Creating Through the Dark Times in Your Life

I like to think artists are all about making beauty, but they aren’t really. They’re about seeing. Creating through the dark times requires a willingness to face what you see and to give voice and shape to it. This flies in the face of being likable, popular and inspiring, although capturing felt experience so your audience feels it and relates to it as if their own is its own kind of beauty. And closing the distance between you and your audience, creating intimacy with your work, being vulnerable and fearless–These are inspiring acts.

Therefore, it would do us well to embrace the dark times.

Embracing the dark times brings to bear all the discipline, fortitude, trust and courage we’ve honed in our daily practice of creating something every day, no matter what. The sheer stubbornness that’s carried us through times of no time and no space and no ideas and cardboard-flat experience shows up as the commitment we need to face the empty page, canvas, room or camera and tell it like it is, now.

It pays to hone the skill of being the last one standing, or the one to whom it all comes down, the keeper of the stopped buck, passed from hand to hand of well-mean-ers and not-quite-readies. And to then plant that thing right in the ground, knowing it will bear fruit. Willing it to bear fruit, even as we surrender to the timing, the form and all the particulars.

There is a word for the intersection of discipline, fortitude, trust and courage: Grit. Sandpaper has grit. Its roughness makes it king to anything it rubs against, except, perhaps, steel or air. We become masters of the dark times and show our audience the way through by being the grit that rubs the darkness smooth.

One way I stay on the creativity train is by writing something down just before I turn out the light at night. It’s often a poem or a prayer. It’s my last-ditch effort to connect with what’s in my heart before surrendering to sleep, the place where the alchemy of dreams can have its chance at healing my anguish. There’s something about that moment before sleep when I always have the impulse to tell it like it is in a way that I might not in mid-afternoon or first thing in the morning. It’s as if I’m writing to a wiser part of myself and saying, “Yes, I’m aware of this, I can finally own it. Let’s see what you can do with this.” And with just a hint of, “Please.”

Here is a poem that I wrote before bed while still reeling from the shock of a close friend’s diagnosis.

Slapped

I am waiting for mortality
To shear me of my denial
And lead me to an edge
I have been dancing toward
But have not seen,
To startle me with candor
As cold as finality and
As hot as shame at having been
Complacent and in denial.
I am petitioning mortality
To take from me everything fake
And true, so that I can
Finally be here, unashamed 
And bare, blazing with a passion
Of which I am sure.
I am waiting for mortality to bring
Me certainty before it’s too late,
Because I feel mortality’s slap, 
My whole being a reddened cheek
That hopes to fade before
Someone sees, yet desperately
Feels this may be the one chance
To face the refiner’s fire, 
And be forged into something 
Lasting and strong.
I am waiting for mortality
To shear me of my denial
And wondering why
I can’t offer it up
As a matter of course, 
A daily practice,
Until mortality takes me.
And I wonder if we aren’t still infinite beings,
But that we need mortality
To take us that last leg of our becoming
Or we might be tempted to
Remain unfinished,
To avoid the acute discomfort
Of having left behind 
Every tiny familiar thing
We carefully crafted to confirm
And celebrate our misguided story
Of who we are.

Another creative act in dark personal times is to faithfully record our dreams. This means being faithful to things we avoid in waking life: illogic, loose ends, irrational alliances, walking around naked and pooping in public, being in dark places, flying.

Dream

I am thinking if I were in the army I’d keep my partial plate at the barracks so it wouldn’t get broken in combat.

I am walking along thinking this and around a bend I am on a familiar grey shore where long dark oblongs bob in the water. Ebony whales, logs, piano keys bob in grey water, while the tan cliffs rise up before me, and circling a little closer with each hesitation, black panther-like, uneasy animals pace underneath the cliff head. 

I have climbed up before but now I can’t get a foothold and you have shimmied up before me, you and another, and I want to call for you to come back and stick your hand down for me, but I don’t want the circling, sniffing beasts to see I am stranded down below with them.

It crosses my mind they might be friendly. I wake with a start.

3:37 a.m. Your side of the bed is empty. Some time later I heave myself out of bed and slip on my crocs and head to the guest room to make sure you are there.

The door is closed. I’m sure you are sleeping. I go back to bed and shoulder my way tensely back into sleep.

At 7:30 it’s daylight. I have a dream to tell.

When we create fearlessly and simply from what we are witness to, perhaps the most powerful thing we model is not knowing. Presenting the truth without tying it up in a neat package, drawing handy conclusions and useful how-to’s takes courage, but also gives courage. Our audience knows when we are full of it and needs us to be the ones to not flinch when the darkness comes to be written down, danced, or sung.

Finally, I leave you with a song, the darkest love song I’ve ever written. I can’t tell you what it’s about, really, except it was my truth at the time. And the lyrics kept running in my head the whole time I was working on today’s edition. It’s not a studio recording, but it will do. I wrote it back in 1996 and recorded it today, head cold and all. I hope you enjoy it.

