The Little Frog

frogMy son had been fixing up the ponds and streams in our garden. As  he was tidying up, he noticed a frog hopping along our boundary wall.

“Let me rescue this little frog”,  he thought, “before the dog catches it.”

“I won’t put it in the top pond because that’s where I’ve cemented,  so I’ll put it in the bottom pond.”

He walked through the garden to the bottom pond and threw it gently into the water.

In a flash the big yellow koi that lives there jumped out the water, caught the frog mid-air, and swallowed it.

He was devastated.

Later, as he told the story we all had a good laugh.

It reminded me that whatever our intentions are, we seldom have control of the outcome.

Which is why the gurus and spiritual readings out there all advise us not to be attached to the outcome.

How do we do this?

  • Let the outcomes guide us and inspire us.
  • Imagine your outcomes every morning when you wake up.
  • Spend a bit of time enjoying the feeling of living the outcome you desire.
  • Then get up and focus on the things that are in your control – your actions, your attitudes and your responses.

And if the outcomes do come your way, be grateful and enjoy!

Success is a journey,
not a destination.
The doing is often more important
than the outcome.
Arthur Ashe

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Feelings, Goal-setting, Life Mastery | 2 Comments

Warning: too much fun kills fun

steakChipsI knew March was going to be crazy.

It was.

Right now I’m sitting here determined that I will not eat out in another restaurant till next month.

I also have a smile on my face.

Why? Because my son said something (as kids do) that forced a change of attitude; a change of attitude that I desperately needed.

March was fulled with visitors from abroad as well as local. I was the tour guide most of the time. We had fun! We ate out. A LOT. We had late nights. Plenty.

Just as the visitors left, we skidded into Cape Town for our youngest child’s graduation ceremony. We ate out again. A LOT.

I have to be honest here.

I was complaining.

I don’t like to admit it, but I was.

I told my son about how much we had eaten out and how hectic it was, and how much we had done, and how full I was, and how tired I was….. hana hana hana….

His response : “Mom, it’s really hard to feel sorry for you!

After I had a good laugh I felt much better.

I realized that I’d slipped into complaining mode. There was a far better way of looking at this.

I remembered when I was young and had just started working. Friends and I would save our money and once a month we’d go out to the local steak house . How I looked forward to the happy atmosphere of the restaurant,to the delicious aroma of sizzling steaks and  to a plate full of my favourite food. On top of it all, I didn’t have to cook it nor wash up afterwards.

I treasured those nights out at the local steakhouse.

Now, many, many years later I am able to eat at restaurants as often as I like.

My son’s comment opened my eyes. I have so much to be grateful for – and I have since spend time in reflection and giving thanks for fun, friends, food and  for a full life.

And a full stomach!

And wonderful children who continue to teach me lessons every day…

Yes, too much fun kills fun but only if you have the wrong attitude and forget to be grateful.

Share with me: what are you complaining about that you could be grateful for?

Posted in Balance, Life Mastery | 1 Comment

Good from Bad

5310700062_8428d0b6dc_zThabo, a friend of mine, shares this story:

Years ago, I landed an awesome job working as a contractor for a well-known IT company here in Johannesburg. I was going to earn a lot more money and my life was going to improve dramatically.

Or so I thought.

Unlike my previous company, I did not receive any benefits and was expected to sort out my own medical aid, pension and the like. Life as a contractor involved decisions that I had not previously had to make.

As part of my contract I ended up working at the North West Provincial Government office in a small town called Mahikeng.

Living in isolation is not easy and I missed home terribly.After a few months I was decidedly home sick.

I made a plan to visit home.

When I got to town the boys were already waiting for me. It was the best – catching up on the missed months.

My plan was to see my better half straight seeing the fellows. Wow – I was looking forward to that – I had missed her badly.

Finally I said my goodbyes to the fellows, got into my car and headed for my lovely lady.

I was driving slowly and steadily on that late Friday afternoon. Suddenly I was caught me off guard as a car came swerving to my side of the lane, crashing into me in a head-on collision. My car spun out of control stopping horizontally across the road.

Before I lost consciousness from the impact a woman came to my aid, asking me who I was and who she could contact to inform them of my accident.

When I regained consciousness, I was on a stretcher, and I could see familiar faces of friends and family who came to support me.

I was sure I was a goner when they broke out into song and started singing those hymns you only get to hear at a funerals!

Because I had procrastinated on the medical aid, I was moved from the luxurious rooms of Morningside private hospital, to the third largest hospital in the world, the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto.

