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In April 2012, when I stopped broadcasting my live radio show, it happened in the strangest way. I had to choose to continue or not, and frankly, I just wasn't sure.  Up until the last possible cliff-hanging moment, I  didn't know whether to go on or stop. 

All I can tell you is I waited and waited and waited and I got no Inner Gong.

The sound of that "Gong" is one way I refer to the feeling that I get inside when I know something is right for me.  It can be a tingle or a feeling that my heart is bursting, or a simple internal whisper of Yes.

Which is great, except for that I had nothing. Nada. Zip.

Which meant I also wasn't getting an inner "No Way!" This was beginning to look like a bit of a problem. Then I thought, "Well, without a clear yes or a clear no, what shall I do?"  I decided to simply let go of the show and wait. 

Now if you know me, you'll know I'm a workhorse.  I can be pretty tough to keep pace with. I walk fast. I eat fast. Normally I decide fast.  I am not the kind of gal who just sits around and waits.

So maybe I should clarify what I mean by "let go and wait." 

What happened really was, I tuned in.  For once in my life, I slowed down just enough to not rush forward into the void, and began to turn my full attention inward. Not just my partial attention.

Over the last few years I've learned enough about how the mind works to know that you cannot solve problems by getting busier, speeding up, forcing things or taking on more. The only way to know yourself, to know your own mind, and therefore to really hear what you want, what you'd love and what you think would be wonderful -- you must listen. 

I have not listened for most of my life. Case in point (FYI, Elese), there's a much better chance I might not have married a heroin addict in college if I had. (Amongst other things which would take me way off topic...)


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This time I opted for listening before doing.

I mean, I needed to learn how to hear, but most importantly to what. So it has been an ongoing education for me, culminating in this very strange situation with the radio.  With a quarter of million listeners behind me, I just simply didn't continue moving forward with something that was successful and growing, based on well, let's be fair, a guess.

I made a guess that if I waited, I would hear something eventually. Then it all went pretty quiet. Didn't expect that. So there I was, watching it end, with nothing new to go on and no direction to go instead.  (Here's the blog I wrote at the time) To follow my gut this time round meant allowing myself to release what was working, not for something better, but for something unknown.

I'll admit during the following months it felt like I was being stretched on a rack!  It seemed like I was in the unknown without a map and with a GPS system that refused to cooperate.  I realized I couldn't make it talk but also, since most of my mistakes happen in the gap between not-knowing and not being comfortable with that, I knew I wasn't willing to try to force it.

Tough one. If you are me.

The longer this went on, the more challenged I was.  I would get some notions, follow a few ideas, throw things out there -- but my inner gong still wouldn't play my way. 

I had got myself by the "short and curlies," as they say.

For eight months things kind of fell apart and were replaced by one increasingly large question mark.  I'd love to say I was comfortable with all of this. The truth is I went up and down a lot.  And that is the nature of the mind. Luckily I also knew that and it helped me immensely.  I was able to stay in the discomfort zone and even to relax there, and as I did, I started to get finer distinctions for myself about the different tones of the gong.  Eventually I began to be moved by something within that I could hear clearly.

There is no real end to this story, but there are some interesting conclusions. Today I have more clarity about my reason for being on this planet than I ever have, and that's pretty amazing to me. (Read my newsletter of today for more on this).  Had started this process with that in mind, I am not sure I'd have seen that result. Maybe. But that is certainly not what my clever mind thought I needed at the time.


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Could I have learned all this without dropping everything?

Maybe.

At the same time I have to admit I feel so much more myself. Even though it
doesn't feel like I'm the one holding the mallet.

During eight months winding along a path of hairpin turns with no horizon in view, something else happened. One day I woke up and wrote down Ten Keys I use to recognize and tune in to my Inner Direction.  I hadn't noticed these before.

In the autumn of 2012 I shared these Ten Keys with people in the form of an free ebook, which is still around on iBooks.  I loved choosing the photographs for the book. They are amazing! You can check them out on a copy I have available here if you don't have a device with iBooks. 

In addition, many people wrote me and shared their stories of following Inner Direction. I have not compiled these in the book -- yet.  Why?  No reason, really. They are all really great and wonderful. One day I might. Or not.

Isn't it nice to know that nothing has to be wrong -- or even right -- for you to steer in any direction you want? And for no reason at all except you.

Sounds like freedom to me.

In the last two months I've added exercises to Inner Direction (based on many of the questions I asked myself going through this process of change and inner attunement) and expanded the book content, plus I've included pages you can take notes on.  More Here.
 
 
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_What have hummingbirds got to do with your life?  Lots, as it turns out!

I don't know how much you know about hummingbirds, but I was very ignorant about these beautiful creatures.  So feel free to laugh at me, but ...

For one, I thought hummingbirds were in constant motion.  They are not. They dip from flower to flower, and as I learned one day, they will actually perch on a branch, rest, and then while still sitting with their tails opening and closing like wee luminescent fans, they'll casually poke the nearest flower.

I also thought they were silent.  They are not. As they whirr and whizz around at  speed they chirp, trill, cry, call and sing in delighted tones.  They have different whistles and clucks and I've come to recognize them by their unique sounds as well as their colorings.  And they have other surprising behaviors, like rising up ten stories, hovering and then diving straight down at screaming velocity!

Two reasons why I'm on the hummingbird theme.

One is that in life, I'm often so ignorant of the tiny marvels all around. It's funny how easily we can be lulled into thinking that we know what life is all about.  Perhaps if you'd asked me about hummingbirds, I might have been fairly confident in my thinking that they are in constant motion.  Even though I really did not know that.

I come up against my own ignorance when I'm closely observing life around me.  If I am open to what is there, suddenly life seems to open to me.  It begins teaching me how things really are.  And then I have the opportunity to laugh and drop my illusions.

Often when we find ourselves at the crossroads of what we think we know and some brand new information, it can be tempting to stick with the road we know. Even if it really is not good for us and not leading us where we think.

I do believe it can be strange to us, and even difficult, to remain open to life. Although it is natural for all human beings, it isn't normal practice to let life reveal its secrets to us. We are rather more used to reaching first for what we think we know.  We seem to become more open to learning only after we've come to the edge, exhausted, of what we know.

And this brings me to my second point about hummingbirds and life.  Just like the hummingbird is quiet sometimes, so we need to be.

Everything we need to know about how to live life is available to us. One of the reasons we get lost and take the wrong fork in the road repeatedly is because we have not stopped long enough to listen.  We are too rarely informed from the inside.  We haven't listened to ourselves. I'm not talking about following every emotional upheaval wherever it takes you, I'm talking about honoring our inner guidance.

Many times you've made a mistake and later known that something inside was telling you to do differently.  You probably swapped that inner information for logical reasoning.  Your logical mind didn't have the right answer.  But you knew that afterwards.

This happens -- not because the logical mind is always wrong; it is just more interested in keeping you glued together than anything else.  It wants the version of you that you have now to be preserved; this above all other things.  Your logical thinking is at its' most dangerous not when it doesn't know, but when it thinks it knows. 

As a result, we can easily become great big rigid intolerable know-it-alls.

To have a porous attitude to life is to know one thing: that you don't know everything.  At least not as far as the facts go. And most certainly not as far as concerns the inner lives of other people.  But you can know yourself.

To do that, you need the delightful attitudes of listening, quietness and openness.

The one thing that we all know is exactly what it feels like when we are living as our true selves, living and being who we are. 

I'd suggest that when we are quiet enough to hear our own direction in life and we follow it, we automatically feel open to learning, to understanding others, to loving others. 

To listen closely to your inner world is to hear Life speaking to you.

We are all connected to this same Life, this Spirit or Formless Intelligence, so the result of tuning in is always to feel closer to our real self and to feel closer to others.
 
 
This week I've been following the USA today series on "The Happiest Woman in America" and I don't recommend that you read it unless you are 1) ready to get deeply unhappy or 2) are a sociologist.

The story ran over a series of four days and analyzed the every movement of Mary Claire Orenic, age 50, "The Happiest Woman In America." It looked at her life, in conjunction with a recent Healthways study in well-being and 23 pieces of data identified as keys to well-being.   Mary Claire was presented as the poster child who demonstrated that when you have these 23 things on the Well-being Checklist, you will be happy.

Nice idea.

Wrong conclusion.

Here's the thing, Mary Claire does seem to be a genuinely happy person. And that's wonderful.  What is less convincing is the assumption that the trappings of her wonderful life are what caused her happiness.  

This is a case of confusing the effects of happiness with the cause of happiness.  Let's look more closely. 

For example:
  • "Eating five small meals a day and taking frequent walks has helped this busy mom stay in shape." 
Assumption: stay in shape and you will be happy. 
  • A well-timed empty nest is critical for well-being.  "You need to have launched your last child by the time your reach age 50."
Assumption (stated outright):  Because "the intersection between your stage in life and the age of your children will have a profound effect on your happiness."

These assumptions and many more, whether implicit or explicit, make happiness a function of your body shape, of your wealth, of your children and of your friends. 

This well-intentioned article dissects these so-called causes of happiness with a view to instructing people in how to carve their own way to well-being. It misses the elephant in the room.

Well-being is not a stop on the tramway, or a lost sock.  

I know articles like these intend only to be helpful, but they do more harm than good.  At best an article like this does nothing to point to the true causes of happiness. At worst it reinforces the already too-widely unquestioned idea that our contentment and well-being are out there somewhere and the problem is to define the "somewhere" and somehow sneak up on it before you die.  

Only from this logic could it ever make sense to prescribe "1-5 hours of social interaction per day," "Strong support of family," and the other 21 things that are listed as essential contributors to high well-being.  

What a disservice to humanity.  What a lie. 

Look more deeply.   

Rummage around a bit in Mary Claire's real story and you will see that the key information was mentioned only in passing -- cast aside as if it had no bearing on her long-term happiness -- and the real questions were never asked. 

How did she know to follow the roads that she did?  How did she hear her own inner direction to "learn from a past mistake" and to turn away from "being a slacker in high school," to "wait to get married later in life."  Where did her decision to become "an achiever" suddenly spring from? These questions deserve attention because they point to something more important than what happened next.  What was she listening to?  How did she know to follow it?

Something inside her told her to get a sponsor to help further her career.  She and her husband were "deliberate" about when to have children.  Mary Claire keeps up with friends from her past -- all results not the causes of her happiness. Ask rather,  how does she "know" to do that? How does she know to do any of it?    

Where is she getting her information?   

I know one thing, she didn't have a copy of the Well-being Shopping List with 23 things on it.  Many of her choices in life flew in the face of logic, reason and what other people told her to do.  She went her own way.

Everything she has now arose from herself first. Call it good judgement, common sense, self-listening, or just tuning inward.  It doesn't matter what you call it. The point is, she is not special or gifted or amazing.

We all have what Mary Claire has.  She's just using it.

And thus the most important part, the universal and most hopeful part of her story was completely missed.  She's not "The Happiest Woman in America" because she can cross off everything on the well-being check list, she's happy because she listened well to her own good counsel.  She followed her compass.  She saw her own north star and said "that way!"

That's possible for any of us.  That directional mechanism is inside all of us already.

What do you think Steve Jobs was listening to?

So burn the case studies, the research and the shopping list for "Wellbeing."

When you can hear the guidance within you that is telling you what's right for you, make the choices that are in line with you. They will feel right.  Learn what that feels like.  Louise Hay used to call it, "listening for the inner ding."  

Mary Claire is a good example of someone who did just that. 

Forget the rest. 

 
 
Once a spiritual seeker approached a great teacher and said, "I'd like to find my perfect mate."
 
The teacher responded with a question, "Are you happy?" she asked.
 
"Very much so! I have a nice house, car and a great job and I'm very grateful."
 
"Are you happy?" she asked again.
 
Surprised, the seeker responded, "Absolutely. I have wonderful teachers and I have studied a great deal. I've come a long way."
 
The teacher listened and looked gently at the student and asked again, "Are you happy?"
 
The seeker became irritated.  He pointed a finger at the teacher accusingly, and said  "You know, if I didn't know better I would think you were trying to get me to realize that I'm already happy so that I will forget all about my question!"
 
"Exactly," said the teacher.
 
We all tend to focus our attention on what we think is missing in our life.  
 
It is as if the journey of life were equivalent to completing a puzzle. Sort of like arriving here on this planet, each of us with the incomplete set and with the missing pieces scattered across the world, waiting to be sought out, claimed and placed in their rightful juxtaposition. 
 
Life becomes a continual search for the right pieces and a feeling of being unfinished until the last pieces arrive.  To cope with this we rely on faith or action -- or both. And I'm not surprised that people have crisis of faith, or that action eventually exhausts us and fails to deliver.
 
Not because action or faith are not helpful, but because there is a fatal flaw in the fabric:  The assumption that we are incomplete. We are not. There is no one on earth who came here needing therapy at birth.
 
No matter who we are or what has happened to us, we all possess capacities to live life that were never taught to us. Capacities that are a given from the time we arrive to the time we die.  No one taught you love for example, you arrived with the ability to love.  No one taught you intelligence, you came here with it and it is yours to use.  And if you think about it, love, intelligence, wisdom, and life itself, will still be here long after we are each gone.  
 
What this must mean is that you are not damaged, partial or in need of any of the true basic necessities. Assuming you define 'basic necessities' as these formless qualities, in other words as your ability to finish the puzzle -- not the puzzle pieces themselves.
 
When we focus on what is missing in life we will always find something.  Yet, when we look inward and reflect on who we are as part of the universal intelligence we are born into, we always find that we are completely well-equipped to guide ourselves through life.
 
 
 
 
Based on the radio show on Focus some of you sent me questions about how you can find more focus in life.

To learn to focus may be an art, but this I know: it is a natural art. 

We all have the ability to focus. You have had it your whole life, ever since you were a child and got so absorbed in the game you created with the neighbor kid that you forgot all about time and suddenly realized "Oh my gosh, I'm supposed to be home right now. Dad is going to kill me!" 

When you were a kid you didn't need coffee, chocolate, Kombucha, or Red Bull in order to try to stay involved in your game, your drawing, or singing into your Mom's hairbrush.

Focus came naturally. 

The idea that you need a substance of any kind in order to focus is simply an idea that we've got used to.  We got so used to it that we don't question it.  But that doesn't make it true.

Focus is not found from the outside.

My suggestions on how to find focus, therefore are not tricks or substances or external things of any kind.  Just some ways I've played with as I looked in different places for new ways of doing things (check my blog for more).  Here's my take.

1. Ask Better Questions.
Ask yourself powerful questions, and listen for the answers.
When your mind does quiet down (and it inevitably will) ask yourself things like:

"What would most nourish me feeling good and feeling focused right now?" 
"What do I do/Where am I when I'm naturally relaxed and happy?" 
"When was the last time I felt really focused? How did that come about in me?"
"If I gave myself permission to do things my way, which project would I do now and which would I leave for later?"

You will get interesting answers. And the idea is that when you do things your way, you'll do them well and with more focus.
Maybe write some notes on these answers, or change the questions to suit you.

A variation on this is to ask other people what they notice about when you are most focused, yet relaxed.   The next point builds more on this.

2. Know Yourself Better.
Notice your natural preferences more and work with them not against them.

We spend most of our time looking around us for what we can do or take or have that will help us focus. But as I said, focus doesn't come from outside us.

One way to really help ourselves is to work with and amplify what is already natural to us. In order to know that, begin to notice things like your natural rhythms, your preferred creative time during the day, your low times and your warm-hearted times. Start watching yourself more and notice the ways you support yourself and the ways you might be draining yourself. Are you saying 'yes' to too many projects for example?  In that case you don't need more focus, you need to learn the word 'No.'

Without getting judgmental, think about ways you can start weighing in to support yourself and your natural tendencies.  One thing I do is meditate. That supports me well. You can find what is really suited to you and your life, rather than just picking up what someone else says works for them.

3.  Work on Your Project When Your Mind is Clear
Try working with your clear mind instead of trying to force yourself to overcome a fuzzy mind.

Find the state you most prefer that allows your mind to settle and come into balance. Notice what that feels like.  The mind will do this naturally when we are not overly lost in thought, but some practices like contemplation, reading, meditation or journaling can help.   If not, the best advice I've ever been given is just WAIT.  Things pass. Our thinking passes.  Moods change. 

Maybe the old idea of taking a walk until your thinking clears up wasn't such a bad one!

4. Stop Motivating Yourself! 
The amazing power of choosing.

Most of us have trouble focusing when we are trying to force ourselves to do something we don't actually want to do (see above, saying NO!).  We have this funny idea that we will be able to do the thing and focus on it while we are spending the entire time complaining and bemoaning having to do it.  We can't. 

You can't focus and have a lot of negative mind chatter going on at the same time.

With the 'musts' in our lives, what most of us then do is to try desperately to motivate ourselves somehow.  Feel free to use rewards and punishments if you like, but they never worked for me to improve my focus.  And the question here was how to focus better, not how to complete things.

If you really have something you know you are going to do and that requires your focus (say, taxes rather than laundry), you will need to make a choice.  A very simple choice to do the thing 100%.  Make the choice to do the thing in front of you with all of your attention and energy. Just decide it's the most important thing right now.  The most important thing in the whole universe. 

Give it your full attention, instead of your half-hearted attempt.   You'll see it will be done faster, better, and you'll feel focuses.  With one simple decision you will hoick yourself into the now.

And in the end the only place where focus lives is in your now.

5. Trust Yourself
Some things that our own wisdom shows us can seem counterintuitive.

If we weren't so worried all the time about getting things wrong and having our personalities hurt, we would be much more curious about life. We would drop things that don't work for us much sooner.  And we would do what we know is best for us no matter what anyone else said or did.

Try it.  And pay attention to what happens.  Sometimes we are too quick to register failures and we don't give ourselves time to get into a new groove.  Sometimes we may even wrongly label a small step toward success as a failure.  That's like pulling up the seedlings because you can't tell the difference between them and the weeds.  Give yourself time and relax into this as much as you can.

It's ok to be learning and trying out new ways - and they can feel strange.

In addition to my recent show on Focus, here is a show where Thomas Sterner recounts some amazing an counter-intuitive practices that helped him increase focus: Focus on Demand. In one great story about tuning a piano under terrific pressure he tells how he saved 45 minutes out of his day by slowing down to simple movements, one-at-a-time. 

See what you think.  Try your own ways.

And let me know what you discover!

I also highly recommend that you read Steve Chandler's book "Time Warrior"
 
 
Howard Falco has been an inspiration to me over the last couple of years and I'm thrilled his book "I AM: The power of discovering who you really are" goes on sale on Sept 2, 2010. 

When I spoke with Howard recently on the show (Listen Here), we talked in depth about the way in which we create - how each of us moves all the pieces into place that assemble all the elements of our lives in each moment.  Just as you have assembled everything to be right here, right now, reading this.

In my experience, creation is a process of intention, feedback, understanding and action and Howard has summed up this process so nicely I wanted to share that with you.

This is from page 314 of I AM

"The journey of consciously creating life is a repeating cycle of the following five steps
  1. ASK your question
  2. ACCEPT the truth of your answers
  3. CHOOSE who you are (I AM)
  4. ACT on this belief in yourself
  5. EXPERIENCE the perfection of the results

The universe can only respond to the identity you truly believe you embody."

Thanks Howard.
 
 
When I got Lynne Klippel's book, Overcomers Inc., in the post, I have to say my initial reaction was I liked the book, hated the word.  Overcomers.  I don't want to be an overcomer.  I want to sail effortlessly through life and have everything be easy.  Overcoming is such a dull, pedestrian task.  Maybe, "Go Climb That Mountain!" just make you tingle with inspiration, but it makes me want to climb back into bed. 

I read the book and the true life stories in it, and although I still don't like to think of myself as an overcomer, I have to admit that I am.  We all are.  If you got through asking someone on a first date, or wearing really high heels for the first time, you are one too. 

And that's not a dull thing at all.

In fact, there are some pretty hefty qualities that we need to be able to call on when the going gets tough.  Here's what I think those are:

Taking responsibility
Surrendering
Trust
Willingness

In every real life experience in that book, as well as in my own life and the lives of people I coach, these are the core of creating a new life - whether you are creating on the rubble of an old life, or you are just ready to move to the next square on the board.

Taking Responsibility
OK, swallow hard now, this is the painful part.  Yes.  We all have to take on the fact that we live in our bodies, and that what we chose is what makes our life a heaven or a hell-hole.  Until we do, even if it's just saying, "I'm really the only one who can get me out of this mess", no change can begin.  As Debbie Ford used to say in our training, over and over again, "No one is coming to save you."  Ouch.

Surrender
This is a bit sucky too.  When you are very used to being the project manager of the universe, or at the very least queen in your own teacup, surrendering to the idea that you just don't know how to fix it is, well, let's just say, not fun.  Surrendering doesn't mean giving up, it just means giving way.  You have to get your own ideas out of the way in order for new ones to come in.  In my life, this often mean surrendering some idea of who I am, in order to get a glimpse of a bigger me.

Trust
We place our trust in many things, including the universe, our pets, our friends, and our lovers.  Maybe you trust that things will 'all work out for good' or some other spiritual principle.  Whatever you chose to trust is up to you, the one thing I know you can trust, always?  Your own inner guidance.  When that channel is clear it is never leading you astray. It might take you in a direction you don't like, but that's another matter!

Willingness
Oh, you have to be willing to change, to move, to be different, to let go of what you thought would be.  Willingness is the oil that greases all the wheels.  Willingness to try the new, to step when you can't see forward very far, and willingness to fail - help you take it all less personally. And that's a good thing.

For more on this topic listen to the radio show from January 15th with Lynne Klippel
 
 
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Times are uncertain. There are no easy solutions. Our inner beliefs are being tested by circumstances that seem beyond our control.

Whether the future will be the same as the past, or bring an entirely new paradigm, remains to be seen.

Whatever the future holds, the present uncertainty is both an opportunity and an incentive to build inner strength. Now is the time to develop those attitudes and habits that will enable us to face, with calm acceptance and joy, whatever comes.

Here are five tips to stay balanced:


Relax Upward: Don’t think only in terms of “down time.” Think also of “up time.” There are two ways to relax. One is to shut down awareness with things like television, beer, or excessive sleep. The other way to rejuvenate is by expanding awareness. Build into your daily or weekly schedule spiritually centering activities. Learn to meditate. Read uplifting books. Attend classes on life-enhancing subjects. Listen to calm, inspiring music. Be out in nature. Get to know yourself in solitude and silence.

Be Original: To be original does not mean doing something that has never been done before. It means to act from your own point of origin. Don’t allow yourself to become a dull reflection of the world around. Think deeply. Act consciously. Be sincere in everything that you do. If circumstances require you to accommodate yourself to the needs and demands of others, concentrate on inner freedom. See yourself as a single thread in the vast, unfolding tapestry of life. Through love, compassion, and generosity of heart, make yourself into a thread of gold.

Be Creative: The secret of prosperity is creativity. This will become especially important if times get hard. Whether you define success as all the things that money can buy or all the things that money can’t buy, a creative person never accepts failure or limitation as the final decree of fate. If one approach didn’t work, then go after the same goal from another angle. See every day, every situation as a fresh opportunity to discover some yet unknown possibility. Be on the lookout for new and improved ways of doing even oft-repeated tasks. Be mentally active. If your work leaves your mind free, then sing, pray for yourself and others, memorize and repeat poetry. Creativity in itself brings joy. And sooner or later, the positive magnetism of your creative attitude will bring you whatever you seek.

You Are What You Eat: Think in terms of life force. Fresh, natural food is filled with vitality. Devitalized food makes, not only a heavy body, but also a heavy mind. In these uncertain times, you can’t afford the extra burden. There is so much life force in an apple, for example, that, if you bury it in the ground, the seeds can sprout, and one apple becomes an apple tree. Bury a “Big Mac,” and nothing more will come of it!  The net result of consuming too much over-processed foods is less than zero. It takes more energy to digest such foods than they can ever give back to you in life force. Trying to right the balance with more caffeine is not the solution! You don’t have to be a fanatic and change your diet overnight. Just gradually begin eating more foods in their natural state or close to it, and your own experience will be your guide.

Strength in Numbers: You have to walk the path yourself, but you don’t have to walk it alone. In times of stress especially, the presence of like-minded companions can make all the difference in whether you keep going or give up in despair. If you don’t have supportive friends, then go out and find them!  Group spiritual practices are especially beneficial, giving you the experience and power you need to go deeper on your own as well. Visit meditation centers, churches, and spiritual groups of all kinds until you find those people and practices that resonate with your own inner self.

Listen to the show with Asha here


Asha Praver is a lecturer, teacher, counselor, Spiritual Co-Director of the Ananda Palo Alto Community, and author of Swami Kriyananda as We Have Known Him.  Asha has been trained in yoga, meditation, and spiritual living by Swami Kriyananda, who was a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda.  Since 1969 Asha has been a disciple, a meditator, and an intentional community member.  Contact Asha at www.ashapraver.com.
 
 
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This year I did something I’ve never done before. I spent New Year on my own.  Alone. No parties, no champagne, no midnight kiss.   Crazy, I know.  And amazing.

I looked at the year ahead and I thought: "Do I want a year that looks like a hard walk uphill, or a nice path to somewhere I actually want to go?  What could I do to make my goals fun and my path nicer to walk whether I got to the 'goals' or not?

I had this idea to take 4 days in personal retreat, on my own, in Baja, to just think it through. And on Wednesday, off I drove...

What would I do when I got there?  There were a few things I knew I wanted to do. One was, I had the idea I could just make the year a bit easier and more 'successful' for me with some conscious planning. ('Conscious' not 'strenuous'). I wanted to really close out the last year and somehow milk the lessons from it, in a real way.  I wanted to launch the New Year with a feeling of a clean slate, with some direction and focus.  I wanted to spend some time giving thanks and acknowledging those who’ve helped me.  And then there were the things I just wanted to leave behind in 2009 and simply say goodbye and good riddance to.

But the real reason I went on my self-imposed personal retreat is that I just had this very strong feeling. Something inside that I couldn’t ignore just said ‘do this’.  Now, that to me is amazing: not the experience of knowing something, but the fact I actually listened to it.  I talk a lot about listening to inner guidance, but if I’m honest I can look back on my life and see many, many times I have not.

In fact, there have been so many moments when I knew not to say yes to that second date with someone, when I realized that what was about to come out of my mouth was going to get me in big trouble, or when I withheld support from someone or judged a passerby and knew I could be less cruel.  I realize, much to my horror that I know what is right for me and what is not – but that I also have an ‘override’ button.  In fact, I am much more practiced at overriding my gut direction than I am at following it.

So I am particularly grateful to be able to say that 2009 was a year of paying attention to my inner compass, and learning to follow the pointy arrow.

As for my retreat, that was also a success.  I reviewed the old and said farewell.  I welcomed the new and created space for it.  I came to my desk this morning with an invigorated sense of possibility and some new commitments.   I don’t have the year mapped out, and there are no ‘shoulds’ or ‘to do’ lists.  But I have created a map for 2010 that will be fun to explore. 

It won’t be news to anyone to know that if I intend to explore new territory, I’ll need not just my new map, but also a few new tools.  For me, that means some new habits (creating more, writing more) and some renewed commitments (making the radio show more meaningful and more helpful in serving people).     It involves planned giving for the first time. This is probably where the whole exercise of going on a retreat has been most useful, because I was able to spend 4 days not only thinking “What would I like to create next year?” but also to look at “…and how would that look; what would I need to change if I were to do that?” It was an exercise in imagination that I would not have engaged in quite the same way if I’d stayed home.

Four days alone over New Year proved to be one of the best things I’ve ever done and there were a couple additional keys to this being so fruitful for me.  Here’s what I took with me:

  1.  Jacob Glass’s “2010 Miraculous booklet”.  A complete spiritual review of your year and setting a plan for the next.  Available to download for free on his site www.jacobglass.com
  2. Jinny Ditzler’s Best Year Yet  - build your12-month personal plan online at www.bestyearyet.com.  A fantastic review tool!
  3. Barbara Sher's book, I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was. In case I ran out of ideas on what to do.  This proved invaluable!  www.barbarasher.com
  4. A Course in Miracles (on Kindle for iPhone) To continue the daily practice of the workbook.
  5. Debbie Ford’s powerful questions from her newsletter 2010: Destination of Your Dreams from The Light & The Dark weekly newsletter (You will find more in her book Best Year of Your Life).  Here's the link those questions, also published in her article in the Huffington Post
  6. Three years of notes from my coaching and apprenticeship with Michael Neill.  What can I say? Simply, OMG.  www.geniuscatalyst.com 
  7. One stuffed-to-the-gills notebook with all my life learning and notes from my training in What One Person Can Do (see my coaching site www.newmindsetcoaching.com for more on One Person)
  8. All the notes from my radio shows
And on top of this, I packed a ‘self-coaching’ attitude (which for me meant asking myself key questions, observing my responses and creative journaling), a box of colored pens and a huge Post It sticky pad.   Then I mixed and stirred into the recipe, one bottle of wine, PG Tips Tea, fresh pesto, organic salad, lots of fish tacos from the local dive, the Matrix Trilogy, my ipod and four absolutely stunning sunsets.

Not invited were:  email inbox, Facebook, Twitter.  My iPhone was for Kindle only  (Is now a good time to apologize for being AWOL all last week?)

End result: Wow.



Baja sunset
One of my sunsets
 
 
Picture
Last week on the show "Will the Real Happy please stand up..." I spent some time digging below the surface of a very commonly accepted idea: happiness is inside you. Very few people would quarrel with that idea anymore.  We seem to have a sense that we can't find happiness outside ourselves, but guess what?  We look anyway.  As I heard this week.  "I know money doesn't buy happiness but I'd like the chance to find out for myself!"

The way to find out about happiness could well be to become a gazillionaire and see, but between now and then, there's lots you can do to understand what happiness is for you. The show looks at these, and you also have two archive shows with Robert Holden (on June 5th and July 24th) exploring the 10+ Keys to Happiness.  Great shows.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to explore this right now, here are some questions for you to journal on or think about:

What are the top  5 lessons on happiness your life has taught you so far
?  For each one....

            How has it influenced your life?

            How well have you learned it?

And you might want to take on a practice for the week to notice

When you are at your happiest

When you feel most alive / on purpose

Let me know how you go...