Archive for February, 2010

28 feb

Memories at the Speed of Life

JayForteMy oldest daughter is getting married in May. The preparation has been both all consuming but well organized and really without much worry. This will be a great day. Two great families are coming to celebrate the connection of the next generation. They love our daughter; we love their son. All is good.

I know I am not the first to go through this, even in my family. But I find myself going through a new round of emotions and thoughts as I get ready to pass the baton again. Let me explain.

When the kids graduate from high school, we talk about the ceremonial “passing of the baton” – passing the reins of life over to its real owner. We say, “We have done everything we can think of to show you how big the world is and to help you know yourself well enough to know your place in the world. It is time for you to take the baton and run – to do the things you are called to do and to own every aspect of your life. We move from center stage to stage right – and you move to center stage. This is your life and we want it to be extraordinary. That is now your choice.”

They take the “baton” and first wobble. But soon they find their legs and learn to navigate their lives. Some decisions are good, some not so good. But that is what is involved in being human. We coach from the side – we realize the true owner of the life is now in charge.

But now I face the second passing of the “baton.” The last name that my daughter has carried for 23 years – our last name – will now be passed to make room for a new name. And this is right – this is the new partnership. She moves from one family to create a new one. She again is moving through life. I know that as I pass this baton – my daughter and her life – I am passing it to someone who willingly and completely accepts it. My daughter and her husband will learn to walk, run and dance together as they build their life and their memories.

I was reminded of all this as I looked at the wedding invitation. I was struck not only by the concept of having a son-in-law (who we think the world of), but that just a day or so ago – or so it seemed – this little girl was in kindergarten, in plays, riding bikes and playing with Barbie. Life is a blur as it moves in large blocks of time – pulled by kids activities, school and work. Memories at the speed of life.

I remember very specific events about each day in her life and am now flabbergasted that these events were as distant as 20 years. The bruises, cuts and scrapes; the bruised hearts and trials of dating. The sports, homework and drama of high school. The parties with cousins, families and friends. The driver’s license, new freedom and going away to college. The introduction to a serious boyfriend who is now a fiancé, and the first check needed for the reception! All of it. Memories at the speed of life.

For perspective I looked to my dad – and how he managed my movement through life and those of my five siblings. He still remembers so many of our lives’ events. He shows us pictures of when we were young – pictures we feel should be burned – but pictures that freeze in time a look, an event, an expression…a feeling. He smiles as his tired eyes look at them. They are treasures. I don’t know how often he looks at them but based on his expression, I imagine it is often. Memories at the speed of life.

Memories create the threads that are woven into the tapestries that are our lives. Some tapestries are rich, filled with colors, textures and of great size. Others are smaller and less vivid. Our choice.

Thinking about my daughter’s upcoming wedding reminds me to keep my tapestry growing, expanding and adding more color. Weave your tapestry by:

  1. Slowing life down to really notice who and what is around you; notice everything; choose to be present.
  2. Creating time each week to “memory-build;” share stories, go to places, take pictures, do the unexpected.
  3. Creating a “memory box.” Collect pictures, objects, writings, etc. and save them in the box. Once a week, have family members take out one of the objects at random and tell what they remember about it.
  4. Creating your “family thing.” Ours was we told progressive stories in the car. Each child would add to a story started by the parents, or had to provide a sound effect on cue during a story. What could be your “family thing?”

Memories at the speed of life – they fuel our emotions, they feed our souls.

My eldest daughter: a child, a teenager, an adult, and soon a wife. The time sure flew by. But I remember every stage – I have a tapestry of her life, and those of her two sisters. And when I think of this I have the same smile and tired eyes I see in my dad. I think I know what he feels. And it is a great thing.

Jay Forte is a motivational speaker and performance consultant. He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition, The Hunt for Opportunities Success Manual and the on-line resource, Stand Out and Get Hired. He is working on his new book, Work Strong, Live Stronger. He works to connect people to their talents and passions to live fired up! More information at www.LiveFiredUp.com.

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Posted by Jay Forte on February 28th, 2010 in Family, General, New Directions, Personal Stories, Relationships, Teens, Things We Love | 2 comments Read related posts in , , , , , ,

28 feb

Life Is a Love Affair

SarahMariaLife is meant to be a love affair, an actual love affair. Life, as it truly is, is in fact, a love affair. Now you can choose whether to experience life as such, whether to join in the dance. But no matter what, life itself always remains a true love affair, an intimate dance in each and every moment.

Every desire for love, every desire to love, is simply the longing within you to experience the reality of life, the truth of what you are. Your longing for love is your longing to know and experience yourself as the love that you are in reality.

Each and every human experience of love is designed for the sole purpose of showing you what you truly are; it is designed to illumine the nature of you true beauty.

The mistake that people make is thinking that love comes from some particular experience and is dependent on a particular experience. The human mind creates the illusion that love comes from an experience or an interaction with a particular object.

In reality, love is inherent in every experience. Love is what is actually happening in every experience. Most people miss this because they think of love as a feeling; they think of love as something that comes and goes. But true love is the very ground of existence. It cannot come and go because it simply IS. Love is what is in every experience. Whether your experience is pleasurable or painful, good or bad, friendly or unfriendly, what is happening is still love.

This may sound like a tall claim, an extreme claim, even an impossible claim. But if you think about it, even for a moment, you will discover that it can be no other way.

You do not exist as a separate individual but exist only in communion with the entire cosmos. You are appearing as what you perceive of as “you,” as a particular body-mind. But in essence, “you” has no independent existence at all. You are the same as the flowers, as the dirt, as the air, as your friends, as your lover, as your cat, as your dog. You are the same essence.

As you realize and experience this, every interaction becomes a kiss; every interaction becomes intimate. When you are open, when you are available, every experience is a kiss from the divine in its myriad forms.

