I’m changing things up a bit for this Nuggets of Wisdom post. This time, I am sharing insights from some of my favorite inspirational resources along with my reflections on how their wisdom can show up in our daily lives. Let’s jump in:
You know that old adage that “time heals everything“…..well, it simply is not true. As yung pueblo so wisely shares in the above quote, it is not time that heals — it is the courage we muster to stop ignoring and hiding from the obvious. When we know we are not showing up as our best selves, when we keep having the same argument or miscommunication, when we lose our cool or opt to shut down — those are the little warning lights telling us that we need to pay attention to the root cause. From my experience, the pain that yung pueblo refers to has two sides — the unprocessed pain that we bottled up because of a past bad experience AND the pain of showing up now in an inauthentic way. Often we regret how we are showing up in the present moment, because we are “acting out” rather that “working through”. Stuffed emotions, ongoing resentments, and bottled up pain never go away with time alone. Heed the warning lights and lean into your courage. It’s the faster path to self awareness and supporting the better version of who you really want to be.
This quote from Fred Rogers echos the same sentiment that yung pueblo expressed, so I thought it a fitting P.S. to his nugget of wisdom.
Boundaries sometimes conjure up an image of limitations or walls, but they are actually the gateways to treating someone with respect and integrity – in a way that feels very tangible and supportive to them.
Nedra Tawwab is my go-to resource for deeper understanding of the importance of boundaries in healthy relationships of all types. In this post, Nedra provides clear cut examples of what it looks like to respect and accept another’s boundaries.
I’m working on helping my grandchildren learn the benefits of boundaries by using the word “respect” when I respond to their request for privacy, specific help, or even not helping. If my granddaughter tells me that she does not want help with something that I believe may be frustrating her, I respond by telling her that I respect her wish to do it all by herself. This may seem like a small matter yet it is planting the seed of what it feels like to be respected. Here’s an interesting twist that she’s teaching me — She prefers to work through things on her own even if they are a little daunting; then she feels good to have successfully accomplished it independently. This invaluable lesson of resourcefulness, tenacity and personal agency that comes from respecting her boundaries is not lost on me.
At the onset of 2022, I shifted the focus of my blog to helping others discover tools that would best benefit their own self-discovery and personal development journey. The concept of a toolbox really resonates with me and I like the idea each of us customizing our individual toolbox. Just like the toolbox you have for home repairs, you might have some you use often and others that are for speciality jobs. The same is true for the tools we rely on to help us build resilience and emotional agility, cultivate greater self awareness and inner peace, and those that heal and bridge us through times of great adversity.
Yet there is an important caveat that must be mentioned here. We are all better skilled at using these tools and achieving meaningful results if we take the time to understand neuroscience and how our brains operate. It is the very reason I was drawn to Dr. Hanson’s work at the onset of my own personal growth journey. Fortunately there are understandable and relatable resources to help us better understand and utilize the potential of our brains. Check out Peak Mind by Dr. Amishi Jha, Flourish by Dr. Martin Seligman, You, Happier by Dr. Daniel Amen, Hardwiring Happiness by Dr. Rick Hanson and of course, the Being Well Podcast. My recent post entitled Mindfulness: A Brain Game Changer might be a good primer if you want to dip your toes into learning more about neuroscience.
One of the phrases that Dr. Rick Hanson often uses that I find so encouraging is “how are you resourcing yourself?” This question encompasses what we do on a daily basis to support our overall mental well being and what tools we turn to when we hit a rough patch, are overwhelmed or in deep struggle. Our customized toolbox can be chock full of diverse tools to resource ourselves throughout life.
I’m wrapping this post up with yet another nugget of wisdom from yung pueblo because of an uplifting, inspirational conversation I had with my friend, Judy Chesters. It’s no secret that we have supported in each other in many ways over these past 5 years of personal growth work. Mindfulness has been a cornerstone of our inner work and that’s where we both became much more self-aware of armor and baggage that was getting in our way of living in alignment with who we really are. In our recent chat, we were both sharing how much lighter and more expansive we feel now, how we have more clarity, more resilience and inner calm. We have more energy, more fun, more creativity and deeper relationships. Because we know each other so well, it becomes very evident as we swap stories that we are most definitely showing up in much healthier ways these days — and yes we even chuckle at how the former versions of ourselves would have responded.
