Monday, March 30, 2009

Are You European?

A couple of weeks back, Iris and I spent the weekend with Stan and Sanja, friends in Boston. We had an amazing time talking about pretty much everything and anything. No topic was off-limits. No question was out of bounds. New ideas and concepts were all greeted with openness and excitement. Except, in some cases...

For some reason, when we came to questions of what could be accomplished or how much could be done or how quickly something could be achieved, well, the openness frequently morphed into resistance and doubt. I started to notice this when Iris, Stan and I were talking about Iris' new business. Stan (who's a successful entrepreneur) and I were helping Iris brainstorm new ideas for marketing and sales, etc. Iris, who normally is totally engaged and excited by new ideas and concepts, started to go into this mode of responding immediately with why something wouldn't work. Hmmm....

Later, we were talking with Sanja about her latest endeavors and again brainstorming approaches and what could be done. Sanja almost immediately shifted into the same mode of responding with why something couldn't or wouldn't work. So, we stopped talking about Sanja's latest venture and started talking about Iris' and Sanja's responses to new business ideas and concepts. Since both Sanja and Iris grew up in Europe, one of the ideas that emerged was that "it's cultural". Iris and Sanja both talked about people who loved to sit in the cafe drinking coffee and reading what might be interpreted as good news in the newspaper, and then discussing all the ways the good news would turn to bad news.

Of course, the idea that this is a strictly European phenomenon is a bit of a stretch as this may be more about coffee shop culture than georgraphically defined culture, but nonetheless, we now have a new shorthand code for someone who's resisting a new idea, "Are you European?"

So, over the past couple of weeks, I've found myself asking people this more and more, and surprise, surprise, none of them has been European.

However, I have found some common threads and themes that may be more useful.

First, the question typically arises when discussing new opportunities and ventures (they may be business ventures, but they may be something else like learning to play a new instrument).

Second, the response of why things won't work out, almost always overwhelms and derails the original conversational thread; a new idea doesn't stand a chance.

Third, the reasons why things won't work out always seem to have deep, deep roots. Our beliefs in what we cannot do seem always to be stronger than our beliefs in what we can do.

Of course, I totally buy into the Henry Ford philosophy of "whether you think you can do a thing, or you think you can't do a thing, you're correct."

So, here are a couple of Teflon guidelines for approaching new ideas and ventures:
  1. Don't spend any time trying to figure out why things won't work when brainstorming. There's plenty of time for that later.
  2. If you do find yourself resisting or doubting, don't try to figure out the reasons why while brainstorming; instead, just decide to abandon disbelief for the moment. Then, at some other point, find someone to dialogue with and figure out what's up.
  3. This is my favorite: never, ever use the "I/we tried that before and it didn't work" line when creating and exploring new opportunities for yourself or your organization. So often, we confuse a bad idea with a badly executed idea, and it's often difficult to tell the difference.
So, what are the great things that you want to accomplish in your life that you haven't accomplished or even begun to accomplish? Why haven't you? Are you European?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

One Hundred Percent

A couple of times a week, I visit David to work with him in his home-based autism treatment program. He is the most incredible little five-year-old boy. He has autism and a team of parents, volunteers and paid workers, work seven days a week with him to help him develop his brain in a different way so that he will be able to create relationships with others and from there develop his life skills.

As part of the program, a teacher observed me working with David this week. After I got out of the playroom to receive my feedback, I was presented with the following question: "Most moments you introduced a new game with hundred percent energy, enthusiasm and excitement but there were a couple of instances where you seemed to do put in eighty to ninety percent. Why was that?"

This observation was so insightful and the question so right on that it has followed me every day since. When I answered the question, I realized that, when I do not get clear signals from David that he is open to interaction and/or participation, I hold back a bit and first wait how he responds before I go for it a hundred percent. As soon as I said this, I also realized that this is something I not only have been doing in the playroom but also in my work, relationships, starting up new projects, making decisions, etc.

If the teacher had not asked me this specific question about this detail of my play with David, I could easily have discarded my wish for clear signals and not have had the learning I had that day. The learning is this: when I start something new and I do not yet know how everything will work out, I will have a greater chance of getting what I want by putting in one hundred percent energy, enthusiasm and excitement, than I would if I hold back.

So, I decided that I will develop myself into a stronger and more passionate person by asking myself at different times during my activities, "How much energy, excitement and enthusiasm am I putting into what I am doing right now? Am I holding back in any way? If so, why?"