I had sustained injuries that had me bed ridden in hospital for 6 weeks.

Although life at a government hospital was not as bad as I expected, the big problem was that I had no earnings; as a contractor it’s no work, no pay.

It took 9 months to recover fully!

It also gave me plenty of time to contemplate my future and consider my options.

Life was pretty bleak to be honest. On top of the fact that I needed regular physio, the country was in recession that year and it wasn’t easy finding a job.

I couldn’t afford my own life.

Realizing that contract work was not stable, I made a decision to go back to the corporate world so I could bank on a steady income and have Medical Aid. When I finally got a job it felt more like I was two steps behind, taking only one forward.

Today I am free of debt, happily married to one of the most amazing people I know, and for that, I wouldn’t change my life.

Looking back, the accident changed my life for the better.

It wasn’t a great experience. It wasn’t something I would choose to do again. It wasn’t something I planned.

But it did open my eyes and made me think differently and choose differently.

Thanks, Thabo, for sharing.

One of the things I harp on at my kids about (I’m a mother – I am allowed) is this: always have medical aid because you never know what will happen. I’m going to make them read Thabo’s story.

What his story confirms for me is that good and bad exists in every life, every person and every situation. Part of the process of growing up and living peacefully is accepting this peculiar characteristic of life. Resisting the bad (especially if you have no power to change it) causes unhappiness. Acceptance brings peace.

So where are YOU on this  journey? Share some of your good/bas experiences. Your stories help us all to learn and grow.

I used to have all these plans and think
‘ah, I have my whole life figured out’,
but then I realized no matter how hard I plan:
life happens!
So, I find myself living day-to-day trying to do my best
embracing every moment as a learning opportunity
and a chance to get to know myself a little more.
Quaote Q’orianka Kilcher

Photo Credit

Posted in Choices, Happiness, Lessons, Life Mastery | 2 Comments

Will he ever learn? Will you?

Visiting a tinbaboony village in the deep countryside of Mpumulanga is a little bit like being on a reality TV show – strange characters, shenanigans and whispers all make for deluxe entertainment.

One of the characters pointed out to us, in this peculiar village, was an old, gnarled man.

Let’s call him Leonard. Leonard was a colourful character – almost as colourful as his language. With a greying ponytail and a bald head, he didn’t pay much attention to rules and etiquette.

Leonard was bothered by baboons. They ruined his garden, ate his veggies and played havoc on his patio. He vowed to get rid of them.

Leonard spent some time planning and plotting his revenge.

In the middle of summer he attacked: he put a bowl of poisoned peanuts out on the patio table. By the end of the week, the nuts had still not been touched. He marched grumpily into the house and put the bowl on top of the freezer out of harm’s way.

Or so he thought.

A few months later, he was tidying up the kitchen and spied the nuts.

“Yum”, he thought, and popped a handful of nuts in his mouth.

After a few days in intensive care, he recovered slowly.

But did Leonard learn anything?

Fast forward a few more months. Leonard was snuggled up in bed on a frosty winter morning.  Through the open window opposite his bed, he spied the baboons ambling across the lawn towards his house. He leant over and grabbed his shotgun. Because of the bitter cold, he decided to shoot from the bed. Lying down, he aimed through the window at the closely approaching baboons.

Aim.

Fire!!!!

The baboons scattered.

Leonard surveyed the damage. His walls were full of bird-shot. His curtains were shredded. The tops of all his toes were shaved off. He was in agony once again.

I wonder if Leonard learnt this time?

What I take from this is:

  • Stand up when shooting.
  • Also: don’t kill baboons.
  • (OK OK a bit tongue in cheek !! After all I haven’t ever done either of those two things, have you? )

How often, though, do we tread the path of revenge and get nowhere?

If your mind is consumed with revenge and your life is stuck in the endless obsession of getting back at someone, it’s likely to be you who is shot in the foot.

Reflect on these questions:

  • Who is suffering because of my revenge?
  • What role am I playing in creating misery in my own life?
  • What will it cost me to let go?
  • What will it cost me NOT to let go?

Can you name anyone who is consumed with revenge that is happy and content?

Letting go of revenge opens up the space for something else in your life.

Less revenge, more peace!

Choose today.

As for leonard  I hear that the baboons are still winning…

Revenge is often like

biting a dog

because the dog bit you.

Austin O’Malle

Posted in awareness, Choices, forgiveness, Life Mastery | 2 Comments

These are a few of my favourite things

figure_climb_large_book_stack_custom_15091If you know where that line came from then you’re probably as old as me!