What got my attention in this quote of yung pueblo’s is how he emphasizes that when we “find ourselves” (and are operating with more mindfulness), we connect with people that add to our radiance (love that word), and move with bold and genuine energy. That is exactly how Judy and I are feeling these days.
In her book, Peak Mind, Dr. Amishi Jha highlights that when we are living mindfully and are more skilled at focusing our attention in the present moment, our experiences are amplified (another awesome word). Things feel brighter, louder and crisper. Judy and I have discovered that memories of our experiences have been enriched with smells, sensations, the feel of a tiny warm hand in ours, colors and textures, the twinkle in someone’s eye. You cannot capture these sensory details in a photo….but they are strongly imprinted with our experience when we have been fully present in the moment.
All these nuggets of wisdom may seem to be unrelated, but they are actually stepping stones on the personal development journey. Time doesn’t heal, doing the work is what heals. Boundaries help us show each other how we want to be treated, and serve as a reminder to ourselves of our value and what we need to flourish. We benefit from having a toolbox to resource ourselves with daily self-care and to support us through challenging times. And the light at the end of the tunnel — well that is where you find yourself living more mindfully, more present and engaged, in alignment with who you truly are. You will find friends and like-minded souls on your self discovery journey. They will scaffold you, hold space for you and celebrate your progress.
I love those “aha moments” that show up in the midst of an ordinary day. Those “aha moments” grab our attention making us more aware of things we sometimes take for granted or are often too busy to notice. Catch an”aha moment” and put it in your pocket! Start a collection of “aha moments” and watch a little magic unfold in your daily life. This Nuggets of Wisdom in this post are about creating more “aha moments” by putting a little more awareness in each day — self-awareness, present moment awareness and other-awareness.
Meditation is one of those practices that begins to show up in your daily life in organic, meaningful ways. Take listening for example — when you meditate, you learn to be free from judging your own thoughts. You become more skilled at sifting out distracting thoughts. You become more attuned to listening to understand what you are truly feeling or experiencing.
When these skills sets begin to show up as you interact with others, you will smile knowing that you are taking your meditation practice from the “cushion to the real world.”
Improved communication and connection with others is a two way street — speaking AND listening. We can become better skilled at both! A skilled listener is non-judgmental and focused on understanding how another person is truly feeling.
Practice on yourself through meditation….then try it out IRL (in real life).
As we hone our skills to become more aware of our emotions, we might be surprised to discover that all too often we are giving those emotions much more control in the heat of the moment than we would prefer. It’s time to tell our emotions that they are always welcome, but they can’t do the driving.
During the course of a normal, busy, routine and occasionally chaotic day, we are going to experience a wide range of emotions. Sometimes when we are just being bombarded with too much to juggle, we inadvertently let our emotions run the show. Often it only makes a stressful situation worse.
Hit the reset button — take a deep, calming breath BEFORE you react/respond. That breath, that pause is often just enough to create awareness that it is your emotions taking over, not your integrity. And guess what? Your kids (and others) are watching…..and they’ll mimic your stealth skills if they see you doing this “reset” in times of stress, being calmer and more reasonable in your responses. That’s a win-win in the daily course of our busy lives.
In her newest book, Atlas of the Heart, Brene Brown dives deep into helping us understand how so many emotions can look similar — and all too often, we assume that we know exactly how someone else might be feeling. Then, we respond or react to others from that place — how those same emotions would feel to us. Is it any wonder that we can really make things confusing when this occurs? First of all, we are snagged on our own emotions and that will often pull our attention away from another person and inward on ourselves. Second, we may be putting the brakes on the emotions that another person is trying to process and understand.
Brene introduces a new concept for us to embrace — story stewardship. When we become trusted stewards of others’ stories, we listen with open hearts and open minds, without judgment and with an intention of getting to better understand what their personal experience and emotions truly are.
All of us have stories that are hidden under the tip of our iceberg. It would be impossible for others to know why certain things land so hard on our tender hearts. Not everyone needs to know, or can be expected to understand, these vulnerable parts of our story. It is healing for us to share our stories with someone who has earned the right to know the depths of our experiences. It is also helping others to gain bigger perspectives, to deepen their empathy and curiosity and to release habitual judgments when we have the courage to share our stories.
