Nature is often the messenger of wisdom in my life. Leaning against a tree, standing on a mountain, paying attention in a field is where I most often have epiphanies that allow me to see more clearly. Sometimes they are so simple I wonder how it wasn't obvious to me before, but I always listen and am grateful.
A few days ago I was walking in the Carleton Cowling Arboretum near my house with the intention of recharging my body and clearing my mind. I stopped to sit at the edge of the stream and listen to the water babbling over the rocks. Watching the water flow by it occurred to me that no matter how much water moved past me, there was still water in front of me and more coming in. No break, no emptiness, just a constant flow.
And so it is with our energy. What we put out into the world comes back to us in other ways. Why then, I wondered, do we sometimes feel like we're running on empty? That there is scarcity instead of abundance? Women who come to my workshops almost always connect with the image of filling their cup because they have been functioning from a place of emptiness for so long.
The eclipse today, as I understand it, symbolizes change. A new era, another chance, a fresh start. What does that mean to you? To me it sounds fun, exciting, and adventurous. I love a new notebook, a new plan, turning over a new leaf.
But sometimes change is not so glamorous.
I spent this past weekend at home and under the weather. Outside it was glorious! Sunny, warm, and breezy after days of gray skies and rain. There were so many possibilities for activities, but my body told me to stay home.
At first I didn't listen - totally ignored the message - like we do. So it spoke more loudly and I felt more miserable. Finally, I got it: slow down, look within, do the work.
It was time to clean house, both literally and figuratively. Change is not only about embracing the new, it's also about letting go of the old.
Shedding what no longer serves us can take many forms: clearing out belongings you no longer need, shifting habits and thought patterns that aren't working, reassessing goals to align with where you are now, letting go of limiting beliefs.
My tasks turned out to be inner work motivated by outer work. The burr-covered weeds that covered my clothes, tangled in my hair, and would not let go were great metaphors for obstacles that were plaguing me. The pile of discarded clothes ready to be donated finally made it out of the bottom of the closet and into the car so they can help someone else instead of cluttering my thoughts and draining my energy. The sore throat that was so aggravating reminded me of limiting beliefs around being a public speaker.
The weekend was full of symbolism, even if it was short on entertainment.
So I ask you, what weeds do you need to pull from your internal landscape? What roles are you wearing that no longer fit? What patterns hold you back that you need to wash away?
Start by spending some time in your garden, closet, or bath tub and see what bubbles up when you get really quiet.
All photos ©Mary Upham 2017
Surrender was not a word in my personal vocabulary until very recently. I thought of it as giving in, giving up, a sign that I was weak. But I'd been getting the message that I needed to delve deeper into Surrender and its connection with Trust. On a weeklong camping trip with my daughter I had plenty of opportunities.
One of the things that I discovered is that Surrender is not a form of weakness, in fact you have to be strong to see when to sit back and chill.
Another insight is that surrender is another way to say accept things as they are, be ok with what is, and know where you can take action and where you can't.
While it takes a lot of strength to be ok with what is, it uses much less energy than railing against something you can't change. Or worrying about it incessantly. Or getting all bothered because you think the situation is someone else's fault.
When you toss Trust in there with Surrender it works even better. Not only can you mellow out on your reaction to the situation, you also get to relax about whether it's going to turn out ok or not. Because frankly, if you're going with this mindset, whatever way it turns out is all right.
Take the Lost Shoe Debacle, for example. After a long day of exploring and driving and hiking and exploring, my daughter realized she had lost a shoe. You might wonder how one could lose something attached to one's foot (I did), but if one goes barefoot as much as possible and just keeps shoes in the car in case there's an ice cream shop where they are mandatory, there's less concern over where those shoes are in between times.
They might even fall out of the car when you leap at the chance to pet a friendly horse. At least, that's where she thought she might have lost it. But at bedtime after a day of exploring I couldn't begin to problem solve about the lost shoe.
So despite the tears and upset from the animal-loving daughter, I chose Surrender and Trust. I decided this in the moment: I can accept what is, you are missing a shoe (and you have hiking boots to wear tomorrow) and I can let it go for now and trust that it will work out, and spend no energy worrying or wondering or berating (either myself or you).
And then, we got some sleep, for I was not about to go driving about in the dark to see if we could find footwear in the moonlight.
If you're curious about the outcome, she did find the shoe. In the morning with clear heads, we decided to get straight to our big hike for that day and to leave the shoe search for late afternoon on our way out of the area. It was, in fact, right where she hoped it would be, though the horses were not.
If you are curious about adding a new word to your vocabulary, I highly recommend Surrender, and its companion Trust. They will serve you well.
All photos ©Mary Upham 2017
If you find yourself wishing that you could make some shifts in your life that would give you some breathing space, a little time for yourself, more smiles and fewer growls, I want you to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Many women are stuck in a cycle of feeling overwhelmed and undervalued and even find resentment creeping in where they want to have love, acceptance, and joy. This is what I know: it doesn’t have to be that way. Once you get some clarity on what you need, you can begin to learn tools and take small steps to make those shifts happen. Here’s how it played out for one of my clients. I’ll call her Leah.
Leah was a part-time teacher with a preschool-aged daughter with whom she had a very close relationship. Before her daughter's birth Leah had been quite active and she longed to get back to a regular exercise routine, but between the precious hours at home with her daughter, her teaching job, family life, occasional socializing, and so on, Leah's time for herself frequently got pushed to the side. Leah noticed that she was not the mom she wanted to be. She sensed resentment creeping into her emotions instead of the love and kindness she wanted to feel. When her husband was home she would try to slip out for a short run. Her daughter would cry for her to stay home and play. Sometimes Leah would give up her run and come back to calm her daughter, but since Leah's needs hadn't been met she was crabby and impatient. Other times she would go anyway and come home to an exhausted, post-tantrum child and an agitated spouse. It felt like no matter how hard she tried to do the right thing, nothing worked.
Leah's daughter needed her mom to be fully present when they were together, and Leah needed regular exercise to fill her cup so she could engage with her child. Since Leah was often running on fumes she didn't have anything left to give her daughter and the child was unsatisfied and clingy. Neither Leah nor her daughter were getting their needs met and it was a source of major tension.
When Leah became aware of this cycle she decided to make some changes. She talked with her husband about how important it was to have time for exercise and solitude. She also pledged her support for him to carve out time for these same things. A little later, when things were calm, Leah set the situation up for success with her child. She snuggled her daughter close and told her about her new plan to run and go to an exercise class a few times a week. During this conversation, she explained her values for health, meeting one's needs, and being a good parent in very simple terms that her child could understand. She told her daughter When I come back from exercising I will come home happy and we can spend time playing. Because of how Leah took time to explain it, her daughter felt connected to her mama and agreed to cooperate.
Leah took action and followed through. She set up a regular exercise schedule on the calendar so that her family knew what to expect. When it was almost time to go, Leah reminded her daughter, took a few moments to give her some hugs and kisses, and committed to playtime when she got back. Because she set it up for success and spoke from her heart instead of from a place of resentment, Leah's daughter was more easygoing about the time apart. She even got in the habit of saying, Goodbye, Happy Mama!, as she waved to her. The change this brought in Leah's family was huge. The resentment disappeared and was replaced by joy. Leah supported her husband to get more regular exercise, and as a family they played outside more, knowing it was something they all enjoyed. They commented on how great it felt to have their everyday actions in alignment with their values and their needs met.
If this story resonates with you in some way here are some things you can do:
It’s been a long while since I sent anything out and I have exciting things to share with you.
What’s been happening? Over the past year I’ve been asking myself questions like “Where do I want to focus my energy?” and “How do I want to share my gifts?”. Mulling this over while walking in the woods led to the birth of my new venture, Lucina’s Wisdom, (pronounced loo-see-nahs) which focuses on ‘Life Coaching for Moms with a Mission’.
What does that mean? It means I help women approach life from the inside out by first discovering their own needs, desires, and dreams, and then supporting them to create a life built around those things. We aim for the sweet spot where they are in right relationship with their self-care, relationships, and purpose so they can thrive.
What does this look like?
What can you do? I’m so glad you asked! One is to click below to check out my new website. Two, is to contact me if you're connected with an organization that could benefit from a workshop. And three is to stay tuned for more.
If you'd like to create a wonderful year that is in alignment with your deepest desires, I invite you to use the meditation and journal questions below. You can read it through first and then let your mind travel there - or ask someone to read it to you while you get in a ralaxed state. However you access this, let it be your guide to find your way past the noise of the mind.
Let's relax, let go of our expectations, get out of our busy, chattering minds, and tune into something deeper. We’re going to get really quiet and listen for the whisperings of the soul, that which our hearts long for.
We want to come from a place of self-love and self-connectedness leaving all judgement and criticism behind. This will help you connect with your body, mind, and spirit and what you’re really wanting in this new year: the unity and harmony of your actions and your intentions.
Bring your awareness to your body in this moment. Feel your sitz bones on the chair and ground them down. Feel the crown of your head as if there is a string connected from it to the heavens. Feel the relationship between sitz bones and the top of your head, the relationship between earth and sky. Notice your focused attention and breathe relaxation into this focus. Soften your brow. Move your jaw from front to back and side to side. Open your jaw gently and then slowly let it close and invite any tension in your jaw to relax. Breathe in and raise your shoulders up to your ears, exhale and slowly let them release completely. Take a deep breath in and sigh it out.
Move your fingers and hands, making some circles, and shake out any tension in your arms. Take a deep breath in, right down into your core, relaxing your hips and legs, knees and calves, ankles and feet and toes. Notice your focused attention now coupled with relaxation. As we prepare to bring ourselves into the new year with intentionality, let’s attend to our bodies with focused attention along with deep relaxation.
Focus on your breath. Savor the inhale, luxuriate in the exhale. Breathe naturally without effort. Let the breath breathe you. Allow your breath to be the anchor that brings your mind back to right here and right now. And now as you relax your eyes even more deeply and open your heart even more fully, as you let your belly soften even more, let’s invite the turn of the season into our physical selves. The days have shortened in length, then the light begins to return, and the new year comes to us, wiping us clean, opening us to new beginnings.
Let’s use this time, this auspicious seasonal change, to open into the oneness of the body, mind, and spirit. Let the intention of your heart be in alignment with your actions. Let’s ask that this new year bring us the blessings of self-care, self-connectedness, self-compassion. So breathe and relax as we invite the turn of the year to allow us to feel in our hearts that which we want. Not so much wanting with our minds, in the effort of our minds, in the willfulness of our minds, but in the depth of our hearts.
So here’s the question, What is it that you are longing for from inside out, in this new year?
Listen to the silence of your own heart. What is it that you are wanting from you? What’s the most extraordinary gift you could give yourself? From inside out, turning down the volume of the mind, listen to the inner voice of the heart. Invite the wisdom of the body to speak to you. Let this intention come from the heart’s longing. What is your longing? Your next desires for yourself? As the light returns, as the new year unfolds, what are you wanting to give yourself? Let it emerge.
You contain all you need to. Any sense of lack you perceive within yourself is only a personality trait and not reflective of your true self. When faced with a decision about which direction to take, the best barometer is always your highest joy. What would represent your highest joy? When you follow the path of your highest joy, you are most closely aligned with your true essence, soul, or inner self.
What you’re wanting for yourself is a blessing. It’s a self blessing. It’s the ultimate gift from you to you. It represents the unity of your mind, and your body, and your heart. It holds in it the seeds of your growth and your unfolding. So what is it? What is it that you’re wanting for yourself? And as you bless yourself with the return of light, what will you do to move yourself in that direction? How will you create a living practice of your new year’s blessings?
Gently, come back into your breath now, wrap yourself up in the sacredness of this moment and let’s set an intention for the healing of our bodies, the quieting of our minds, and the opening of our hearts. And let’s request patience and tolerance. Patience and tolerance for the human dilemma, for ourselves as imperfect beings, for the divinity in all of us. You are equipped, you are able, one day at a time, to practice that divinity and that humanness. See your new year’s blessings filling you up, see yourself living the kind of life you choose, see yourself becoming who you really are.
And now slowly, as you are ready, become aware of the sounds around you. Become aware of your body resting on the chair. Be aware of your breath. And allow yourself to carry with you the essence of your deepest desires.
If you choose to, you can follow the meditation with this questions, and either reflect on them in your mind or write about them in a journal.
When you ask, what is my heart’s longing? What images, feelings, smells, tastes, sounds or ideas come to you?
If you are honest with yourself, what is the big dream that you can just barely acknowledge, but would make your heart sing with joy?
What do you need to let go of to allow space for your true desires to come into being?
Wishing you a most wonderful New Year filled with all you truly desire!