Greeting Things (poem)

leo-fosdal-114217 photograph roadside

 

Rolling the 300-plus miles south from Arlington, Massachusetts
To Franklinville, New Jersey, I noticed more than anything
The places beside the road that were green or greening
And wondered about the roadside weeds, imagined collecting samples
To identify later, then remembered a quote that said
That until our scientists stop trying to learn about things
By killing them, we will not understand life. And I remembered
A time when there were too many stars in the night sky to possibly
Identify constellations, and how, lying on my back on the gently rolling
Dock at the end of the ramp where we tied our motor boat
In the ocean, I understood that naming things is not the
Power I thought it was and started reaching out in greeting
Instead. I stopped calling in the directions by telling them
Their names. I greet them as you would anyone
and thank them for creating the circle of our physicality,
Then tell them my intention and ask for their help. And
Now I see I can do that with the weeds and the stars,
Join with them, their myriads, and feel at once my own
Multiplicity as each cell in my body and all the force
Of consciousness I possess begin to dance in recognition
And communion with my brothers, the many, the choruses,
The infinite beings of life. And I see there is nothing to be known
But only to be experienced, and as much as I can
Hold it, to be alive with each of these, and in each moment to be alive.
My intention is to know you. Please help me be alive.

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aaron-burden-88770 dandelion

What’s Your Why

Artist Talismans

I’ll admit that for the past few weeks, I’ve been binge-watching Kyle Cease. I go through these things where I latch onto a wise person, a transformational leader of some sort, and I consume everything they’ve put out there. So, it’s Kyle now.

In one of the clips, Cease says that when you’re in the “how” of something–How do I get the word out? How do I do this? How do I show people how valuable this is? How do I develop a program? How do I create what’s in my head to create?–it’s one obstacle after another, because the answer is always…“I don’t know.”

Otherwise, we wouldn’t be asking how.

But when you switch and get into your “why,” –your purpose, what your heart is urging you to do, then all of the hows show up. A million different ways reveal themselves.

Taking a deep breath and trusting Kyle on this, I dropped that pebble of a question –What is my Big Why? – and followed it down, down, down, in search of the answer to something I was  been stuck on while crafting a portion of my program, Reclaim Your Creative Soul.  Since I was totally stuck in “how” and not getting any stellar insights or movement on this, I knew I had nothing to lose.

The whys came in layers. The first layer contained all the usual suspects in answer to the question, Why help stuck creatives connect with their creativity?

  1. It’s fun.
  2. I love seeing people happy and self confident and powerful.
  3. I’m curious to see what people are going to invent when they’re empowered.
  4. I love art.
  5. I love beauty.
  6. I believe the answers to life lie within each of us, and the answers for humanity depend on many, many people accessing their inner answers.
  7. God made it so we have everything we need, and if part of what we need is locked inside us in the broken places where we can’t reach, people like me come along and help other people reach those pieces so they can have access to everything they need. Once enough of us have access to everything we need, we can stop hurting collectively and start healing. In fact, we already are. I want to be part of healing.
  8. I want to be famous and have people like me.

I was delighted when that last one came up, because that has been my motivation for doing so many things–To prove I can do it, to get respect from people, to redeem myself, to be something.

Then came the deeper layer of why.

Why help creative people connect with their creativity?

  1. When you’re a creative artist yearning to express yourself there’s almost nothing as painful and debilitating to the spirit as not making your art.
  2. And a spirit in pain is not whole and is not able to soar.
  3. And a spirit that can’t soar is not fulfilling its purpose.
  4. And what is more noble and worthy than helping someone else find their big why so their spirit can soar and they can fulfill their purpose?

And that’s when I realized that finding my Big Why was essential to leading my people to connecting with their own creative purpose.

When I started thinking in terms of why, I noticed I’d been playing in the space of How do I make this work and strategizing to find the right and clever answer and developing the best, most foolproof set of exercises. I’d been playing at the level of  “What’s the least damage I can do?” instead of “How much can I give to the world from my heart right this minute?” I’d been coming more from How can I make myself worth the trust my people have placed in me than the space of “I have to do this, it’s what’s inside me, it’s who I am, and there’s no other thing I’d rather be doing.”

“How” is a much smaller game than “why.”  So why do we get stuck there?

I found myself daydreaming about my struggle with performance. On the one hand I believe I should want to perform my music for people. But on the other hand, I don’t really want to. I don’t enjoy being on stage with lights in my eyes, having a weird auditory experience just when I should be able to hear really well, and being super self-conscious. Not a fun time for me.  But back to the first hand, what if I’m stopping myself from doing something that would complete the circle, and people would enjoy it? In fact, I already know that they do, because I used to perform. Until, back to the other hand, I realized I hated it and gave myself permission to stop making myself do it.

And that’s where my pebble stopped dropping. I was back in “how.” I knew I that whole conflict was a “how” conflict, because of its polarity and circularity. That kind of bone is irresistable for our dog-minds. We can’t leave it alone. It’s what our minds were made for.

And that was a good-enough understanding for a night’s work. Because it was time to go to bed, I did. (I’m really good with going to bed, unlike how I was as a kid, but that’s a different story….)

The next morning, I’m driving to work, and I realized all at once that the reason I create is because I love. Life. And that’s how I express it. I love singing, I love words, I love concepts, I love creating a mood and a feeling, and it’s love. Creating is my love letter to life. All I have to do is keep expressing my love.  My expression is mine. All mine.

And all I want for my people is that they get to the place where their creativity is theirs, and it’s their expression of love to the world. It’s so natural to create from that place. Because who doesn’t want to make love in a way that’s easy and natural? In a way that you don’t have to think about what you’re doing, you don’t have to think about technique, you don’t have to think Is it okay, am I saying it right? You just do it. Because it’s what’s in your heart.

Ultimately the love is bigger than all of the other concerns. It’s bigger than the inner struggle.–I want to create, but I can’t and I don’t know how, and I don’t have time, and I don’t have space, and I should get gigs, but I don’t want to, and nobody will hire me, blah, blah, blah–The love, when you feel it and connect with it, is bigger than all of that.

And that’s what art does. It helps you get into the bigger place, the place that contains the struggle. And from there, the struggle loses its power. Because who cares about the struggle with so much beauty and reality-altering art around?

What to do from here? Heck, I think I’ll just hang out here for a while. It’s so big and spacious. And I think I’ll invite my people into here, too, and invite them to step into the love that fuels their Big Why. And invite them to consider what they want to create from there.

My big why is love. Love of my people, love of expression, love of expressions of love, love of love letters, love of life, and love of the beauty-making, sensitive people who are daring and crazy enough to want to make art, because they have to.

Till next time, go make something!

Love,

 

p.s. You can preorder Kyle Cease’s new book, “I Hope I Screw This Up” here.

A Time of Gratitude and Appreciation

Last week, I promised you downloadable thank-you cards to use in your healing practice. And I have done that here.  But first, I wanted to let you, my blog followers, in on a super sale I’m conducting, just until November 30, of my Soul Message cards and books.

Did you know?

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There are 49 other unique, positive, loving, affirming, encouraging, uplifting messages to you from the Universe in each set of full-color ultra-thick cards, which comes in a handmade drawstring bag.

The Soul Messages paperback contains a thought-provoking essay for each of the messages, enough to start your day, end your day, give you guidance, and affirm where you are on the path of growth and becoming.

The special early bird gift offer from my heart: With each set of Soul Message cards you receive a free autographed copy of the Soul Messages paperback, a $30 value for just $18.

And the super special through November 30: Buy 2 or more sets of Soul Message cards and pay $15 each and still get a free autographed copy of the Soul Messages book with each set.

“These are my Bible lately.”

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“Uncanny!”

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“The Soul Messages are always right on!”

Soul Messages are also wonderful additions to your waiting room, group programs, and treatment sessions.

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Click the link below to get a jump on holiday shopping, spread some love, and find out what the Universe has to say to you! (It’s way better than what you say to yourself.)

The early bird sale ends November 30, so follow your heart today!

Magic Portal to Soul Messages

Item #2 for your holiday gratitude and appreciation fest

Last year I created one-of-a-kind paper collage gift enclosures based on the Soul Messages and sent them off to your loved ones. (With your permission!) Good thing I took pictures. I had to, because I fell in love with each of those 4×5 collages.

This year (as in, last night) I uploaded those images onto greeting cards for you, and they’re now available on my very first Zazzle store. How is this so much FUN?

Here’s what they look like. If you click on the image, you’ll be taken to my Zazzle store, which is called phyllomania. (The images look a lot sharper on the real thing. See below.)

So, NOW for the freebies

These same designs are available right here at the bottom of this post, for free. You can print them on nice card stock and write your own message inside, or you can go to my Zazzle store and check out my messages and use them. I suggest you download the image and resize it according to your need. Two of the images side by side fit beautifully along the bottom edge of an 8.5×11 piece of paper in landscape orientation. Print, cut and fold, and voila!

Click here for a pdf file with the images laid out as described above. Print, cut, inscribe and send!

OR, you can simply download the images and do what you will with them. Click on the picture, which will open in its own window, then right click to download.

justbeingyou6 theuniverseadoresyou3 theworldisblessed6 trustyourbrilliance

I hope you enjoy your holiday goodies! I love appreciating my clients and customers at this time of year. It’s a win-win, and sets the stage for a fortuitous beginning to the new year.

All the best to you in this season of Light,

PhyllisSig

Five Essential Notes to Hit in Your Holistic Business Holiday Marketing Plan (and some free downloads to help you do it easily)

The holidays are a great time to market your holistic health or healing business. The service you provide and/or the product you offer are SO needed at this time of year!

Although the fit may seem obvious to you, your potential client may be tempted to skip your service and just push on. The best holiday marketing plan lets your customers know that what you do is relevant during the holidays. And the holidays present the perfect opportunity for you to let your customers know how much you appreciate them.

5 Essential Themes for Your Holistic Business Holiday Marketing Plan

The dominant theme of the winter holiday season is peace: Goods and services that promote inner peace, outer peace, provide a peaceful moment, or allow your clients to create peace in their gift-giving will be welcomed by your clients. Any healing modality that promotes well-being can be marketed in terms of the peace it promotes.

