God; or when you felt a sense of ease like never before. Everything flowed from one moment to the next to the next.

Sometimes the divinity lasts for only a moment. But, when you're doing what you were meant to do it can stay with you. Your consciousness raises to a place where you're most connected, tapped in and turned on to the divine. When it happens over and over again it becomes your own vortex of divinity, generating a force of energy that brings more of the same to you, so that eventually it's where you live.

That's your genius at play. Your genius thrives on a higher plane, where all of our higher selves live. 

How to get there? 

It's an everyday study where you continue to ask yourself the deep questions. Deepak Chopra says if you truly live the questions, the answers will present themselves. 
It's slowing down and recognizing the divine moments when they happen. Where are you? What are you doing? How do you feel? Track it backward to remember how you got there. 

It's getting off the grid. Turn off technology for a while. It's noise that interrupts the flow in the divine place.
It's releasing all judgment, of self and others. 
It's focusing on nothingness. Slow down the brain and meditate into nothingness, as in practicing yoga or prayer. Out of the nothingness comes centered focus that leads to higher thought.
Pray. It's worth saying again.
It's striving for excellence in everything you do. Excellence in one thing leads to excellence in all things.
It's being in, living in a state of love. Divinity can't exist where love does not abide.

“From a mind filled with infinite love comes the power to create infinite possibilities. We have the power to think in ways that reflect and attract all the love in the world. Such thinking is called enlightenment. Enlightenment is not a process we work toward, but a choice available to us in any instant.” Marianne Williamson

In moments of doubt, go back to that place; remember your personal divinity, your glorious purpose.

Can you imagine a place where we all are living in our divinity? Where a sense of genius is commonplace and expected? Where expectations and judgment don't exist? Where we are free to be? Where love rules the day.

Oooh, I'll meet you there. We'll have a playdate.


How Do You Manage Your Life’s Bandwidth?

A Life Lesson I Learned From My Smartphone

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Photo by Alejandro Garrido Navarro on Unsplash

I was on the phone with my sister discussing an upcoming call about cryptocurrencies. She asked if I was going to tune in. I felt my breath quicken and my stomach churn, and it hit me. “I don’t have the personal bandwidth to take anything else into my brain right now,” I said.

My next call was to make a doctor’s appointment when up popped a message on my phone: “You’re almost out of storage.” 

Twenty minutes later Outlook sent me an email: “Your mailbox is nearly full.” And, I had to laugh out loud. No kidding!

Seriously, all three things happened within 45 minutes. Okay, okay I get it! I have no more bandwidth and am almost out of storage. The truth is I have a lot going on and that morning I realized just how overloaded I’ve been. I know I’m not alone on that score.

How has it affected me? Full disclosure, it was my cardiologist I was calling to make an appointment. My heart’s been racing enough to keep me up at night, I’ve been sighing heavily, often, and I’ve been forgetting things, like where I am and where I’m going. Pretty scary at times, actually. Fortunately, it looks like everything is fine physically and we’re altering medications which can also affect the ticker. All good. AND, he told me to slow down.

My Smartphone told me to “manage my settings” in order to deal with the dwindling amount of storage space, giving the choice to either buy more space or clean out existing apps/files to make room for what I want to keep and for when I want to add anything new. It’s pretty simple on a phone as you just go through your existing apps, examine how much storage they require and then decide if it’s worth keeping.

It got me thinking about the same rules could apply to my overloaded and overstimulated life. Time to make some room on my life bandwidth. I took a lesson from my Smartphone as I also pulled out my Marie Kondō's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Here’s a helpful 6-step process.

Place Everything in Front of You –

This is literal and metaphorical. First of all, think of your life as a big file cabinet, or dresser or basket or closet. Everything you’re working on, classes you’re taking, jobs you’re performing, all commitments, everything in your life is in that space. I’m calling mine a closet: my life closet. All lined up -- or actually kind of piled haphazardly -- are the four classes I’m taking, including all of the projects and homework involved, my work assignments, relationships, book clubs, writers groups and all other time commitments.

My life in a metaphorical closet.

Now, now take everything out of your life closet. Everything. Empty out your “space” by mentally removing them from your mental bandwidth.

One way is to list them out, don’t worry about the order yet, just get them all down. Or what I did, give every item an index card. Lay them out on the floor. Get them out of your head and onto the physical plane.

Sit in the Emptiness –

Interestingly, while I was going through this process I pulled a healing card for inspiration. The word on the card was Emptiness. I know, you just can’t make this stuff up. That inspired this next step.

Once you empty your life space and clear off your mental bandwidth, spend some quality time in the emptiness. Breathe into it for several moments. Take a look around at all of that room, the vastness of it, free from mental clutter. Feel the time open up as well, no deadlines, no ticking clock.

Just space.

There will be plenty of time to get back to all of those index cards on your floor. But, now is the time to honor your life space. What I discovered was how powerful my life energy is and how sacred my attention is in utilizing my life energy for my highest good.

Truly, take as much time as is necessary to truly honor how special and powerful your life energy is. Appreciate the sacredness of your attention because when it comes time to put things back in your life space, this will be vitally important.

Rank Them –

So, look at your list or your index cards. As on your Smartphone, give each item a value based on how much storage they require, how important they are to you in your life, timeliness, and joy.

This is where you spend time with each thing. As Marie Kondō espouses, pick up each item and hold it, only keeping what brings you joy.

“The act of discarding things on its own will never bring joy to your life. Discarding is not the point; what matters is keeping those things that bring you joy." Marie Kondō

Conduct a Yes Survey

As you ponder each item in front of you, ask yourself these questions, or a version of these questions:

  • Does this bring me joy? If it’s not a hell yes, it’s probably a no.
  • Does this feel in alignment with my heart’s desire?

"Why go knocking at every other door? Go knock at the door of your own heart." Rumi 

  • Does this serve my highest good and/or the highest good of others?
  • Will this connect the dots between other items on my list?
  • Does it feel good in my body?

If you answer yes to these questions, then it’s worth your sacred attention and is deserving of valuable space in your life. If the answer is No to any of these, release them.

  • Is this a time and energy suck?
  • Do I keep losing interest or find myself not thinking about this?

