Present Imperfect: 5 Intentions for 2018

Instead of resolutions, I am focusing on intentions this year. I like this nuance, because it conveys a sense of positive expectation and possibility, as opposed “revision”― or eliminating unsavory behavior, condition or circumstance. In fact, we have little control over conditions or circumstances ― such as the stealth leak I discovered in the wall of my home on Dec. 28, 2017. What I do have control over is how I think about this event and how I choose to respond to its unfolding impact.

Intention.

I learned about the power of intention from the late, remarkable Wayne Dyer. The concept has served as a strong springboard for my journey to my authentic self. However, today’s guru is Pema Chodron, the revered Buddhist teacher, author, nun and mother. She is a purveyor of peace in these turbulent times ― a soothing salve for troubled spirits.

This week, I bought her calendar to hang over my desk ― a constant visualization to support my path to presence and focus. January’s quote is profound:

“The more you practice not escaping into the fantasy world of your thoughts and instead practicing the felt sense of groundlessness, the more accustomed you’ll become to experiencing emotions as simply sensations ― free of concept, free of story line, free of fixed ideas of bad and good.”

I love this way of looking at emotions ― actively embracing and experiencing them in a healthy way as part of my ongoing practice to master my own thoughts and eliminate limiting beliefs. My work is to notice what I am feeling. For most of my life, I have avoided my emotions and masked them with doing ― rather than feeling. This year is different. I intend to:

  1. Become a student of my own emotions. Honor and value them ― learn from and use them as essential data to become more energetically aligned. As Esther Hicks suggests, I seek to dissolve the “wobble” between my intentions and what I unconsciously believe about myself.
  2. Consistently connect to my inner divine power to discover the Love and Light in every moment ― accessing the ability to lift, support and propel my greatest possibility. Daily meditation is a key component of this one.
  3. Use my gifts as a writer, coach, actor and producer to express authentically and create work that shifts hearts, feeds minds and awakens souls.
  4. Mindfully use more words in my daily communication that accurately describe my feelings. And, find enormous value in this exercise as a writer. Emotional neglect therapist Dr Jonice Webb recommends, “Using words like dismayed, despondent, incensed, blissful, elated, morose, bland, raw, depleted, wary, strained, deflated, perky, free, quiet, devoted or feisty adds dimension and realness to your life.” What simple and astonishing truth.
  5. Notice at least one moment of joy in every day. This is another dimension of cultivating gratitude, I think. Seeing and feeling joy trains my unconscious mind to create more if it. The more you notice, the more you have.

I definitely find joy in viewing my son Ian’s incredible talent in this drawing. And what a wonderful metaphor ― the gentle warrior. Here’s to an abundant, joyful, peaceful and expansive 2018.

Self-Actualization 101: Unravelling “The Four Agreements”

Humans hardly know what they want, how they want it, or when they want it.” 
― don Miguel Ruiz

I admit it. I am a personal development nerd. Perhaps, it’s because I am still searching for the best version of myself and my life ― as well as a way to heal from the experiences that have (gratefully) led me to this moment in time. But, with each new nuance of enlightenment comes another level of responsibility.

Lately, I have been thinking about the “The Four Agreements.” If you have not read don Miguel Ruiz’s multi-layered, yet elegantly simple work of modern philosophy, I urge you to grab your copy immediately. It’s more than “a great deal” on Amazon Prime Day. It will utterly transform the way you see your life ― and live it. This platform gives you a fresher, healthier way to engage in relationships, activities and even difficult encounters. It’s another installment in my continuing #InsideJob series.

The real challenge is practicing them in a disciplined away ― basting your brain in profound yet practical consciousness until it becomes second nature.  Perhaps, that’s why all Four Agreements are so appealing. In a way, they are a practical guide to peace. I am just going to take each one, summarize it and then, briefly provide an action item. Pretty sensible, right? Try them out, and let me know what happens. (We’ll start with the first two in this post.)

Agreement 1: Be impeccable with your word. 

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using your word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

I think this means consciously aligning your words with your truth and heart. Your words are your power to create ― and they are an extension of your divine energy.  Choose them carefully, because they can manifest your reality before you know it. They can also deplete, diminish, discount and sabotage. So, be mindful in every moment ― “one mindfully in the moment,” as we say in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Yet, this is easier said than done ― especially when you consider Dr. Joe Dispenza’s observation in “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself”:

Even when we engage our conscious minds, they comprise only about 5% of who we are. The     other 95% is a composition of our subconscious minds ― our habits and behaviors that have been deeply programmed on our mental hard drives throughout our lives.

In other words, it takes work. We may all need to spend some quality time in #BrainBootcamp, but the glorious payoff is the confidence to take full responsibility for your actions. Release any element of judgment or blame by speaking from this authentic place of kindness, love and truth. Wow, wouldn’t that make a difference in our divided world?

ACTION ITEM: Pay attention to the actual words you use today ― and those other people say to you. They are potent messengers. For instance, what is your default when you respond to a compliment? What words do you say? Do you express a desire by planting yourself firmly and saying, “I need . . .”  How does that feel?  How comfortable do you feel asking a question in a meeting or open forum? Become aware of your own inner dialogue (or that pesky inner  critic) ― how you speak to yourself. I know I find myself saying things like, “Goofball, why did you do that?”  That’s not helpful. Rewiring, Will Robinson! Write them down, and then consider how you can turn them around to produce a more positive result.

Agreement 2: Don’t take anything personally. 

This one is the game changer for me, but then, as an over-functioner from way back, I tend to be far too focused on what other people are doing, saying or thinking.  It’s all about understanding how to set healthy boundaries.  But, here’s the deal ― nothing other people do is because of you. Period. What someone says and does is simply a projection of his or her own reality. Ruiz says, “All people live in their own dream, in their own mind.” It’s not your version of the world. What’s worse, taking things personally makes you ripe for abuse and pain. When you are impervious to the opinions and actions of others, you take back your power, escape needless suffering and find peace on your own terms. Love that.

ACTION ITEM: Make a list of people who seem to “push your buttons.” Notice where you end and where the other person begins in any given conversation. You do not need to take another person’s bad behavior personally. You may notice an emotional impact, but you are free to choose whether to continue engaging or not. Knowing it is not about you is incredibly freeing.

The trauma other folks express goes far deeper than the current interaction with you. However, even though the behavior is not about you, your reaction to it may have something to teach you about you. What is it triggering? What wounds are you activating in you subconsciously? Ruiz says, “You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you.”  What a productive way to contextualize difficult folks in your life.

The first two are magic. Love them so much.  Next post will look at the other two. Can’t wait! Stay tuned. 

The Art and the Science of Infinite Possibilities

“I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping . . .”

— George Harrison

guitarI was taking my morning walk in the crisp Texas air on Sunday and listening to the “random shuffle” on my smart phone. As indicated with crystal clarity here, there are no accidents ― a pattern to the randomness usually emerges. And George’s message in “My Guitar Gently Weeps” impacted me on a profound, new level. Admittedly, we all have our favorite Beatles’ songs, and this is definitely in my top five.

“I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping 
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it need sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps.”

In sync with this moment, I was attending a dazzling event over the weekend called #DreambuildersLIVE, and I thank Unity Church Dallas for offering special access to the experience.  This was the Mary Morrissey show, and she is certainly a magnetic maestro of meaning ― orchestrating mesmerizing messages in “a container” of multimedia magic.

One of her fundamental life-coaching principles is “notice what you are noticing.” This reinforces and supports my current journey ― as I find it requires vigilant practice. I think of it as “uber awareness” or “turbo mindfulness.”  And it’s essential, because our dreams all start in our own hearts and minds ― an inside job. Deftly unfolding this concept, Mary polished many glistening enlightenment nuggets in her approachable, warm style. “You can’t get TO your dream ― you must come FROM it,” says Mary. Letting that idea seep into every molecule is potemt as I envision and feel my future joy in the now ― the present moment. Be the change. Live the dream. (Need more practice.)

In this iconic song, George is definitely noticing what he is noticing. And though that darn floor is filthy and his guitar is gloomy, he chooses to see the “love there that’s sleeping.” I have read he wrote the song at his mother’s house in Warrington, England as he contemplated “I Ching, The Book of Changes.” It’s regarded one of the most important texts of Chinese wisdom and philosophy ever scribed, and it was a foundational source for Confucius and others.

I believe one of the notions George is referencing is the ethereal mystery of relationships and the interconnectedness of all things and beings in the universe.  Our oneness with all ― and one for all time. Just beginning to embrace these ideas based on ancient philosophies, twenty-first century science is now studying the hidden, untapped power of the brain and its relationship to the quantum field. In fact, “Make it MATTER” is another great Mary-ism ― linking meaning with quantum change and infinite possibilities.

Yes, Mary is vibrating at a higher frequency ― and creating a surge in the process. You could feel it in the room of more than 750 people from across the globe gathered here in Texas for a nexus of relationship and intention to generate something wonderful and good.  So refreshing as we notice . . . our “political floor may need some sweeping.” But . . .

“With every mistake we must surely be learning.”

Communicating Consciously. Living Contently.

IMG_20151012_102228As we wrap up another year and set our sights on the possibilities and opportunities of 2016, I’m taking stock. Once again, I find myself looking back on this online chronicle.  I love reviewing all those posts sorting out the early days of optimizing social media for nonprofits and small businesses, as well as the personal reflections and epiphanies that seemed to sustain me through the enormous challenges of past the six or seven years.

 

Today, this quote from Caroline Myss is resonating for me:

“Just let go.  Let go of how you thought your life should be, and embrace the life that is trying to work its way into your consciousness.”

This awareness is informing all of my choices, my writing, my work, my relationships ― and a new, intentional acceptance of me.  What is my core content? Who am I, really? And what am I all about in the world? These may seem like lofty questions for a mid-century mom, but the wheels are turning! And this I know ― the answers to such questions must come from my own heart, truth and spirit― and not some external source or futile effort to remedy the tornadic trauma of an emotionally toxic relationship. They need to be authentic, peaceful, and healing for me and my boys―even as they pursue their own lives.

As Sherry Turkle says in her book, Alone Together, “We are all too busy communicating to really connect.” And this week’s startling statistics on teen media usage make this observation even more salient. “On any given day, teens in the United States spend about nine hours using media for their enjoyment,” says the report from Common Sense Media.  Seems to me that media is becoming more than a mode of communication. It is now a way of being.

That means we must actively, deliberately train our brains to be mindful in each and every moment ― in every relationship interaction.

For me, these are the questions: Am I conscious? Am I present? What am I feeling right now? Am I making a decision that is healthy and self-nurturing?

Life coach Martha Beck says, “Little miracles begin happening to you whenever you turn toward your right life – even if it’s in the middle of the muck and mire. Small miracles turn into big ones.”

We just need to pay attention.

So, are you communicating consciously?

 

 

 

Believe Them.

angelou2When people show you who they are, believe them.”
~Maya Angelou

This is one of my favorite quotes from the remarkable Maya Angelou.  She expressed so many ideas and notions of the heart with such raw eloquence and clarity. As one who has struggled with clouded filters in my life, this resonates deeply.

Live in authenticity—not to satisfy the expectations of others, nor the perceived expectations of anyone else.  It also means resisting the impulse to change, cajole, alter—or otherwise attempt to “fix” another.  Peacefully release and allow . . .  others to walk their own divine paths.  Easier said than done, right? Instead, you may simply choose a different reality.  Fighting or feeling dismayed gives the recipient of that energy power.  Taking a different path alleviates so much stress and pain.

It is such an essential lesson for productivity, sanity and happiness. And at the core of this awareness is mindfulness.  Marsha Linehan, a noted American psychologist and author, created Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) around this philosophy. It’s a powerful form of psychotherapy that actually combines behavioral science and brain theory with Buddhism  tenets—acceptance, meditation and mindfulness.

In the spirit of our dear Dr. Angelou, who touched so many, we can all seek this state of inner peace and mindfulness—to communicate in truth—internally and externally. To believe in the veracity of what is.  But we cannot if we are not clear— about who we are and how we feel.   This, indeed, is the journey.  In lieu of a mindfulness retreat or a series of therapy sessions with Dr. Linehan, here are a few ways to get a dose of this mindfulness practice:

  • Focus on one thing at a time

Try giving up multitasking occasionally. It exacerbates stress and states of confusion. Handle one thing and one thing only—mindfully in the moment.  Step away from the phone.

  • Do what works

You do not always have to be right— make a statement, issue and edict, or win the war. Don’t cut off your nose despite your face. Think twice before you send that blazing email copying the president.

  • Set achievable goals

Set aside the BHAGS for a while (the big, hairy, audacious goals – as a former boss used to call them).  Focus on the attainable ones. Give yourself some wins!

  • Nurture friends, connections, and support

Build a network. Connections are so important. They give you strength and a soft place to land when you run out of steam and your resources dwindle.  YOU don’t have to be everything to everyone.

  • Exercise

Keep moving. Reduce your physical vulnerability. You know about this one already.

  • Be grateful

Find something to be grateful for every day. It multiplies (even at work).

There are more, but this is a great place to start. Until we understand exactly who we are and how we process stimuli, many of our reactions will be wildcards. This takes work, because so much of our communication is conducted on autopilot—hardwired and subconscious. There are no easy answers, but if we are mindful of our issues, we can begin asking better questions . . . What do you think?

Letting Go.

Roses_3_1.0

“Faith consists in believing what reason cannot.”  

– Voltaire

On Saturday, we honored the memory of Everett E. Gantz Jr. with a quiet, traditional Episcopal memorial service.  After nearly 89 years on this earth, my father was still an enigma to many— and to me in many ways. Few truly knew the man behind the stoic, Midwestern-chiseled facade— and the charismatic artist/wife of more than 50 years.  Thankfully, my dear sister Melissa gave a lovely, instructive “reflection” that filled gaps and hearts.

The loss is palpable—and beginning with my mother’s devastating stroke in January 2010, the grieving process has been a lingering one.

Plus, as a single, working mother of two growing boys, remembering to “put the oxygen mask on first” is a constant effort—and a daily focus of my mindfulness practice. However, I am certainly no role model for the “sandwich generation,” and I guarantee you that I still get tangled up in the roughage, as it were.  Still, I have come to understand that the frustrating stubbornness and vitriol I have encountered on “both sides of the bun” often mask the poignant vulnerabilities that quite frequently melt my heart.

Mastin Kipp, one of my favorite daily inspirational mentors, says, “When you let go and admit it, accept that you have moments of being a mess, and you share that feeling at times with the rest of us, then you can step into a larger, freer life.”

So, with another Mother’s Day behind us and a new normal dawning, I have revisited something I wrote several years ago for my mom:

Letting go.

No need to give to feel anymore.

Her bare spirit shines — less the veneer.
Without speech, without talk
Now real.

Transcending words.
The essence of her soul.
Awareness without comprehension,
Cognition, no.

She looks at me finally – and actually sees.

Letting go of need.
Content to be.
Helpless though.
Fights her wheeled prison.
Her body knows now
To bridge the chasm.

There between this Scylla and Charybdis.

And yet he still clings.
Together alone.
Denies to suppress — but never go home.

Letting go of control.
But the seizures defy
The years and the secrets
He insists to know why.

Anger. Passion. Pain.

A stone cold wall.
What a loss — so far.
Tear us apart and we fall.

Oh, to let love  . .  .

So, letting go.

–Elaine

Finding Myself in the Pickle: The Intersection of Art, Spirituality and Nature

ElaineGantzWright Jewelry

You’ve heard the familiar adage, “the devil is in the details.” Well, last week, I experienced quite the opposite—the yin to that yang—as so often occurs with such idioms. Truth is, I discovered the Divine in the details. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Art @ Mo—a rejuvenating week combining spirituality and fellowship with a healthy helping of creative nourishment—all served up in the midst of the most idyllic scenery Texas has to offer. It was a confluence beyond compare. How fortunate I was to spend five days of serenity and regeneration in the cradle of the majestic Texas Hill Country outside of San Antonio.

I have been to Mo Ranch more times than I can count— with and without my boys, but this year was a completely different experience. I allowed myself to focus completely and unapologetically on the art of jewelry-making, and I’m not just talking about stringing some purple beads and tying a knot (which I have been known to do and to enjoy). This was the real deal, the artisan craft, and I never knew how liberating and captivating such a pursuit could be.

It involved intense study of the painstaking steps and discipline required to make metal jewelry from concept to creation—using fine materials, such as copper, agate, abalone, amethyst, and the like. In addition to producing some wonderful pieces under the tutelage of master jeweler Jean Cofer, I learned some lessons that have given me insight and even a sense of peace and enlightenment in my life as a whole. This brings me to—the pickle.

Pickle is the solution used during jewelry construction to clean away the oxides, imperfections, and discolorations that occur during the prep and soldering process. (I will describe this in greater detail in a moment.) It’s kind of a noxious brew of hydrochloric acid and water heated in crock pot or “cauldron.” It’ll take your skin right off, but damn, it makes gorgeous jewelry!!

As neophytes, needless to say, we mostly treated the pickle with great respect. Even using the wrong implement, such as aluminum tweezers, could cause a chemical reaction and contaminate it instantly. We were careful to use wooden dowels or copper tweezers. One brazen classmate threw an old door knob or something in the pickle one day, and the cloud of foul, sulfur-smelling gas that enveloped the room required our immediate evacuation. Jewelry-making is not for the timid! Of course, sometimes you may decide you want the earthy patina that only contaminated pickle can deliver. Then, it’s more about the art than the science.

ElaineGantzWright Jewelry Design

Soldering: The Beauty of the Dark Side

I’ve always wanted to learn to solder — the process of joining metal using an alloy designed to melt at a temperature lower than the metal base. Both pieces must be heated simultaneously until the solder melts. Upon cooling, the solder solidifies to form a firm, lasting joint. The levels of solder are termed extra easy, easy, medium. and hard—depending on their melting points. Typically, they are used in reverse progression on a given piece. It gets pretty complicated.

Then, you actually use a gas blowtorch that you ignite with a bang and flourish on top of a brick. (That’s pretty fun.) You can use a small piece of screen perched atop a six-inch-tall, three-legged stand to perform what’s called a “sweat” solder. And boy, it’s hot. I find soldering truly a mystical, hypnotic process as you wave the glowing torch in back and fort and in a rotating motion over your work — waiting for the glisten of the shiny silver alloy to “pop” and ooze. Thinking of that Scottish play, “Bubble, bubble toil and trouble . . . ” kind of an everyday alchemy.

You heat your carefully wrought jewel one step at a time—avoiding over-heating and/or complete incineration but cajoling and coaxing in carefully and gingerly to “flow.” Jean, our wonderful teacher, demonstrated how to almost caress the piece of jewelry with the flame and “fluff it” just enough to achieve the desired response at the appropriate moment. The irony is that the pendant, ring or bracelet turns the blackest black, literally soot-encrusted and then seems to almost undulate with rainbow waves of color rolling and rippling across the once-shiny surface. Magic.

In addition to the mesmerizing beauty of it all, the process struck me as such a basic metaphor for life’s challenges—the reality of going through the most intense heat, pain and darkness to transform into a beautiful, bright work of art. Even the terms to describe the different types of solder fit the analogy – sometimes it’s “easy,” even “extra easy” to stay “in flow,” and sometimes it’s pretty “hard,” and we get stuck. So, we start all over again.

The key learning for me was that every step is essential. No skipping this or that to speed up the process for us impatient, big-picture types. Trust the process. Hmmm . . . Seems I’ve heard that one before. This was the spiritual gateway for me –where I was able to leave behind all the “recent character-building” experiences of my Dallas life and find a renewed sense of feeling centered and at peace. The Zen of soldering, indeed. Each step is a piece of the puzzle.

Like “flux” – the substance you must always use in soldering to facilitate the flow and the bond. Now, that is poetry right there. It’s all about the steps and sequencing. Very instructive stuff on my latest enlightenment journey.

Plus, I walked away with treasures I am proud to own and wear—along with memories of laughter and song. Win-win-win.

Next up: Annealing and Praying . . . don’t you love it?

It’s an inside job

lemons“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

Often, the universe dishes up not just one or two pesky, little hurdles – but a veritable tsunami of desolation. The real challenge is  processing it all productively and assessing our authentic truth — not anyone else’s version, mind you, but our very own.  In the aftermath, we do some serious onion peeling — but that’s easier said than done. Life is messy.

I believe these times of vertigo-inducing, tummy-tickling turmoil consume us for a reason — to shake us up and down, over and around — to help us see a new perspective and another side. The trick is identifying the nuggets of wisdom in the swirling vortex and harnessing their positive power to make us stronger, clearer, and wiser — like making lemons into lemonade. (Or sautéing those onion layers into a scrumptious caramelized concoction.) These analogies may seem a little hackneyed, but the truth is that I seem to have harvested a bumper crop of lemons lately — in love, work, family, etc. Sweet turned to sour and fresh to foul.

I read somewhere that this is all a simple law of physics — or metaphysics, as the case may be. “It’s like patterned disorder,” says life coach Martha Beck. “And in nature, it creates beautiful things.” She contends that instead of being tortured, perhaps we are being steered—“dressed as chaos.” It’s all about reversing our assumptions.  Love that!

“Little miracles begin happening to you whenever you turn toward your right life,” says Beck — even if it’s in the middle of the muck and mire. Small miracles turn into big ones. And she’s oh, so correct. The tiny miracles ARE all around me— if I just pay attention.

In fact, here’s one—looking forward to delivering a webinar on Jan. 30, 2013, for NALA, the National Association of Local Advertisers and Jeff Velis, vice president of operations and esteemed former colleague.  It’s called Social Media is an Inside Job. Thank you, Jeff.  Can’t wait!

UntitledWhat are your questions about building a crackerjack content strategy for your business or enterprise? Join us!

And let the new journey begin!