Now, in what areas of your life are you waiting for clear signals? What was a time you decided to go one hundred percent for what you wanted without waiting for a clear signal?

Tickler Twenty-Seven

If you could be with someone whom you haven't seen in a long time, who would it be? Why them? Why haven't you seen them? What will you do about it?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Liar, Liar

Lately, I've had lots of discussions with people about lying. It turns out that my definition of lying is a bit more stringent than most. Everyone seems to agree that saying one thing when you actually believe something else is lying. For example, telling your significant other that you were at work, when you were really at a baseball game, would be a lie. However, where I seem to lose everyone is when I include leaving things out as lying. In the same example, if I didn't mention the baseball game to my significant other and he or she didn't ask me about it, well, for most people, this wouldn't be a lie. It's sort of a "don't ask, don't tell" approach to life.

The thing is, leaving things out can be just as significant as deliberately misleading someone. For example, if you were dating someone with an STD, but never asked them about it, would they be lying if they didn't tell you? If you climbed into a cab and the driver took you on a circuitous and more expensive route to get to your destination, would they be lying to you?

Now, these examples might be a bit extreme, but nonetheless, they indicate situations in which many of us would consider the omission of information to be a lie (or stealing or cheating or whatever). So, why are some omissions considered to be lies and others not? One theme I've heard repeatedly is this: "If it's important for the other person to know, and I don't tell them, then it's a lie; if it's not important for the other person to know, then it's not a lie."

Of course, this gives rise to the question, "who gets to decide whether or not it's important?" The funny thing is that everyone who's used the "important to know" argument, has also said that they would want the right to decide for themselves whether or not something were important. In fact, most of us seem to feel qualified to determine the importance of information for both ourselves and others, while we don't qualify others to do the same for us.

"But", you're thinking, "if I abdicated responsibility for determining what would be relevant and/or important to others, I'd walk around saying everything that popped into my head."

Good point!

On the one hand, it would be great for others to be allowed to determine for themselves what's important to them; on the other hand, it would be seriously impractical.

So, what to do? One answer that occurred to me is to check in with myself to see why I'm omitting information. If I recognize any kind of discomfort in myself (e.g. fear of what people would think, or concern about consequences of what I might say, or not wanting to deal with how people might respond), then I'm probably lying. If I don't experience any of these kinds of discomforts, then I'm probably not lying.

So, why does this matter? Well, first of all, from a universal perspective, it doesn't. Lying is just another action, neither good nor bad, that we do from time to time to take care of ourselves. We actually always have a good reason for lying.

Nonetheless, lying does affect the character of our relationships. Do we want relationships in which we find ourselves leaving things out to avoid conflict? Do we want relationships where others do the same with us?

It's not about fact versus fiction, or truth versus falsehood. It's simply about how we relate to others and how they relate to us. When we lie to someone (through omission or commission), what we're really doing is mistrusting them to handle the information. We're also building evidence for them not to trust us. The long term effect? Well...

On the flip side, I've found that telling people what I really think without omission (while sometimes uncomfortable), can serve to build trust while helping me to work through my discomforts. The result, in my experience, is much stronger relationships.

So, that's my apparently unorthodox opinion. What do you think?

Tickler Twenty-Six

Today's assignment: learn five new and meaningful things about three people in your life.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tickler Twenty-Five

What is your ideal job? Are you doing it? If not, how come?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tickler Twenty-Four

Who is someone you struggle with regularly? When was the last time you did something really nice for them?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tickler Twenty-Three

What will you do this week that you have never done before? When will you do it?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tickler Twenty-Two

What do you like most about yourself? What do you like least about yourself? Why?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Is it important?

We are all unique, special and amazing people. We have our own thoughts. We do the things we do for our own reasons. Even being together in one group does not mean we do the things we do for the same reasons. We all have our beliefs about what is important. These beliefs can really differ between people and can fuel discomfort, irritation, conflicts, misunderstanding and unhappiness.

A friend of mine wanted to go to a Chinese restaurant with my husband, me, him and another dear friend. We were visiting New York and he said he knew some great places to go. I told him that I was not sure about this because I do not respond well to MSG and lots of Chinese restaurants seem to use it. Not to be daunted, he immediately jumped on the phone and started calling these Chinese restaurants. After a couple of phone calls, he found this Dim Sum place where they told him that no MSG was added to their food. Great! So we walked the busy streets of Manhattan to this restaurant. When we arrived it was packed from top to bottom; everything smelled amazing and the food looked great.

We ordered some of the most wonderful foods. The spinach dumplings were to die for. The Chinese broccoli was crisp and perfect tasting. The noodles were made from a special bean. Everything tasted unique and wonderful. It was a great time with good food and wonderful company.

That night, I didn't feel well at all. I started to have my classic response to MSG: first I got very restless. Every sound changed to loud noise. I had to go to the bathroom every twenty to thirty minutes. My intestines started to hurt. I felt like my heart was racing while it wasn't. I felt like sleeping, but lying down, I felt so uncomfortable that I couldn't sleep. I didn't want loud noises and lights and people, but I did want distraction from quietness and rest that made it so clear I didn't feel well.

So how does this tie in with the "is it important"? My friend called the restaurant because he believed it was important for me to go a place where MSG was not served. We believed that his question and the answer that the restaurant gave helped us discern clearly where we could eat.

However, we didn't realize that the person who answered the phone might have different beliefs about the importance or implications of the question and that he would give an answer from that belief system. He might have decided that a small amount of MSG was not important to talk about. He might have decided that the food was really wonderful, and that's all that matters. He might simply not have known the answer, and decided that knowing wasn't that important. For whatever reason, he had a different assessment of the importance of answering the question accurately than I did.

Based on the results of my experience, I could easily go to unhappiness about the restaurant and their service. I could complain about it for the rest of the day telling everyone I meet about my MSG experience. I could call the restaurant and complain to the manager. I could write a letter. I could set up protests. But, I don't think it's that important.

Still I did learn something from my MSG experience that I can make wonderful for myself. What did I learn? First, when answering questions, we often change or color our answers based on what we think is important for the other person to know. These changes and colorings are not really based on what the other person thinks is important, they're based on what we think is important. Therefore, if I want to get an answer that will be useful for me, it's important for me to effectively communicate to the other person what is important to me and why I'm asking the question. I want to do this in a way that is clearly understood by the other so no misunderstandings arise.

On the flipside, if I'm answering a question, before I answer, it might be useful for me also to better understand why the question is being asked..

Questions to you: What was the last time you asked a question and received an answer that didn't really address what you asked? When was the last time you answered a question and missed the point of the questioner? In each case, what happened afterwards? How did you respond to them? What did you learn?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tickler Twenty-One

If yo could change one thing about yourself forever, what would it be?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tickler Twenty

Name five people who have helped you along the way. What did they do for you? How do you feel about that? Have you ever told them?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tickler Nineteen

What would you be doing right now if you didn't "have to be doing" what you are doing? Why aren't you doing that?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tickler Eighteen

Who is your least favorite relative? Why?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Shortcut to Happiness

Hello lovely people,

My name is Barbara. I am a playroom therapist. I live in Hungary and work all over Europe and in Nigeria. I love my job and I would love to share with you why my work is so amazing.

I haven't always seen all the beauty I see now in the program. Being quite a self-centered person didn't give me much opportunity to find beauty in other things. It was totally ok to be self-centered. It was the way for me to take care of myself, to feel safe and find my way in the world. I always loved personal growth stuff but when I started the training in the autism treatment program I certified in, I started the big journey to become myself. By doing that I created the capacity to see the world in a different way. It was kind of treating myself. Exploring my beliefs opened up new ways to see and understand myself.

I wanted to share the above about myself because I used to admire people for how amazing they were and I never thought about where they started out. I just assumed they were always the way I met them. It is nice to see that life is all about growing, we never stop and there is always room to stretch ourselves more.

I love my job, seeing the beautiful children and meeting amazing families. I love how respectful, loving, gentle and effective the autism treatment program I do is. I meet a child for the first time and it is so easy to make a connection from the place of total acceptance, love and respect. It is amazing to see how children respond when they have the first contact with someone who doesn't push them at all and who is happy to play their games for hours (join their isms) if that is what they choose to do. They just "soak" it in, relax and appreciate it so much. I get the most amazing smiles, looks and hugs from my little friends. By giving them the opportunity to take care of themselves and be who they are without any judgments or need to be someone else or do something else they can recharge and be ready to make steps toward things that might be challenging for them. I see with many children that they love to be challenged because it happens when they are ready for it and it is in a fun and easy way. Can you imagine anything better than having a friend who is so excited about what you love and is there for you and helps you on the way when you face challenges in your life? I am so grateful I can be a friend like that for the children I play with.