One of the greatest lessons to be learned from Brene when someone trusts us enough to share their stories, is to ask the question “What does support look like to you right now?” Ask that question and wait for the answer….take it in and really listen to what someone needs. Too often, we are so uncomfortable when others are hurting we rush to fix, to distract or even turn away. Meaningful story stewardship means holding space (even when we are uncomfortable) and asking others what they need.
We sometimes fail to see, or forget about, the best parts of ourselves. When we look in the mirror, we see reflected back whatever our inner critic or racing thoughts deem appropriate to share with us. If you have a trusted friend, a caring parter or a supportive parent who reminds you of your goodness, your grit and your unique gifts, then you are truly blessed. Those people are your best mirrors — the best sources of encouragement when life gets bumpy.
It is not surprising that we often bring the best versions of ourselves to the outside world — to our workplace, our community endeavors, even to strangers in the check out line. Yet we find it more challenging to tap into those attributes with the people we know the best — and often the ones we love the most. If you have a trust buddy that reminds you of this, thank them. If you have someone who has your best interests at heart and holds you accountable to the better version of yourself, you have a committed teammate in life.
We get to be these mirrors for others all throughout life. When you spend time on your own self-discovery, you often enhance your abilities to see the strengths and gifts that others possess too. Speak up — tell others all the goodness you see. The way they make you laugh, how generous they are, how resourceful they are, how they stand up for others…..there are so many ways that each of contribute our unique gifts to the world. Sometimes we all just need a really good mirror!
I have often shared how it was a broken heart that put me on the path of personal growth. The truth is that I also suffered from a broken spirit, one that was decades in the making. It was my fragile, broken spirit that needed to be healed first. I just did not know that at the time.
This morning I was reflecting on those first few weeks of being on my own after that painful breakup — how I wrote in my journal that I wanted peace, to feel safe and to be free to be myself. Ironically I thought that living alone was the best way for me to achieve those three things. What I should have been asking myself is “why were you not finding these things within your relationship?”
An inventory of both past and present relationships might have revealed some truths that required further investigation. It dawned on me that when I am behaving and feeling most authentically myself, then I am both at peace and feeling safe — both alone and within my relationships. No one else is responsible for ensuring those core values are ever present but me.
What became very evident was that I need to untangle myself from a complex combination of childhood trauma, learned behavioral patterns, exhaustion from hustling for my worth, and a heavy trunk of unprocessed emotions. It was this complex combination that had been breaking my spirit, slowly and consistently over time. I was completely unaware of the toll it was taking — on me, on how I showed up, how I reacted, on the dynamics of my most cherished relationships.
One thing became crystal clear to me. Those times in my life when I felt most at peace, safe and my buoyant, resilient self was when I was with people who saw past my flaws, who recognized my potential and who mentored me through role modeling and coaching.
My young broken spirit was often mended by my beloved Aunt Betz, my church choir director, a high school teacher, a cherished friend. These are the marble jar people that Brene Brown talks about — those who are so trustworthy that we feel safe to take refuge in their care. These earth angels give us little footholds to help us tap into our innate worthiness and foster our growth. I don’t think that I would have been able to cope with all the chaos in my family’s dysfunction without the help of these incredible people. They not only gave me a safe place to land for a while, they gave me wings to fly a little higher than my circumstances. When I was young, they were helping to untangle me from the baggage that was breaking my spirit.
As I dug deeper into personal growth work, two things really began to gel for me. One was that it is our responsibility as adults to do the work of untangling ourselves from outgrown narratives and old baggage. The second was that even the most dedicated practitioners also get snagged on their past, and fall into unconscious, unhealthy patterns from time to time. It is often in times of high stress, great loss or adversity that trigger us to fall back.
Much as I would like to pretend that this did not happen to me in my 60’s, it did. I fell back into old uncomfortable but very familiar pattern reminiscent of my childhood without even being aware of it. I slipped into the role of helper extraordinare and then followed that unhealthy path down a rabbit hole into enabler and co-dependent. Completely unaware of my blind spots, I became the one who was instrumental in breaking my own spirit. The warning signs of resentment, stuffing my emotions, and feeling so uneasy that I was jumping out of my skin at sudden noises only fed an old story line that I was not good enough, not worthy, falling short –again. Unbeknownst to me, I had drifted into the very unhealthy end of my enneagram spectrum. I was in a strange and complex paradox of trying to get my needs met while accepting behaviors that were in direct conflict with those needs.
