How Might Both/And Encourage a Rich Life?

“No wholeness will be possible for you while you compartmentalize your life into designated pieces giving yourself time for work and time for leisure and seeing them not as the same thing. Life is life. Life is. As love is.

Life is service to God. God is service to life. You are God in life. Thus you are both life and service to life, both God and service to God. All of the vast universe was created the same: to live and to serve life, to be of God and be of service to God. To be served and to serve. To be provided for and to provide. To have needs met and to meet needs. This circular nature of the universe leaves no one unattended.”

~ Mari Perron, First Receiver
    A Course of Love

One of my favorite coaching distinctions is Both/And instead of Either/Or. And, lately, it seems like much of my life is calling me to embrace All. Last week I wrote about embracing both “good” and “bad” and everything in between.

This week, A Course of Love is speaking to me loudly and clearly. I am both God and service to God. I am both living and serving life. I am both provided for and providing.

To the Infinite Wholeness of Life!
To the Infinite Wholeness of Life!

I’ve come a long way since the black and white thinking of my teens and early adult years. I’m grateful.

Last week, as I noticed how embracing good, bad and in-between caused me to relax, so too does embracing myself as God and in service to God.

I have less to sift through, less to figure out, less to try to control. I feel less pressured and more accepting. It feels amazing.

What about you? What are you hearing in this? What is showing up in your life right now?

(Excerpted from my forthcoming book, “Strong from Within: Simple perceptions and practices for returning to the joy of you”)

What Is the Beauty of the Whole Human Experience?

Thirty years ago, when I discovered the Power of Positive Thinking and a bit later that My Thoughts Create My Reality, I was thrilled. I felt like I had been given the keys to the kingdom. A simple success formula: think happy thoughts, have a happy life.

Yet, something seemed off and my life often wasn’t happy.

Over the years, I tried many versions of the formula. I wrote positive affirmations, read uplifting books, hired a coach to help me raise my vibration and attended Create Your Best Life webinars and seminars.

While they all seemed like good ideas, I could tell that something still didn’t fit for me. Without knowing what was missing, I moved on.

More accurately, I thought I had moved on. Four years ago, I wrote my first book, Thriving Work. With a subtitle of “A journey to your best self…” I see now that a journey to my best self abandons my “worst” self somewhere along the path.

The book includes 33 affirmative prayers. 27 of them are written from the power-of-positive-thinking perspective, 4 point toward being ourselves fully (all the “good” and “bad”) and 2 directly address including all of ourselves (“All of Me, None of Me” and “From the Fullness of You”).

When I wrote the book, I didn’t sort the prayers that way. I simply wrote what I knew at the time. All of the prayers have been wonderful companions on my life journey. And, they have uplifted and positively impacted many readers.

Only recently, did I come to realize the missing link.

We don’t always control our thinking. And, when we do temporarily manage to control our thinking, we cut off part of our human experience.

I love how Michael Neill describes this. “If we think we are meant to be in charge of what we think, we feel like victims of our own inadequacy, and that if we only tried harder/were more vigilant/had better techniques we would have everything we want and could always be happy and never angry, fearful, or sad.”

What Is the Beauty of the Whole Human Experience

Now that I am beginning to realize thoughts are like clouds, I allow them to be how and what they are, without taking them too seriously. I allow all of them, without trying to make them positive. And I consciously (as best I can in any moment) choose which ones to act on and which ones to allow to pass.

Without needing to control my thoughts, I’m relaxing more. I’m enjoying being human, without so much vigilance. When I notice my thoughts are less than positive, I remember I don’t need to be so concerned with the content of my thoughts.

I’m making less distinction about “good” and “bad.” I’ve spent so much of my life avoiding what I consider “bad,” and it’s been exhausting.

I’m becoming more and more aware that this moment is my life. When I am present in the moment (however “good,” “bad” or in-between), it is somehow wonderful regardless. Now that is the beauty of the whole human experience!

(Excerpted from my forthcoming book, “Strong from Within: Simple perceptions and practices for returning to the joy of you“)

3 Keys for Learning to Love Life

I had one of those life learning experiences this past Sunday, flying back home to the Land of Enchantment from LA. When I checked to see if my flight was on time, the Southwest website could not give me that info, due to a “system-wide technology delay.” The site admonished me to be to the airport at least 2 hours ahead of my flight time.

At the airport, one look at the length of the security line made me think it would take longer than 2 hours to get through that line alone. My first thoughts were, “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this.” Walking and walking and walking toward the back of the line along the street, my next thoughts were, “It is what it is. I have no idea what will happen. It seems like the next logical thing to do is to get in this line.”

Typically, this type of experience would feel extraordinarily stressful to me. The heat on the street, the chaos of so many people having no idea what’s going on, not knowing if I would have enough time to make my flight, my phone having only about 13% charge, my boarding pass on my phone . . .

I made it through security in about 50 minutes. I was able to show my boarding pass to the initial security person inside the building and the official security person at the security checkpoint with 6% charge to spare. I found a floor outlet everyone else had overlooked to charge my phone to 30% to show the gate attendant. I had time to go to the bathroom and get a bottle of water. And, my flight took off only 10 minutes late.

What a strange and wonderful experience to be loving life in the midst  of circumstances that used to cause me stress.

