Confused? Uncertain? That’s OK!

Do you feel called to something new, but don’t know what? Confused about your next steps? Feeling uncertain about how to move forward?

You are not alone! I’ve learned through hard-won wisdom that confusion and uncertainty are key ingredients for growth. By opening to them, new life emerges.

It is definitely uncomfortable but giving birth always is.

For example, confusion led to the birth of Well for the Journey. Twenty years ago my life looked great from the outside. I was happily married, raising three healthy children, and practicing law with great colleagues. Yet, inside questions persisted: What is this discontent and yearning that’s gnawing at me? How do I best use my gifts and share my talents for the greater good? Where is God in the nitty-gritty of daily life? Are there others like me who wonder too?

My questions led me to develop practices such as journaling, making quiet time, and listening for Divine guidance. I sought out spiritual companions to help me listen, widen my perspective, and encourage my next steps. I leaned into curiosity and tried to trust that the “to-do’s” would unfold.

In due time, I connected with others and formed a new place, a new community, that made space for people to ask questions, tend their spiritual selves, build relationships, and live better lives. My confusion sparked curiosity. I learned how to lean on God’s guidance.

Confusion and uncertainty were necessary conditions for a new place to be born. It’s grown into a place that serves many and transforms lives in ways that I never could have imagined.

Our minds love certainty. It’s part of our human instinct. Our egos are wired to be in control of our own agendas. We make up our minds and plow ahead, often without seeking guidance from a power greater than our small self.

It takes practice (lots of it!) to relax. To be OK in our uncertainty. To seek guidance. To patiently wait. Oh, that patience part is ridiculously hard!

Now uncertainty and confusion have returned as I explore a new sense of call. I desire to help people live with peace, joy, and acceptance as they live out the final chapters of life. Blending my legal and spiritual care expertise, I imagine facilitating meaningful and necessary conversations about end of life matters so that people are empowered to choose what matters to them. Then advocating for them as needed. I wish to alleviate unnecessary suffering that often occurs because people don’t have the courage to face death and articulate their desires and plans.

I’ve had exploratory conversations with key people, led workshops, assisted loved ones, and taken small steps to shake out what this might look like. How do I move forward with this? What does this look like? What’s next?

In quiet, while seeking guidance, I came across this passage: “She wasn’t sure what to do next, and she was in the uncomfortable phase of gestation that requires awaiting further instructions.” (Lisa Rankin, Anatomy of a Calling).

Yes! Perfect description! Gestation is the developmental period between conception and birth. Looking back at my literal and metaphorical pregnancies, there was discomfort, uncertainty, waiting. Birthing takes time.

Confused? Uncertain? That’s OK! You are not alone. Lean into it. Be curious. Keep listening. Keep looking for guidance that will make itself known to you.

 

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

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“I am praying for you.”

There are many people on my mind and in my heart who are dealing with all sorts of life challenges. You might be one of them.

One way that I support them is to pray for them. But what do I mean when I say, “I am praying for you”? After all, there are as many ways to pray as there are people in the world.

When I say, “I am praying for you,” this is what I intend to convey to you:

You are not alone.

You are being held in Love and Light.

One Larger and Wiser is with you.

God knows what you need better than I do.

I love you.

Prayer is hard to talk about. It is intimate. It is personal. It is beyond words. Yet, I’m convinced we do it more than we know.

Some set aside a block of time and sit with their prayer lists, patiently going down the names and needs. I sometimes do that, but more often I pray for others through the course of my day—in the car, at my desk, in the shower, walking outside, at a meeting, cooking at the stove, or sitting at an airport. People pop into my thoughts and I send one or more of the above messages to them.

When I say, “I am praying for you,” it is acknowledging that I am with you. That I carry you in my heart, that your concerns are my concerns, that you are not alone. This is a connection we all desire. It is the power of prayer. We are all held and connected, linked together through a power, an energy, a love that is greater than any one of us.

I carry people in my heart, just as you carry people in your heart. That is prayer, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Give Your Presence this Season

At this time of year, isn’t it hard to give our full attention to the present moment? Many of us jump ahead to our lengthy to-do lists. Worry, anxiety, and stress can consume us. There’s so, so much to be done!

If however, we can stay in the present, attentive to the moment in which we find ourselves, we will become a gift to those around us and a gift to ourselves.

This doesn’t come easily to me. Nope. Without confusing the holiday, I’m like a bunny that will hop, hop, hop, particularly when I’m stressed. I try to squeeze in as much as I can. There are plenty of us hopping right now, friends.

Let’s turn to an appropriate image for the season: the Christmas manger. This scene is an invitation. Animals gathered around the baby in wonder, awe, and adoration. They gave exquisite attention to what was right in front of them. Even the bunny!

Here’s what I’ve found to be helpful in my efforts to stay in the present moment:

  1. Pace: Go slower. Less hopping!
  2. Pause: Take time to rest and allow your soul to catch up…even for a few seconds in the midst of the busyness.
  3. Breathe: Get in touch with your breath. It is always there to center you in the now. Focus on three breaths right now.

These steps open a gracious space in our mind and heart to be present to others and ourselves.

December is a tender time for many, with happy and sad memories and loved ones who aren’t with us. Sorrow mixes with joy. We never know what lies beneath the surface of people’s lives. Just being present to others is a way we can give. Generous listening, saying “thank you,” looking someone in the eye, a warm smile, or a gentle touch can be just the gift that someone needs. Don’t underestimate the power of connection.

The gift of presence is sorely needed. Let’s slow our hopping. Be present. Be a present.

With love, M

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What Kind of Season Do You Want? Set Your Intention!

Congrats, my friends for making it through Cyber Monday! Whew! What a whirlwind of a week!

Those gazillion emails that cluttered our mailboxes (and our minds!) seeking our urgent attention can serve a valuable purpose, other than saving us money. They remind us to be intentional about the season ahead. 

We can get swept up in chaos. Or not. It’s our choice. Our soul muscles help us to create the season we want.

What’s on your to-do list? Sift through the pressing “demands,” reflect on what’s truly important, and let that be your compass. Set your intention to guide you for a meaningful season.

Here’s my intention for today and the weeks ahead, God help me:

Be present. Pay attention. Share love. Cultivate joy.

 I plan to look at it in the morning to frame my day, as I make my to-do list. Then at the end of the day, I will look at it again with the eyes of gentleness, knowing things won’t go as I hope.

What is important for you? What would you like this season to look like? Take time to reflect and set an intention. It will be a gift to you and those you love.

postit scrabble to do todo

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Make Way for Your Blessings

Right now, there are blessings circling over you, trying to find a place to land into your life. Yes, friends, goodness and love are trying to break into this very moment! Isn’t that good news?!

Consider these intriguing thoughts from an inspirational healer, teacher, and best-selling author:

“Most of us have been given many more blessings than we have received. We do not take time to be blessed or make the space for it. We may have filled our lives so full of other things that we have no room to receive our blessings.”

– Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather’s Blessings

Dr. Remen goes on to paint this picture: imagine all of us being circled by blessings, like airplanes in a holding pattern at an airport. These blessings are stacked up, sometimes for years, with no place to land. They are waiting for a moment of our time and attention. Such a powerful image, right?

Last week I experienced a situation filled with emotional angst. Yet, within that struggle, I sensed a blessing circling overhead trying to land in the middle of the turmoil. Something good was trying to be noticed. The image was reassuring. It guided me.

Wanting new eyes to see this unknown blessing, I made time to reflect and pray. Help me to see the goodness in here. Shine light and love on the others involved. Give me a new perspective. If you are trying to send a blessing, help me receive it.

Sure enough, a few days later, some of the fog lifted, allowing me to see goodness at work. A blessing had landed into the center of this challenge! It wasn’t a large, clear runway, but it was an opening. I gained newfound insight, acceptance, and peace. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Is there a situation in your life where you need a blessing?  Be an air traffic controller and guide your blessings in! Create a landing strip- or at least an opening. Make time to look and listen. Open your heart to new possibilities, new perspectives. Ask for goodness and love to break through.

Blessings abound, even in the midst of the most challenging situations. Often it takes time, attention, and grace to find them. Stick with it, and you will discover blessings that impact you and those around you. Goodness and love are at work!

*** Note: I highly recommend Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen’s My Grandfather’s Blessings. It is a collection of inspirational stories that remind us of the power of connection, kindness, healing, and blessings. We just finished an enriching series at Well for the Journey called “Hidden Blessings” based on this book’s wisdom. Consider a workshop or series for your organization, business, or group of friends or colleagues.

Lessons from Laryngitis

Sometimes silence is all that we can offer and is exactly what is needed.

A recent bout of laryngitis became my teacher when a nasty cold landed in my throat, holding my voice captive. For several days, only squeaky, crackling utterances or raspy, strained whispers emerged from my mouth. It was not a bit sexy. When with others, I had to choose whether to use my frail voice or rest it and be silent.

Paying attention to my imposed silence, I realized that there is quite a lot of babble that comes out of my mouth daily.  Yes, sadly it’s true. By “babble,” I’m referring to unnecessary words that don’t enhance the situation—things that can be left unsaid. I don’t always need to contribute something to the conversation, even though I am a bubbly extrovert. It was a humbling experience in self-awareness. It’s so easy to add to the noise of this world.

An ancient saying out of the mystical tradition of Islam, known as Sufism, is wonderfully instructive, regardless of our health:

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?”

When my voice box was ailing there were only a handful of times that it was truly necessary to speak. One was the day that my dear friend’s mother was dying. Becky’s mother had been in ICU for 10 days with pneumonia. When I got her text that the situation was grim and death was imminent, I knew I needed to talk with my friend, if I was able.

 Please let me be a conduit of solace, encouragement, and love, I silently prayed. With a deep breath, I called Becky’s cell phone and greeted her with gentle words that were somehow audible. But mostly I listened.

Real listening is immersed in silence and is a precious form of presence. Quiet tears flowed down my face. Before saying good-bye, I wanted to offer a prayer aloud over the phone, as that’s what we do for each other when one of us is facing a crisis. It was a mini-miracle that she was able to hear my prayer for her sweet mama and the family.

I’ve since recovered, and the only thing Becky remembers about our call was my presence, not my ailing, squeaky voice. “Were you really sick?” she asked. Amazing grace!

Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Can you imagine our world if we paused and allowed our words to pass through those three gates? What false, needless, and unkind words would remain unspoken?

Ahhhhhh, sweet, precious silence often serves others in ways that words cannot.

Calm in the Chaos

Water rained through the ceiling, causing a small lake on the kitchen floor.

The guest room toilet broke.

My car battery died.

A key workshop leader canceled due to illness.

Yikes!!! Chaos!!! All within 24 hours, JUST as I prepared to welcome, host, and lead 27 women for a spiritual renewal weekend in Cape May, New Jersey. The weekend theme was timely: “Balance for the Autumn Equinox Through Mind, Body, and Spirit.” Balance needed, please!

The most important thing about being a leader of people, families, and organizations, I’ve learned, is being inwardly prepared. If you can stay calm, you can respond thoughtfully rather than react erratically. Calm and chaos are both contagious. I wanted calm. Read on to discover tools for you to remain calm and balanced in the face of stress.

Back to the turmoil that threatened to overwhelm me.

Breathing in, I said these words: Beneath the chaos, there is a calm, loving center. Breathing out, I repeated them…again, again, again.

Gradually, I relaxed. It was going to be okay.

Going into the weekend, I had felt off my game. My foot was still painful from a nasty sprain a few weeks earlier, and I was wearing a clunky walking boot that slowed me down, especially as I navigated the many stairs. Let’s add that to the above list of stressors. With all there was to do, it was excruciating to move so slowly.

The forced slowness turned into a blessing, however. Needing to pace myself and take breaks, I spent more time in quiet meditation and prayer than is typical. I sought to tap into the loving, calm core that exists within me, and indeed, exists in each of us. I wrote these words in my journal: Beneath the chaos, there is a calm, loving center.

When the barrage of tiny disasters occurred, I felt bombarded. But at the same time, I remained calm and centered, and I sensed a loving presence sustaining me. It was quite remarkable! I was smiling and joyful too!

Every day, the chaos of unexpected events threatens to overwhelm us. It doesn’t need to win. We have choices.

Science reveals a practice that can bring us calm in the storm: the relaxation response. In his now-famous studies at Harvard Medical School in the early 1970s, Dr. Herbert Benson demonstrated that you can reduce stress throughout your body by breathing slowly and repeating a word, phrase, or prayer that gives you a sense of comfort. His landmark findings have been expanded and incorporated into medicine, business, psychotherapy, and thankfully, every day living. Practiced over time, this simple practice can produce healing of mind, body, and spirit. Check out Dr. Benson’s findings in his classic book, The Relaxation Response, or his more recent one, Relaxation Revolution, or do a five-minute exercise https://www.mass.gov/video/relaxation-response-dr-herbert-benson-teaches-you-the-basics

Through breathing slowly and centering on a key phrase, I was able to stay in the present moment, think clearly, and calmly navigate each challenge. A talented, compassionate leader replaced our ill colleague. Gerry, the handyman, swiftly repaired the plumbing. Jerry, the auto mechanic, replaced my car battery within the hour. The retreat went beautifully; women were renewed and uplifted. All was well!

Filled with gratitude, I wonder why I don’t use these tools all the time! Note to self.

When you struggle with unfortunate events overwhelming you, try some simple but powerful steps:

  1. Breathe slowly.
  2. Choose a word or phrase that is of comfort to you (Peace, Calm, God, om, All is well, etc.).
  3. Repeat it again and again.

And remember: Beneath the chaos, there is a calm, loving center.