The decision is obvious if you get a yes to either of these.

Give Yourself Permission

Once you’ve gone through this process with each life item in front of you, give yourself permission to delete, cancel, remove or quit the things that aren’t a 'hell yes' in the joy, alignment and soul’s calling departments.

This is where a lot of us stop ourselves. We’ve spent good money on classes or products or partnerships so there’s a part of us that can feel like a failure or a quitter if we don't complete them or hang onto them for good measure. But, the only person you’re failing or quitting is you, if you don’t end what isn’t doing you any good anyway.

So give yourself permission. Quit! Cancel! Delete!

Marie Kondō says to honor each thing before you release it, thanking it for it's contribution to your life. It helps. 

It really opens so much more time and space for all of the high vibrational in-alignment things in your life that you love. Keep doing more of those!

Mindfully Fill Your Closet

Now that you’ve carefully and thoughtfully selected those, and only those, things in your life that answer all of those yes questions, it’s time to place them back in your life space.

Slot them in mindfully, allowing the room, time and care they deserve.

Now, take a step back and give it a good look. How does it make you feel? What a joyful and purposeful life you’ll have redesigned for yourself.

Now, when something new comes along, you’ll take much greater care in what you place in your life space. It’s very special in there; you’re creating with purpose and intention.

I know for me, my intuition now has a clear guide. If I don’t get a hell yes, it’s not getting in!

 

Here’s Another Clear Guide

If you want to further expand your thinking while elevating and operating your life at a higher level, please check out my simple 8-step checklist that will help you get there.

Click here to get the CHECKLIST right now. 


How Not Having Kids Shaped My Legacy

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Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

 

We all want to matter. It’s innate for us to want to leave a mark on this world that will have meant something when we’re long gone. For loving parents, having children is often a principal and driving force of their purpose and legacy. I’ve asked so many friends who are parents this question, and many have said their children are their legacy, which always makes total sense to me.

My grandmother would have been 114 this past week. I thought about how proud she would be if she could see all that her family is doing, her son and daughter, six granddaughters and seven great grandkids. I can just feel her joy as she watches the active and meaningful lives they’re all living. Her legacy is alive and well, and growing.

It got me thinking about the existentialism of legacy, if you don’t have children, which I’ve thought a lot about as a childless woman. Is your legacy only partially fulfilled, without offspring? It took a bit of a journey to arrive at how I feel about this now. So, this is my story.


EPIPHANIES WHILE GETTING PEDICURES
“Wow, look who’s a Grandpa,” I said. I was looking at Facebook on my phone while getting a Mani Pedi with my girlfriend. We were sitting in very high-backed white leather chairs, feet soaking in bowls of aqua glass about three-inches thick. They weren’t motorized tubs, which I kind of missed because I liked to hold my toes against the jets. But, the smooth glass felt good against the bottom of my feet. My manicure was already done and my nails were still tacky so I’d been careful when I’d clicked open Facebook so I didn’t dent my polish. My manicurist had taken such great care with every stroke of her tiny paintbrush that I didn’t have the heart to be the one to destroy one of her masterpieces.

The look on my friend’s china doll face was one of understanding because I had no doubt she knew where I was heading with my thoughts. The Facebook post made a happy announcement of grandfather-dom. And, the grandpa was my college sweetheart, my first fiancé, the owner of my cherry.

And, now here, all of these years later, like three decades later, he has three children and a grandson that bears his middle name as his first. Henry. That’s the name we always talked about naming our little boy, when we had one, of many, we said. Henry, and we’d call him Hank. I still think it’s a great name.

Now, when I looked at the sweet, squished red face of this baby whom I don’t know and never will meet, I felt a pit in my gut. Not because I felt I missed anything with the old boyfriend. But, because that’s something I’ll never know. I’ll never know the pull of a grandmother’s love, of that special feeling that only grandmothers know when their child has a child. Because here I was all these years later, looking at this flat photo on Facebook, and I’m childless. I can’t have children of my own, and will never experience that scene in that way.

There was a numbness that took over when I thought about it. A numbness that I’ve taken to mean acceptance, because really what else could I do? I refused to have a pity party so the numbness had become the norm. A small cotton ball near my elbow probably had more feeling right then than I did.

But, the truth was I think I was afraid to go beneath the numbness. Because staying numb kept me safe from feeling. I was numb so I didn’t feel. I always described myself as an emotional person, a woman in touch with her emotions. But, not about this. This. I’d grown to like my numb. Love it, even. My numb was loyal and steadfast, providing me a calming hum when she knows I need it. I know what to expect from numb. When the numb is removed what is there?

And, there it was. What I felt was a one-ness; what I felt was a projected alone-ness. Not lonely, but a sense of, it’s me and me alone. I see big family photos on social media of grandparents in their 80’s, with a huge brood of kids and grandkids and great grandkids, all wearing red t-shirts because they’re at some annual family reunion in Wisconsin, and I project ahead three decades me, myself and, and I think; I’m alone. A woman, a would-be matriarch without a family legacy.

And, even deeper than that was a longing to make a generational and meaningful contribution to humankind, and the question of what that is supposed to be.

There was a little girl next to me with bright green and blue nail polish. She was with her mother. It was sweet. But, I also realized that I don’t want that anymore. My friend — who also doesn’t have children — and I have often talked about how it’s interesting how many of our friends don’t have kids of their own. And, I think, you fill your village with some others who are on similar paths.

“Do you wish it was with you?” she asked, referring to the Facebook photo.

I shook my head. Nope. The pedicurist reached for my right foot. And, I was back in the world. And, that’s the moment when my shift in mindset started to settle into place as the question of legacy dug deeper into my consciousness. As a woman unable to have kids, does that lessen my purpose or make my existence as a woman less-than because I’m not fulfilling the natural legacy of my biology, of co-creating the next generation of life?

It caused me to examine deeply my path, the mark I will leave on this world and my relationship with being childfree.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE IS 20/20
When I was a little girl, like nine or ten, when other little girls were playing with dolls and pretending to clean house and get ready for their husbands to come home for dinner, I was playing office. I have a specific memory of being at my grandparent’s house where I’d created a small office. I’d received a toy phone for Christmas and I was giving it a run. I sat with authority at my tiny desk, answering my toy phone with confidence.

As I glanced around my make-believe office from my helicopter and historical perspective, I saw that my dolls and stuffed animals were my co-workers and subordinates, all lined up behind me, in various shapes and sizes, as I bossed them around, telling them what to do. The seeds were being planted in my young mind of wanting to be a leader and reach for the corner office, which eventually I did do. And, what I loved most about that job was the nurturing, the mothering, working with and guiding those in my stead. Legacy?

When I dressed my Barbie, she was a seriously cool single chick, with a kick-ass job and social life with numerous Kens. Yes, she was looking for her truelove Ken (still is), but that didn’t stop her from having a full life.

In my 20’s, while friends were starting to grow their broods, I was growing my career, watering the seed that had been planted early on. I enjoyed watching them, but from afar in the sense that I didn’t feel connected to wanting that for myself, although I figured I probably would at some point, after all that’s what I was supposed to do. In fact, when I met my ex husband, we agreed that we both wanted kids, but even that felt a bit like fantasy, out of my reality.

I watched my sister struggle through numerous miscarriages and I felt deeply her pain and longing for children. Then, my niece was born and I fell madly in love with her, followed by her brother whom I was crazy in love with too. That feeling of overwhelming, protective, I’d-do-anything-for-this-kid love was the closest I’ve come to wanting some kids of my own. 

After I found out I was pregnant, my husband-at-the-time and I entered the fantasy phase of what to expect while we were expecting. I surrendered to the innate part of my womanhood that wanted to birth a human, to take part in the natural course of things, by the standards and traditions of those before me as well as the possibility of fulfilling the dreams of parents/soon-to-be grandparents. I became excited about it and was enthralled with the changes in my body. And, as I’d hoped, it brought my husband and I closer in what was a bit of a bumpy marriage at the time.

For the next several weeks we drifted into that zone where expectant couples live: eager announcements, morning sickness at the smell of paint and toast, books on the stages of pregnancy and baby names, nursery furniture, shower dates, endless chatty discussions about bodily functions with anyone who would listen. Cramping. Spotting. Sleepless nights. Ultrasounds. Ovarian tumor. Emergency surgery. No more baby.

What I gave birth to, rather than a bouncing baby boy/girl, was the numb. A numb that softened the mourning over how my womanhood had failed: failed my body the chance to fulfill it’s expected destiny, failed my husband, failed my parents/soon-to-be grandparents, failed my sister by not gifting her with the same kind of love I feel for her kids, and failed a family history that would not continue with me. Failed my legacy?

But, here’s what’s interesting. I think deep down after that happened, I knew I most likely would not have a child of my own. My husband and I never seriously talked about trying to have another child. And, the loss of this pregnancy is what signified the beginning of the end of the marriage. It opened a chasm in which to see the framework and scaffolding of it all and there were too many broken pieces to fix.

So, I was on my own again, alone. I was still buying into the ingrained pressure to have a child and that I would not be complete until that happened. So, I made a promise to myself, and declared it out loud to my close circle, that if I was still single and without the prospect of a mate when I was 42, I would look into having a child on my own.

Then, I filed that away and got on with my life, a life I relished in so many ways. A big move across the country, new jobs (including the one with the corner office), a deepening love and commitment to writing, new ways to expand spiritual growth that have taken me far outside of my comfort zone, traveling alone and with others, dating, not dating, big crying, big laughing and bouts of loneliness which provided the contrast necessary to be able to embrace the non-loneliness of being alone. Learning is revealed through contrast.

CHILDLESS MOTHER
As 42 approached, I kept to my own word. I wasn’t in a serious relationship that might lead to long term so I started digging and researching what it would take to have a child on my own. I read books, attended seminars on how to adopt children from Guatemala, Russia and China. I interviewed adoption attorneys on the adoption process in the United States as well as spoke with some of their clients about their personal experiences. I checked out the reputable sperm donation clinics in Southern California, going as far as filling out a profile as to what kind of “father” I would want for my sperm baby. I bought a two-bedroom home with a nice big yard.

Then, I woke up one day and realized I didn’t want it badly enough to do it alone. I’d done my due diligence and there was a true sense of freedom in that.

A few years later I had to have a hysterectomy, which closed the chapter on any lingering inkling that I might be missing out on something. My friend, the same pedicure friend, did a painting for me that showed the figure of a woman taking flight. On the back on the painting was a picture of Saint Majella, the Patron of Childless Mothers. Ah, this was truly a new chapter.

Childless Mother. This is something I could embrace. I loved nurturing people, and even though I didn’t have children of my own, I love kids and knew then and there that I would always have them in my life, somehow. Did this have something to do with my legacy?

It was another redefining moment as I looked at both motherhood and legacy through a fresh lens.

THERE’S MORE TO A FAMILY TREE THAN MEETS THE EYE
Not too long ago, my parents, sister and I did the Ancestry DNA test, sharing the interesting results with each other about our origins. My mom took the opportunity to fill in the family tree on the Ancestry.com site. She and my grandmothers had done extensive genealogy research into our family, going back to the 1500’s, stretching across Europe, so the family tree looked quite impressive; sprawling, uneven branches of life with names that have repeated and regenerated often.

My finger traced along our branch: my parents, my sister and her husband, their two kids, and me. And, again it hit me. My little branch was dangling out there, alone, like a stump. It felt like a stop. But, that’s when things became crystal clear.

A LEGACY IS A LIVING THING
What I felt next was a full embodiment of something that felt embryonic and full of promise and at the same ancient and foregone. What I felt was my purpose. As a creator, a writer and a storyteller, the messages and missions in my stories, those define my legacy. What became so clear also created a new sense of urgency. Because, now knowing this, writing is not only my passion; it’s also my responsibility: to my legacy, to my mark on the world. It’s my sense of belonging and my contribution to history, and yes, to my family tree. 

My legacy is now alive, and what I birth will live on long after I’m gone.

My grandmother, the one who would have been 114, her legacy stretched far beyond the future reaches of her offspring. She started teaching in the 1920’s, in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Kansas. In the 40’s she started college, taking one extension course at a time, whenever one was available in her small town and when she could fit it in while raising her family.

It took her until 1959, but she got her Bachelor’s Degree at the same time as her son, my dad. She went on to be selected as a Master Teacher, an honor bestowed to the top teachers in the state of Kansas. She was passionate and touched many lives during her career. Her legacy made a difference.

YOUR LEGACY IS REALLY NOT ABOUT YOU
My path to understanding my legacy may seem roundabout, but in fact, it’s the natural course of discovering your purpose. For me, it’s writing meaningful prose that will help people to think about things in a new way, to improve their lives. It becomes about them which is so much more meaningful. 

Your legacy is the impact you make and the imprint you leave behind. We all have a legacy. And, the truth is it can be either positive or negative. There are numerous examples of people who are/were notorious for doing bad things, things that have a ripple effect. They go down in history as such. 

Your legacy is how you’re remembered. The lesson is that when you’re aware you’re modeling your life for your legacy, you pay attention. When you take an active part in creating and living your legacy, it becomes a meaningful adventure.

HOW DO YOU LIVE YOUR LEGACY?
Take a look in the metaphorical mirror at your life. Ask yourself:

  • How are you an original? We all are unique, and what’s your special sauce?
  • What do you want to be remembered for?
  • How can you make a lasting impact on others? Look at the impact you currently have on people in your life, directly and indirectly. Don’t belittle the significance you have in your world already.
  • Will your lasting impression help or change the greater good? How?
  • What lessons have you learned that you find yourself organically teaching to others, whether it’s merely giving a friend, child or parent advice, or whether it’s a more global imparting of your knowledge?

Your own path of self-discovery, as mine has, will help answer those questions. Any or all of these help to comprise what is your legacy, your gift to the world. 

Give it space. Allow your legacy to find you as well. Sometimes we can be so busy seeking we miss what’s coming directly to us. 

Be a Living Legacy. And, remember that the actions you take, the words you speak, and the impressions you make launch a ripple that ebbs and flows, continuing long after you’ve moved on to the next action, word or impression. Armed with this knowledge, you’re empowered to take an active role in creating the legacy you were born to create. 

ONE LAST THING
The truth is, the inkling is still there, just once in awhile, when big things happen in the lives of the important young people in my life. I put myself there, what would that be like if I was their mom. And, here’s what beautiful. I can still be a nurturing mentor or influence with them. There are so many opportunities for that. I know this is part of my legacy too.

And, who knows? Perhaps my next life mate will have kids and I’ll still get to be a grandma, of sorts. How great would that be?

Most of all, I believe the best legacy is a life well lived, in service to others and to a higher calling. Create from there and you’ll be unstoppable while having a meaningful life.

 


How Procrastination Can Lead to Your Best Work

Because sometimes, procrastination isn't procrastination.

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Procrastination has gotten a bad rap. And, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the badness of it, and to browbeat ourselves over it. I get it. I’m an experienced perpetrator, judge and jury when it comes to the subject of procrastination, often handing down my own verdict: Bad Writer! 

As I’ve mentioned here I’ve been working on a memoir. And, for a while it was simply pouring out of me.

Until it wasn’t. It’s like the river of ideas just stopped flowing. I fell into what most people would call the abyss of procrastination, which kind of fascinated me, to be honest. I'd start by beating myself up, then by trying to pep myself up and then just giving up. It was a cycle that went on for days.

Then I realized, I was talking about the story with everyone I know, flushing out an idea for a title, discussing through lines, themes and what was underneath certain scenes, asking my family about specific events from childhood, clarifying my memory. The fact is, I’m thinking about this memoir all the time, like a hundred times a day. Also, I read some books about writing memoirs and connected with other memoirists to discuss various aspects of the genre.

That’s when it hit me. This is my process, not my procrastination. And, not just about writing. This is the way process shows up in every area of my life. 

So, when isn’t procrastination, procrastination? When it’s part of process.

The truth is, I noodle. And, I noodle, and then I noodle some more. Then, the pieces start to fit into place, like a mystery puzzle when you don’t exactly know what it’s going to look like completed. At that point, often the project really cranks, like it has a mind of its own, until it's a little jewel of creation. It becomes the product of what I now call Productive Procrastination.

Ah, there’s a reframe!

I think this new recognition of procrastination deserves some love here. Productive procrastinating can actually be very helpful.

I ran across three TED Talks recently that sparked more thought along these lines.

One of my favorite TED Talks, "Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator", Tim Urban talks about what happens when we procrastinate and how the "instant gratification monkey mind" takes the wheel, involving us in everything except what we're wanting to get done. Fellow procrastinators, this talk is a must-see. It's hilarious and my guess is you'll see yourself in what he describes. 

I say the monkey mind can be a great friend to creative productive procrastination.

In a fascinating TED Talk, “The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers,” psychologist Adam Grant concluded that some of the most original and creative thinkers procrastinate, they incubate. “Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in non-linear ways, to make unexpected leaps.” He says, “Procrastination can be a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue for creativity." As a result of this process, "some of most creative people are fast to start and slow to finish." Yes!

The creative process is not rational, “the true essence of creativity is unexpectedness.”

That really takes the pressure off. Some of the most brilliant people I know are 11th hour geniuses. No matter how much time they have, they continually pull off brilliance at the last minute.

Author Manoush Zomorodi in her TED Talk “How Boredom Can Lead to Brilliant Ideas,” says, when you engage in mundane tasks you enter “default mode. Your body goes on autopilot and your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems.” You can probably recall times when THE idea or solution or word or thing came to you while you were doing something mundane, or by rote, like driving or taking a shower. Not that you should be bored while you’re driving, but your body is on autopilot so your mind can wander somewhat.

So, here are some ways to be a Productive Procrastinator:

  • Get bored. Do nothing. Stare at the wall. And...
  • Be still and just think. That’s it. Just noodle. Don’t take notes, don’t try and catch a thought. Just allow your mind to travel. Set a timer if you want to. Know that you’ll remember what you’re supposed to remember.

    “You call it procrastinating, I call it thinking.” Aaron Sorkin

  • Engage is some mundane, autopilot tasks: laundry, dishes, mow the lawn, any by-rote physical task.
  • Allow your imagination to take flight. This time take notes. No editing. No judging. Just free associate, mind to paper.
  • Be in nature. Being around such alive energy, it’s definitely where I do some of my best noodling.
  • Idea-storm, word-storm and brainstorm with others.
  • Keep trying new ideas and fresh ways to look at things. Sometimes it’ll take several passes before it’s the winner.
  • Know that “bad” ideas are simply pre-great ideas.

Remember, reflection is the Productive Procrastinator’s secret weapon. It's how ideas germinate and generate.

Then, put your project on your dance card. Make an appointment with yourself to get back to work on moving your project forward.

And, relax. There will be plenty of time to procrastinate again!


Life Isn’t Like You Thought It’d Be, and That’s Okay

And, other advice for my younger self.

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I’m finding that some of my most treasured time these days is spent listening to, advising, encouraging, mentoring and enjoying young adults. It’s happened organically, sometimes out of the blue, as so often wonderful things do. I find myself, when in these situations, wanting to give them shortcuts, to tell them what I’ve learned along the way that might give them a leg up or that might save them from the angst or hardship or heartache that I went through when I was their age.

Then, of course, I realize I can’t “save” them but can perhaps shed some light on a different or experienced perspective. I still remember those loving influences early in my adult life, often recalling the gems, now metaphorical or thematic, that still guide me.

It got me thinking, as I’ve counseled these incredible, curious, bright, seeking, voracious people, is how often my words are echoes and whispers of what I would have told my 20-something self, given the chance.

So, on this birthday in the midst of my fifth decade I decided to do just that.

I had to laugh because once I got started it became a pretty darned long list of things I wished I’d known at the time, things that would have definitely saved me from a headache or two.

For the sake of time and space, here are 12, plus one from one my most trusted life guides.

1. Don’t dim your light or dumb yourself down for anyone. This one’s big and happens way too much.

You may find yourself in situations when you feel others are cutting you off or belittling your opinions or points of view. Two remarkable young women in the last two weeks shared stories about this happening in their jobs. If you feel someone is trying to sniff out your light (you know who the light-sniffers are) know it’s usually because they’re afraid of their own. They feel threatened by you because they only want to shine too. By standing powerfully in your own presence, fully, you really allow them to do the same. They still may not be comfortable around you, but that’s okay.

You were brought into this world to shine in your own unique specific way. To use your gifts as no one else can. The God source in you is infinite and powerfully bright; when you dim it in order to make others feel more comfortable or less insecure, you also dim your God source. You cut off your divinity by being less than who you are. And, over time those external voices can start to become your own negative self-talk.

2. Women, help other women. This goes hand in hand with the above. Nothing is more disheartening than when you see a woman not giving other women a chance or opportunity to be seen, heard or hired, because of her own insecurities and limiting personal power. The thing is when a woman clips another woman’s wings, she clips her own. We need to help each other. It goes for men too, but I see it as an epidemic with women. 

3. Don’t hide your gifts from the world for fear of not being enough, or worse, of being too much. Playing small is doing you and the world a disservice.

4. Trust your own inner voice, your God voice. It is your best and highest counsel. Seek its wisdom every day. It always knows what's best for you and the situation you're in. Get quiet and listen. Often. 

5. Life isn’t like you thought it would be – Let go of what it’s supposed to look like. Surrender to the flow of life and you’ll be less disappointed and more engaged by life’s twists and turns. They’ll be a part of what is beautiful about life.

Michael Singer talked about this in his book The Surrender Experiment. He was as a ponytail-wearing yogi in college when he made the decision to surrender to life, to be present with each moment and to see what was being asked of him in that moment. And, he’s had a very big, roller coaster life where he built several businesses, one of which became a billion dollar public company that went through serious trials and tribulations, things you and I will hopefully never experience. And, he became the best-selling author of The Untethered Soul. All the while, surrendering to what life brought his way. “Over the years I had come to see that I really had no idea where life was going to put me. And, in truth, it was none of my business. My job was to simply continue surrendering and serving what was put in front of me.” BTW, he's still a ponytail-wearing yogi. So relax, let life flow.

6. When you mess up, own up – and as quickly as possible. This is a repeat from my birthday post last year, but worth repeating. It keeps your side of the street clean so you don’t keep stumbling over obstacles you create, or co-create. And, don’t ever throw others under the bus. The blame game keeps you small.

[Last year's post: On Being Born to Run... and to Create and Play and Love and...]

7. Give credit where credit is due. Honor and champion others for their ideas and contributions. It fosters trust, loyalty and authenticity in your relationships.

8. Don’t ghost on people. In other words, don’t just disappear or not respond when you’re afraid of rejecting someone or if you don’t want to do something. When you do ghost, it’s the ultimate rejection. Just state your truth and move on.

9. Make your life’s mission about how it will make an impact on others. When you do that it will be the guide post and touchstone for a meaningful life. It becomes your legacy.

10. Self-love is the most important love. It’s the strongest foundation from which to build any relationship. The only foundation, actually. You really can’t fully love others until you fully love yourself.

11. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. And, think. It’s pretty simple. Be with people who fill you up.

12. Focus on your attitude. You often can’t control what happens. The only thing you can control is how you react to it.

Fellow birthday girl, my beloved Mom, who turns 80 today, has a wonderful life full of wisdom, laughter and love. By the way, Mom is rehearsing to sing a solo ("Hello Dolly") in her theatre company's upcoming show. I mean, this woman! Happy Birthday, Mom! So, of course I asked her what she would tell her 25-year-old self. She said:

13. Don’t worry about the small stuff. And, be more patient. Things usually work out for the best.

The simplest thing I would tell myself is Life is meant to unfold. Learn, educate yourself, continue to seek and strive for excellence, but life is going to happen the way it’s going to happen.

And, everything will be okay.


These Three Things Block Success More Than Anything Else

Comparison, competition and perfection - the trifecta for failure. And what to do about them. 

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Photo by Andrew Worley on Unsplash

By Cindy Yantis

All three of these beauties – Comparison, Competition and Perfection - present themselves to me often, in varying degrees, one at a time, or when things are really fun they show up at my door as the three Witches of Eastwick, taking up residence in my castle, car, computer, office, dialogue and of course the mind, wreaking havoc, getting wild and basically controlling everything.