To add to my confusion, while I was falling so short in that relationship, my friends and family members saw me as an easy going, cooperative, optimistic and encouraging person. How was it that others could see those good parts of me but my partner could not? This paradigm is common actually — as I discovered through long conversations with friends. Could the answer be in how we “show up” differently without so many deep rooted emotional entanglements clouding the waters. If so, what is it about ourselves that we do differently in our closest relationships that contribute to this conundrum?
For me, it was the fear of making things worse by bringing up something important to me. The tap root of my unwavering need for trust that was broken repeatedly in my childhood. So often when I would speak up for me and my brothers, the consequences were far worse than the initial event.
This pattern began to appear in my relationship and I got hooked on old insecurities. Trust unraveled and my spirit took a hit. I did try to explain this to my partner once but I was clumsy about it. It is a textbook example of why we need to get skilled at having hard conversations — both in the way that we articulate our truth and how we listen to learn.
The better we understand ourselves as well as our basic needs and desires, the healthier our relationships can be. I only wish that I had been introduced to the enneagram earlier in my healing journey. You see, the enneagram sheds a lot of light on childhood roots of learned behavioral patterns and what it is that we each need in order to feel fulfilled, loved, valued and safe. The enneagram is truly one of the most valuable self-awareness and self-discovery tools we can access. A companion resource for the enneagram is Brene Brown’s powerhouse book, The Gifts of Imperfection. This book illustrates so well the armor that we choose to protect ourselves from the core motivations and fears that the enneagram reveals to us.
As I was working on my draft of this blog post, the above quote from Yung Pueblo landed in my inbox. It was so timely and his accompanying insights dovetailed with my own experience and the wisdom I’m striving to impart. While Yung Pueblo leans heavily into his meditation practice to peel back the layers of his patterns, I turn to the enneagram for course correction. When I find myself feeling off kilter, I know I am drifting into the unhealthy end of my spectrum. I heed the warning signs of resentment or feeling unappreciated as cues that I have overcommitted myself or failed to set a boundary.
These examples really just scratch the surface of all that you can learn from the enneagram. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts is helping us to see others in a whole new light. When we understand that each of the nine types has a dominant way of showing up in life, it releases us from taking things so personally. That creates a bridge to understanding and empathy. We can begin to recognize the bids for connection that others are making even when they might be clumsy about it.
When I reached the point of being able to trust myself enough to know what I needed to feel at peace, safe and valued, I knew that I was making meaningful strides in my goal of being my authentic self. Admittedly this was hard work and requires ongoing practice. Shedding the armor of being a people pleaser or shape shifter to feel like I fit in or was liked has been the equivalent of shedding unwanted pounds. It is easier to express my emotions and my needs now without all those old entanglements getting in the way.
This brings me back to broken spirits and broken hearts. Everyone experiences broken spirits and broken hearts in their lives — and sometimes that brokenness takes a very long time to heal. So often we do not realize just how much another is hurting, in need of empathy, compassion and trust. Sometimes we project our pain onto others because we lack self awareness. Sometimes we take things too personally because we ourselves are fragile. When we are not skilled at having hard conversations, we can inadvertently shame or blame others. This is why I believe Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability is crucially important. Self-awareness and vulnerability are two of the strongest gifts we can give to ourselves and each other. Deeper, more fulfilling relationships are cultivated in these rich spaces of trust, honesty, acceptance and understanding.
Yung Pueblo — Author of Clarity and Connection. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook for daily insights on personal growth, maturity and growth mindset partnerships.
Being Well Podcast with Dr. Rick Hanson and his son, Forrest Hanson
Did you know that each of us is an author, a storyteller? Brene Brown tells us that “the most powerful stories may be the ones we tell ourselves — but beware – they’re usually fiction”.
Do you know that we possess an imagination more creative than we believe possible? Best selling author, Caroline Myss is renowned for her work in the field of energy medicine. She offers very powerful examples of how we use our big wild imaginations to create the most anxiety-inducing worst case scenarios but fail to apply that same creativity to hope, best case scenarios and problem-solving.
The recent 21-day Chopra Meditation Program entitled “Getting Unstuck” echoed similar sentiments — that we are the author of every moment we live. What narratives do we tell ourselves about our life history and current experiences that prevent us from moving forward and expanding our perspectives? Are we stuck in the stories we repeatedly tell ourselves?
Here are some examples of places we can be stuck:
complaining about the same things day in and day out
self-defeating self talk
a wild imagination that only amplifies our anxieties
lost in thoughts about the past or the future
not accepting reality and relying on magical thinking
A few years ago I was trapped in some serious rumination. I was stuck reviewing a past that could never be changed no matter how much attention I devoted to it. The cycle often distracted me throughout the day and it definitely led to sleepless nights. So, yes I have firsthand experience with being “stuck” and with breaking free.
I credit the psychologist, Dr. Rick Hanson, for teaching me how the brain develops a “reward system” for these habitual but unhelpful mental loops. While we unconsciously retreat to these mental comfort zones, any peace we find there is short-lived. And then that cycle begins again. As he explains, neurons that fire together, wire together.
People can spend years trapped in those negative thought patterns, stuck not by choice, but by habit. Struggles with self-worth, abandonment issues, co-dependency and PTSD are all rooted in the stories we have written around our past and the natural tendency of the brain to spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy on negative thought patterns.
Being stuck, whether it is a small and short term matter, or an over-arching long term life pattern robs us of the present moment, of the love we desperately want but are unable to see or feel, of the connections to others that buoy us through all of life. Unknowingly, our stuck-ness also often creates collateral damage.
From personal experience and both sides of the fence, I can share that others get exhausted from offering support but seeing no real change or break-through from negative patterns. People get tired of hearing the same complaints. Eventually, they are worn down to the point of snapping when they don’t mean to, or growing resentful or even pulling away altogether. These collateral damage responses “feed” the self-fulfilling prophecies of the stories we tell ourselves. They confirm that we are unworthy, that we need to do more, or that we will be abandoned.
Another aspect of collateral damage is the highly contagious effect of negativity. We feed off of each other’s energy. Neurobiologically we are hardwired to find negative energy the stickiest of all. Have you ever noticed how someone’s bad mood can shift an entire family experience? Take a ride in the car with a family when just one member is throwing out some negative vibes and watch what happens. Best real life neuroscience experiment ever.
I recall telling a guy I cared about that I was not going to buy a ticket for the merry-go-round anymore when it was apparent that our relationship was stuck in a pattern of negativity. We just kept having the same conversation over and over. It was every bit as dizzying as an on-going merry go round ride to have the same issue crop up but never change how we handled it. Sometimes we just need to stop. Step back and fully take in the pattern. What is the story that we are telling ourselves and then ask “is it true?” (Thank you Brene for such a great tool.)
Elizabeth Lesser reminds us “tell me where you focus your attention and I will tell you who you are”. In the case of being stuck – either short-term or long term – consider this: “tell me where you focus your attention and let’s figure out where you are stuck.” Surprisingly, sometimes we honestly believe we are not getting what we want or need from others, but we actually are. It is our “stuck-ness” that is blinding us to seeing and receiving the gifts of love, time, attention, and encouragement. Re-writing our narratives can have a powerful transformational effect.
The day I realized that ruminating about the past was never going to produce a different ending to my story, I embraced the breakthrough and began to re-write my narrative. The shift in perspective was the equivalent of moving a giant boulder out of my path. I was free to move on, without dragging the past around. The circumstances could not be changed but my framing of it most certainly could. Yes, I was hurt and yes someone else’s actions caused a lot of pain and suffering. What did I learn from those experiences? Could I have made better choices? Could I have trusted my intuition? Could I have established boundaries? Was I still playing a role I had assumed in my childhood even though I was now decades older? Ah, yes — the answers I got to those questions set me free from rumination. I moved from feeling like a “victim of someone else’s unresolved pain” to a better informed “me”. I committed to regular meditation practice to re-wire my brain and break free from the strong urge to fall back into rumination. This was a gamechanger for me. I began to sleep soundly and I found that I broke the spell of being attached to a very sticky past.
My daughter and I were recently chatting about the day to day routine of life and how especially in the past year of Covid, it all gets so monotonous. The reality is that laundry needs to get done, bills need to get paid and meals need to be cooked and eaten. We can easily get stuck focused only on the boredom. A tool I learned from mindfulness was to “reframe a situation.”
An old memory came to mind and I shared this story with her: I was in my early 40’s and stuck in the hamster wheel of the daily life grind. One morning I realized that on my commute to work, at the very same intersection each and every day, I would rest my head on the steering wheel of my bright blue Achieva and lament “I am soooo tired.”
After several weeks of this, it suddenly dawned on me that I was stuck and I had this little chat with myself:
“You have been saying this very same thing every day for weeks, at this very same place — and girl, it is getting you no where but even more tired. Something’s gotta change!”
The next morning, as I put my foot on the brake pedal of my blue Achieva at that very same intersection,I decided to change my self-messaging. I did not lay my weary head on the steering wheel. I looked out at the sunlight streaming through the canopy of trees. I proclaimed outloud “I love my life and my family.” I made a promise to myself that I would state that positive affirmation every day at that intersection.
Little did I know just how meaningful that shift in attitude and perspective would become. Those ongoing daily tasks were contributing in many positive ways to my family and were my expressions of love for them. My relationship to them changed from draining to rewarding — and my energy got in sync with that positive reframing.
As I shared with my daughter, another trick I would occasionally use back then was to imagine someone else having my life. Would they be grateful for the very things I was complaining about? Often giving myself that kind of perspective was all that I needed to put a little gratitude in my attitude.
What I love about these conversations with my daughter is that it reveals how from one generation to the next, little has essentially changed about building independent adult lives and raising children Babies grow through all their stages the same as they have since the beginning of time.
However, so many aspects of our contemporary daily life has dramatically changed. Technology alone has had a major impact, good and bad. My daughter and I both recognize that we can easily get “stuck” to our phones and get caught up in the drama, energy and emotions of news cycles or the latest post. We’ve had some very good conversations about how even the news cycle gets “stuck” and how we see others getting “stuck” based on their social media feeds. Once you become more enlightened about ways that we get “stuck” you start to see the patterns popping up everywhere.
After more than a year of quarantine, when I see people out for dinner, shopping or having coffee meetups, I’m so surprised to find most folks are staring at their phones — not the faces of their friends and family, not looking around and taking in the music, the conversations, the collective energy of others. They are stuck, held captive by a phone that they can stare at all by themselves at home alone. What do we miss when we are not paying attention to all that is around? What fun things could we be taking in if we turned our attention away from the phone. If you have ever drank your entire cup of coffee and then realized that it was empty but you weren’t even aware that you drank it, then you know just what I am talking about. Remember what you long for about the old “normal” and steep yourself in that when you are out and about.
Deepak Chopra shared another compelling example of where we can get stuck. He termed it a “second hand experience”. In other words, we acquiesce the essence of a present moment to someone else. We let another person become the author of our experience. He offers the ways in which this can happen:
when we do what someone else tells us to do
when we live up to someone else’s low expectations
when we do things that are not really true to who we are
Often in these situations, we will feel unsettled, frustrated and pressured. We feel a sense of relief when we can get out of that kind of influence and can just be ourselves. There have been numerous times in my life when I felt this way and now I am aware that the cause was my strong desire to be accepted, or to ensure someone else’s happiness at my own expense. Having boundaries prevents these experiences from recurring. Paying attention to our internal “warning signs of discomfort” helps us to get back on track and to enjoy life firsthand.
Deepak offered this awesome insight: “One reason people are thrilled to fall in love is it feels new, exciting and original. You should have some flavor of that in your everyday experiences too.If you can say, I love this moment even when nothing big is happening, you are enjoying first hand experience.”
There is no one better at first hand experiences than my brother. He is such a positive guy and extremely grateful for moments that many of us take for granted. Being around my brother is like having a magnifying glass to ensure that you don’t miss one drop of the good stuff that life is doling out. Whenever I need a reminder to change my perspective or reset my vision, I just think of him. I’ve come to realize that the reason he is so resilient to all that he has weathered in his life has come from his continual harvesting of gratitude. Dr. Rick Hanson tells us that if we can just hold onto those moments of joy for 30 seconds — in the moment they are happening, then we create a reservoir of resilience for the future.
So many people are feeling overwhelmed these days with the ongoing uncertainties that we are collectively experiencing with Covid, quarantine, working from home and more than a year of virtual school. We are all feeling the effects of the strain in one way or the other. It is easy to get “stuck” and it is easy to get writer’s block about our life experiences and the stories we tell ourselves. In a recent Dare to Lead podcast, Brene Brown and her guest, Dr. Angela Duckworth, confirmed that there has been a very sharp rise in mental health issues over this past year.
Take heart that we are not alone when we get stuck, struggle or just become listless. So much honest conversation about what we are collectively feeling is supporting our efforts to break free from old stories and mental loops. Take advantage of the many tools, therapy and friendships that support our efforts to reframe experiences and expand our perspectives.
There may never be a better time to revisit our old narratives and give them a “refresh”. We can use this time as a springboard to write a healthier, honest and evolving life story.
Places I find inspiring, encouraging and chock full of good ideas for perspective taking:
TYPOLOGY PODCAST with Ian Cron
Awesome episode with David Nurse, NBA Life & Optimization Coach and author of a new book entitled Pivot & Go. We can all draw from his coaching and learn to “pivot” when we need a new field of vision.
DR. RICK HANSON, Author of Neurodharma is my go-to resource for a rare combination of neuroscience and mindfulness. He’s relatable, informative and encouraging. Here’s an endorsement from Lori Gottlieb that captures the essence of his game-changing book:
LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER • “An easy-to-follow road map for creating day-to-day inner peace in today’s increasingly complex world.”—Lori Gottlieb, MFT, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
In this Youtube video, Dr. Hanson offers the 7 practices that enhance higher levels of happiness in our lives.
I’m pulling a thread from my last blog post about “evolving” and how I witness personal growth blossoming from one generation to the next. My inspiration comes from my daughter and the book she recently gave me entitled Inward by Yung Pueblo as well as the most endearing “present moment” comments from my 3 year old grandson.
My 3 year old grandson, Tank, was in his happy place — a dirt filled construction site with a small mountain of freshly turned soil, a Tonka dump truck and a bright yellow excavator assessing the big job. I overhead his conversation to himself. “You can do this Tank. You’ve got this.” I turned to my daughter who was nearby and said “wow, that is great self-talk.” At that point he looked at me and said — “I am just telling my brain, Gigi.” Out of the mouth of babes, right? It seems so natural and so easy — assess a challenge and feed your brain the positive messages to tackle it.
One day he was playing in the same construction sight, his little leg outstretched in the cool dirt. He was busy digging away, filling a truck with soil, when he looked at me and said “I love the warm sun on my skin, Gigi.” “You know, buddy, that is one of my favorite feelings too,” I replied. That moment really touched my heart since I often share my little present moment delights with him — the happy chatter of the birds, a welcome cool breeze on a hot afternoon, the rich colors of the sky at sunset. Perhaps I have nurtured his awareness of his own little present moment treats. I hope so, because it is the moments when we are not distracted but fully steeped in the experience that enrich our memories. Children seem to learn so much by osmosis — which is really just observing us and where we focus our attention.
My daughter discovered Yung Pueblo a few months ago and read his book Inwardwhile she and her family were on the road for a few months. When we reunited recently, she handed me her copy of the book saying I think you might like this, mom. She was right — I loved it. Yung Pueblo offers wisdom that comes from his own personal growth journey, his activism and life experiences. You’d think he was my age but this remarkable inspirationalist is only 32 years old! For young people like my daughter, he is relatable — and he leads by example. I am so delighted that she has found her very own resource for inspiration and learning. Here are just a few of his insights shared on his Twitter account in recent weeks:
Maturity is realizing there is a big difference between what you think you want and what you actually want. Your cravings can twist your mind and make elaborate fantasies that seem good but in real life they aren’t worth all the trouble. Align with your goals, not your cravings. –Yung Pueblo
Are you being yourself or are you being your past? Immediate reactions are often old patterns. Real authenticity is removing the power away from the immediate reaction and giving it to the intentional behavior that aligns with how you actually want to show up in the world. — Yung Pueblo
Find a partner who realizes how their emotional history impacts the way they show up in your relationship. They don’t need to know themselves perfectly or be fully healed, they just need enough self-awareness to see when their past is getting in the way of loving you right. –Yung Pueblo
A few days ago, my daughter came home from running an errand, eager to tell me about a podcast she had just listened to with Yung Pueblo on “radical authenticity.” Just like the moment with my grandson and his awareness of the warm sun on his skin, I found myself soaking up this moment. I often listen to podcasts while running errands or out walking — and I am usually excited to share some nugget of incredible insight when I return. Now here I was — the benefactor of something remarkable my daughter was discovering through her own resources.
Little does she know, but that brief conversation we had about radical authenticity was such a gift to me. As a parent, I’ve strived to foster all the goodness and potential I see in my children even though they themselves may not fully see it. My 33 year old daughter is now both my child and a mother of her own children. Through her own parenting lens, she is exploring more fully all that she wants to instill in her own children.
Some of my greatest growth spurts happened during my 30’s and 40’s and they were borne of the desire to be at my best for my children. I wish that I had discovered a “Brene Brown” to help me back then. What I know for sure is that I often was not my “authentic self” as I navigated my marriage, parenthood and my career. It took me til my 60’s to realize that people pleasing, conflict avoidance and pushing myself to the point of exhaustion were some of the roadblocks to being my authentic self.
I am elated that my daughter is embracing radical authenticity and allowing that big-hearted personality of hers to shine. She strives to bring her best self to her children every day — the real and honest version of herself. The conversations that she has with her young children touch my heart in a very deep way. They do not shy away from hard conversations and the realities of life. (This past year of pandemic and quarantine made this a necessary part of life.). They honor feelings, no matter what they are. They explore these emotions and how best to respond to them in healthy ways. They work out problems together with respect and understanding. Often when the kids are playing alone, they naturally use these whole-hearted skills to solve an issue with a dispute over a toy. My daughter stays out of it and allows them the space to put into practice what they are all learning through their interactions with her.
I marvel at the self-awareness that my young grandchildren already possess at the tender ages of 3 and 5. They can describe very accurately their body’s responses to emotions and situations. They are being taught to trust their intuition and make choices that are best for them. They recognize their individual differences and are learning to just accept that what causes a strong emotional response in one simply doesn’t hit the radar screen in the other.
When they offer an apology, they also explain what they wanted and how they were feeling. Just this morning I heard my grandson tell his sister that he was sorry for pouring water on her. He explained he was upset because he was excluded from her tea party. She accepted his apology and said very plainly “There are better ways to get an invitation, Tank.” What I love about this interaction is the framework my daughter has given them for a sincere apology. They acknowledge their actions, explain their frustrations and respect how that affected their sibling. It’s often just a matter of minutes til they’ve resolved their issue and are enjoying each other’s company.
In my generation’s childhood, we were often dismissed or even punished for expressing our emotions. As a result, we developed coping mechanisms that were more problematic than helpful. Brene Brown has taught us that all this armor we use to protect ourselves just gets in the way of being our beautiful authentic selves. My generation’s parenting style evolved where we often tried to soothe hurts with ice cream, and rescue our children which often meant they didn’t get a chance to solve their own problems. I don’t think we fully understood that though our intentions were good, we were still impeding the process of living authentically.
My generation did not have the tremendous influence and social pressures of social media to contend with either. Constant comparisons and a high demand to portray a “perfect life” on Facebook and Instagram just create more pressure and roadblocks to being present in the moment and being your authentic self. Brene reminds us that living authentically means embracing all of life — the messy, complicated stuff as well as the happy, lighthearted share-worthy moments.
It is a source of great comfort and inspiration to me and my friends to watch our adult children evolving in their own lives and in their parenting skills. They are doing a better job than we did in many cases and it gives me great hope that future generations will not be bogged down with baggage, armor and ineffective coping skills. Imagine harnessing all their energy in creative, resourceful, compassionate and respectful ways. The future we all hope for begins in the home, with our family and what we teach each other.
Let Your Inner Truth Shine: How the Children in our Lives are also our teachers: click the link below for this Mindful Magazine’s Weekly Wakeup: