Tulip (by Cheryl)
The short version of this tool is – check in with your heart, especially when you aren’t sure. OK, go forth! But seriously, this is a practice that I use all day and every day now. It’s so ingrained that I didn’t even think of it as a “tool” when I was coming up with ideas for this series (Simple Tools for Changing Times), but it’s probably my most helpful practice of all. Your heart knows…as they say! And that is true. When you listen to your heart you’re in alignment with your values, and needs, and your true Self. It took some practice when I first began to be able to feel clearly what my heart was saying, and also to remember to actually check in.
Here are a few tips to help you to hear your heart.
Why: This tool helps you to know yourself better. It will assist you in embracing your desires, caring for your needs, and allow you to really enjoy your life! Your body and your heart know what is truly needed and desired. Your mind will get busy, confused, and lost in stories. We all have lots of “rules” and reasons for not doing what’s in our best, most joyful (and healthiest) interest, but your heart only wants you to live a life of love and joy. It’s also a great way to get clear on things that are hard to “figure out”. I love to use it for decisions – the more immediate and important the better information you’ll get.
What: I’m talking about a practice of checking in with yourself regularly and using the sensations around your heart area to let you know when you’re “on track” for you. You simply get quiet, look inside, and be aware of the feelings in your heart area. For example, when something is “right” for me I feel a softness, expansion, warmth, and a glow around my heart area. I may see a glow in my mind’s eye too. I may smile (I often smile if it’s really a good idea!), my shoulders may drop and relax, I straighten up my body, I feel expansive and lighter.
Your sensations could be different than mine, though a sense of expansion is the most common description. A way to check this is to think of something absolutely wonderful about your life now and see how your heart feels about that. This tells you your own language of the heart. Conversely, something that doesn’t feel good to your heart tends to show up as contraction, clenching, tightness, folding in (shoulders bent, etc.), tightness of breath, and even discomfort in your throat and/or stomach areas. If your heart is neutral about something that will feel, well, neutral, in your body too.
When: I use this tool all day long. It’s perfect for having a quick check in to see how you’re really doing right now. I like to make sure I’m on track with my internal wisdom. We often get all bundled up in what’s happening and forget to stop and look inside. There’s wisdom there! And the encouragement to pause and look inward, just for a moment even, makes for a much more delightful day. Plus, it feels really GOOD when your heart is happy! I want more of that!
My favorite way to use this tool is for decisions that I’m confused or distressed about. My head can go ‘round and ‘round a subject and make me crazy! But my heart generally has a good idea about what I truly want and need. I also may ask for assistance with this. You can ask your higher Self, an angel, God, or any guide to help you to understand what you are hearing, and to hear truly. Getting clear on a decision may take some practice and require quiet time and focus. The best way for me is to ask, sense, and then write – as I often get more information that way. As I write, I’ll keep checking in to make sure I’m still listening to my heart.
The responses you get aren’t really yes” or “no” answers, though sometimes you may use them that way. They tell you what is in alignment with your spirit or soul. You can do anything you choose, this is just more information to help you. I prefer to go with my heart and have made a commitment to that, but still there are times that I don’t. And following your heart may just mean finding a new approach, or altering your thinking about something and making it work for you. I may just keep making shifts or trying new ideas until it all feels “right”. This isn’t about rules or “shoulds”, but about honoring yourself and being open to what you desire and need to live a delicious and meaningful life.
Wishing you love, clarity, and lots of pleasure in this season of the heart! Drop me a line with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org (or look here). If you have a question or want more help with this practice you can go here and schedule a free 20 minute session and we’ll work on it together!
People are always telling me they don’t know what they want, and I know they’re unsure about it. I also know that there are plenty of reasons for shutting down or hiding your desires. Where I begin when I’m unsure is with what I don’t want. Oddly, (or not!) these ideas can be a lot easier to access. They can also be upsetting because they deal in fears, or anger, or discontent. We may believe we aren’t supposed to acknowledge them (negative thinking!), or conversely we may spend a lot of our time wrapped up in these things that cause us stress or misery. Regardless, looking at them with an open mind can help you find what you do want, guaranteed!
Sometimes we know what we want, but we have reasons for ignoring our desires. Reasons like: I don’t have the time, money, energy, etc.; I don’t know how; it would upset other people; it’s such a big change – it’s scary; I don’t know if I’d succeed; people will think I’m weird…and many more. We block our desires and even think they’re wrong or somehow impossible. We deny ourselves (and I firmly believe) the world the grace of our dreams coming true.
Recently, I was dreaming of the perfect part-time job, but honestly, I couldn’t see how I would ever find one. I knew what I didn’t want, and much of what I did, but none of the jobs I looked at were going to offer me what I desired. So, I listened to my heart and she said to turn the whole thing over to God (Source, Spirit, the Divine…) and quit worrying about it! Have faith, be patient. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly a master at this type of thing! Still, I gave it my best shot. And I mostly forgot about it. My heart suggested that instead of fretting, perhaps, I could make some space in my life for this new job. So, I did. And a few days later a friend called, a friend I had actually forgotten I’d told about wanting a part-time job, and she told me about a position at a lovely place that was exactly what I was hoping for – and more. I tell you, I leaped!! And now I have the world’s best (for me) part-time job, and I’m able to be of help to my employers too. I just love win-wins!!
So how do you use what you don’t want to get what you do?
- First, take a kind look at what you really do not want to help you get clear, and to open up a dialog with your heart. (Hello Heart, I hate where I live, but I can’t see any way to change it, and I don’t know what I want either, etc. As an aside…A client of mine had these very concerns and few months after she got clear and opened up to what she wanted she was in a home she really loved!)
- Listen and ask questions, or answer the ones your heart offers you. Perhaps questions like: What do you hate? Why? Does this involve a big change, like a move, or will an update work? What do you truly want (without any censoring by that mean voice who says you can’t)? What makes your heart feel happy, warm, expansive, joyful, etc? Make yourself an “I desire” list.
- What does your heart suggest you do? If you can see a way forward – even one small step – then go for it!! Have faith the next step will come when you are ready.
- Be ready. Be open to getting what you really want. Be open to having your desires fulfilled. Open your arms (I mean really, open them wide right now!) and welcome your desires home to you. With love. And if any steps are suggested here – then do them. Like my making space in my life for a new job showed my faith and openness, you can take a step that feels good to you and signals your willingness to receive.
- Wait. We have a timing in our minds that isn’t always tied to our best outcomes. This can be where you lose faith, start to worry again, and take steps that don’t feel good (or help) at all. This is where all the reasons why it won’t work, or why you don’t deserve it, or …whatever… come up. In my story it sounds like I got clear about what I did and didn’t want, gave it over to God, and opened my arms, and then it easily happened. And that is absolutely true! But it took a while to get clear. In between, my faith wavered and wobbled. I was afraid my willingness to wait was really just a cop out, I had doubts that this would really work, etc. Hang in there!
- Relax and Reimagine while you wait. Look again at your “I desire” list. Even if your desire is fairly vague (I just want to feel better about my health), gently feel what it’s like to have that desire. Perhaps find a small step you can take. Stay open and willing. Reconnect with your faith. It’s best to keep this low key and calm. Personally, I had to keep turning it over to God and getting out of the way. You can even forget about it – yes forget!! And if you start to feel clingy and obsessed, definitely step back and find the good feelings again.
This is a process and it may even need to be repeated. Clarity can require more than one pass. Being ready is mostly about you, but there could be other factors. It can be hard to be patient and calm when you’re unhappy. I kept telling myself that I wanted a part-time job, but I’d done OK for years without one, so I knew I would be OK regardless. I also had faith that my concerns would be addressed – perhaps another job wasn’t actually the best solution – I was open to other options. This is a discovery process really, you’re finding a solution to a concern with help from the Universe and your Higher Self. Give yourself the grace of enjoying the exploration!
May all of the things we don’t want turn into things we DO want! If you have any questions, as always, you can email me at email@example.com. Or I would love to talk with you!! Set up an appointment here and choose the free 20 minute “Getting to Know You” session (this is not a sales conversion call, it is just a 20-30 minute conversation between the two of us). I sincerely hope all of your dreams come true!
Lessons in Pleasure
Winter Scene (by Cheryl)
Well, yes, 2017 was an interesting year! I’m not going to go into just how interesting – there are plenty of people who enjoy analyzing and judging the past year. I don’t want to write about any of that! I want to talk about what lessons we each took in and that made our lives more tenable, lovely, and wise.
To me this year seemed like an upside-down duck. You know, the duck looks all serene floating on the surface of the water, but underneath she’s actually paddling madly! Instead this year the surface of things looked chaotic, and scary, and quite a bit mad, but just under the surface I could sense a deep, calm beauty, and love. It is there as sure as the apparent chaos, and I’m so grateful for that and the people I know who shine with that calm beauty for the world to see. I will keep tapping into that stream as much as I can! To me that is the Truth and also our saving grace.
Part of this experience for me was the influence of my Word of the Year – Pleasure. That choice was a bit of a reaction to my Word of the previous year, Flourishing. Let me tell you that was one intense manifesting and happening year! But despite so many dreams come true I felt that I didn’t always let myself enjoy the beautiful things that happened. So I chose a Word for 2017 that would help me to learn how to allow more enjoyment of life. Well, if you’re anything like me what you expect when you choose a Word isn’t always (ever?) what you get! And yet it seems that no matter what Word you choose the lessons are just what you need to know. This year was no different! Instead of enjoying more Pleasure I learned a lot about how I block Pleasure in my life. And I learned that regardless it is always, always available. This is something I already knew, in a sense, for in the past during my very worst times there have also been joys, and loves, and small treasures that elevate life to true beauty; and this year was no exception. But the ability to really let myself sink into the delicious pleasures of life was, well, still hard for me.
However, I must say I HAVE learned over the year, and I’m getting better at Pleasure! I’m also much better at addressing those crazy stories that shut Pleasure right down. (You know, like – you can’t have fun until ALL of the work is finished – as if that ever happens! Or you don’t deserve Pleasure! You haven’t done enough to earn it, or you aren’t good enough…blah, blah, blah!) But what I learned even more is that the key to Pleasure and to enjoying it is the willingness to embrace it! In fact the willingness to embrace it all has been the thing that has ushered in the most Pleasure for me this year. That has allowed me to go past the surface and find the joy and peace underneath what seems to be going on.
So, because I really want to learn more about all of this….meet my new Word of the Year for 2018 – EMBRACE!! I chose to be willing to Embrace it all n 2018. Whew! I’m really looking forward to this new journey. What will I learn now? That’s a little bit scary really! But, I find a good Word of the Year is definitely a bit of a stretch.
What have you learned this year? Was there a word, or phrase, or a song lyric that really stood out for you? If you chose a Word of the Year – what experiences and lessons did it bring you? What is your Word for 2018? I’d love to hear what you think and what you’ve learned!! You can email me right here: firstname.lastname@example.org (just copy and paste into your email address line). Or set up a free mini session here.
AND I will soon be sending out a free, short email series (to my subscribers – sign up here) on what to do with your Word of the Year once you have it! It’s packed full of ways to play with, interact with, and just get to know more about your chosen Word through the next year.
Lots of Love to you and yours, and wishes for a truly Delight-filled New Year!!!
How to Fashion the Holiday of Your Dreams
Oh, Christmas Tree! (Image by Cheryl)
Lofty ambitions, yes?? But it is definitely possible to enjoy the holidays no matter what is going on in your life! (I can say this from personal experience of major loss, huge upheavals, and fears of dark winter days). Even if there are no big events that have caused us woe we can hold a lot of negative expectations of the holiday season – crowds, grumpy shopkeepers, unpleasant relatives, money stresses, etc. On the other hand we may have very hopeful expectations, especially about other people in our lives, that are not realized and make us feel unsatisfied and unhappy. But I want you to consider this – the only true maker of happiness in your life is you. That is a beautiful power for good! And not just for you – it blesses everyone you come into contact with! I’m not saying you don’t derive joy from your relationships and situations, but that you are the decider of what does make you happy. And with that in mind I came up with my Holiday Dreaming Practice. I can’t tell you how much I have needed it over the years!!
The Big Picture:
As with most things I suggest, it all begins with the Big Picture – or dreaming of what you desire! I began my professional life as an interior designer and I still find the design process has a lot of relevance to creating anything – especially a beautiful life! In design we begin with the DREAM – un-edited, un-purged, wide-open desire!! This is the road to clarity, and also motivation and intention. Below are some questions to consider and write in a handy place (you know, so you can find it again!).
- What do you really want to do this holiday season? This is a list of non-negotiables (I really want to make Christmas cookies with my kids); and the things you have always wanted to do, but perhaps don’t (I really want to go see the Nutcracker ballet!); plus those delightful things that get pushed aside (I really want to spend time each day with a cup of coffee enjoying the Christmas tree and day-dreaming).
- How do you really want to feel? I’m guessing stressed isn’t on this list! By writing down and being aware of what you really want to feel you’re able to make it a priority, and even with the holiday rush that may come you can find those feelings – regardless of what you may be doing. My list includes feeling pleasure in the season, feeling the spaciousness of plenty, feeling the delight of creating a beautiful experience, feeling the joy of love, and the enjoyment of making things.
- What do you honestly expect? This is a question that can go several ways, but it’s key to be honest with yourself. I used to write things like a gift I wanted, or snow, or to be very happy, but the truth is that was what I hoped for. What I really expected was frustrations, dark days, cold weather, and sadness due to loss. It’s true that these things exist each and every holiday session, BUT (you were sure there was a but, yes?) I also can expect so many other lovely and beautiful things. What I learned was if I wasn’t aware, then my depressing expectations wound take over. They say what you resist persists – but also what you allow to lie in wait can jump you. That is OK if you will also make time for the beauty of life. Sadness, and fear, and angst are parts of life, but love, and joy, and peace are what I call the Truth with a capital “T”. Also they are what this blessed season is all about!!
Take a Trip:
Our next step is taking a Trip of Imagination. You can do this several ways. You could write out a story of the best holiday season you can imagine. Include all of the smells, sights, feelings, and joys you encounter. Put yourself right into this story and feel the pleasures now! Or you could create a board of images and ideas. I used to fill my office door with photos, ideas, and beautiful images that spoke to me of the holiday I wanted to have. Making a collage like this on your refrigerator and getting the whole family involved would be a lot of fun too! Just looking at the images is a reminder of what you want to enjoy. This year I don’t have a handy door so I made a Dream Board – and I think I like that even better!! A Dream Board is like an Insight Board (see how to make one of those here!) but the focus is on the dreams that you have but perhaps have stuffed away, or the ones you dismiss due to lack of, well, lack of anything (time, money, space, etc). This is an invitation to let yourself dream without limits and to tease out the things that haven’t come up in other parts of this process. I make my board and then go over each image and word to see what it has to tell me about the holiday of my dreams (see my board below).
Holiday Dream Board by Cheryl
Now we have some information about what you really want to enjoy this season! It’s time to pull it all together and come up with ideas of how to make it happen. This can require thinking about what a feeling or desire means to you. For example, if peace is a feeling you want to have then what does peace mean to you? What things feel like peace to you or bring you peace? Is being alone for a time each day what you really need to feel peaceful? Or is it more that you really want to have peaceful interactions with your family? What helps you to feel the deep calm at your core that is Peace? Here are the steps I use to go from dreams to plans:
- First go through your lists of feelings, desires, and what you really want to do (all of the things we’ve been discovering up to now) and highlight the most delicious and important ones to you. We’ve been gathering a lot of hopes and dreams, now we get to choose the ones we truly want to focus on.
- Next we’ll look at each highlighted desire. As I go through them I brainstorm ways to bring that into my life now. For example, I want to spend more time creating this year, so I made a list of things I’d love to make. I began with those I can do right now – without any shopping or other deterrents. I have all I need to make candles, so that is first on my list! I can also make collage art – yay! I love that! I’d like to make some ornaments too, but since I don’t have a clear idea of what I want to make yet I’ll need to play with ideas, maybe do some research, and probably go shopping. So, I’ll set that one aside for later. Make a list of your lovely ideas! I use different colors of highlighter to prioritize my list (pink for definitely and soon; yellow for yes, please, but a bit later; green for maybe, we’ll see, etc.).
- For feelings the process may be a bit different. I tend to allow myself to feel the feeling first. This requires setting aside time and then letting yourself sense into the feeling. Pleasure is one of the things I want to enjoy this holiday season so I listed some things that have felt like joy in the past. I imagined myself doing the things on my list. Baking cookies (yummy smells, tastes, and the fun of making), enjoying the process of decorating (creativity and play), listening to holiday music (restful pleasure and sweet memories), and candlelight (light, warmth and beauty) are things that have often given me pleasure – and they’re easy to do. But the key is to remember that the intention of feeling pleasure (or whatever you want to feel) is more important than what you do to bring the feeling about. I know I can bake cookies and feel stressed, frustrated, and unhappy! So, it’s vital to step into this process with the intention to allow yourself the enjoyment of it. And if it still doesn’t feel like what you want then delete it and move on to your next idea.
Make it Real:
Once you have some ideas that light you up it’s time to schedule these into your calendar! This is a key step to make things happen, but also to make it lovely and pleasing. This is where your prioritized list comes in handy. Editing is very important in interior design, but even more so in life! This is why I adore post-it notes! I write my hopes, dreams, and plans on them, place them on my calendar and move around or delete until it looks like a life I can love! If it starts to feel like too much then recall the reasons you chose these things to do, use those desires and feelings to flow through your plans and bring joy. And if it is still too much then just focus on the feelings you want and post those on your calendar. I’ve had extremely stressful holidays and simply remembering that love, peace, and joy are real things that I can feel at any time has saved my bacon frequently! What about things you feel you MUST do that you don’t want to do at all? Well, that is another entire topic, but I have used the choice to try and see the very best – even in awful circumstances – to help me enjoy at least parts of the experience. The comfort of sunshine, a cup of tea, a friend’s voice, a smile, or (and this has often worked for me!) an irreverent sense of humor can all offer you light in the dark.
Now go forth and enjoy all of the blessings of life and this beautiful holiday season!! I know I’m going to! By the way, this is a process I use at the holidays, but it can also be used for any event, season, or project that you want to really be clear about and truly enjoy. My wish for you is tons of love, blessings unnumbered, and the clarity of peace this Holiday Season!!
PS If you want to ask a question or tell me about your holiday plans (I’d love to hear from you!) you can email me at email@example.com. To join my email list (and receive a free mini-course on creating altars) you can look here. If you would like to talk I offer free sessions for 20 -30 minutes and that can scheduled right here.
My Pleasure Jar
This is a little tool that’s very flexible. It’s a fun, easy way of gathering goodness!! I call it “The Jar” (I know, fancy!). The one I’m using now is a Pleasure Jar because I’m recording and thinking about pleasure in my life (for my Word of the Year – more about that here). It is super simple and quick, and you may have even done this before for a gratitude practice. Here’s how I like to do it:
- Choose a jar you like (or a box works too) and find a good place to set it where you’ll see it. In the past I’ve put mine on the kitchen counter, on an altar, on my bedside table, and on my desk.
- Cut up some little pieces of paper to write on and clip them together. Set them and a pen by the jar.
- Choose a name for your jar. This “name” is the thing you want to gather more of – it could be pleasure, or gratitude, or your Word of the Year (like mentioned before); or it could be love, dreams, humor, lightness, beauty, intuition, support – it can be anything really. The question is what do you want to notice more of in your life? What do you want to encourage? Then name your jar, you can even put the name on your jar if you want.
- Next you decide what you want to record – I like a bit of a formula, but you can do this however you like. My paper slips say: Today I appreciate __________, it gives me pleasure by__________. I like to begin with appreciation and then see how that offers me pleasure (or whatever I’m gathering). On the back I note the date & then slip it into the jar. Today I wrote: Today I appreciate my Instagram friends, they light up my life in so many ways and that gives me pleasure.
- Now, consider when and how you’ll record what you’re gathering. I like to write on a slip of paper everyday and put it in the jar. Then at the end of a week I take all of the slips out and look them over. The longer you do this the more you have to look at! I usually do this for at least a month. My Pleasure Jar will be collecting goodness until the end of the year.
- Finally, think about what you want to do with the slips of goodness you’re collecting. You may just want to look at and enjoy them each week. They’re reminders that life IS good and that things are well. That is a lovely awareness practice all on it’s own. But you can do more! I’ve created small books from them (A Collection of Pleasures). I have used them in my collage art. I’ve pulled one a day as a reminder, or like an oracle card message. This time around I’m reading them each Friday and then posting my pleasures of the week to Instagram.
I love this little practice! It’s a great way to become more aware of the beauty life offers you right now. The more you look for the things you want in life, the more you find you have them now. What a lot of satisfaction this brings! And it’s a powerful place to work from to create MORE of what you desire in your delicious life.
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Mini ICAD art and haiku by Cheryl
I’ve been thinking about Pleasure a lot lately. It’s my Word of the Year and I feel I haven’t really given it a fair chance yet. Last year I had a fabulous (and even scary effective) Word relationship – I was very dedicated and spent time each month with practices and playing (I even made a cool book) to really let that Word teach me and expand my life. I got married and bought a new house, among other things that certainly made the word Flourishing come alive for me.
So now I’m pondering Pleasure, my Word for this year, and how I can learn more about pleasure in the next two months. Hey, it’s a tough assignment, I know!! But seriously, it can be tough. Pleasure may be seen as so wrong depending on what we’ve learned from our society, culture, religion, etc. It’s believed to be selfish, foolish or silly, sinful, lazy, wasteful, etc. But it is also what gives life its zing – its love, delight, deliciousness, reward, and joy. I have a lot to learn about pleasure still! And also about dealing with those miserly voices inside that tell me it is just so bad.
I have learned (and relearned!) some very helpful things about pleasure, and myself, over the past year. Things like:
- Each moment and each task has the potential for pleasure.
- Misery is always an option, but so is pleasure. Some of my most poignant and pleasing moments have happened in the midst of miserable times.
- Pleasure is an inside job – like most things – it comes from inside me, and the more I access it the easier it becomes to feel and enjoy it.
- I have resistance to pleasure. There is that little voice that says “Now, it wouldn’t do to feel too good.” Really?
- I’m still learning what pleasure is to me, and what it isn’t. What is assumed to be a pleasure isn’t necessarily for everyone. A gooey, rich chocolate dessert – it seems it should be a definite pleasure, but not really. A perfect autumn leaf that lands right at my feet? Well, yes!! That is pleasure for sure. (But, you know, I would take a slice of pumpkin pie…)
- Sufficient sleep is a pleasure in its own right, and sets me up for greater pleasure the rest of the day. This is true of meditation and yoga too. Often I find true pleasures are things that keep on giving.
- I also learned I don’t allow myself some pleasures because I believe in a lack of time. Can you imagine that?!
With that in mind I’m setting aside time and assigning myself a few projects and practices to help me play more with Pleasure. One is a Pleasure Jar that sits on my altar – I feed it pleasures each day. Another pleasure I’m going to pursue is to complete the ICAD project I began back in June…this is about making art one index card a day. (The image at the top of this post is one of my ICAD’s – so much fun! This idea is from the amazing Daisy Yellow.) I’m also going to create a weekly pleasure list that I will post in my Instagram feed through December. As I do this I’ll be working on those pesky mean voices that say pleasure is always bad, or I don’t have time for it. I expect to have a whole lot of fun the rest of the year, and to learn more about pleasure in my life.
Do you have a Word of the Year you want to spend more time with before the end of the year? What is your Word? I’d love to hear about it! You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or here. Or find me on Instagram. For more ideas of ways to interact with your Word of the Year you can look here (and scroll down).
Hugs and Happy November!
By the way, my Altar Course is free and shares a creative, fun way to clarify, access & activate your dreams!