This is the way the Trifecta works. Each of them has their own bag of tools and spells designed to accomplish one thing: to keep us in place, safe from harm (getting hurt, rejected or dismissed). Their nutrients are fear, shame, disappointment, disillusionment, frustration and regret. And as long as we serve up these goodies our unwelcome guests are never going to leave the party and they block the door so we can never leave either.

Comparison Robs Us

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

A brilliant actress friend of mine was up for the role of a lifetime. It’s a role she'd wanted since she was a child and she had a great shot at it. After receiving a callback she found out she was one of only a handful of others called back. So, unable to stop herself, she began Googling (Yep, Google is in the Trifecta’s toolkit). She looked up the other actresses also up for the role and then unwittingly gave her cursor over to Comparison. And, as we so often do, she could only see what they possessed that she thought she didn’t. She lost the part before even walking in the door to the callback.

“Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” Iyanla Vanzant

I fished out the email I’d sent to her at the time, because this is what we do for each other as friends, we provide that soft place to land and then give a boost up so they can look in the mirror. Believe me, she's done the same for me. 

Here’s what I said: “What you bring to the table is so unique and wonderful and completely different than anyone else. There's NO ONE like you. You bring your YEARS of experience and expertise and talent and skill, in a way that no one else does. No one can compare or compete with that. It doesn't matter what their resume looks like (or anything else for that matter). Truly. At this stage of the game, you're in the room with very experienced actresses. That's where you want to be. If you just focus on that, then you'll stay on your A-game. Let them play their game and you play yours. And, don't allow them to rob you of your experience by giving them your time and energy; it gives your power away.”

This comes up for me as I follow brilliant writers who have published numerous books and I think I can’t possibly hold a candle to that at this point. A myriad of reasons (food for Comparison) present themselves: I’m too old, it’s too late, they’re better, smarter, prettier (not sure why but this comes in too but it does), braver, you name it I’ve projected it.

But, here’s the thing. When you compare yourself against others, you’ve given away your power to something outside of yourself. 

Comparison leads to judgment, which almost always leads to self-judgment.

Let's Reframe Comparison

Take a moment to think about reframing comparison. Look at what you admire about the other. Pay a brief and silent homage to that person’s success.

Empowerment coach Andrea Quinn, says, “Until you’re able to appreciate and honor the other’s success you won’t have the space to do it for yourself.” That’s how debilitating comparing yourself to others can be. It locks you in the deep freeze of your own prison. The first step to unlocking it for yourself is to appreciate the other.

Then, look in your own mirror. Dig deep and acknowledge what strengths and talents you bring to the party.  What are you serving at the table? What do you do that you know in your core gives you an edge as you?

Competition is a close bedfellow.

Now, certainly there’s something to be said for understanding your marketplace, or "competition" as marketers like to say. Knowledge is power when it’s used as information that serves you. But, when Competition is fed with all of those things we listed above at your self-defeating party, then it’s a blocker and not a helper.

Funny, the idea of competition came up recently as I was driving to an appointment. In the middle of the canyon with winding roads, I was minding my own business when suddenly the car behind me – a Honda with a thick front bumper guard – was on my tail, honking and trying to push me faster. Stop signs and other traffic didn’t matter; this guy was trying to be a force. In the past it would have stressed me out because I would try to please and play by his rules. This time, I surrendered to the metaphor and found it really interesting how much he was trying to get ahead. I thought, Dude, I’m going at my own speed, in my lane, you’ll just have to deal.

[Related: Pick a Lane, Follow the Road Baby]

Then, when we were on a wider thoroughfare I found myself competing with him. I played a game, trying to get ahead and around him, beating him through a light or slowing down on purpose to piss him off.

I caught myself and laughed out loud. It got me thinking about how much focus I was giving to his journey and not my own. I was literally giving this other annoying driver all of my attention. So, I stopped, slowed down my breath and focused on where I was going at my own speed, which to be honest was slower and more steady.

Pretty soon I forgot about him only to be aroused a few moments later by a series of loud beeps several cars behind me. Sure enough it was the Honda guy with the front bumper guard, torturing some other driver who was in his way. It struck me that people like him often need a protective bumper; they’ll keep running into or barreling over obstacles along the way. Awesome, if that works for them. But, that’s not the way I roll. So, why was I trying to compete with him? We both seemed to be on the same road, going in a similar direction, but we each have different purpose and reasons for doing so. In truth, I had no interest in where he was going.

When we focus on our competition we can lose sight of our own purpose.

Competition can foster copycat thinking and actions rather than originality and authenticity based on your own gifts and magic. When you lose those you lose yourself.

“Because she competes with no one, no one can compete with her.” Lau Tzu

Let's Reframe Competition

When you realize that no one makes it alone, often aligning or collaborating with those forging similar paths can sometimes bolster you and inspire you to keep going toward your own goals, dreams and desires. Then you have a community rather than a field of competition. That feels pretty good. Seek out those who have done what you want to do. Learn from them, partner with them, help each other and all the while, forge your own way.

Nobody has your magic sauce. Remember that. Get back to your own self worth.

Then, there’s Perfection

Perfection is the lurker, the wallflower at the party. Perfection can be the non-starter that keeps you from engaging in life all together.

I know so many incredibly talented people who are brilliant at what they do – in their own rooms. They re-do it, edit it, start over, keep polishing, get feedback and then start it all over again. All the while robbing the world of their gifts.

Trust me, I’ve been there. A lot. Just one more pass, then I’ll send it out. It just needs something…and then it will be ready. I will be ready when it’s perfect.

Perfection keeps us playing small. And, that’s not doing anyone any good.

Brene Brown says perfectionism is “a 20-ton shield. We carry it around thinking it’s going to protect us from hurt. But, it protects us from being seen.”

Yikes.

Progress not perfection

When we think of our work as progress rather than perfection, when we release it into the world it takes the pressure off of trying to be perfect. It’s a work in progress. We are a work in progress.

[Related: 6 Reasons Why Progress, Not Perfection]

Say it with me, fellow perfectionists. “I am a work in progress.”

Hmmm. Look around. The sky didn’t fall, the world kept spinning and guess what? People will only notice that you’ve stepped a bit more into your light, which allows them to give themselves permission to do the same thing. And, that's a gift that keeps on giving. 

So, our lovely little Trifecta of failure, reframed becomes a…

Trifecta of Purpose and Success:

Comparison becomes Appreciation, Gratitude & Self-Acknowledgment.

Competition becomes Collaboration, Community & Self-Respect.

Perfection becomes a Work-in-Progress & Self-Trust.

Now, that’s a trio worth inviting to the party and taking along for the ride.


Mastering The Art of Fear

 How to allow fear to work for you instead of against you.

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Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash 

By Cindy Yantis

I think about fear a lot. I mean, at times we all do, right? Lately it's been a very loud companion as I dig deeper into writing my memoir. No matter the situation, whenever it shows up I run the gamut in my relationship with fear. I see it, dread it, fight it, am pissed off at it, run from it, cry with it and am utterly fascinated by it for the never-ending lessons and conversations that derive from it. 

Recently I listened to Linda Sivertsen's Beautiful Writers Podcast when she and guest co-host, Martha Beck interviewed author Glennon Doyle. They were discussing Glennon's extremely raw bestselling memoir, LOVE WARRIOR, which is sitting next in my Kindle queue. I'm an admirer of all three women and their work. This was a great interview where they delved into a wide range of topics centering on their commitments to being completely truthful in the expression of their stories and the way that stretched and freed them.

I was listening in my car and suddenly realized I kept exhaling, loudly, and my whole body was vibrating, my stomach like the engine room of the Titanic. Honestly, their conversation scared the sh*t out of me as I wade tender-footed into the pool of my own stories, uncovering little places where I've been hiding, often in plain sight, fearful of how it might be received. It was big. And, it couldn't have come at a more opportune time because this fear of expressing my deep truths to someone other than my cats, often has me paralyzed. 

When I sat feeling the bigness, what I discovered led to a more expansive aha: this engine in my belly, this fire that made me exhale like a dragon, is a fuel, an ammunition if you will, like I haven't experienced in a long time. Like it goes deep and wide, echoing back decades, the kind of echo you hear in canyons and see when you look at your reflection in a house of mirrors. The truth is, this reverberation has been growing louder for a while now.

[As an aside, although it's not really an aside because it's such a big part of my story, I've been on a 30-day cleanse, eating only clean food. The intense vibration I felt I couldn't feel before because I was numbing out on an addiction to sugar and overeating. Now, I could actually FEEL the raw fear in my belly which turned into food for my soul and fuel for my work when before I was feeding emotions that numbed me from feeling anything else. It feels incredible, honestly.] 

I had lunch with a friend recently and we got into a great discussion about fear. He said he believes fear drives everything, good and bad. It's a constant no matter what. I think there's truth to that.

And, it got me thinking about how mastering fear rather than fighting or trying to conquer it might turn fear into an ally instead of an opponent. It's like mastering an art form; at times you feel the art might kill you, until you reach a place of working with the art, willing the art, arriving at the mastery of the art. Could it be the same with fear? 

The famed music producer Jimmy Iovine in HBO'S THE DEFIANT ONES said things turned the corner for him early in his career when "fear became a tailwind rather than a headwind." What a game-changing shift in mindset! When fear is a headwind, getting in your way, it can be so strong that it keeps you in place, stagnant, stuck or pushes you entirely away from what you want. It can feel like fear has a power of its own.

When fear is fuel for intention it's the tailwind that catapults you forward. Gary Zukav said in SEAT OF THE SOUL, "Every action, thought and feeling is motivated by intention...your intention creates your reality." When intention is aligned with your fear-turned-into-fuel it's a very powerful forward momentum.

The game-changer is the knowledge that we are the ones controlling our fear, not the other way around. 

I had a friend a few years ago who used to say when she was afraid of doing something it made her feel truly alive, to go into the fear and do it anyway. 

That can be called many things: courage, bravery, boldness. They all give fear a new role in the game. 

Invite fear to be your partner, to work with you instead of against you. Is it a fear of rejection or of failure or of success that you have? If you take fear by the hand and move forward with it into each of those arenas, you take control and allow fear to morph and transform into passion and action.

Put your fears, as kindling, into the fire of your own engine. Then, just watch what happens. It could create the tailwind you've been waiting for. 

 


Here's What Happens When You're Not Being Present

And, what to do about it so you are.

  Grocery store

Big weekend plans were looming, with house-guests and an event that’s been a year in the planning. Everything coming together. Ticking off the to-do list, with still-needing-to-be-done phone calls and emails and conversations rolling around in my head and a ball of nerves in my gut. But, I’m gettin’ it done. I think.

A couple days beforehand I head to the grocery store to get stocked up, and I take time to fill a beautiful cart with necessities and delectables including a lush mint plant. I smile as I picture serving fresh mint water to my guests. 

I get to the cash register. “Oh, I don’t have my wallet,” I say, with a bit of a panic rushing into my voice as I dig through my purse. It's never not in my purse.

“Is it in your car?” the helpful cashier asks. I try to think of the last time I used it. The mind is blank. But wait, I can write a check. I forget about my checkbook because who writes checks anymore.

“Yes,” she says. So I write the check. “Oh, but I need your ID,” she says sweetly.

“It’s in my wallet,” I say flatly. (sorry but adverbs are kind of key in this story) Meanwhile, I’m answering texts and she’s bagged up my gorgeous groceries into my favorite shopping bag (it has lemons on it so you get how special it is). Seriously, I feel like Martha Stewart with my perfect bag of yummy goods, with the mint leaves cascading over the top. So, I run out to my car to look, while she holds the line for me.

Sure enough, there’s the wallet, sitting lazily on the front seat.

Out of breath, I pay for the groceries, while the lovely people in line behind me wait patiently. The cashier tells me to have a better day and I roll the cart happily to my car, my lemon bag bouncing along inside the cart. One more thing to check off my list. I start the car and drive off, my head already at home, making dinner and following up on stuff for the event.

I pull into the driveway, and you’ve probably guessed, I left that gorgeous bag of groceries. In the cart. In the parking lot. Twenty minutes away. Of course, I sit in my driveway and call the store. After five minutes someone finally answers (seriously five minutes) and the woman, her name was Angel (truly), is so kind and looks all over that parking lot and store for my pretty lemon-enhanced bag. Of course, it's not there.

I was so mad! First and foremost at myself. How could I do that? I mean, I was really beating myself up. What an idiot! What a waste of time and money! Then, I got mad at whoever took it. Couldn't they see what a special bag it was and that it surely meant something to the person who owned it? I mean, who does that?

And, then that’s when I took a breath. Who does that? Who takes a bag of groceries that clearly someone forgot?

Someone who needs it, that’s who. I have to believe that my beautiful bag of deliciousness went home with someone who could really use it. A friend of mine said, “Someone who didn’t need the groceries would have rolled the cart back into the store so that whoever left them could come back and get them.” She’s so right. Another friend shed a beautiful light on it when he said, “You made a donation to someone you don’t know and will never receive thanks for it. How great is that?” He’s also right. He now asks, “Did you stop at the store where you made a donation?” I love that.

It got me thinking about how un-present I was. I wasn’t at all present. In my head, I was 20 miles and three days away from that parking lot when I got into the car and drove off.

Then, get this. The next morning I put on my makeup. Twice. I was 10,000 miles away from my bathroom, in some other mental stratosphere adding to my to-do list. So I applied my makeup a second time, not realizing it until I was almost done. Sure, my makeup looked great, but I was a mess. Later the same day I walked off and left my keys at the office.

I. Was. Not. Present. Not even in the vicinity of being in the Now.

There's an even deeper reveal here - the real lesson - not only was I not being present with myself and what was in front me, I wasn’t being mindful. At all. My head wasn't in the game, which never results in a winning proposition. And it only makes sense that if I'm not being mindful while putting groceries in my car and putting on my makeup, where else am I being mind-less?

Being mindful is the action of being present. To be deliberate and mindful in all of one’s actions is to be fully present, in the now.

So, my friends, learn from my stumble… Here's how I came back. 

Take a moment - just stop.

Pay attention - to what's in front of you.

Get present - not tomorrow, a week from now, or 10 minutes away. Get in the here and now.

And, be mindful. Mindful while making coffee, mindful while eating, mindful while paying for groceries and loading in the car, mindful in conversations and relationships and most importantly, be mindful with yourself. Really pay attention to each action and moment.

Be mindful toward every thing and everything. 

Oh, and when I went back to the store - because I still had to stock up - I asked for a new bag with lemons on it, 'cause it's still my favorite. And, when I told the cashier what had happened to the previous one, just because it made a good story, she gave it to me for free. Actually she gave me two. So, I'm thinking I made out on that deal, mindfully.

 


Listen to Your GPS: You Just Might Learn Something

Walking path
Photo by Julien Lux on Unsplash

By Cindy Yantis

It was the umpteenth time I’d driven to Los Angeles International Airport in the nearly 20 years I’ve lived in LA. And, in all those times I’d never taken the route Google Maps took me recently. It was a winding path that led me down streets and through sections of the city that were entirely new to me.

Previously I’d stuck to habitual routes, commonly known directions or the straight shot, even when traffic was abominable.

I laughed at how often I second-guessed the navigation system, overriding the guidance, thinking I knew better, so that whatever GPS I was following had to constantly recalibrate.

So, this time I decided to go with it, even as I retorted to Google: “Really? Are you sure about that?” To which she said, “In 1000 feet, turn left on Crenshaw.” “Okay, let’s see,” I said, still thinking I was going to outsmart her.

She guided me down small streets then back onto previously trusted thoroughfares only to within moments take me off the beaten path again. At one point she said, “Due to congestion ahead, I have another route that will save you four minutes? Interested?” (Really she did). In the past I would have ignored the suggestion and kept on my way, because I knew better or didn’t trust that she really knew what she was talking about. But, this time I was intrigued. So I said okay. Sure enough, I got there earlier and felt gratified that I’d learned something new that day.

I also noticed another important thing. I was completely engaged in the journey. The new way I was being shown really woke me up. Rather than operating by rote or by habit I was fully present with the guidance. Hmm.

It got me thinking about how often we ignore guidance, inner or otherwise. Even after we’ve asked for help or guidance or direction, we ignore or second-guess the answers that come. We brush off that little inkling, the soft whisper of a suggestion because we’ve never done it that way before, or because one of any number of fears creep up and tell us it will be wrong or not good enough or too hard. Or it’s the old, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Well, sometimes even if it ain’t broke there could be another, better way, a way that will flow if we only give it a chance.

What I can say about listening and following the guidance I was given (and asked for), is it was easy, smooth, interesting and surprising calm.

A few days later, to continue the experiment, I completely surrendered again to the GPS guidance for another jaunt across town. It was all I could do not to go the familiar way. Truth was, I wanted help on the best way to get there during morning rush hour for an early morning meeting. So I asked for guidance. Twice, when I knew the guided route would lead to a busy intersection without a light, I stayed on the “proven” path. Actually spoke out loud, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Only to be then stopped in a ridiculous traffic jam. Okay, okay, I said. I’ll try it your way. And, even though there wasn’t a light where she had me turn left, it was much faster and got me smoothly though the area.

Okay, lessons learned. The same lessons apply when it comes to listening to your own guidance, whether it’s someone else’s advice or your inner voice.

Ask for help and let go of preconceived notions. Sometimes there are experts and people with experience who know better.

Listen to your own inner voice or higher power. So often it’s the inner GPS guide that we ignore, that powerful voice of wisdom and inner truth.

Sometimes it’s hard to hear the right message coming through because of all of the chatter coming at you, all the time. I had a conversation with a wise friend awhile back when I was feeling particularly stressed with all I had in front of me. I was amped up and shut down. She said, “I think you’re getting too much input. Taking in too much information.” She was so right. I was taking in so much information from so many directions that I couldn’t hear my own guidance to make my right choices.

At the end of the day that’s the most important voice and guide you’ll hear.

The answer for me after that conversation was to quiet the chatter, all of it, for a while. I took a break from input, got back to meditating and journaling and took a good long breath. Then, I could hear the whispers of truth that guided me.

So, perhaps give your GPS system a break and listen. You just might wake up and forge a new path.