Talking about being grateful. It is a shortcut to happiness, as we all know. It was always nice to read it and think "yeah it's a good technique" but I didn't really feel it often. Then I just started practicing it more and more. I have started being grateful for the small things in my life and it really works. Slowly it is helping me to transform the way I think and see the world. I just have more and more good coming into my life and I recognize it more and more. I was just thinking that I am happy for the majority of my days, though I have my down moments. But the trick is, after I am unhappy for a little bit, I start looking for something I can be grateful for in the situation and it works amazingly.

So keep being grateful and enjoy the amazing fruit of your effort.

With huge love,

Barbara

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Action vs. Reaction

The other day, Iris and I were talking about "doing gratitude" and it occurred to me that the concept of doing gratitude (versus say, "experiencing a sense of gratitude" or "feeling grateful") may sound a little funny to a lot of people. So, here goes...

If you're like most of us, you probably think of your emotions and feelings as reactions (to situations, people and events), not actions. Someone cuts you off in traffic and you react by feeling angry. You miss the start of a movie and your natural reaction is to feel disappointed. You get together with a close friend whom you haven't seen in years and you feel happy. You lose your job and experience anxiety or fear regarding your ability to pay your bills.

Our life experience clearly indicates a cause and effect relationship between events and emotions. Something happens; we experience an emotional response.

However, what if we started to view our emotions and feelings as actions, not reactions? For the moment, forget about how to do it. Just consider the possibility.

After being cut off in traffic, you give yourself an amazing sense of calm and ease... While sitting alone in a plane thousands of miles from everyone you know, you experience the warmth and comfort of being surrounded by your closest friends... After losing your job, you simply decide to feel confident and optimistic... and then do it. I mean, really do it! Not by pasting on a facade or reciting a mantra, but by deeply and sustainably feeling good about the whole situation.

The ability to proactively respond emotionally could significantly change your entire experience of life. Further, it would allow you to react to situations much more effectively.

For example, if you were looking for a new job, you would have a much greater likelihood of landing a good one if you were confident and optimistic through and through. If you were traveling frequently on business and away from family and friends, you would probably be much more effective in customer meetings if you didn't carry a sense of isolation or loneliness. Imagine how different the roads would be without people reacting angrily to other drivers.

So, if you agree that the concept is a good one, then the next question is how to actually implement it. You might be thinking, "Hey, I did lose my job and I did really feel bad about it. My emotions and my feelings are real. They're a natural human response and there's nothing I can do about them."

Well, that's where the "doing gratitude" concept comes into play. Although you may not be able to turn your emotions on a dime, there are things you can do to start to transform your emotions from reactions to actions. One of them is to take time to be grateful for people, situations and events in your life.

For example, if you're having a bad day, stop for a moment and write down five things for which you're really grateful. It might be your family or a close friend or your new car or your ability to do the kind of work you do. It might be the weather or the place where you live. It can be anything at all. There are no right or wrong answers here. Just take time to be grateful for specific things in your life.

Better yet, if there are people in your life for whom you're grateful, take a few minutes to let them know about it. Not just that you are grateful for them, but why you're grateful for them. Be as specific as you.

If you're like many people, the act of doing gratitude will result in a positive change in your emotional outlook and experience.

Over time, we'll talk about ways to completely transform your experience of emotions from passive or reactionary, to proactive. For now, a great way get started and to experience the possibility of this is to take time for gratitude.

So, this week's homework assignment is to take ten minutes each day and do some gratitude. Remember to be as specific as you can regarding the people, situations and events for which you're grateful. To make this exercise even more effective, make your gratitude bigger by saying it out loud (this could be fun in the coffee shop or subway or office), or writing it down, or emailing the person for whom you're grateful.

Have an amazing and proactively happy week.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tickler Seventeen

Who is someone for whom you are grateful? Have you told them lately?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tickler Sixteen

What is something you always talked about doing but never have done? Why not?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tickler Fifteen

In what situations in your live do you still do "unhappiness now" so you can have happiness later?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tickler Fourteen

What is "stimulus"? What's an example of that in your life? Why is it handy to recognize stimuli?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tickler Thirteen

In your own words: what is a belief? What is a judgment? Why is it important to be able to recognize your beliefs and judgments?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What's so bad about judgments?

Beliefs and judgments are what I am all about!!

I have never been able to fully master the rolling R that is part of the Dutch language. You can find the letter R four times in my birth name. So, I have had the opportunity to practice the letter R every day of the thirty-seven years I have been walking this beautiful planet, all without much success. When I got married I was thrilled to take my husband's last name - no more R juggling in my last name. I still have to spell my last name to people, but I can spell all the letters correctly and make myself understandable!

The American R is way easier for me. I don't believe people around me normally think "wow, she has problems with R". I am clear and understandable for them, except in one situation: when I introduce myself by my first name Iris!

Regularly I receive feedback that when I call someone on the phone, the other party does not understand my "hello, this is Iris" (that is ee-riss not eye-riss). People sometimes hear Iris and other times they hear ee-niss or ee-liss or ee-iss or any number of variations. In my attempts to be understood, I have used different versions of the following intro: "Hello, my name is Iris (ee-riss), that's spelled I R I S, like Iris (eye-riss) the flower, etcetera".

Given the length of my last name and the difficulties with my first name, it can take some time to get through "hello" when talking on the phone. So today, for the first time ever, I have been playing with the idea of taking a new first name. I thought about new names and then tried them on to see how they felt. While I did this, I started to notice my wants around the name, but also beliefs and judgments I hold around names.

Some of my wants:
  • I want a name that I can pronounce clearly
  • I want a simple name
  • I want a name that has a meaning that connects with me
  • I want to be easily understood when I say my name only once
Some of my believes and judgments:
  • If I pick my own name it has to be special
  • My new name must strengthen my personality
  • A name that sounds too mannish is not good
  • A name that sounds too girlish or childish is not good either
  • I believe I have to represent myself as a strong woman, so Kitty doesn’t work
  • It is impractical to use a name that you cannot pronounce
Let's say you define a belief as a conclusion you form or buy about yourself, others, events or objects. For example: I believe my name is difficult to pronounce in a way that people can understand me at all times.

Judgments are defined as an important subset of beliefs. With judgments, we take a belief and ascribe value to it. For example: I believe my name is difficult to pronounce in a way that people can understand me at all times and this is bad. In the first case, my belief is not loaded or charged in any way, it's just a simple statement of what I believe about my name and my ability to pronounce it. In the second case, I take a simple belief and ascribe a good or bad, right or wrong type of value to it. This transforms the belief into a judgment.

As humans, we create, adopt, modify and discard beliefs all the time. In particular, we have a wonderful ability to transform beliefs into judgments. One of the things I often hear people who have been introduced to the judgments concept is that they want to drop all their judgments. I believe this is a misuse of this tool.

While dropping judgments is an important part when you counsel or support someone (it allows you to have maintain an accepting and loving attitude towards the explorer), I don't belief it should be someone's goal to eliminate judgments. In my eyes the goal is to understand our judgments and their implications, and then, in the light of that understanding, change them, discard them, or keep them. Judgments aren't bad.

The reason I believe that it's important to understand this is that, when we start viewing our judgments as bad or something to get rid of, we start to avoid them and not see them. When we view our judgments as simply, judgments, then we can look at them clearly and see what they are telling us about ourselves.

With that in mind, it's amazing how you can see your beliefs and judgments active in almost anything you do. It's easy to see judgments when talking about politics or religion or money. But we can learn so much when we see our judgments active when we look into the mirror, or when we're driving our cars, or when we're considering new names for ourselves.

So, this week, I'd like to invite you to join me in some judgment exploration homework. You can start right now by thinking of five judgments that you've made in the last 24 hours. What was the situation? What was the judgment? Why were you making the judgment? How was it helping you? How do you feel about having made the judgment? Would you like to change it, keep it, or discard it?

Happy Sunday! I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tickler Twelve

Is there someone is your life for whom you're really thankful? When did you last tell them?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Tickler Eleven

How did you feel when you noticed there wasn't a tickler this morning? What did you think? Did you have any judgments about it?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tickler Ten

What is it that you have been most present with in the last twenty four hours? Why have you been most present with that?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tickler Nine

What is your intention for this week?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Five minutes to feeling great

In my opinion, one of the easiest, fun and most impactful tools to become happier quickly is: doing gratitude. Notice that I write "doing gratitude", not "experiencing gratitude". Mark's next blog-post will explain this in depth. He loves explaining things like this!

For now, just know that even when I am very grumpy and upset, as soon as I start doing gratitude, I immediately move to a more peaceful, comfortable place within myself. Doing gratitude helps me to see that the thing I am worrying about is small and just one thing compared to the greater things out in the world.

The way I do this is very simple. It starts with saying "I am grateful for" and then I add something behind it. I repeat this for an extended period of time. Below you can find one of my grateful episodes as an example of this fun exercise.

I invite you to inspire yourself by implementing a "being grateful" period in your life every day.

I am grateful for my wonderful loving husband. I am grateful to be healthy. I am grateful for my "children" and "grand children". I'm grateful they are happy and can live their lives independently. I am grateful for being able to pursue my passions. I am grateful for you. I am grateful that Jeanette could visit us last week.

I'm grateful for sushi. I am grateful for the wonderful house we are living in. I am grateful to have a drivers license. I'm grateful to be able to work with so many different, beautiful people. I am grateful that everyone does the best they can with the knowledge and skills they have. I am grateful there is chocolate. I'm grateful for the beautiful teachings David gives me three times a week. I am grateful for all the wonderful days of sunshine.

I am grateful that the color of snow is white. I'm grateful that Logan is running now. I am grateful that love can be found everywhere. I am grateful that we have challenges in life that help us grow and become even more wonderful human beings. I'm grateful for big bookstores. I am grateful that I can work while drinking coffee at Fuel and meet amazing people at the same time. I'm grateful there are no longer mice living in my house. I am grateful that my car was not damaged when I slid down the driveway. I am grateful that the really slippery weather is only a few times a year.

I'm grateful for my warm soft bed. I'm grateful for washing machines. I am grateful for clean water. I am grateful that there are people who are working to end world hunger. I'm grateful for the scientists that work on understanding cancer, HIV and all other diseases. I am grateful for Obama. I am grateful for being able to live in the beautiful Berkshires. I am grateful for the deer walking through my garden.

I am grateful that the skunk I smelled the other day was not near my house. I am grateful for all the opportunities that come to me every day. I am grateful that I am never bored. I'm grateful I am in control of what I think and feel. I am grateful that I can decide what to do every part of my day. I am grateful that there is fun and playfulness possible at any time. I'm grateful I have the ability to smile.

I am grateful my hair is growing. I'm grateful that I have been able to enjoy life for 37 years now. I am grateful that in my work I can help people help themselves. I'm grateful that more and more people participate in this blog. I am grateful that there are always more new and exciting things to explore and do. I am grateful that we can make changes anytime we want.

I'm grateful that I can be grateful any time I choose. I am grateful that no-one is the same. I am grateful that I can eat spelt. I am grateful that I can share this. I am grateful that I know how to do the grateful exercise!

I believe that this exercise cannot be done without improving your happiness! What do you believe?


Monday, March 2, 2009

Mystery Box

The Mystery Box entered our lives on December 25, 2008 as a brilliant gift from Santa. A perfectly square box wrapped in paper with dancing snowmen and gold and silver ribbon that sparkled underneath the magical white lights of our Christmas Tree would prove to be a brilliant gift indeed. Although the package read To: David Love: Santa we were well aware that labels meant very little to a smart, gregarious, little girl named Aly who had just turned six and a curious, independent, adorable, little boy named David who just turned five. What we were completely unaware of was that the Mystery Box was actually a gift for me.

So what exactly is the Mystery Box? Most people would describe it as a game designed for children ages 3-6 to motivate learning. It comes with the standard precaution of ...choking hazard.... not for children under 3 years old. It is a vibrantly colored box full of little toys each starting with a different letter of the alphabet. The object of the game is to select an item from the Mystery Box and place it on the game board letter that the item begins with. Simple enough.... Let's play!

Still snuggled in our pajamas, Aly, David, Daddy, and I sit down on the playroom floor and begin to play. David pulls out a tiny green alligator and quickly places it on the letter "A". Yeah!! We all applaud loudly. Now it is Aly's turn. Aly pulls a jeep from the Mystery Box and hesitates before putting it on the letter "T" for truck. We all pause for a moment as it is our first time playing the game and we are unsure if this little, green, plastic jeep belongs on "T" for truck or "J" for jeep. I notice a slight tension in my shoulders as I am focused on "getting it right". We decide to leave the jeep on "T" for truck and continue playing. Daddy takes a turn, I take a turn, and then it is David's turn again. David who is currently walking around the playroom comes back to the game, picks up his alligator and begins walking his alligator around the room. The alligator walks on the walls, the windows, the table, and finally the floor where David notices crumbs from a gluten free breakfast. David picks up the crumbs and begins feeding his alligator. Now let me ask you this... Aly is reaching into the Mystery Box, selecting items one by one, and placing them on a piece of cardboard over and over again. David is creating an entire experience for his alligator and laughing hysterically as the alligator jumps from the window to the floor... which of my two amazing children is the one labeled "different"? You see, like my children and their Christmas packages, I too have no use for labels.

The Mystery Box has proven to be an amazing catalyst for personal reflection. I grew up in a family that always played games according to the instructions. I never realized how limited my experiences have been. Quite frankly, the Mystery Box is an incredibly boring game as designed. Are you living your life as designed by someone else's instructions? How often have you paused to explore the reasons you are doing what you are doing….. being who you are being.... loving who you are loving? As I continue my journey, I am inspired each day by two unique children who experience the world in fascinating ways. Ways I could have never imagined and which I am so grateful for. Without them, I would be taking tiny toys, placing them on letters, and still trying to figure out if the jeep belonged on the "T" or the "J". Tell me, where does the "duck" belong?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A GPS for Life

Hello and happy March to everyone! For those readers who do not already know me, my name is Jeannene. I am a autism play therapist. I trained and worked in the beautiful Berkshires from August 2006 until October 2008. This past December I moved back home to Canada. I am now starting out my own business providing outreaches to families world wide! Today is the first day that my website http://www.loveplaylearn.com goes live. Please take a look and pass it along to other people.

As I mentioned above, I recently moved home to Canada. However, I am living in a different place than where I grew up. This move has brought up many interesting things to share. Most significantly, being in a new place has given me lots of opportunities to see how dramatically I have changed over the years. It is clear that I am not only living in a new place, I am living from a new place.

Being new to the city of Calgary, I have been using a GPS while driving to help me navigate. It occurred to me that the past several years of my personal growth have been about tuning into my own internal GPS! If you’ve ever used a GPS you will hopefully appreciate the similarities. You can probably recall the GPS voice: “In 500 meters, turn right on ..... ” How wonderful and simple it is to navigate this way!

More and more everyday, I am living from my own brilliant sense of knowing from my true self. I hear myself louder and clearer. With greater ease, I define where I want to go. Then, either I create a path or one is illuminated for me and I let go and flow with deeper love.

Tips for tuning into and using your own Internal GPS:

1. Set Intentions!

If you think about it, setting an intention is like typing in an address on a GPS, it will stop at nothing to get you there! Figuring out where you want to go in life may be different than figuring out where the closest restaurant is, this is true. OLooking at your beliefs is helpful for discovering what you want your life to be about.

2. Listen and Explore without Judgment.

Listen to what? Listen to what is going on within yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, and your body. We are all born with our own personal Internal GPS, yet most people have not been taught how to use it.

Your inner voice may sound a lot different from the one on a real GPS (the one I use has a lady voice with a crisp, British accent). Perhaps, inside your head, there are many voices talking at once, sometimes in foreign languages or maybe your inner voice is very quiet. Be fascinated, be curious! Dialoguing with an intention of self-love has been a major key and blessing in my process of getting in touch with my inner knowing.

Yoga, meditation and bodywork help me hear the more quiet and subtle yet out-of -this-world powerful voice of my body. I am learning so many lessons from listening to my body. I am much kinder to myself when I am in touch with my body. For example, while doing yoga, I do what naturally feels good, a gentle stretching, without pushing or straining. This is drastically different than how I previously operated in the world. I am now moment by moment applying this lesson of living from a place of natural ease to all areas of my life.

3. Know that you can not go wrong.

Like a real GPS, we also have a recalculating function. Once you’ve set an intention and take actions toward living this intention, no matter which way in life you turn, you will eventually find your way there. Sometimes we take the long route to get where we are going so that we can have beneficial experiences that we didn’t even know we wanted.

Comments encouraged! Do you agree that the body has a voice? What does yours say?