What a strange and wonderful experience to be loving life in the midst
of circumstances that used to cause me stress.

What would have been 2 hours of extreme stress in the past turned out to be a well-choreographed dance. What had shifted for me?

1. Which thoughts do I choose to act upon? Which thoughts do I allow to pass, giving space for something new?
I allowed my initial thought of fleeing to pass without acting on it. That gave some space in my mind to notice that it was probably most logical to get in the security line, even though I didn’t want to.

2. Don’t try to do better. Don’t make it worse.
I wanted to listen to music to make the situation more bearable. Not an option with so little charge on my phone. Then, I wanted to beat myself up for not arriving at the airport with a fully-charged phone. I did neither and simply allowed myself to be human with lots of other humans, hanging out in the present moment.

3. There is only now. This present moment is my life.
Once I remember that this moment, this string of moments, is my life, I relaxed. I didn’t concern myself with the length of the line. I would either make it to my plane before it took off, or I wouldn’t. Either way, I would be with that in that moment.

I asked the guy in front of me what he was learning about the situation on his phone. I talked with the guy behind me about Denver, his destination, and Santa Fe, mine. I love talking about Colorado and New Mexico. I was patient with myself when I pulled up the wrong boarding pass at the security checkpoint. I was kind to the security guy, even though he wasn’t so patient with me.

I lived in the moment all the way home. I loved myself and I loved those around me, realizing we all were in the same boat. When I noticed someone experiencing stress, I took a moment to see them in a love bubble. I was living my good life in the midst of chaos.

What about you? What do you notice in these 3 Keys?

(Excerpted from my forthcoming book, “Strong from Within: Simple perceptions and practices for returning to the joy of you”)

How I Realized the Value of Empty

I know that my thoughts and feelings create my experience of life. And, I am still sometimes tempted to change external circumstances to shift my experience.

I’m especially prone to this in the area of spiritual study. I tend to think if I read the right spiritual book or listen to an uplifting audio, then I will “feel better.”

Recently when neither “worked,” I called my coach. She asked me if I’d done any silent meditation or shaking (a simple body practice to release from my body anything I don’t need).

I hadn’t done either, so I immediately did both. And, they did “work.” I finally felt better. More present, more light. Now this was super curious to me because I know that my experience of life comes from the inside, from my thoughts and feelings. Yet, I had just changed my experience of life by the external shift of meditating and shaking.

What was going on?

Now that I was more present and lighter, I had more capacity to be curious without judgment. And I had a light bulb moment. When I was reading and listening to the audio, I was filling my head with more thoughts, which also created more feelings. This compounded my “problem.”

When I did my silent meditation and shaking, I was emptying. Less thought. Less feeling.

It would be easy now to think that I must do silent meditation and shaking to feel good. What actually helped me feel better was having less thought as a result of meditating and shaking.

No wonder I love trees without leaves and wide open space - empty feels good to me!
No wonder I love trees without leaves and wide open
space – empty feels good to me!

Less thought and new thought are always available. This particular time, less thought happened via meditating and shaking. How wonderful is that? And, next time, new thought might happen from noticing a billboard. Or, my thoughts might settle down when I’m falling asleep.

While we can’t control when we’ll have fresh thought or less thought, we can be grateful when it comes and gentle with ourselves until then!

(Excerpted from my forthcoming book, “Strong from Within: Simple perceptions and practices for returning to the joy of you”)

The Natural Organizing and Aligning of Life

I’m on the second day of a 40-day meditation for greater awareness of faith. What struck me this morning: how amazingly precisely things Organize and Align in my life without me doing it.

For example: many people don’t know that I chose my last name, Strong, in 1991. I was getting married for the second time, we wanted to share a last name and I didn’t want to take his. We spent months pondering what to choose. We wanted a name with meaning without calling attention to it. I wanted to be Ann Fortunate because that’s how I felt. And, that would have called too much attention to it. 🙂

When we thought of and chose Strong, I thought it was to help him become stronger. Ah, silly me.

We were together four years, and our marriage was miserable. We divorced and both kept the name. Perhaps one of the karmic reasons we married?

Interestingly, I took the name Strong 10 years before Gallup came out with the StrengthsFinder assessment, something that has been so integral to my work since 2008. People often asked me back then why I didn’t name my business Strong Coaching. “Too hokey,” I said over and over again.

Then a couple of years ago, I asked you, the readers of this ezine and blog, what to re-name the ezine. The clear feedback was Strong Notes. It seemed close to hokey, but I thought it was a good change – temporarily. Until I could come up with something better.

Do you see the Organizing and Aligning pattern here? And I was not only not doing it, I was resisting along the way!

How could our lives be any less Organized and Aligned than the sunflowers and the sun and the clouds?!?
How could our lives be any less Organized and Aligned
than the sunflowers and the sun and the clouds?!?

Fast forward to six months ago, and it became crystal clear to me that my next book would be Strong from Within. I finally surrendered. I renamed the company too. Strong from Within may very well be my life’s work – personally, professionally and literarily.

What I became aware of in my meditation this morning: something greater than me is Organizing and Aligning my life. Then, I had a few blissful minutes of knowing what it feels like to have faith in that!

What about you? What do you notice has Organized and Aligned in your life?

(Excerpted from my forthcoming book, “Strong from Within: Simple perceptions and practices for returning to the joy of you”)