If you counsel or coach, you can offer “inner peace” sessions, or sell an item that is consistent with that theme, such as a mindfulness or meditation book, CD or link. Yoga is a natural fit here. If you provide another kind of service, is there a way you can give your clients peace or ease stress by taking a burden off of them (priced specially for the holidays)?

Another holiday theme is good will: Services and products that promote good will between you and your clients, including the ones just discovering you for the first time fit in here. How do you promote good will? You think of a way to go the extra mile for your customers. Wrap a gift when they purchase during the holidays. Offer free shipping. Give them a gift card with a purchase. Or give them a thank you coupon they can bring in after January 1.

vibrant-energycoverMy Vibrant Energy Self-Care Planner hits both of these notes. Download it for free and share with your clients. (You can use it, too, of course!)

Speaking of thank you, holidays are the perfect time for you to express your appreciation and gratitude to your clients, both your most loyal customers and your fearless first-timers. In addition to the other suggestions here, you could offer a super-duper early bird special just to loyal customers. And make sure they know this is something exclusive for them.

Coming next week: free downloadable holiday client appreciation cards!

Or you can add a special thank you gift when people come in during the holidays. Examples: Inspirational cards, gift cards and certificates of thanks, essential oil samplers, candles, and other items with thank you and you’re special messages on them. Cooking oils, sachets, laminated EFT cue card, book excerpt or funny quote from book on a postcard, bookmark, T shirt, handy de-stress reference tool are all great ideas.

SoulMessagesCroppedCheck out my Soul Message cards and books on sale. They make great stocking stuffers, gift enclosures and inspirational message grabs in your waiting room or retail counter. (There’s also a link at the end of this article for a free pdf download of each, if you don’t want to wait for shipping.)

Here’s a whole website devoted to the Soul Messages, where you can check them out up close. But come back here for the special holiday pricing.

Obviously, holidays are also a time of celebration. Goods and services that help your clients and customers celebrate the holidays in a meaningful way or that help them see something as celebration-worthy are relevant during this time. Greeting cards, ornaments, healthy indulgences, body care products, tiny books, key chains, pens, markers, mugs, calendars for the new year, a stone or stones, and little baubles as give-aways all work.

The fifth element is refuge. This time of year is so stressful and the expectation to feel happy is so pervasive, that your clients may appreciate your business as a place where they can escape from holiday madness rather than revel in it. You can offer products and services that help your clients deal with the holidays better, lower their stress, or provide a refuge in the storm. These include providing them with ways to simplify their gift-giving, such as gift certificates and gift items, or providing services to that take away some of their stress, such as massage, yoga classes, or energy work.

gift-certificateBe sure and have gift certificates on hand to make it easy for your clients to share their enthusiasm for your services with their loved ones. Here’s a gift certificate download all ready for you to customize and print out.

Wrap It Up: Keep it simple and have fun. It’s over before you know it.

One of the best things about the holidays for your marketing plan is the time element. Urgency to act now is built in. It’s also a time when people love to spend money. Some of that should come to you. Of course, now (as in, today) is also the time for you to devise a plan for how to capitalize on the holidays to bring in more business. Since time is of the essence, keep it simple, have fun, and keep your customers’ needs in mind.

Enjoy these free downloads to make it easier to hit all the right holiday notes this holiday season!

The free holiday gift certificate template is here.

Soul Message cards and books holiday sale page is here.

sm-cards-pretty-diy-imageToo rushed to wait? Download the Soul Messages on card stock and cut them out yourself, for the super-low price of (free.) 🙂

It’s a 5-page pdf with a 6th page of card backs if you wish to print double-sided and have a card-back design. (Classy!)

Download the Soul Messages e-book here. (Also free, because holidays.)

Vibrant Health Holiday Self-Care Planner is here.

Enjoy! I love you! Thank you!

PhyllisSig

Make a Plan to Keep Your Holiday Energies Calm and Bright

Dear You,

Are you feeling the need to get focused about self-care this holiday season?

If so, then you’re in luck! What follows is my personal approach to keeping sane and healthy during the holidays. A little woo, a little not-so-woo, and a few gritty but great hacks for the holiday season.

My guiding principles are three: Keep It Simple, Shed the Shoulds and Make a Plan. With these as our guides, navigating the season becomes manageable. You’ll see elements of all three woven throughout the following tips. With a little practice you can create your own personalized plan for holiday sanity.

In fact, I’ve include a free copy of a Personalized Plan for Vibrant Energy Throughout the Holidays for you to download and work out the details for yourself.

And now, the tips for keeping your energy calm and bright over the holidays.

The Woo

1. Define your personal holiday priorities. Decide what the holidays will be about for you this year. What’s your personal theme? Reconnecting? Quality time with family? Renewing spiritual connection, meditation and going within? Creativity? Rest and renewal of your body? Calm?

2. What do you love about this time of year that you would like to allow more time for? Clear, cold star-lit nights? Evenings with friends? Sparkly lights and carols? Whatever you do, make time for those things. Remember that realistic and attainable goals rule over the holidays.

3. Adopt a personal essential oil. Whether it’s lavender for calming, peppermint for perking, frankincense for transcending, or citrus for cheering, lay in a supply of your favorite essential oil, fill a new roller bottle, and make sure you have it on hand wherever you go. A whiff or two when you’re getting tense or tired can work wonders. You can also roll it onto your wrists and temples for added support.

4. Learn this 12-minute Donna Eden Energy Routine. This seriously works to re-group all the circuits.  Regularly doing it seems to integrate my energy more than anything I do. I find the “hook-up” especially helpful when I can’t shut off my mind and go to sleep. (No, not that kind of hook up!)

5. Carry or wear a grounding stone or crystal. Experiment. It can even be a stone from outdoors that calls to you. Keep it in your pocket and use it as a mindfulness experience. Stones are the ground. So, they ground. Yay.

6. Get (back) into your body. Your local yoga studio has a drop-in price. Granted this might be hard to start during the holidays if you don’t already have a yoga practice. But you could schedule in one or two drop-in sessions over the whole holiday season. Not gonna do it? Try a Youtube yoga routine. Yoga with Adriene is a no-fail pick. Failing that, take 10 deep breaths. Count them. Yes, it’s a whole new world when you’re done.

7. Review the annual holiday situations that steal your light and energy. Let yourself off the hook for any shoulds you feel. If you can’t do that, is there an element of want-to that you can take hold of and build on? How do you want it to go? What kind of event or connection would be meaningful to you? Can you suggest an alternative to what’s always been? If so, be prepared to help make it happen. (Others don’t have your vision.)

8. Consider your inner child. Think fun, wonder, treats, making things, giving and magic. Even if it’s just once during the whole season, can you make a date with your inner child to do something special together?

The Semi-Woo

These tips fall into the category of semi-woo, because you may not at first see what they have to do with keeping your energy calm and bright. But, depending on how woo you are, you might. No matter what your philosophy, try them! They’ll make a dent in your stress and help keep you flowing through the marathon.

9. Limit screen time. Yes, screen time can unground you, as your eyes carry you anywhere in the world that you visit online. Here’s my screen time schedule: No screens before breakfast. No screens at meals. No screen after 10 p.m. And when I break those rules, I feel it. Make your own screen time schedule.

10. Have on hand affirming, encouraging, distracting, informing, kind reading material. For me, it’s nonfiction that’s human, informative or expansive. Quantum physics, astronomy, memoir, cookbooks, coloring books, occult and mysticism, spirituality, nature. In the fiction category, historical fiction, feel-good romance, and mystery all do it. I shy away from self-help because it gets the I-need-improvement thoughts going. Yucko. I also skip violence, gossip and psychological thrillers. (These might be your thing.) And don’t forget funny shit you can count on to make you laugh out loud. Search for it. It’s there. This will no doubt be part of your screen time. Use it well.

12. Limit exposure to broadcast media of all kinds. Instead, give yourself 10 minutes in the morning or at lunch time to catch up on the headlines, then stay away from ads, news, and other fast-paced, in your face “information” for the rest of the day. At the very least, don’t “go there” at night time.

13. Schedule in downtime, and use your evening hours for quiet, relaxing activities. In other words, don’t start a big project at 8 pm on an empty stomach, for example. A wildly unlikely one, I realize. (Is it just me?)

14. Know your personal signs that you’ve had enough and take a break before your cool is lost.

15. And the best thing to do to head off loss of cool? Move your body. I know, I know. You get stuck on the couch. We all do. First, decide on something that’s easy, free and low impact, especially if you’re not a regular exerciser. Walking is queen here. Throw on a coat and some sneakers and take a walk. Even just 15 minutes outside is enough to exchange all the air in your lungs for new air, increase your metabolism, and destress your adrenals. And leave the phone at home, of course. In case of bitter cold and stiff winds, put on the music and dance! If all else fails, set an alarm once an hour and get up and walk around.

16. Invent some new ways to indulge that are healthy: a hot bath, go to the movies, a meal out at lunch time, reading time, learning a new or reviving an old craft, to name a few.

Gritty But Great Holiday Hacks

I see these as carefully calculated, expert deflections of the biggest holiday stressors, whether they’re niggly-teeny-tiny or completely dominating your whole life during this time of year.

17. Bow out of annual events early, if you know they aren’t for you. Don’t wait until the last minute. As soon as you get the invitation, decline. Mark that day on your calendar for self care, fun, or simply chilling at home, celebrating victory over a should.

18. Simplify you gift-giving. Many socially responsible organizations make it easy for you to give in someone’s name, and then give a card letting your recipient know about the donation. Spending time with people, including catching up by phone or via Skype, is also a gift. Secret Santas, a very nice card, gift cards and gift baskets are all nice ways to give without killing yourself. Anything handmade is also a win, but only if you already love making things.

19. Don’t want to receive presents? Tell you loved ones early, and give them suggestions for an organization you’d like them to donate to, in case they simply can’t not give you something.

20. Whom do you want to share some holiday time with this year? Contact them and make a plan to get together. If it’s an annual thing, start looking for something fun to do now, and put it on the books as soon as you can. Note: Meeting someone for coffee or tea, or to browse in a bookstore, is enough.

21. Create go-to holiday attire that you can wear to everything. Unless you have a formal event to attend, you can get away with picking one favorite item and building around it. Slacks, jacket, scarf, socks, a hair pin, a set of earrings, a sweater or tights can make your holiday outfit.

22. Leave your indulging for the parties, not at home. Keep your home stocked with fresh, good, easy to prepare foods, and consider making it a no-sugar zone. Don’t skip meals. Make a veggie soup, stew or casserole that you can reheat for lunches and quick suppers.

23. Decide on a high nutrition snack to carry with you. The ideal food will be high in real ingredients, low in sugar and artificial ingredients and quick to consume. My go-to is Larabars. Second is lightly toasted and salted nuts with a handful of fruit-sweetened dried cranberries or raisins. Yours might be a smoothie, base prepared in advance, throw in protein powder, add fresh fruit, and you’re done.

24. In addition to a daily walk, there’s the 7 Minute Workout, which you can find on the Apple App Store, or on Google Play. The more you do it, the easier and better you’ll feel. Plus you’re actually strengthening your muscles. Everybody has 7 minutes.

25. Wear earplugs when you go shopping.

Holidays completely and totally not your thing?

While the rest of the world is spending, visiting, eating and dealing with unwanted gifts, you can use this time to catch up on all the movies you missed during the year, clean out your closets, drawers and cupboards and make donations to community organizations that serve the needy in your community, take a needed vacation, read an entire trilogy by your favorite (or new) author, decide what new cuisine you want to master in the coming year, or get started on that creative project you didn’t get to all year. (Some of us are jealous! Maybe next year!)

The Wrap-up

26. Deep breath, it’s the holidays.

Probably no one is immune to expectations of having a season of peace and good will, no matter how you’re really feeling. But with a little planning, you can step onto the food, gift-giving and socializing merry-go-round without losing your balance.

Want to get started strategizing the holidays now, so you can stay grounded, connect with what matters, and protect your precious natural resources of time and energy?

Be sure to download my free self-care planner,  Vibrant Energy Through the Holidays to work out the details.

Next week: How your business celebrates the holidays (business as usual, but with a bow on top?)

To your vibrant energy!

PhyllisSig

How To Serve More Powerfully and Shift from Insecure to Confident in One Lifetime.

I’m sorry that the concept of niche has been taken over by the marketing world, because it’s so much more than “targeting” a “segment” of the “market” so you can sell more.

Niche is an ecological term that means the place in the entire ecosystem where an organism belongs, because it’s part of a bigger picture in which everything thrives in its place and in turn makes it possible for everything else to thrive.

It’s about interdependence, not domination or trickery.

The concept of ecological niche is illustrative of my deeply held belief – in fact it’s a knowing, and I’m sure you have it, too – that everything has a place, and that this ecosystem called life is perfectly designed already.

Where we get confused and muddled is when we don’t understand anything about our “place.” What benefit we bring, why it matters that we’re here, how we contribute to the wellness of everything, how we need everything around us, and how, to quote Jim Hightower, “Everybody does better when everybody does better.”

Instead, we worry about whether we’re good enough, whether anyone loves and accepts us, whether we can finally be enough and somehow eradicate our seemingly never-ending self-doubt and insecurity.  And then we wonder why we can’t get customers, why no one comes back, why our titles and modalities don’t impress people.

Do you think a lichen sits there and says, “Love me! I’m a lichen! I’m the best lichen! Please love me!” No. A lichen establishes its place and covers a rock, turns an indescribable color, spreads a soft cushion over the earth, releases incomparable freshness into the air, provides nourishment for the creatures nearby, and invites wonder. It does its thing. It’s tiny, but irreplaceable.

Sit still. Stop flailing. Take a whole day and see if you can just be yourself without striving for anything, without needing to be filled, validated, approved of, liked or understood. Then tell me: Who’s beating you up? Who’s not approving of you? Who won’t accept you and your gifts? Where is all this insecurity coming from? And most importantly –

Why are you feeding it?

There are such bigger, more urgent things to heal than our insecurities. Believe me, I’m qualified to say this, because I’ve spent an inordinate proportion of my life feeding the belief that I don’t measure up. (Unless I live to 120.)

More than anything, I want to help you get into serving powerfully and get out of needing validation from outside yourself.

We need your gifts now.

And your niche is the place where you give your gifts the most powerful, effective and natural way, where you stop flailing and just be, and where you really understand your place in the bigger scheme.

And that’s how, in a holistic business, from an energetic perspective niche becomes, not a place, but a process, the channel through which your gifts are transmitted to the people who need them the most. In service, not through manipulation. With grace and groundedness, fully aware of the scale and scope, which, while seemingly tiny, is exactly, exactly right.

And isn’t that what you’ve been yearning for this whole time?

To get there, to understand your place, your niche, requires you to think in terms of whom you are serving and how you are helping them. Most importantly, to operate from your niche and be of powerful service, you get to bring your whole self, not just your titles, credentials and training. You get to bring your personal healing journey, because that’s what’s made you who you are as a healer.

Look around at your community. What is needed? Whom does your heart go out to, because you’ve been there? If you’ve been there and if you’ve gotten to a better place, maybe an okay place – not perfect, but okay – can’t you serve in some way?

Do you see how taking the focus off what you do and placing it on whom you serve out of your own healing and expertise as a person, changes everything? Opens up new possibilities?

It means you get to be creative, unique and, well, YOU.

And haven’t you been yearning for that, too?

Wherever you are in your business and your life, how is the best way to Love Yourself Forward today?

For Visionaries, Goals That Ask Great Questions

goals-for-visionaries-drain1

Why We’re Allergic to Setting Goals

Hello loves, I received a thoughtful reply from a reader and friend (although we’ve never met in person), about goal-setting in response to my last post. It was a valuable comment, but he didn’t want to post it on my blog, because he essentially disagreed with me about the value of setting goals for the more heart-centered and spirit-oriented among us.

“Goals never worked for me as a visionary,” he said.

I want to address that, because it’s juicy.

I can relate. I’ve traditionally feared goals. I’ve felt almost superstitious about them, feeling that as soon as I set a goal, I’m sure to not reach it.

Yet, as a healthcare professional, I know that setting goals and measuring progress against them is integral to the process. “If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, how will you know when you’ve achieved it?” is the thinking.

Moreover, how will you know when it’s time to stop trying to improve things? (Insurance companies really want this to be the point of everything, because that’s when they get to stop paying.)

Being well trained and practiced in constructing these kinds of goals, I’d use this well-known formula for creating goals for my healing arts and creative business projects. They are often constructed using the acronym SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

Example: In 6 months, I will have 4 new clients.

And…cue the energy drain.

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goals-for-visionaries-boxWhat If We Asked Questions Instead?

Goals like these lock down specifics – and they build a fence around them. Insurance companies like them, visionaries do not.

Visionaries like possibility. We deal in potential and look for outer limits, then try to go beyond them. The whole point of being a visionary is to leave things open-ended enough to keep dreaming bigger and bigger.

But we risk coming up short in two important areas if we shun any sort of targets or measurements whatsoever. These are the areas of knowing if something is bearing fruit for you, and being able to use what’s valuable about your process for other endeavors.

So, instead of boxy old SMART goals, I propose asking engaging questions.

One kind of question that’s really fun to play with is the “what if” question. We’re well-versed in this, too, but usually from the other perspective, using this format to draw in our darkest fears. But we can turn it around and make the “what if” question into one that opens possibility and ignites our creativity.

  • What if I get good at this and really love it?
  • What if I learn that this is really helpful to people?
  • What if I could make a viable business out of this?
  • What if I took this idea from here and applied it over there?
  • What if I did this everyday?
  • What if this could change the world?
  • What if this solved ________?”

Here’s another question format: “Would it be fun?”

  • Would it be fun to do this as a service for people?
  • Would it be fun to make money at this?
  • Would it be fun for this to be my primary source of income?
  • Would it be fun if everyone did this?
  • Would it be fun to make $10k this year from this? 
  • Would if be fun to find my next client? How about 6 of them?

Okay, I stuck some numbers in there. What happened to your stomach? What happens when you attach numbers to your vision? Is it limiting in that same way, or does it force an expansion you’re not comfortable owning?

Just asking: How come it’s okay for your stomach to lurch when you entertain the notion of wild transformation, but not okay for it to lurch when you dare to attache a number to your vision?

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My Goal’s Better Than Your Goal

Another thing visionaries don’t like about goals: They tend to encourage competition. We can even get competitive with ourselves with goal setting. It’s not a good enough goal. It’s wimpy. Shouldn’t we set the bar a little higher? Is it really worth setting a goal for just one?

Maybe you don’t really care how many clients you get as long as you start enjoying your work more, feel more self-confident and start bringing in some money. That’s a goal.

How about a goal to have a breath of fresh air in your work life that is fun and productive and lucrative and supports and nurtures you mind, body and spirit? That’s a goal.

Goal setting, visioning, brainstorming, creative problem-solving, negotiating, and all those forms of mental improvisation and possibility-raking amount to just one thing:

What kind of experience do you want to have? Do you want to have an armchair experience and deeply understand something? If so, what question do you hope this experience will answer (or ask) that you care about?

I recently found this thing called Human Design. I dove in, because I love new systems for understanding this human trip. (And being an INFJ, I also love analyzing the folks who came up with the system, but that’s another topic.)

What was my goal? I wanted to answer the question, “Why do I sometimes run out of steam on something I thought I was passionate about?” And the deeper question, “Am I really out of steam, or is something else going on?” And the deepest question, “No matter what I find out about myself, am I still okay?”

Stated even more simply, I wanted to feel better about myself. That’s a goal.

Other goals: Do you want to have a bodily experience, an interactional experience, a public experience, a private experience? Do you want to take actions and change behaviors, see the world in a different way, or understand people differently? Do you want to feel closer, more autonomous, repair or heal something, get un-stuck, create movement and momentum?

These are goals.

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What if I don’t make it?

The next issue with goal setting is the ultimate competition-encouraging gut-clencher of all, measurement.

Perhaps the most important mind shift around goal-setting and progress evaluation, before worrying about how to measure, is to be aligned with why you measure progress and results in the first place.

And this is the crux for me. You measure because you want to make sure you don’t shortchange yourself, abandon yourself, forget to attend to your needs as a person, and stop before you’ve given everything to and gotten everything out of an experience that you set out to have.

In short, you measure because you care. Because evaluating objectively, without judgment, is a counter to the subjective judgment of our experience that nothing happened. That it didn’t amount to anything and wasn’t worth it. Because experiences are gone before you know it.

And because we want to have an answer for the next doubting Thomas who asks if all this fluffy stuff really does anything, anyway. Whether that person is us or someone else, we must validate our own experience. We validate by measuring, somehow.

As a coach, I ask my clients to set goals and measure their progress against them, because I want my clients to know what they got out of their experience and because some parts of how they went about it were effective and powerful, and some weren’t.

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NASA photo
NASA photo

How to measure un-measurables

Here are some good questions to ask:

  • Do I feel complete?
  • What more do I want from this? What more would help me feel complete?
  • Where am I now that I wasn’t when I started? What other movement might be possible?
  • What do I see as possible now that I didn’t see before? Does it intrigue me enough to pursue it?
  • Now that I’ve begun, what do I find myself hoping? What does that tell me about my true motivations?
  • What do I secretly hope will come out of this, and do I need to explore that?
  • How did I go about this?
  • Would I do it again?

You see, really, visionaries can be just as effective at research as boxy science types. We ask what if, we design an experience, and we evaluate whatever results there are, in whatever parts of our experience they occur, making sure we’re still aligned with the vision that started us on the path.

It’s so important to be a gently inquiring witness to your own and your clients’ process, because when all is said and done, we want to be able to say that, yes, we had an experience, but also, we mined that baby for all it was worth and we are on mission, and now we are one step closer to mastery.

goals-for-visionaries-magician

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Things I wish someone had told me when I was just starting out as an entrepreneur in the healing arts

I spent yesterday at holistic fairs talking with practitioners of different kinds, handing out my brochures and hearing about their businesses. My overwhelming take-home from the day was how weird and lonely and scary it can be at the beginning of a new venture, when you really don’t have much to go on to know whether the decisions you’re making and the things you’re investing your energy in are the right things.

When I asked about long term goals and big vision, those just starting out looked sheepish. How about just seeing clients and getting some cash coming in? Fair enough. And quite valid. You have to start somewhere, and everyone has been there. The beginning.

The beginning is one of those times that you can’t appreciate for what it is while it’s happening, because the only thing you’re able to experience is the uncertainty and the terror of just trying things until something works. And even then, you’re not sure for a little while whether you even like what’s happening. “So this is what I worked so hard to achieve?” is one thought.

And some get right into a groove, knowing that this is a stepping stone to something else. Some have a bigger picture from the start. Love those folks. Those are the ones I like to confer with, because it reminds me that someone’s nailing down the four corners of the universe while I’m running around the periphery looking for my entry, and when I get where they are, they’ll be there with lots of advice and help. (Because they’re also generous, grounded and wonderful people.)

And then there are the hummingbirds, the flitters, and I’m sure some of the folks I talked with yesterday fall into this group. But flitter or fitter, everyone’s way of figuring this stuff out is unique. However, there are some things I wish someone had told me when I was just starting out as an entrepreneur in the healing arts.

And here they are.

Things I wish someone had told me when I was just starting out as an entrepreneur in the healing arts
  1. Make goals. It’s okay if they change. Do it now: What do you want from your healing practice? How much money do you want to make? How many hours do you want to work? In what setting? What’s your pie in the sky vision, dream or goal? If you suspect this isn’t your end-all in life, what purpose do you want it to serve in the grand scheme? It’s okay to plan for temporary. And it’s okay to move on when the time is right. It’s not a lifelong commitment. But in order to get where you want to go with what you’re developing, it really helps to know where that is. Make 6 month goals, 1 year, 3 year and 5 year goals. Write them down. Then every so often, check in and tweak. Don’t be a slave to them, and don’t let them scare you, but do write them down. It’s another piece of the roadmap.

2. Don’t do anything that feels icky, even if it’s the way it’s supposed to be done. I used to think I had to talk to everyone about my business, because they might be a potential client or know of one. But sometimes it felt icky to do it. Then a coach told me to stop doing things that felt icky, that I wasn’t trying to get everybody to be my client, just the right clients. From an energetic perspective this meant I could let go of trying to do everything myself and allow the Universe to help me. If there are things you’re making yourself do, ask someone you trust in your field if you really have to do them.

3. