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Although it feels like New Years was weeks ago, we are still very much in the conversation of "New Year, New You!" Even though every January we tend to engage in a dialogue about what we can do to revamp or upgrade our lives, each year we see a few new concepts or practices added to the "what's trending now" lists. In the past few years, the concept of mindfulness or being mindful has become a crucial part of the self-care conversation.
From the boardroom to the kindergarten classroom to centers and apps dedicated to the practice, mindfulness trainings are widespread and have become mainstream. Credited with reducing stress and anxiety and having several other physical and mental health benefits, mindfulness is often defined as the practice of bringing your full mind to a singular object or situation or, as Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and leader in the field of mindfulness, defines it, mindfulness is "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally."
Although being totally present to one thing for even five to ten minutes might seem like a no-brainer, for many it is a challenge. Described as a practice that takes practice, many beginners are encouraged to practice mindfulness by bringing their attention to day-to-day activities, even something as simple as drinking a cup of tea or eating food. We are urged to smell the food, taste the food, chew the food, and truly be in the experience of the food.
Happy New Year! I have been thinking a lot about this first newsletter of 2018. In a perfect world, I might be using this post to share with you some profound, uplifting, spiritual experience that I had ringing in the New Year and setting the tone for the upcoming year, but the fact is I cannot. I rang in the New Year experiencing emotions that ranged from horrified, shocked, and speechless to feeling victimized.
I was at what I thought was going to be a sweet get-together which quickly got hijacked by the bad behavior of a 40-year old woman who, in a nutshell, was committed to proving that she was right and everyone around her was wrong because they were not adhering to her demands and doing and acting as she wanted them to. Although I've only known this woman for a relatively short time, from what I have seen, this woman's bad behavior had nothing to do with New Year's Eve. It has been on display since the day I met her and from what I have heard from people closest to her, it has always been ever-present in her life – igniting toxicity, trauma, and trouble where ever she goes and with whomever she is with.
Yet, just as troubling as this woman's consistent bad behavior has been the reaction of everyone around her. Not wanting to have to "take on her stuff," they let her stuff dictate and infect every move, moment, and mood. That was until New Year's. Seeing the horror, hurt and humiliation reflected in the eyes of people like myself and others who were bystanders as we watched the events of the evening unfold, the people closest to this woman could no longer ignore the proverbial elephant in the living room. It was painfully obvious that the air and joy was being sucked out of the room and that their tendency to choose "harmony" over truth had landed them in hell and empowered bad behavior as well as a negative, venomous presence in the space.
Interestingly, if I have seen any theme so far in 2018, it has been very much in keeping with the one I just described. I have already received numerous calls and messages from people who can no longer tolerate accepting or enduring the bad or inappropriate behavior of others to rule the roost, be it their children, spouses, co-workers, employers, or friends. They've had it with living in denial, turning a blind eye, trying to make it better, or being blinded by their own wishful thinking. The cost of living in an environment of constant judgment, righteousness, and pessimism has not only brought them down, but also been downright depleting.
As the holidays kick into high gear, I am thankful and a bit overwhelmed as I fill in my calendar. There are parties to attend, dinners to organize, presents to buy, decorations to hang, and visits from out-of-towners, friends, and family to prepare for. As I anticipate the month to come, it feels like my to-do list is infused with a sense of accumulation. Although I look forward to the abundance and merriment of delighting in the decadence of December, I also feel a strong sense of urgency to resolve and handle certain issues so I do not carry them forward into 2018. And the good news is there is still time.
As each one of my three daughters comes home for the Thanksgiving vacation holiday, my heart expands and I am overcome by all of the amazing gifts that I have in my life. As I wrote on the dedication page of my new book The Integrity Advantage, I am blessed to have amazing women in my life to learn from, laugh with, and lean on. In particular, I publicly acknowledged my mother, my three daughters, and of course Debbie Ford. A woman of courage, brilliance, and faith, Debbie radically shifted so many people's lives - especially mine. Through her teachings, wisdom, honesty, and vision, Debbie gave and keeps giving me - and all of us - the gift of liberation.
As we enter the holiday season and this sacred time of introspection, Debbie's words ring in my ear. Especially around this time of year, she used to remind us that:
"When you're in the presence of your gifts,
you naturally feel gratitude."
If you want to live a life beyond your wildest dreams, if you want to turn the ordinary into extraordinary and find the miracles that are dancing in front of you in every moment then start with the practice of cultivating gratitude.
So as we enter this week of Thanksgiving, I want to share with you a powerful Gratitude Ritual Debbie created. (See below.) I hope you take the time to do it. Especially during this season when we all literally and figuratively have so much on our plates, it is important to go within and connect with your blessings.
And as I turn my attention to what I am most appreciative for this week, I want you to know that I am grateful for YOU. I know that there is no greater honor than to be welcomed into your life and share in your emotional and spiritual evolution. I appreciate your openness and willingness to let me be a part of your process!
Happy almost-Thanksgiving! If you are like me, I'm sure that you cannot believe the holidays are already upon us. What happened to Fall? Although the song says "Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays," despite what we see in Hallmark Channel's Five Night Thanksgiving Movie Event, the fact is that most of us experience a sense of dread as we envision our upcoming holiday gatherings. Feelings of resistance, anxiety, and resignation start to bubble up as we anticipate the drama and dis-ease that will undoubtedly accompany the candied yams and pumpkin pie. As we contemplate the upcoming holiday, our minds naturally drift back to Thanksgivings past and we automatically become stressed out thinking about our family dynamic and the scenarios that consistently cause trauma and trepidation before we get to and/or around the Thanksgiving table. Any hope of warm and fuzzy feelings turn cold and cautious as we contemplate situations like:
As you may know, this past week, my first book, The Integrity Advantage, was released. It was a pinnacle moment filled with a smorgasbord of emotions. It quickly turned into a somewhat surreal experience watching this baby being birthed out into the world, seeing people holding the book in their hands, and knowing that they would soon be reading my words.
Many people have asked me why I committed to this concept of integrity as a way of life a few years ago. I was recently invited to write a guest blog addressing what motivated me to write this book and what I hoped the reader would get out of it. Since it was my own pain and chaos of living out of integrity that brought me to living and realizing the advantage of living an integrity-guided life, I thought I would share the blog here.
Last Saturday when I was taking a bootcamp class at my gym, I noticed this adorable twenty-something standing next to me. Although I have seen her before, I have never talked to her. Truth is, she generally works out every morning at 6 AM, whereas I stumble in at 7 AM. I have in the past overheard some of her conversations. They generally revolve around what she is eating and her asking advice from others since she is "starving herself and not losing any more weight." Having been in that situation for a huge portion of my life, I have had tremendous empathy for her. Although part of me wanted to jump right in and save her, I could hear my three daughters (who are also in their twenties) in my head saying, "Mom, don't be scary!" So beyond complimenting her whenever I could and was appropriate, I kept my scary-self quiet.