1. When you walk through the park, notice the trees, the flowers, the ocean – they all stop to smile, wave, and embrace you, if given half the chance.

2. Instead of judging your body for its perceived flaws and imperfections, practice dropping into it and fully experiencing it. Your body is always alive with love.

3. In every interaction, whether with pleasant or unpleasant, let yourself experience the love that is underneath the pleasure or the pain.

Love is what is happening all the time. Simply let life love you. That is what it is designed to do, if given half the chance.

So instead of thinking that love comes from a particular experience, use every experience where you feel love to remind yourself of what is already and always the case.

When you experience a moment of love, a hug from a friend, an embrace with your lover, a smile on a child’s face, let that remind you of the love that is always there, always available, all the time. Use that experience to remind you that life is love happening, and you are an intrinsic, indispensable, an exquisitely beautiful part of the cosmic love affair.

Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for true, lasting healing. Purchase your copy and begin to love your body today. Visit: www.sarahmaria.com or for more about Sarah Maria’s work, please visit: www.breakfreebeauty.com.

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Posted by Sarah Maria on February 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , ,

28 feb

Recognize the Beauty Within

SarahMariaRecently a woman contacted me who is studying journalism in her third year at university in England. She is writing a paper on facial disfiguration and asked if I could answer some questions as a body-image expert. Below are the answers to her questions. These answers will be helpful for whatever struggles you might be encountering in your life. Please enjoy.

Know this: whatever your physical appearance, you are beautiful. You can consider this to be a nice idea, but I guarantee it is the absolute truth. If you believe yourself to have imperfections, whatever form they take, please use the questions and answers below to help you let go of those false ideas and beliefs that prevent you from experiencing the beauty that you are. Because the experience of that beauty is the only beauty worth having.

Question: What exactly does your role as a Body-Image Coach mean? i.e. In general terms what is it that you do?

Being a body-image coach simply means that I facilitate people’s coming to love and accept their bodies and themselves. In a very real sense, I do nothing. I simply facilitate the natural process that is taking place within people. Within each individual is an intrinsic knowing, an intrinsic wisdom, that can best be described as love. This love longs to express itself, to our own selves, as well as to others. Unfortunately, very few people know how to access this natural love and allow it to unfold. As a body-image coach, I simply facilitate this unfolding. I help people connect with this beauty, perfection, love, and wisdom that is already inside of themselves, seeking expression. So perhaps the best word to describe my role is simply that of facilitator.

Question: What are your views on our societies obsession with being ‘beautiful’? How would you classify being beautiful?

My view is that everything in life is a gift, including that which seems horrible, awful, and incomprehensible. The only key factor is the individual – are you, meaning the individual, willing and able to view everything that you experience as a gift? This certainly does not mean that everything is enjoyable, or that pain or suffering should be endorsed or allowed, but it does mean that in each moment, you have a choice. A Course in Miracles states that every moment is a choice between a grievance and a miracle. Another way to say this same thing is “in every moment, you can make a choice between seeing life as a gift or a curse.”

So how is this relevant to society’s obsession with being beautiful? If you suffer from negative feelings about yourself and your appearance, it is easy to blame society. And yes, societies views on beauty are unequivocally limited, deficient, and utterly misleading. As an individual, however, you can use society’s limited perception of beauty to your advantage. You can use it to help you discover and experience your own inherent beauty and perfection.

Here is an example of how this might work:

1. Let’s say you have internalized the mainstream culture’s messages about beauty. You believe that you do not fit this standard, and are thus deficient your lacking in some way. Simply notice this.

2. Then realize that this is complete and utter nonsense. Realize that you were born absolutely perfect, inherently beautiful, and you will remain that way forever. Beauty is not something that you achieve because you look a certain way. Beauty is an attribute of your existence. You were born with it, and it always remains.

3. Whenever you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself, feeling like you are not beautiful enough, remind yourself that this is an illusion. This is simply the result of growing up in a society that cannot recognize beauty and is completely deluded regarding the whole topic.

4. Every time you remind yourself of this truth, and let go of the thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that keep you from this truth, the closer you will come to seeing and experience the beauty that is always there. True beauty is nothing that you achieve; it is simply something that you learn to see.

Being beautiful is simply being you. It is being you in all your dimensions, in all your aspects, in the very rawness of your humanity. Some days you might be well put-together; other days you might be falling apart. Some days you might radiate health, other days you might be beset by illness. Both are equally beautiful. It is only the mind that divides, saying one is beautiful and the other is not. In reality, there is only one beauty, and you are that.

Question: Do you feel that it is unhealthy for young women to be growing up in an environment where such an emphasis is placed on image and looks?

This depends. Would it be nice if we lived in a culture that honored everyone’s uniqueness and intrinsic beauty? Absolutely. The only way to create this society, however, is to start with each individual. Learn to recognize beauty within yourself; learn to recognize beauty within everyone and everything else. It is only by changing each individual, one-by-one, that a new society will be created that is simply an expression of these individuals steeped in beauty.

In the meantime, since we do live in a society that has a distorted view of beauty, take complete responsibility for transforming yourself. If you are a parent, raise your children so that they know what true beauty is. Teach them to see the beauty in everyone and everything. As an individual, whatever your condition in life, commit unwaveringly to knowing and experiencing your inherent beauty. As you come to know your own beauty, you will become a beacon of beauty that radiates beauty ceaselessly, slowly transforming the culture into one that is more supportive.

Question: I have read on your website that you once struggled with body loathing. How did you get through this tough time? What advice would you offer to others in this situation?

My struggle with body loathing, and the healing process, was a process. It did not happen overnight. But it did happen. And this is the most important thing for people to hear. Freedom from body-loathing, freedom from self-hatred, freedom from suffering and un-lovability, is completely possible. It only requires a willingness for it to end. It might sound odd, but this willingness usually grows over time.

