26 November 2008

Using Spiritual Practices

Our Becoming a Woman of Purpose Meetup met last weekend. I want to say thank you ladies for coming out on a frigid afternoon, I appreciate you all.

We talked about spiritual practices ~ some tips on how to use them and some examples of specific ones. One very important tip is to just do it! It is not about being perfect, but being centered and at peace. This you will never accomplish if you just don’t start already! Never mind about how it looks or sounds to anyone else, this is your journey and your practice. It looks however you need it to look for it to work for you.

Another tip is to have no expectations. It is said that expectations are future rejections. When I expect someone to do something, and they do not; it is not the person that has let me down, but my expectation of them. Go into everything with an open heart and an open mind. This is critical for spiritual practices because when you have expectations, chances are something will come up that is not in line with what you expected. Then what? You give up because it didn’t go according to your plan. In the realm of the spirit, nothing goes according to your plan. This is an important lesson to keep handy. I can do the same practice two days in a row and each day presents something different. Why? Because I am different. I am feeling something different, I am experiencing something new and different, or I am just in a funky place at the time.

One of our newest members shared her spiritual practice of meditation. She remarked how centered and peaceful she feels once she has had her meditation time; and how empty she feels when she does not meditate. Another member shared that she creates vision boards and this is very calming for her.

There is no set practice ~ whatever you do to connect you with the divinity that is within you and outside of you is your practice. I shared my four main practices: prayer and contemplation; spiritual reading; silence and solitude; and journaling. I can definitely feel the effects when one or all of those practices go unchecked. For silence and solitude, I take myself on an Artist Date; just me, my journal and my pen. No friends, family or pets. No distractions, just time to be with yourself, to get to know yourself more.

If you are a newbie to spiritual practices, there are two sites that I have found to very useful: One is Beliefnet – whatever your belief system, this site will accommodate you. It offers prayers, meditations, news and views on all things of a spiritual and religious nature. The other site is Spirituality and Health, named for the magazine. Try one or both sites to jumpstart or spice up your spiritual practice.

I also shared a ritual I use for ending my day: every evening I do a self-inquiry of my day. I answer three questions:
*What have I learned today?
*What have I enjoyed today?
*What have I improved or contributed to today?

Then I list five things I am grateful for that day. Instead of going to sleep anxious and worried about the day or the next day, this sets the tone for restful and peaceful sleep. When you wake up, set an intention for your day.

What would you like the day to look like? Ex., a day full of peace-filled conversations with no drama!

How do you want to feel? I want to feel peaceful and grateful all day, not worried or stressed.

Also, if you have a petty tyrant, that special person whose job it is to constantly annoy you, set an intention that your petty tyrant won’t annoy you today. And if s/he does, it won’t bother you; you will remain in a state of peace and goodwill. It may sound hokey, but when done in the proper spirit, it does work and you will notice the difference. As a coach, teacher and speaker, I have many petty tyrants. Yet, I see them as my teachers ~ they are in my life to teach me something. Yet, I simply remain open and grateful for the lessons and the blessings that come. This is what consistently doing spiritual practices has taught me ~ to be more open and look for the light instead of expecting the darkness.

I would love to hear what spiritual practices work for you. Please share them with us.

In peace and gratitude,
Coach Carolyn

Saying Thank You

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." ~ Meister Eckhart

During this time of the year, being thankful is top of mind. We recall the sacrifices made for us to partake of the liberties we have come to enjoy and in some cases, take for granted. One of my spiritual practices is a gratitude list. Every evening I list five things I am grateful for that day. I just learned from one of my coaches yet another practice with the gratitude list. In the morning, list five things that you can be grateful for before they even happen. It helps set an intention for the day.

Out of my gratitude, I remember to say “thank you.” Two simple words yet so profound in meaning and impact. Think about what happens to the recipient of a “thank you,” a smile crosses their face, their manner is a bit lighter, and they are inclined to do more for you. A simple “thank you” begets more favor. You too are lifted when you bestow this simple yet effortless act of kindness and gratitude.

So, just for today, remember to say “thank you.” It may be all you need to say.

To my friends in the United States, I wish you a warm and blessed Happy Thanksgiving Day, and thank you for your continued love, encouragement and support. You are all warmly held in my heart.

