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!
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.
Christmas Past: My sweet kitty under the tree.
It’s at this time of the year I remember my mother’s wisdom most. Our family was really busy at Christmas time with 2 stores to run and all of the holiday’s excitement as well. And yet Mom always made Christmas special – she loved it and created an amazing experience for us from food, to decorations, to presents, to fun things to do. Until I was a mom I had no idea how hard that was to accomplish. Or what a joy it is to make something so delicious.
I’m having an extra busy Christmas season this year. We’re fixing up the house we’re moving to, keeping the one we’re selling in pristine condition, packing, moving….Whew! And please, let’s not even talk about Christmas preparation! It’s pretty stressful and I tend to start rushing, running, getting breathless, not sleeping, always planning and thinking ahead. I’m certainly not spending time in the moment where I am so I can enjoy my life and this gorgeous season. And that reminds me of a saying of my Mom’s: “The hurrier I go the behinder I get”. It always used to make me laugh, but it’s true! My rushing and stressing isn’t making things go faster or more smoothly at all. In fact it made me sick and farther behind than ever.
And, of course, I know better! I kept telling myself this was no way to do things, but I just didn’t listen to myself. Today as I’m feeling better and starting to rush around again I heard my Mom’s voice “The hurrier I go….” And I laughed and tuned in again to the world as it is right now. If you tend to get wrapped up in all there is to do in a busy season here are few tips I can share that work for me to come down to Earth, slow down, and, you know, get less “behinder” – or at least have more fun (and stay healthy) while I do my work:
- For goodness sake – Breathe!!! When you’re holding your breath or breathing shallowly you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Or making life easier or more delightful. Pull in a nice deep breath and let it out, be grateful that it’s so easy, and available, and calming to just breathe.
- While you’re breathing, wiggle your toes. Notice you have a lovely body, toes that move and support you. Lungs to breathe into. Legs to stand on, arms to hug someone with, a head to lay on your pillow when you rest. You can dance, and sing, and make things with such an amazing body.
- Open your eyes (really open them) and look around. Where are you? What do you see? Do you see beauty, or something comforting? Do you see loved ones, nature, your home or office? Be where you are and look for the most delicious thing in that place. Let the experience of that object, person, situation, or sound fill you with joy! Rest there, in that joy; soak it up.
- Next, think (calmly…) about what has you rushing about. First, I want you to assume there is an easier and more pleasant way to do whatever it is. Know that you will discover this easy, pleasant way when you allow yourself to let go of your preconceived notions of how things must go and what you need to do to make it happen. Let me say here you can (and will) certainly proceed the way you want to proceed, and if that means you will go on rushing, that’s fine. Hey, I’m with you. There are times that is the only way for me too. But I want you to be honestly aware that there are other choices, for sure. Other ways to make it happen that are different and probably a lot more fun. Ways that allow you to drop perfection, allow you to enjoy the process, allow you to ask for help, ways that honor your needs. These ways will certainly make the process better not just for you, but for everyone around you (just ask my poor sweet husband what a drag I’ve been the last few weeks!).
- Brainstorm, make a list, allow yourself to dream of the perfect solution, write it down as if it has already occurred. And then step away for a bit. Sleep on it, rest. And come back to your dream process. Do you see new ways to do this? Is there anything that can be dropped, farmed out? Can you at least see how you can do what you want, achieve the outcome you desire, and still have fun, as well as a healthy body and mind? What would be the best outcome and a delightful way to get there? How can you make that happen?
I know I’ll be following this list of steps for the foreseeable future! I have my brainstorming done and now I’m going to take long rest and see how things look in the morning. I already feel more hopeful that I can make everything happen – and in a lovely way. I hope this is of help to you too. And I want to wish you delight-filled holidays and all of the pleasures of the winter season!
Lots of Love, Cheryl
Autumn in IWest Branch, Iowa
I don’t know about the place you call home, but in Iowa Autumn is glorious! And thank goodness, because after it comes Winter and we need that glory to get us through a long white/grey, cold streak of days. I love the crisp air, deep blue skies, amazing colors, the smell and sound of the crisp leaves, raking (yes!), bonfires, hay rides, local football games on Friday nights. Even the windy, rainy days are wonderful for cozying up with a book. Soups! Hikes! Alas, it seems so short. Every year I hope for a nice LOOOONG Fall season. This year I decided I was the one making it short and that is was up to me to extend that glory for myself.
What, you say? Yes, I CAN extend the season and I will tell you how to do it too. Of course, this is the first year, so it’s an experiment. But I have reason to believe, based on brain research (not to mention Eastern philosophy), that this will work. And if it isn’t perfect we’ll just tweak it for next year. The theory is that time is relative…you’ve heard that one? It all depends on our perception. A 5 minute wait in line always seems longer than 5 minutes of hot kissing, yes? So, let’s use this to our benefit!
I realized that the minute Autumn began to make its appearance I already was mourning its end – and dreading the long Winter to come. Of course it seemed short; it was over before it even began. This year I’m living in the moment and the season! Here is how:
- Sloooooowwwwww down. Good advice anytime but especially if you want time to also go slower. Breathe! Ahhhh, take in that delicious air. Feeling better already.
- Pay attention. Savor the things you love about this time of year. Look at the trees and sky. Smell the spicy scent of fallen leaves. Notice the pumpkins and Halloween decorations. Spend time in front of the fire on a stormy day. Cheer on the local team at the football game. Immerse yourself in Fall-nees. Yum!
- Make a list.What do you delight in about this season? Make a list and enjoy the heck out of each thing on it. I love my fall clothes. Most of my favorite clothes best fit this in-between season – and in my favorite colors too. Brown tights, denim skirt, cowboy boots; leggings and tunics; Dresses with patterned tights; so many cute jackets it’s embarrassing! When it is 20 below I won’t be venturing out in any of these ensembles. I’ll have to rock it right now!
- Schedule it. Each year I want to capture the glorious colors and beautiful harvest landscape. And each year I don’t take the time. Crazy! This has gone on for years. What was so important that I rushed through my favorite season? Dishes? Bills? Laundry? Tomorrow I’ve scheduled in a nice long photo shoot walk. And next week I’m hitting the backroads to see what I can discover there. Make a list of what you want to do this season and schedule it in. Walks spent kicking up the leaves in the woods, check. Your favorite soup on the stove, yep! A bonfire, haunted house, pumpkin patch – take the family and invite friends. Rake and put the garden to bed, sure (this one sounds a lot like work but I love it, could be the hot cocoa I bribe myself with).
How will you enjoy the season? I’d love to hear! I’m off to stir my potato cheese soup and pull a good book off the shelf to read in the lamplight while the wind whistles outside. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and warmer, I already have my tights and skirt and sweater picked out for my ramble in the leaves.
Wishing you Autumn Bliss!
A sign in my favorite garden shop in Amana, Iowa
I’m still swooning to the smell of newly mown grass.
Still enjoying my summer “uniform” of black tank and wedge sandals with shorts or a skirt.
Still loving Harley rides for ice cream treats.
Still wanting to lounge on my porch of a morning sipping iced tea and communing with my garden and its many visitors (squirrels, rabbits, birds, etc.). Delightful!
The cicadas are singing – loudly.
The corn is turning golden brown, and goldenrod blooms on roadsides.
Days are shorter.
School has begun.
The garden markets are bursting with mums.
These are certain signs that a change of season is coming soon. Delicious Autumn! I love it! But the change of season from Summer to Autumn is always a little bittersweet. “Summer is ending and Winter is coming!” yells the Lacky Lucy in my brain. And, truly, I love Winter too – brilliant, crisp, blue and white days! It’s just that around here it tends to overstay its welcome by about 2 months.
What is a goddess to do? Well, I plan to revel in the late summer joys! A time of year that is a melting pot of two lovely seasons – it can only be good. I’ll take each lovely day as it comes and enjoy the gifts of each one. I’ve actually written that down on a piece of paper and posted it where I can see it – because, you know, I tend to forget. I’ll make sure to spend time in my garden, take walks, pick flowers, have a BBQ party, wear my sandals as long as possible, and spend time on my porch.
And regardless of the day or season I’m going to remember to love the one I’m with!
Wishing you a delightful seasonal transformation!
The happy pigs in the woods who ran to visit us each time we left the cottage.
This week my sweetheart and I took a little trip. It was absolutely required because we were both a bit…frazzled, grumpy, sleepy, and in need of a new scene. If you’ve read any of my road trip posts you’ll know I believe road trips are essential to good soul health. Plus they’re fun and illuminating. I generally learn something good – even if it’s only the best place to get barbecued ribs.
This trip was our fourth Airbnb destination. Have you used Airbnb? It’s fabulous! When I realized we were going to become very miserable and virtually ineffective if we didn’t have a break (and soon) we made a list of our needs. It’s always good to have at least a basic idea of what you need/want from a road trip – makes it easier to get it! We wanted something quiet, private, near a wood, and not too far away. I began looking at the usual places I think of for wooded, private stays – state parks. There are beautiful parks in Iowa and some have charming cabins, but they wanted at least a 7 day stay and that wasn’t possible just now. Then I remembered Airbnb and almost immediately found a sweet little cottage on a hobby farm near miles of groomed trails. It was also near a few towns I’d missed checking out in my many Iowa road trips, just in case I wanted someone to cook for me! And perhaps a bit of browsing therapy.
One of the best things about using Airbnb is the people you get to connect with. Right after booking online I got a message from Penny that we were welcome at Honeybee Cottage at Star’s Hollow…delicious, yes? We arrived a bit, um, well I was a bit lit, because we had stopped in Waverly, IA at The Fainting Goat for an amazing craft beer (Dragons’ Milk – amazing and lethal!) and their delicious chorizo-laden queso fundido dip with naan bread. Penny and her family met us upon arrival and then she took us for a golf cart tour of her beautiful little farm.
Our cottage was very sweet and perfect for lounging and napping – which was just what I wanted to do! It was also a great place to unplug because there was absolutely no internet connection (no, not even 1X on my phone). It was lovely not checking the weather or looking up the myriad things you think you need to look up, but really, you don’t. My sweetheart, Rich, hiked and came back with a small souvenir of poison ivy. I napped, and read, and drew, and lazed about in a completely fabulous way.
We did go to Cedar Falls one day for an early lunch and there Rich discovered some of the best ribs he’s ever had at The Noble Oak. Naturally, I found a couple of vintage shops to peruse. At the delightfully (and so aptly) named Little Prairie Girl I found a fantastic 1940’s Dorothy Morgan tablecloth to add to my collection. I’ve been collecting vintage table cloths and aprons since the 80’s, before anyone cared about “vintage” much. I have old suitcases filled with them and I use them every day – so much fun!
Every road trip I take brings some insight about life, or work. This one was full of learning (again) that surrender is a truly blissful state. The weather stinks? Oh well, I can enjoy my mini vacation regardless. No phone signal? Well, yay!! Simple food is the best – no need to cook at all. I don’t need to “accomplish” anything, I can just be lazy. (Don’t tell me you don’t go on vacation thinking you’ll finally learn how to use all of the features on your camera, or read that book about how to earn money on eBay. OK it could just be me…) I really relaxed, and now I’m on fire, back in my little office and doing what I love with verve and delight. That is what road trips are for…refreshment.
And so I wish for you a delightful trip out of the everyday – even if it’s just to a new place around the corner, a favorite park, or the nearest country road. Get out and love life!
PS I can highly recommend any place I’ve mentioned here, and if you visit Penny be sure to tell her Cheryl says “HI!”
Road trip to Star’s Hollow