A stunning young man called Zee asked me if I would share a few of my favourite reads with him. I thought I may as well share them with you too.

These books are easy to read. Once you have read through them, it’ great to jump to a relevant passage or chapter when needed. I believe that the knowledge shared in these books has the power to transform your life.

Get reading! Get changing! Get motivated!

Lastly if you know meditation is good for you

and you battle to focus (like me!), try the guided meditations on this website. There are plenty to choose from and my husband and I listen to them often:

https://www.meditainment.com/

And finally (another lastly) if you know of any great meditation apps or apps that have helped you transform your life, share them in a comment so we can all learn and grow.

The spiritual life is not a life
before, after, or beyond our everyday existence.
No, the spiritual life can only be real
when it is lived in the midst of the pains and joys
of the here and now.

Henri Nouwen

 

Posted in awareness, Life Mastery, Way of Being | 4 Comments

Remember what happened last December?

File_169AAA reminder popped up on my phone this morning. (Wonderful things reminders!)

It said I should go and read my blog post from January. I wonder why?

Curiosity got the better of me and so I did. Read it here.

Aha – I remember now: I had battled to get things done in December yet in January I cleared those same things off my list easily and effortlessly.

This year I have been practicing getting into a flow state

There have been some successful days and frustratingly , some ridiculously distracted days. Still – there has been some progress.

My self-diagnosis is that I have adult ADD and it’s my excuse for badly focused days. (Please don’t do as I do and make excuses – rather follow the  advice in my posts!!!!)

The days (like today) that I have sat down and worked easily and effortlessly (in the flow state) sparkle like diamonds. It is such a good feeling. It feels like a mixture of passion, contentment, achievement and peace all rolled into one.

Flow – 0; Distraction – 1

Here’s what I realised as I read through the post. When I get derailed it’s because of step 3 – the practicalities.

If my desk is messy or I choose to peek at my mails or my phone is not off or I allow myself to get up from my desk to do something else (like water the garden, feed the birds, pop some washing in the machine … oh the list is endless) then distraction wins and flow loses.

This is what has helped me

– I keep a notepad next to my laptop. As soon as I think of something else to go and do I write it down. In effect, I am acknowledging that this must (or could) be done , not right now, but later. Then when I have worked solidly for about 45 minutes I break and do one thing off my list. It’s easier to sit down for another 45 minute stint if I have crossed something off my list.

Now – I plan to focus even more on working on the flow state in November and December. Let’s see if, when I go on leave, I have easily and effortlessly cleaned up my to-do list. I’ll let you know how it goes.

My challenge to you

List the important things you need to do so that you can enjoy a peaceful break in December (even if its only on the weekends!)and get them done.

How?

Work in Flow.

Let me know how you do….

“It is how we choose
what we do,

and how we approach it,
that will determine
whether the sum of our days
adds up to a formless blur,
or to something resembling a work of art.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Posted in awareness, Fulfillment, Goal-setting, Life Mastery, Time management | 2 Comments

The importance of oiling the garden bench

Garden1My garden bench was almost white from sun and water damage.

“Lets oil the wood.” I decided and 10 minutes later ….

“Ah that looks better.”

5 minutes later I looked out and it was white again,  as if I had not oiled it at all. The oil had merely  soaked up and disappeared.

There was a problem

Now I’m religiously oiling the bench twice a day.

It’s a pleasant job and I am enjoying been out in the fresh morning air and the cool of the evening. Whilst I’m doing it, my thoughts wander. Last night they wandered to the emotional bank account. I realised something….

Oiling the bench is just like depositing into your partner’s emotional bank account. (Thanks to Stephen Covey for this concept)

BENCH = RELATIONSHIP WITH PARTNER

Deposits into the bank account (doing things for the other that make their heart’s smile) means you are  taking care of your partner and your relationship. Oiling the bench is taking care of the bench.

When your emotional bank account is strongly in the positive your relationship will be beautiful and your partner will be happy and you will be happy.

When the bench is oiled regularly it looks beautiful.

I neglected to oil the bench for way too long. Now one application of oil is not enough. It’s going to take many days of  intensive care for the bench to reflect its gorgeous golden brown wood back at me in the mornings.

Neglecting your partner is like neglecting the bench

Just the same as in relationships….

If you neglect your relationship for too long and if you are making withdrawals from the emotional bank account on a regular basis then your relationship will be in a bad state.

You will find that one deposit will make no difference. You cannot do one “nice” thing for your partner and hope that the days and months of neglect are wiped away. It does not work like that.

Like me, you are going to have to do a lot of work to restore your relationship to a strong and healthy state.

For now I am oiling the bench twice a  day. It’s  still going to take a few more weeks  of work for my bench to look healthy and strong again. I just hope I haven’t left it too late.

Oil the bench regularly

Take a look at your relationship. How healthy is it? How happy is your partner? How happy are you?

If it’s not looking healthy and before it’s too late, start making deposits on a regular basis. You have the power to restore your relationship and then to reap the benefits of a healthy and loving relationship.

Your decision…

“What love we’ve given,
we’ll have forever.
What love we fail to give,
will be lost for all eternity.”
  Leo Buscaglia

 

Posted in Choices, Happiness, Lessons, Life Mastery, Relationships | 2 Comments

How to shift from destructive fear to constructive vulnerability

16214400156_97e78cf4a6_zThank goodness for our reptilian brain! It keeps us alive.

When we are in danger the reptilian part of our brain is activated and we respond (without logic) by fleeing, freezing of fighting.

I certainly appreciated this aspect of my neurology when I was held up at gun point in my home years ago. I believe I survived purely because the reptile in me took over and I couldn’t think of what to do.

There are times though when it really does not serve us to stay in the reptilian brain. Why?

Because we cannot think when we are afraid.

Mostly it is better to be operating from the neocortex area of the brain – the place when logic, reason and language reside.

In our relationship with others, we often find our selves being afraid.

Take me for example. I have a strong fear-memory (residing in my reptilian brain) of insecurity. As soon as I imagine (NOTE imagine – not reality!!!) that I may be abandoned I feel insecure and terribly afraid.

When I am in this space I go quiet and withdraw.

As you can imagine, this is not very useful!

You know and I know that when there is an issue in a relationship it’s much better to TALK about it.

I have worked on this for many years (I’ve been on this planet for a long time 🙂 )

I am much better, but certainly have a way to go.

When I am feeling afraid in a relationship, I now know that I need  to shake off the reptile as quickly as possible.

There are three ways to get into a more constructive space:

1) Ask questions

This gets you into your neocortex which is where you want to be and stay.

Two questions that works really well are:

“What do I want?”

“What constructive step can I take right now?”

Answering these questions help you to focus on the bigger picture and to keep a useful perspective on the issue.

2) Calm down

The quickest way to a constructive space is to get into gratitude. Breathe deeply and slowly.  Think of your situation with deep gratitude. You will notice a shift in emotional energy.

3) Express your emotions.

Tell the other person how you  are feeling: “I am feeling terrified right now.”

This takes you into vulnerability and authenticity.

Often that’s all you need to say. When you are vulnerable you are showing the other person the real you. This invites the other person to also be vulnerable.

Using these three steps, you recognise and acknowledge your fear but you don’t act from the fear.

You have opened the space for an authentic and constructive conversation.

This is what building strong relationships is all about.

Love is what we were born with.
Fear is what we learned here.

Marianne Williamson

Photo from Flickr

Posted in Life Mastery | 1 Comment

The darker side of “Just in Case”

3093851614_5a429506f5_zWhen I was young our family was devastated by the death of my sister. Watching the pain my parents went through was almost unbearable.

One of the strange decisions I came to eventually was this: I would have lots of children (6 to be exact) just in case one of them died.

Fortunately, common sense prevailed and after 3 kids we closed up shop.

Not that I wasn’t capable of loving more kids! It was more of a practical matter to do with the size of the house, the size of the car and the size of the wallet.

A protection mechanism

The decision to have lots of children was put in place to protect me from suffering. Now that I have children I know that it would not work anyway. No matter how many children I had, losing any one of them would be devastatingly painful.

Can you imagine having 6 kids anyway?

What I did instead was pour my heart and soul into the family I was blessed with. Naturally, I still pray every day for the safety of my family.

Sometimes ““Just in Case”” stops us from living fully or engaging fully.

Think about the man who keeps his little black book just in case things don’t work out in the relationship. Can he be 100% committed to the relationship if he keeps the escape hatch close at hand?

I’ve coached more than one person afraid of intimate relationships. As soon as things started getting serious, they would somehow sabotage the relationship just in case they ended up getting hurt again.

These kinds of “Just in Case” thought-patterns have the positive intention of protecting us and at the same time they often keep us from living fully.

Awareness is the first step

You’ve probably heard me say this before: awareness is the first step in changing.

Self-reflection is the only way you’ll unearth your “Just in Case” thought-patterns.

Start noticing when you say “Just in Case” just in case it’s serious. (OK OK sorry!!!)

Start noticing when you say “Just in case”, whether it’s inside your head or to someone else.

Second step Self-Reflection

When you discover a “Just in Case” thought-pattern, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is this thought-pattern protecting me from?
  • How is this “Just in Case” thinking holding me back?
  • How would my life be if I let it go?

Some “Just in Cases” may not have such a serious impact. Others could prevent you from living fully.

Now let it go

Once you start noticing your “Just in Case” thought-patterns you can decide to keep them or to change them.

Doing this allows you to living more intentionally and more fully.

Now: “Just in Case” you have read this whole article, I would like to say, “Thanks for being a loyal reader! I appreciate you very much.”

Please share your “Just in Case” stories so we can all grow in awareness and learning.

“Always keep your words soft and sweet,
just in case you have to eat them”

Photo by Flickr

Posted in awareness, Fulfillment, Habits, Lessons, Life Mastery, Thought Patterns | 6 Comments

3 Steps to Build Resiliance

exercising_weights_heart_800_clr_13182There are people in your life who survive hardship after hardship and come up smiling every time. You probably also know some people who seem unable to move on from difficult times.

A family who are dear to my heart have endured more than any other family I know: violent crimes, accidents, untimely deaths of children and adults. As they face yet another loss of a loved one, I wonder how they cope. But cope they do. It doesn’t mean that they don’t feel the pain. They do. Yet they also have emotional space for other feelings like gratefulness, hope and appreciation.

Another family I knew, years back, lost their son on the border. They were unable to recover and eventually the remaining family disintegrated.

Some have it; some don’t

How does one person have resilience (the ability to recover or adjust to misfortune or change) and another does not?

You’re probably going to hate this answer. You may even think it’s superficial. You may think its over-simplified.

The answer is: it’s the way they look at life.

If something is hurting them they still have the ability to be grateful for something else. They do not cover up their pain – they acknowledge it. They allow positive feelings to exist beside negative ones. They avoid generalizing. They may be in pain, yet they have the ability to feel empathy for others. They look for opportunities and believe a solution exists to problems. This outlook enables them to see the dreadful aspects of life and also to see the wonderful aspects.

Resilience is built up by creating effective (rather than destructive) thought-patterns.

If you want to boost your resilience (and who doesn’t?) here are steps:

3 steps to building resilience

1) Boost your self-image

Resilient people value themselves. Focus on your self-talk – the conversations you continually have with yourself.

Is it constructive or destructive?

Does it serve you well or does it break you down?

Take charge. Change your self-talk so that it encourages and supports you.

When you have a strong self-esteem you will find it easier to cope with the downs of life.

2) Stop with blanket statements and emotions

Generalizing is destructive. A general thought leads to  general emotion. If a man hurts you and you now believe all men are bad then whenever you’re in the company a man you will feel negative emotions like distrust and hatred. These may be totally inappropriate.

If you have a negative experience, and you decide that the universe cannot be trusted, you will experience negative emotions even in the face of joyous or happy experiences.

Have a look at your emotions. If you feel negative emotions almost continuously (blanket emotions) it may be because you are holding onto a general or blanket belief. You can recognise these beliefs by words like all, never, everyone, always. As in “All men are cheaters”; “The world is unsafe”; “You never say nice things about me”; “My boss always yells”.

Start looking at the words you’re using. Change blanket statement into more truthful statements like “Some men are cheaters” instead of “All men are cheaters”. You will experience lighter, more positive emotions.

A bad experience is one experience – don’t make the experience about every aspect of life.

3) Take care of your physical self

Your physical body is the engine of your life. This is also where you experience your feelings. Just like a car won’t go if you don’t give it petrol and  maintain the engine, your life will be more difficult than necessary if you do not take care of your physical body.

If you are totally exhausted, you do not respond to difficult situations in the best way. If you are highly stressed, your emotions will be less stable and you will find it difficult to bounce back from challenges life’s sends you.

Resilience requires a healthy body and mind. It is your responsibility  to keep that body and mind healthy. Look after your physical needs. Boost your self-esteem with positive ad constructive self-talk. Remove blanket statements and emotions from your life.

Resilience building is up to you. Give yourself your best chance at dealing with life – good and bad. Take the steps!

“The goal of resilience
is to thrive.”
 Jamais Cascio

 

 

Posted in awareness, Feelings, Happiness, Life Mastery, Thought Patterns | 4 Comments