The Universe Supports Boldness

27 Jan

“He who hestiates is lost,” my father used to say when teaching me how to drive. He was referring to passive drivers, those who hem and haw when changing lanes or when merging onto the freeway. They often accelerate and decelerate irradically, never making their intentions known to other drivers. The result is comparable to having the foot on the gas and brake simultaneously. “People who drive too slow or without assertiveness are just as dangerous as those who drive too fast and reckless.”

My father used to race stock cars as a hobby and was an excellent driver. I don’t know that I can say the same about my skills but his words stuck.

She who hesitates is lost.

These words apply to so many situations. A figure skater going into a jump at high speed who pauses right before lift off, typically can’t land the jump and often lands on her fanny instead. Similarly, a surfer who hesitates when the wave is cresting, won’t pop up right. He’ll end up on his knees, or won’t pop up at all. Likewise, he’ll miss the wave entirely, or it will take him at the wrong time causing him to pearl, the wave sending him into a-not- so-sweet-tumble into green and foam.

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He who hesitates is lost.

So much about life is about listening for the right moment and then committing to it with boldness. To jump on every wave does not reflect boldness; just foolishness or ignorance. Instead, the conditions need to be right. The wave needs to break with good form and without too many people on it. But when you are in the zone of a perfect wave, it is a Nike, “Just do it!” moment. Do not turn away the gift horse.

Reading the waves is an inner art form but the inner informs the outer. The impulse starts within.

“The Universe supports boldness,” a friend of mine said recently. This is such a quintessential California statement; it reads like bumper sticker. And yet it is so spot on. The Universe most definitely supports boldness. The Universe is bold herself. She is wild, she is beautiful, she is free.

When Chapters Close

23 Jan

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I remember when I first started reading big girl books that actually had chapters. I was fascinated by how events would wrap up towards a chapter’s close only to have a new plot element introduced. The suspense kept you reading.

I believe our lives also have chapters yet we often are not aware of them. We get so caught up in the day-to-day, we often fail to recognize what events have wrapped up and what is coming down the pike. It’s important to pay attention; to keep a ten thousand foot view. We need to be active readers of our own lives.

Chapters are often noted by geography and the years spent in different places. For instance, certain cities have called to me, propelling me to devote key years of my life in their regions. Because of this, I have always related to the movie “Chocolat,” where the protagonist, played by Juliette Binotte, relocates frequently. When the winds stir, she feels the call to pack up her belongings and set up shop in a new village with her little girl. You could say the character runs from establishing roots. She is after all a gypsy spirit. Yet she also knows the wisdom inherent in the wind’s promptings. It’s important to listen to what howls at night and the dust that whirls around us.

You can’t rush the chapters. It’s not to us to say when they’re finished. Although we’re the central players in our own stories, there are too many other agents at work in the unfolding events. Chapters are done when salient information has been processed, lessons have been learned, and actions have been revealed. Some chapters reflect loss and catastrophe; other chapters reflect great joy and triumph.

Perhaps a better word for significant periods in our lives would be “epochs.” Indeed, epochs are often highlighted by big events – deaths, weddings, births of children, and career changes – but not always. Sometimes, it is just time for change. Nothing much is happening. We’ve reached a period of comfort. Of stasis, stability, and peace. And then voila! The winds stir.

Yet when they do, we know IT. We can feel it. We then know that to stay put and defy transformation is to wind up in the belly of a whale. We’ll be spit out in Ninevah whether we pack our bags or not. To defy fate is to tempt the Maker and just makes our paths harder.

I always know when it is time to move into another epoch of my life when things start happening effortlessly and at an accelerated pace. Opportunities seem to fall out of the sky just by making a few inquiries. Likewise, a flow emerges that sharply contrasts the pushing-a-boulder-up-a-mountain periods we’ve been in previously. We become like leaves floating down a river to the next phase. Excitement eclipses fear and we summon courage despite walking straight into the unknown. It becomes surreal and strange to put belongings into boxes and yet we couldn’t imagine staying another month longer. Like our ancestors, we set sail or sit in a wagon, headed out for the new frontier. These are important moments. They mark our lives. They change the trajectory. They foster our becoming, as we leave behind our old selves and allow our true selves to emerge. And thus, a new chapter begins.

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Valentine to the City

14 Jan

A few days ago I found myself in a hotel room with my legs up the wall in a yoga inversion pose trying to induce sleep because in the city that never sleeps, it’s often hard to dial down from the buzz. Because of NYC’s initiative to train 250,000 New Yorkers in Mental Health First Aid, there will be a number of instructor trainings to meet that said goal and thus, I was fortunate to be one of the trainers who visited here recently.

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Twenty years ago I was a New Yorker. I was one of those starry eyed youth who came to the Big Apple because why not? I will never forgot those years. Once Manhattan has been part of your life experience, it’s always in the DNA. You really can’t understand the city until you’ve lived here; until you’ve been crammed on a subway daily in winter, spring, summer and fall either bundled up in a coat or sweltering in the urine smelling tunnels when it’s 100 degrees underground. You really can’t understand the kindness of the people here until you’ve had the guy at the corner market store chat with you every morning while getting your non-Starbucks coffee in one of the cups you always see in cop shows.

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The city is a heart beat pulsing with life and vitality. I love the rumble of the trains and and the old fashioned glamour of Grand Central Station. I love track lines that take me outside the city to people and places I love and the sense that anything is possible if you put yourself in the right place at the right time and keep your eyes and heart open.

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En route to the airport a few weeks ago, my uber driver was very young. I knew he was relatively green when he put the airport address into his phone GPS when the directions are a pretty striaght shoot. I also knew he was just shy of a kid based on his demeanor, the way he spoke to me, etc. “Today is my first day as an uber driver,” he said. “I just got out of the navy and am at school. I like uber. Everything is a tax write off and I can work my own hours.” And you can also make some seriously good money, kid. Good for you! I was touched by his lack of pretense; his lack of needing to do things perfectly; and his willingness to take life by the horns. He reminded me of a young woman I met in the city who was visiting from Canada. She was here just because. It was her third trip this year because she is smitten with the city.

New York is an old city with a history and yet it retains the joie de vivre of youth. Sure, the city can wear you down. In parts of it, it’s loud and dirty and grey and gross. The rents are high and there are lots of people. Yet it’s also glorious and romantic and wild.

New York is vitamin B for the spirit. You just have to find time for a little legs up the wall to quiet down from the stimuli and to fully appreciate the vitality.

Are You In Comfort, Learning, or Panic Mode?

31 Dec

The other day I was talking with friends of mine about the significance of breaking out of one’s comfort zone while not orbiting out in space on the verge of panic. My friends responded immediately saying, “Oh, that’s what our son’s school calls the ‘learning zone.’ There’s the comfort zone where no learning takes place, the panic zone where you’re so freaked your mind is paralyzed and then there’s the learning zone where you’re just able to take in new skills and lessons.”

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This explanation is spot on. The comfort zone, although cozy for awhile leads to our premature death. I cringe when I hear people say they’ve worked hard and now want to coast through life or when they feel that because they’re at a certain age, there’s nothing left to learn or they’re incapable of learning. It’s NEVER too late to learn and there is so much to discover, enjoy and do!

When we adopt this attitude, we start to shrink. Suddenly, driving a car becomes too scary; packing a suitcase seems a monumental task; and moving to a new place feels like moving to another planet. This paradigm will lock us into rigidity and fear for the rest of our lives. The learning zone on the other hand describes the edge where we stretch but don’t hurt ourselves; where we find the balance between surrender and will.

The panic zone induces too much, too soon. It’s the equivalent of throwing a kid into the deep end of the swimming pool and saying, “Now swim.” Most likely that child will not be overly fond of swimming sports as an adult. Water can be terrifying. That is too much too soon.

The learning zone takes place in an environment of thrill, risk and a modicum of safety and stability. When a child learns to walk, she most assuredly falls down. She occasionally konks her head in her maneuvering too. Yet typically adults surround her, there to assist if she needs any kind of care and comfort. Yet if the adults hover too persistently, she’ll not take those essentials steps of falter.

What motivates a child to learn is curiosity and desire. The child learns to reach, crawl and walk because there is an object, pet, or person in her proximity that she wants access to and to explore. She wants to touch this object, taste it, and to know where she begins and ends in contrast to this other entity. Growth starts with seeing this said person, place or thing and moving towards it. It starts with vision and then reaching out.

What will motivate us this year to step out of our comfort zones? What do you hope to master and delight in? I dare you to step out in 2016, staying young in heart and spirit by trying something radical, fun, challenging and new. Happy New Years!

When A Snake Sheds Its Skin

24 Dec

When I was a little girl a woman from the San Diego Zoo came to my second grade class with a boa to teach us about reptiles. This was probably the first time I heard about snakes shedding their skins. While snakes often get a bad rap, they have long symbolized healing and transformation in various cultures.

This concept of letting the old release and a new form take hold is actually quite beautiful. Does the snake consciously say, “Okay, it’s time to shed the skin now and grow in some new scales,” or is this process simply encoded in his DNA? And how do we know when we need to shed our skins? Do we make a conscious choice for this to happen, or does an innate impulse from deep within push us towards evolution? Or perhaps outside forces plunge us forward into a brand new life?

The transition from the old to the new can be mysterious and beautiful. Life is precious and it moves quickly. How can we maximize our experiences and endow them with meaning and joy? How can 2016 be the best year ever? It begins with setting strong intentions and allowing the new to emerge.

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Life, Death, and Creativity

30 Nov

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My family lost a member to suicide this week. For all involved, it has been a time to process this information while offering support. There is a legacy of loss here that can’t be negated. My mother’s death from seven years ago was on people’s minds as well.

Tragedy always strikes in the strong currents of life. There is a never an ideal time for loss. Often you’re already at max point with the demands of work and day to day, yet death insists that you stop. It insists that you keep going as well. When I received my mom’s suicide note, I was asked to come into work until I knew more because the hospital accredidation surveyors were there for their annual review. I thought this was the height of insensitivity, particularly from a mental health organization, but I went in and led groups and charted my notes. Three days later the police called me.

This is life. It will toss you about like a garment in the washing machine on spin cycle.

The day after news of the family death, I received confirmation that my male lead in the short film I wrote and am producing and starring in got cast on another film. He was already in Europe on a film and starts work immediately on a new feature.

Making a film doesn’t begin to weigh in comparison to the life and death of an individual. Yet in this chaotic swirl of the last few days, creativity affirms life in the face of death. We can collapse or create. Or collapse and then create. We film in a week in LA. Figuring out a new shooting schedule with a new lead who has the chops was like trying to solve a rubik’s puzzle but we did.

It is a constant honoring of loss while moving forward with life. After the film wraps, I see clients, finish up a course, and then get on a plane to see my grandmother one last time before she passes. She has held out beautifully on hospice living longer than we expected. Then it’s another plane ride and teaching for a week while we all continue to grieve for the recent death.

For the most immediate family members, they will not be moving on quickly. For them, they will need time to stand still. They will need to simply rest while remembering to eat and take out the trash. And then one day, the darkness will lift a bit. They will take a step out from the shadows and they will see a ray of light and life. During that time before and after, we will hold hands and make phone calls for this is God’s grace.

 

 

 

 

Resting Bitch Face

14 Nov

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All my life I’ve been told I have a beautiful smile. Yet even at a young age, I got flack when not smiling. I can remember as far back as junior high people asking me, “What’s wrong? When you walk down the halls, you always look so intense.” I wish I’d known then to simply respond, “That’s just my resting bitch face.”

Resting bitch face is a term my colleague Angi coined. When she introduces herself to a group she is training, at the end of her spiel she remarks, “Oh yeah. I want to warn you. Apparently when I’m not smiling, I look like a bitch. I’ve been accused of ‘resting bitch face.’ So if I’m not smiling at you, don’t assume I’m mad or not approachable. Come up and say ‘hi’. I don’t bite.” At this the group always chuckles because Angi is dead pan funny.

Yet Angi is also knock dead gorgeous. Tall and dressed to the nines, she looks like a svelte, hip Barbie. She has close cropped blond hair, big blue eyes, and curves in all the right places. When she opens her mouth, she is intelligent and sometimes swears like a sailor. But when she doesn’t smile, she has ‘resting bitch face.’

Many of us do. Males and females can be accused of ‘resting bitch face’. For instance, I have a guy friend who teaches and he says that students often accuse him of looking stern and callous when in actuality, he is pretty laid back and at times, goofy. I do however think ‘resting bitch face’ is a label attributed to women; not to men.

Obama often has ‘resting bitch face’. (I don’t blame him – he’s got a lot on his plate). He has been accused of being cold, yet never a ‘shrew’ or ‘bitch.’ James Bond too often has ‘resting bitch face.’ It has made him an international sex symbol. Unfortunately, ‘resting bitch face’ has never gotten me any dates. I remember once being told that when I was angry, “all the beauty drained from my face.”

I wondered why beauty was even on the table. But if truth be told, the issue of beauty is almost always on or off the table for women. In college, a boyfriend once told me, “You’re very sexy when you cry,” after I had just poured out my heart to him about my father’s drug use. Of course we ended up making love, which was great, but I’m not certain he even heard the bit about what was happening in my home life.

If beauty is indeed always a factor then I’ll go with good ol’ Angi’s summation: “Women are their most gorgeous when pissed because they’re most in their passion and power then.”

There must be something about the name Angi… The other night I heard that Angelina Jolie was once offered the role of a James Bond girl. She apparently declined stating that she wanted to be James Bond. You go, girl!

I want to be James Bond. Well, not really. ‘Smiling girl’ is actually more true to my nature than ‘resting bitch face.’

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The truth of the matter is that we have many faces; many moods. We need to embrace all of them because they represent all of us. We also need to see beauty in areas that often are viewed as negative. What if worry lines were viewed as intelligent lines and didn’t necessarily need to be botoxed away?

It’s okay to be a human being. And it’s okay to sometimes have ‘resting bitch face.’

 

 

 

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