The most important things is helping me to heal were professional help, yoga, and meditation. I, myself, suffered for way too long without seeking professional help. This is why I work as a body-image coach, to help people who are struggling. There are also many competent therapists and healers. The most important thing is to seek qualified professional help as soon as possible.

Equally important is learning to listen to your true self. By the time people have reached adolescence, most people have forgotten how to listen to their own intuitive guidance. Each person has a reservoir of wisdom inside of themselves. It is simply a matter of learning to listen to and follow this guidance.

Two great ways to learn how to access your inner-intelligence are through yoga and meditation. Yoga can help you to become aware of and in tune with your body. Your body has an incomprehensible amount of intelligence if you simply learn how to listen to it. Yoga can help you create a collaborative relationship with your body.

Meditation is also a critical component of healing. I cannot stress the benefits of meditation enough. Simply practicing meditation on a regular basis helps to cleanse the mind of the negative delusions and beliefs that plague so many people. If you are caught in a pattern of disliking your body and yourself, you are living with painful illusions. Meditation will begin to uproot the lies you are living with and help you begin to see and experience your inherent beauty and perfection.

Question: Obviously for people suffering from facial disfigurements and birthmarks it is not so easy to physically change their appearance. How would your five-step process to love your body and your life help them?

Changing your physical appearance is not an essential part of accepting and making peace with your body and yourself. As a matter of fact, changing your appearance can sometimes be a hindrance to this process of acceptance. This is not always the case, but it certainly can be.

The five-step process outlined in Love Your Body, Love Your Life, is a process designed to help people move from disliking their bodies and themselves, whatever the reason may be, to acceptance, and then to love. My work is not about helping people change their appearance per se. For people who want to lose weight or improve their health, this may very well come about as a by-product of loving and accepting themselves, but it is not the point of the work. The point of the work is to help people love and accept what is, and from that place of love and acceptance, anything is possible.

Question: Do you think that young women suffering from facial disfigurations would be more accepting of themselves if there was more awareness of this issue, and people with the condition were being seen in the media, for example in ad campaigns?

If by more awareness you mean that there was more awareness of what true beauty is then, yes, I do think that more awareness would result in people accepting themselves more. The key is that people become aware of what beauty is.

Beauty is not something you achieve because you look a certain way, have certain facial features, appear blemish free, whatever ideas people have about beauty. Beauty is not what you think it is. Beauty is an attribute of existence itself. You were born beautiful. Whether you were born with facial disfigurations or born as a soon-to-be super model simply does not matter. I know this runs contrary to everything people have been taught to believe. This is what I mean about needing more awareness about what is truly beautiful. Every single person is beautiful because it is an essential attribute of existence, and a rose is no more beautiful than a tulip, then a daisy. All are unique; each one is beautiful.

If our media, advertisements, etc. begin to reflect a more true definition of beauty I think this could have a positive effect on everyone’s ideas about beauty. If ad campaigns show that beauty comes in all shapes, forms, and conditions, there will be more awareness and people will begin to cultivate eyes that can see true beauty.

Question: If these girls were considering surgical cosmetic treatment to effectively change what they looked like what would you say to them? i.e. Do you feel that your methods of coaching would be more beneficial?

This completely depends. I don’t have anything against cosmetic surgery per se. If people have a disfiguration that they really want changed, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. However, most of the time, changing the external appearance will not improve self-esteem and self-acceptance in and of itself. So I would recommend that if someone has a history of struggling with negative feelings about their bodies and themselves that they engage in internal exploration and healing, regardless of whether or not they decide to get surgery. Whether or not they have cosmetic treatment, the internal exploration will help them throughout their entire lives.

After you seek professional help with a qualified therapist or comparable professional, then you can decide whether or not you want to proceed with the treatment. This will increase the chances that you feel good with whatever decision you make.

Question: What advice would you offer to loved ones and friends who are trying to help someone who suffers from low self-esteem regarding their looks?

The very best thing you can do is to let someone know that they do not need to live with the low-self esteem and disliking their looks. Let them know that it is possible to feel great in and about themselves. You can let them know how much you love and care about them. Then encourage them to find professional help. There are many great resources available, and good professional help and guidance can make a huge difference in their life.

Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for true, lasting healing. Purchase your copy and begin to love your body today. Visit: www.sarahmaria.com, www.breakfreebeauty.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Sarah Maria on February 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , ,

23 feb

The Magic of the Olympics

mike_robbinsThe Winter Olympics in Vancouver have captured the attention of the world. As a former college and professional baseball player (and a lifelong sports fan), I’ve always loved the Olympics and appreciated the incredible athleticism, competition, and passion of the athletes and teams, from a pure sports perspective. However, having been a live spectator at both the Atlanta and Sydney Summer Games, I’ve experienced first-hand the true spirit of the Olympics – which has been on display these past two weeks in Vancouver in a beautiful way.

There’s something truly magical that happens during the Olympics. While many of us are enjoying rooting for our country and we’ve seen some remarkable performances in Vancouver from people like Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, Evan Lysacek, Bode Miller, and many others – the real magic of the Olympics is way bigger than any individual athlete or even any country. And, if we look deeper, there are so many aspects of the Olympics that can teach us, remind us, and inspire us on our own personal journey.

Here are some of the most important elements and lessons of the Olympics:

1) Ceremony. The Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver were breathtaking and spectacular (as was also true with the Summer Olympics in China in 2008 and with most of the Olympic opening ceremonies of the past few decades). Beyond the amazing technology, creativity, and spectacle of these ceremonies, there is a deeper commitment to beauty, ritual, and reverence. The Olympics are also filled with ceremonies throughout – medal ceremonies, the Closing Ceremonies, and more. For us to live lives of meaning, purpose, and spirit – it’s essential that we honor ourselves, others, and life in a ceremonious way.

2) Excellence. The Olympics, as much as any other sporting event, are all about excellence. The intense training, incredible competition, and extraordinary pressure of having to focus a lifetime’s worth of experience into one single performance, create an authentic sense of drama that is unique and exciting, albeit nerve-wracking. However, when we think of “excellence” in regards to the Olympics or other things in life, we often think about “winning.” While there’s nothing wrong with winning and our culture puts a high value on it (just look at the attention and adulation given to the gold medal winners in Vancouver), there is much more to real excellence than simply winning. Every athlete in Vancouver has made a commitment to excellence – even though the vast majority of them will not win medals and we’ll never even know their names. On our own path, it’s important for us to make a commitment to excellence – to go for it, dig down deep, and give it our best shot – whether or not we end up “winning.”

3) Passion. The Olympics are filled with passion – from the athletes, the host city, and the fans – in person and around the world. The emotions experienced and expressed during the Olympics, as we’ve seen these past two weeks, are intense and passionate. We’ve seen the “thrill of victory” and the “agony of defeat” on display each and every day. It’s this passion that makes the Olympics so intriguing, exciting, and fun to experience. In our own lives and on our own journeys, passion is a key component to growth, success, and fulfillment. So often we hold back our passion – waiting to see how things will turn out. However, to live life with depth, purpose, and aliveness, we have to tap into our passion in an authentic way and use it as inspiration, regardless of the outcome.

4) Play. One of the greatest things about the Olympics is that they are called “games.” This is a wonderful metaphor which reminds us that while sports (and life) can be intense and pressure-filled, they are really just games we are playing. The games played at the Olympics, not un-like in many aspects of our own lives, are played at a pretty high level and are done so with fairly high stakes. But, at the end of the day, they are all just games. Each athlete in Vancouver started in their sport as a child because it was fun, not because they wanted to win a gold medal, be on TV, or get big endorsement deals. This is a great reminder for all of us. We often get so serious and caught up in results, we forget to play. Play is essential. Scientific studies have shown that the same brain waves are generated in a high state of play as in a high state of meditation.

5) Unity. The athletes at the Olympics come together to represent their countries and to compete for something bigger than themselves. I had the privilege of playing for the USA baseball team in the World Championships when I was 18 years old. It was one of the greatest honors of my life and such a profound experience. And although in the Olympics there is a big focus, especially by the media, on individual performances as well as country competition (i.e. medal count), at the deepest level, the Olympics are about a greater sense of unity amongst all nations. There is a sense of mutual respect, admiration, and appreciation that exists at the Olympics – both with athletes and fans. I felt it on the streets of Atlanta and Sydney when I was there and see it on TV whenever I watch the Olympics now. The Olympics provide a stage for the world to engage, compete, and interact with one another in a beautiful way. One of the most important elements of our personal journey is to recognize that we are more alike than we are different. Those whom we compete against, have conflict with, and want to “beat,” are just people, like us, who have similar hopes, fears, and dreams. At the most basic and yet profound level, we are all one. Anything and everything we can do to see, remember, and remind ourselves and others of this innate unity – gives us access to deeper connection and truth.

I love the Olympics! Not only do we get to watch extraordinary athletes complete at the highest level – but we get to tap into something profound and magical that can remind us of our true power, passion, and oneness.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info – www.Mike-Robbins.com

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Posted by Mike Robbins on February 23rd, 2010 in General, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

23 feb

We Always Teach What We Need to Learn

SaskiaShakinLet me be frank: I have mixed feelings about getting up in public to speak before large groups. This should come as no surprise since the fear of public speaking tops almost everyone’s list—surpassing death itself! As Jerry Seinfeld puts it, “If you were invited to give a eulogy at a funeral, you’d rather be the guy in the casket than the one at the podium!”

But what may come as a surprise is that for almost 30 years I have made a handsome living from coaching others to speak in public—before large groups and small; before juries deliberating complex issues; in Congress; at shareholders meetings; and with clients giving keynote speeches.

My career has surprised me: I never imagined I’d have landed in the Boardrooms of corporate America, nor the courtrooms where major cases were being hashed out, nor in limousines coaching CEO’s en route to a flight, nor in airplanes, posh hotels, and on expense accounts.

The work was demanding and exhilarating. The high fees I’ve commanded, the accolades, the prestige, and the perks made my work fun and gratifying. So why, then, would I rather avoid doing the very thing I coach others in? Because staying behind the scenes was my comfort zone. Stepping out meant stepping up!

I am reminded here of a line from Woody Allen’s classic Annie Hall: “Those who can do, do; those who can’t do, teach; and those who can’t teach, teach gym!”

For years, I preferred to help others hone their message, find their passion, and convey their joy (or at least, their information). But now, it has all come home to roost, for I am on a different path, having completed a book on the subject called, More Than Words Can Say: The Making of Inspired Speakers. It is now my turn to do the lecture circuit, market my book, speak before groups, and sell, sell, sell!

For years, I dreaded the thought. I avoided it and even vowed that I’d never write a book. I kept that pledge for well over 20 years, happy to be running seminars, coaching brilliant clients to open their hearts & minds, proud as a mother hen when her children succeeded, and content to remain behind the scenes.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I never went before an audience. I had my fair share of presentations, keynote speeches of my own, and informal talks. But the thought of appearing before a huge audience, one I did not know, and speaking about my book, made me feel like a used-car salesman in a tacky, plaid suit, hawking his wares.

So, I had to coach myself. And my coaching always starts with awareness—self-awareness (the hardest kind to come by). But there I met resistance. Resistance is the dance partner of awareness. They waltz around, sometimes one leading, sometimes the other. And when resistance had stepped on the toes of awareness once too many times, awareness finally waltzed off alone.

Dancing solo is most liberating. No one else pushing you where you don’t wish to go. No one else’s agenda is besting your own. When my own awareness found its voice, I realized that speaking with others holds no fear for me. One-on-one is my medium.

Total strangers are constantly confiding in me. New acquaintances appear to be old friends. Old friends share deep parts of themselves that they share with very few others.

Small groups hold no fright either. I have been running seminars for almost 30 years. I have been in classrooms with 6 – 200. My seminars get consistently rave reviews and in some firms have had waiting lists of two years. So, you might ask, what’s your problem? Why do you resist larger audiences? After all, you know what it takes to charm, seduce, embrace, inform, and inspire? You’ve seen clients transform from boring to sparkling all the time. You’ve been there, yourself! What’s up?

Here’s the deal (and I think this applies to most people): Speaking to one or to a small group is real. You see them; they see you. You can tell if they’re listening, if they’re alive, awake, with you, against you, daydreaming, etc. You can read their body language. You can meet their eyes. You are real. You’re talking—not performing.

But when the room gets large, when the lights go down, when you are in a spotlight that says “perform,” the real you gets as shy as a nervous kitten. You loose your self-confidence. You imagine all manner of horrors. You are certain they’ll see through you and not be taken in by your façade. And you’d be right!

As long as the real you is hiding behind a façade, you cannot feel at home at the podium.

You must strip: not your clothes, but your mask. You may assume that your mask is protecting you, but in reality, it is obscuring your light. And your light is what must shine for others to be engaged when you speak.

You must reveal yourself, share your private thoughts, expose your vulnerabilities, be honest with yourself and, thus, with your audience.

The greatest awareness I gained about myself is that I am not a performer: I am, though, a very good communicator. The difference is where I am shining the spotlight of my mind. When it is directed at me, I am ripe for self-consciousness; when it is directed at another, I am open to real communion. I stop asking “how am I doing,” and move to, “Are you with me.” I stop worrying about, “Will they like me,” and start considering, “What can I offer them.”

I now know from testing the waters with individual readers and with small groups, that the book I’ve written is transformational. It is meant to take your fear of public speaking and turn it into your forte. It is aimed at all speakers—in any setting—for whom authenticity and connection are paramount. Readers tell me it has changed forever the way they look at getting up in public. It has changed the way they speak to their spouses … the way they speak to their children. It has, indeed, changed their relationship with themselves.

I could not be more pleased. And I am glad to say that although I may still feel butterflies at the prospect of standing before a large group, I have taught those butterflies to fly in formation. I also figure that if Pavarotti was always nervous before every performance, I can be too.

The difference now is that I do not see it as a performance; I see my role as a sharer. I am in the spotlight to share my passion, my insights, and my pleasure. And when I share, I am engaged in an interchange . . . I am not there all alone. My listeners are up there with me; they just happen to be a few feet away. And I’ve learned to make friends with the spotlight.

The spotlight is there to illuminate me until my own light can shine on its own.

By Saskia Shakin
Author, More Than Words Can Say: The Making of Inspired Speakers
www.TheKeynoteCoach.com

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Saskia Shakin on February 23rd, 2010 in Speaking Events | 3 comments Read related posts in ,

23 feb

Life Lessons from Charlie Chaplin

A friend of mine, Kerstin, sent this to me. It’s the speech that Charlie Chaplin gave on his 70th birthday. I found it beautiful and ever so true.

As I Began to Love Myself

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering
are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.
Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY.”
As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody
As I try to force my desires on this person,
even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it,
and even though this person was me.
Today I call it “RESPECT.”
As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life,
and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow.
Today I call it “Maturity,”
As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance,
I am in the right place at the right time,
and everything happens at the exactly right moment.
So I could be calm.
Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE.”
As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time,
and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.
Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do
and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm.
Today I call it “SIMPLICITY.”
As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health—
food, people, things, situations, and everything the drew me down and away from myself.
At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism.
Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF,”
As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right,
and ever since I was wrong less of the time.
Today I discovered that is “MODESTY.”
As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worry about the future.
Now, I only live for the moment, where EVERYTHING is happening.
Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT,”
As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me
and it can make me sick.
But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally.
Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART.”
We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems
with ourselves or others.
Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born.
Today I know THAT IS “LIFE”!

Please pass this onto your friends and family. This is a special reminder of what life is trying to teach us, what it’s really about, what we eventually all come to learn. Be gentle on yourself and light on life. No more disapproval of self. It’s the biggest obstacle to your dreams. Doing so, you’ll be able to access all that happiness and joy that is just below that inner critical voice.

Posted by Ariane de Bonvoisin on February 23rd, 2010 in Ariane, Global/Social Change, Health, Personal Stories, Spirituality | 3 comments Read related posts in ,

23 feb

A Love Message to You

twitterJulieSometimes I just feel so deeply.

I feel so much love. joy. simple peace. profound peace.

And sometimes I feel fear. anguish. shame. humiliation. heartbreak. and despair.

::

Despair is here today. It invited itself to tea. It boiled the water, steeped the bags, and served tea to me. I guess it is high time for high tea with despair.

Maybe it arrived when I heard Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee speak on Sunday.

He is a brilliant Sufi teacher. His words cut me open. Words of longing for God. Words of crying out for God. Words of wisdom about how our western world has forgotten about God, has forgotten to kneel in awe at the profound mystery that the Divine is.

He spoke of how, when things can’t get darker, or more full of despair, a person instinctively calls out to something greater, knowing the situation is beyond anything she can fix or figure out. This calling out, this crying out instinctively, comes from somewhere inside, someplace where she has not forgotten that there is divinity within her.

I’ve had these times in my life. Times of complete blackness and despair. In these times, I KNEW there was NOTHING I could do. And in these times I dropped to my knees in anguish, despair and prayer. And in these times I was held. Answered. Loved. And in this love, I could finally be with what was. And in being with what was, I could begin to move forward again.

I wasn’t raised religious. Wouldn’t say that I am. I have no context for God, other than my own life experience. And, I know God is here. Not a him. Not a her. Simply is.

::

Llewellyn. When someone asked him about the state of affairs in the world, he spoke of how the West no longer has a context to drop to its knees, as a collective. When things are to the point of despair, which I believe they are, there is no context for God in our collective culture. We’ve forgotten that there is something greater than us.

I remember how I felt when I returned home from India. My travels there fed me in a way I had never experienced. I realized God is remembered by the culture all through the day. I could feel God in the air. I could feel the Divine in every bit of teeming life. God was in the healthy, the sick, the living, the dying. God was in the awareness. The spark of divinity in me was mirrored by the divinity in the collective. When I returned home, I no longer saw my divinity mirrored by the collective. It felt as if our world here has been washed clean. Oh, yes, thank God it is in everything else… the trees, the animals, the mountains…but, not in our man made world. Not in our culture.

::

Perhaps this is when despair dropped in.

I have felt, and feel, so helpless because there seems to be no avenue to express my despair, except of course on my own knees to God. But out there it feels as if we, and I include me in this, go on about our day. I have three beautiful grandchildren, and I weep at what the world will be like for them. Sometimes, when I write about my despair, others respond saying they feel it, too. But then our culture continues on, dropping to knees to the Gods we’ve anointed with power: Money, Technology, Media, Pornography, Consumption, War.

I forget.

We forget.

::

I can’t get Llewellyn’s words out of my mind. We as a culture don’t seem to be able to come together at all. We are divided as a culture. Republican vs. Democrat. Christina vs. Muslim. Men vs. Women. Haves vs. Have-Nots. Believers vs. Non-Believers. Those who believe we are hurtling towards a dangerous end, those who don’t. Granted nothing is this black and white, nothing. But we tend to take sides, as if one side or the other is our tribe. There is a palpable push-pull happening, only keeping us stuck in the muck of our own making. There seem to be few valid, concrete solutions to the growing state of affairs. Heck, we can’t even agree that we face problems.

What I do know is that we must feel everything here, all the emotions that the current state of affairs brings up. Despair, grief, sadness, anger are feelings we don’t usually acknowledge until they beome so great we can’t not acknowldege them. We must feel the depths of the darkness that we push away. I know I can no longer not feel despair. I know I can no longer remain silent about the depths of turmoil and grief I feel.

There is a plus-side to feeling these dark emotions. Healing comes through them. And clarity comes, too. These feelings cloud clarity, they cloud the inner strength to act, the creativity that can bubble up to serve us in these times. Qualities like clarity, inner strength, creativity, compassion all come from our essential nature, our divinity. That God-spark within each of us.

Dropping to our knees and feeling the depths of what lies in our hearts helps us to remember there is something greater than us, something that holds us. Call it God, the Divine, Greater Intelligence, Life, or whatever works for you. No Matter. The name is just for us anyway.

When I feel as if my heart will just break, I know it will break open. A heart breaking open is a good thing. Then there is love. Only love. For all of life. Even for the false Gods I’ve created. An open heart doesn’t keep anything out. And it invites grace in. The grace that just might be the only passage to a new kind of world.

Despair has taught me well. It has shared its gift.

This is a love message. To you.

I think of what Mother Teresa said, “If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” I’m sending it out. Don’t know how it will touch you, or if it will. I just keep putting oil in the lamp.

::

Julie Daley is a coach, creativity catalyst and consultant. She works with women who ache to come home to themselves, and want to live from the truth they discover when they do. Find out more at UnabashedlyFemale.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Julie Daley on February 23rd, 2010 in Global/Social Change, Personal Stories, Spirituality | No comments

23 feb

Never Miss An Opportunity To…

JayForteWith Valentine’s Day just behind us, I was reminded of our tradition to take a day and celebrate special events. We celebrate mothers, fathers, pilgrims, veterans, workers, religions traditions, famous people and presidents. Overall, a good idea.

What struck me more is the concept of a holi “day.” If these are really important events, why do we limit the celebration to just a day? Shouldn’t we identify the reason for the celebration and build them into all aspects of life each day?

Here’s my thought. Holi “days” aren’t cutting it. The daily celebrations are too infrequent and don’t encourage enough of the right behaviors to last all year. In a world that is increasingly unkind, selfish and confrontational, couldn’t we make an improvement if we were to extend the meaning of the celebrations? Couldn’t we stay more focused on being kind, considerate, passionate, loving and respectful?

In my house, we wake up each morning and say either “happy anniversary,” or “happy Valentine’s Day.” Every day we celebrate our relationship as the cornerstone of our lives – a good and happy place. The message of both an anniversary and Valentine’s Day is a daily celebration.

Imagine if each day were a “thanksgiving” celebration. What if each day you made time around the dinner table to celebrate one great thing that happened. Imagine how it could change the victim and cynical perspective that our troubled world inspires. Make the home the safe place, the grateful place, the loving place that supports, inspires and protects. This prepares each member of the house to boldly go into a challenging world and be more upbeat, optimistic and caring – something the world could use more of. And we have a chance of making it happen if the thanksgiving celebration was a daily event.

I find that holidays have become either commercial events or traditions. Neither supports the true intent of the holiday. Gift giving is a great thing; it should never be obligatory. A celebration of faith and belief should not put you into debt. A celebration of freedom and of those who fought for it should be a daily event, lest we forget the degree of their sacrifice and the requirement of our continued sacrifice. Again, daily lessons, daily celebrations.

So my suggestion is to replace holi”days” with a “never miss an opportunity to…” approach – a new daily focus on celebrating what matters most in life. Here is the start of my “never miss an opportunity to…” list. What would you add?

“Never miss an opportunity to…”:

  • Tell (and show) the people you love how much you love them and what they mean to you.
  • Share a story about your life’s success and failures to teach someone else.
  • Make someone else feel important, even if you did most of the work.
  • Show your patriotism and respect for your country.
  • Show your tolerance for and acceptance of someone who does not look like you or believe in what you do.
  • Stop and appreciate a flower, a tree, the wind, a star, rock formation or any other part of nature.
  • Know yourself, your talents and passions, so you can build a life that makes you happy, successful and engaged.
  • Say thank you, hold a door open, let another person or car pass ahead of you, or to be kind to someone you don’t know.
  • Give away some of your “extras” to someone who has no “extras.”
  • Learn something new to expand what you know and your contribution to the world.
  • Make the first call even when it is the other person’s turn.
  • Share a call, thought, card or gift with someone you love or who needs to hear from you – just because.
  • Say you are sorry when you hurt someone – even if you didn’t mean to.
  • Allow another to have an opinion different than yours, and still respect them.
  • Spend more time with your pet; be kind and respect all life.
  • Develop your personal faith; have it encourage your acceptance of yourself and others; allow it to accept, not reject others.
  • Keep your planet safe for those who will need it after you.
  • Talk about differences instead of fight about them; find commonalities and reasons to get along instead of disagree.
  • Respond to natural and social tragedies with care, urgency and self-sacrifice.
  • Sing, dance, laugh, tell a joke, cry or be more human, even when others you don’t know are watching. Invite them to join it.
  • Smile at someone you don’t know.
  • Bound out of bed, excited you have another day.
  • Remember you must share the planet with others who have the same right to be here, be respected, earn a living, find love, develop their talents, create a life, share a history and make and impact.

How will you never miss an opportunity to connect the very special people in your world? And how can you make the core of our holiday messages become part of your daily approach to life?

Never miss your opportunity to celebrate and to make a difference. Your life, your choice.

Jay Forte is a motivational speaker and performance consultant. He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition, The Hunt for Opportunities Success Manual and the on-line resource Stand Out and Get Hired. He works to connect people to their talents and passions to work strong and live stronger. More information at www.LiveFiredUp.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jay Forte on February 23rd, 2010 in Family, General, Health, New Directions, Relationships, Things We Love | 1 comment Read related posts in , , , , , ,

17 feb

The Seventh Secret of Change

Finding your Spirit where tranquility, ideas and wisdom live.

People who successfully navigate change know they are connected to something bigger than themselves.

When everything around you is changing, look for that part of yourself that doesn’t change, the part that is calm, centered and always there.

You can tell people who have Spirit. You can also tell companies that have Spirit. Nothing religious going on here, its just a sense of aliveness, of joy, of doing something that matters, that makes a difference, that helps. It’s a commitment to going beyond the material, the rules, what’s expected and going with a different form of guidance. Often it’s inner guidance, a nudge, a knowing of the right thing to do next, a strong intuition. We all put far greater value on intellect, on the mind, we cling to being clever, on knowing. Finding your spiritual side is about being open to not knowing, to being empty so that a new idea, direction, person can come into your life. It’s about finding a different sense of peace, tranquility that doesn’t depend on getting a deal, making the money or any form of external marker.

All great leaders, heroes, athletes, regular people who have touched us in some way believe in something greater. They don’t all define it the same way, or have the same word for it, but everyone I have interviewed eventually says some version of “something bigger was going on.” All types of change, whether it is personal or professional at some stage make us go looking on the inside. We find ourselves reconnecting to our intuition, our heart, our faith, our connection with another part of our self, perhaps our “higher self” that we have so often forgotten.

Infusing life and our work or business with spirit is about going with our intuitions, that part of us that is connected to a different, unnamable source of wisdom. It’s about a different intention that goes beyond “getting something” but is about “giving something,” helping, serving, contributing to our fellow human beings. It’s about bringing the energy of kindness, care, love if that doesn’t scare us, to everything we do and everyone we interact with. As Plato said “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.” What the world and business need now is a lot more gentleness, gentleness starting even in our communication, emails we send to people, how we interact with the world. We need gentleness with ourselves, stopping the disapproval energy that runs our lives! It’s about stopping the “perfection” cycle and giving ourselves permission to be human.

How do we do this? We start with being comfortable with silence, going inside, taking some time to check in with how something is feeling. Does the deal feel right? Does the website design feel in line with our intuitions? Does this person we want to hire feel right? We feel OK doing nothing, allowing ideas, insights to come through when our minds are not overly busy. We find moments of taking away the incessant noise all around us. Yes, some people call that meditation but that word is also loaded with connotations of sitting in a lotus position chanting. Meditation is only about being with ourselves, away from any distractions, getting back in touch with different parts of ourselves, hearing our deeper truths, re-aligning some aspects of our lives. Infusing our lives and work with Spirit is also about finding our intentions for why we are doing what we are doing. What guides our choices and really our lives? Is it about wanting more or giving more? Power moves through those who serve, not those who are out to get more. Ironically, when we don’t focus on getting approval, or money or fame, that’s often the time when it comes to you in spades.

Finding our spiritual side is about a bigger sense of meaning as to what we have come here to experience. The best advertisement for the spiritual path isn’t about doing a yoga class once a week, wearing a spiritual piece of jewelry or even going to church. The best ad is about being kinder, more compassionate to others, finding any which way to help. We need to ask ourselves, who needs our help today? We are loaded with gifts, ideas, connections that can help others do something good in the world.

I ask myself that question everyday and in so doing, it’s remarkable how many of my challenges, hurdles also get taken care of in parallel. My quiet silent time to be with Spirit, is what I call a “non-negotiable” (together with my health). This means no one and nothing touches this. I don’t start the day before attending to these. They come above everything for me and ensure that I’m effective in all areas of my life.

What are your non-negotiables? How much spirit is alive in your organization or family or job? What feels right as something to get started on to reconnect with this part of yourself that runs through you whether you acknowledge it or not? If you find your spiritual side, the part of you that never changes, is always there, detached from any drama, then life on the outside will become calmer. You will then be plugged into a different source of energy, not only the “little me” trying to keep everything under control, but the bigger source that powers life and nature, that part you may not fully understand, that source where anything is possible and you are not limited by disempowering thoughts or beliefs. Nurture that relationship.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Ariane de Bonvoisin on February 17th, 2010 in Ariane, New Directions, Spirituality, Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in

17 feb

The Internet is Alive

When an idea reaches critical mass there is no stopping the shift its presence will induce.
~Marianne Williamson

::

What if the Internet, itself, was spiritual in nature? This is a question I wondered about back in 2001, when I designed and wrote a thesis on Spirituality and the Internet. My ideas at the time were roughly hewn. I had just finished three years doing a lot of coursework in design, computer science, and digital art. The project was to create a spiritual space on the Internet. But, the deeper message, was that the Internet itself was a spiritual space, simply in its form – following on the form follows function idea.

On this same idea, just today, two very interesting and timely articles fell into my lap, by way of – you guessed it – the Internet.

The first, Saudi women revel in online lives, written by Caryle Murphy, gives us a small glimpse into how the internet is opening up the world to women in Saudi Arabia.

In a country where about one-third of the population regularly goes online, the internet gives women “a place to vent out our frustrations and our dreams,” said Reem Asaad, 37, a professor of banking and finance in the Saudi port city of Jeddah who blogs at reemasaad.blogspot.com.

It also has allowed women who normally are “physically invisible” to participate more actively in Saudi society, Asaad added.

“From the authorities’ viewpoint,” she explained, “so long as women are behind a curtain, or a screen, and so long as they are not before a camera or walking down the street, then everything is fine. Women are free to do anything they want as as long as they aren’t seen, heard or spotted doing it by men.”

When I read the words “physically invisible”, my heart felt a sharp pain of sadness and despair. I can’t begin to imagine how it feels to be physically invisible. Feeling into what it might be like to be hidden in such a way stimulated a deep sense of compassion for all women who are experiencing this. Obviously, I don’t know what this is like. And, of course, I am projecting my own fears and feelings onto the story here. But, from one woman to another, from one soul to another, I feel for these women.

To read on and see how the internet is bringing them into connection and out of such separation brought a sense of possibility for what might be, how the world could shift simply through the Internet. To shift this way, we have to see that the Internet is the means for connection, something I believe we are beginning to understand more deeply each day.

After sitting with these thoughts, the second article fell into my lap (or I should say, landed in my inbox). The Internet as a Living Symbol of Global Oneness, written by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee Ph.D., a Sufi teacher and author, is an extremely important article on Huffington Post. It could change the nature of how we experience, and use, the Internet.

“I believe that the Internet is a gift we have been given. It provides an image of how the energy of life can flow freely in a way that defies the barriers of nationality and geography. Yet sadly because we are so immersed in the surface activity of this technology, in its tools of commerce and communication, we do not realize its deeper, symbolic dimension. A symbol is a connection to the sacred ground of our being which alone gives real meaning to our daily life. The Internet, as a living symbol of global oneness, offers us a direct connection to an awareness of divine oneness (italics mine). But because we have lost touch with the symbolic dimension of life, we do not fully recognize this potential of the Internet: as a dynamic expression of a new consciousness of oneness that has within it access to energies and means that can unify our divisive world (italics mine). If we were awaken to its real potential, we would be truly in awe–and we would laugh, with wonder, at life’s capacity to recreate itself while we are not even looking.

What does it mean to shift to seeing the internet as a symbol of global divine oneness? What does this mean for our everyday use of the Internet?

I can see, now, that all my attention back in 2001 on this notion of connection through the Internet was coming from intellectual and psychological perspectives. The internet as a dynamic symbol? A brand new door of understanding and knowing.

The Internet as this symbol feels deeper and richer. It feels alive. It is alive. It is dynamic. It has energies and means within it to bring about the awareness of oneness that already exists. We aren’t in control here. Yet, we can, if conscious, align with this potential inherent in the “gift we have been given”.

We can see ourselves in connection with others out there, like these women in Saudi Arabia who are now experiencing a new kind of visibility. We can know we are moving within this dynamic consciousness of oneness as we bring our own gifts to the interplay of connection and expression. We don’t have to figure out how to use this. We can’t figure it out. It knows. It is alive. We can trust in its aliveness. We can move with it.

::

One thing I do know: the importance of connecting women, in order to awaken the vital energies of healing and nourishment that lie dormant in the cells of our bodies – to awaken the primal sacred feminine nature of women’s creativity. We won’t fully bring to life this force within that is pushing to awaken, if we stay hidden, invisible and alone in isolation. We will awaken in community. We have been given the gift. How will we use it?

::

And, you?

How have you already experienced this divine oneness? How does knowing this change your perspective on the Internet? How might you being to move with it?

What if simply knowing the Internet as a living, dynamic manifestation of oneness were the idea that needs to reach critical mass that Marianne Williamson speaks of? How might things shift?

Julie Daley is a coach, creativity catalyst and consultant. She works with women who long to discover sovereignty, interdependence and joy. Find out more at UnabashedlyFemale.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Julie Daley on February 17th, 2010 in Spirituality | No comments Read related posts in , ,