Coach Carolyn

21 November 2008

Living in Radical Gratitude

We are truly abundant when we can live in a state of radical gratitude. Though simple gratitude is wonderful enough; radical gratitude takes us to places that are beyond our deepest imaginings. Being grateful means recognizing and appreciating all of the material abundance in our lives. We acknowledge our means and give thanks for them. Living in a state of radical gratitude means not only acknowledging those material and tangible things, but also acknowledging the intangibles as well. Those are the things we most take for granted because we cannot readily see and touch them in our lives. It is not until tragedy strikes that we begin to really see those things that are unseen to the naked eye.

There are the simple things to give thanks for: shelter, food, clothing, and some means to have all of our basic needs provided for. Yet, there are those things that we do overlook: a loved one’s smile, a mass transit system that gets us where we need to go, a reliable though slow computer, running water. It is usually when our loved one frowns upon us that we take notice and complain, rather than appreciating and thanking them for the smile. We do notice when the water stops running so freely as opposed to giving thanks for the countless times the water does flow effortlessly.

It has been said that until we acknowledge the small things, the big things will continue to elude us. I have found this to be the case. It is when I can truly acknowledge and appreciate all the small things, the intangible things in my life, that I see an increase in the larger things. Radical gratitude is seeing all of those small, insignificant things. It is also seeing those people, things and circumstances that seem not so kind: the rude boss, the loss of a dear one, an illness. It is difficult to find anything to be grateful for in those situations. Yet, this is the time for radical gratitude. Those are the moments in our lives that try and test our resolve; showing our true strength and stamina.

I have had many losses in my life, some worse than others. I am constantly asked how I stay so positive in those moments of crisis. My answer is radical gratitude. I always say to myself it could be much worse; others have it much worse than I, and this is a lesson to grow me and a blessing to show me that grace abounds. When those moments of crisis occur, that is the time to think less of myself and more of others. This can be a hard thing to do, especially when you are in some emotional pain. The pain will change and soften, if not totally disappear. But until that time, you are not meant to sit and suffer. Remember, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Instead of choosing to suffer, make the choice to reach out and help another person who is also in pain. It will ease the pain for both of you.

There is a Native American proverb which states, “When you share your grief, it is halved; but when you share your joy, it is doubled.” There is also a line in the famous Peace Prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi that states, “It is in giving that we receive.” I take these two quotes very much to heart. It is through the losses that I can live in these two sayings. Loss brings with it grief, and grief brings the healing and the growth to step into a new light. Radical gratitude helps you step into that new light. With radical gratitude comes an awareness of our own finiteness, therefore bringing us to a place of deep reverence for all that we have been privileged to receive. When I can live from that place of radical gratitude, then I can witness to the abundance in my life.

May you be radically grateful,
Coach Carolyn

03 November 2008

Using Spiritual Practices ~ Part One

“Spiritual practice supports the development of personal power. Spiritually powerful people are not necessarily people who do so much, as they are people around whom things get done.” ~ From A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson

I have a great many tasks and projects that I work on from day to day. I don’t consider myself busy, as I consider myself productive. We can be extremely busy, but produce nothing at the end of the day. When the day is done, I want to have something to show for the time and effort I spent on an assignment. As one of my spiritual practices, I assess my day; evaluating how my time was spent and what was truly accomplished.

I have several spiritual practices, and they have become just that, practices. It took time to develop them into a daily habit. Like brushing our teeth and showering, spiritual practices are to be done until they are very comfortable and natural. You miss them when you cannot do them.

The only time my spiritual practices are out of sync is when I am traveling. So I have adapted a travel version of my practices so that I can do them when I am on a plane, train, bus, or traveling by car. I love my travel practices, because when I am traveling, I love the motion. I find this very soothing and meditating, thus being conducive to putting me in a peaceful state. I am good at shutting other people and noises out. (Don’t know if this is a good thing or just plain rude, but it works for me!)

At our next Becoming a Woman of Purpose Meetup, we will be discussing the ins and outs of using spiritual practices. For me personally, I could not do all that I do if I did not have spiritual practices. I would not be as peaceful or as focused. When I feel less than peaceful and less than focused, I know that I have my practices to fall back on. I can do them anytime.

If you are looking for the peace, the calm, the focus in your life, consider attending the next Meetup gathering. If you cannot attend, look for the follow-up posts and notes. I may also do a teleseminar if there is enough interest. Looking forward to your thoughts on this one.

May you be at peace,
Coach Carolyn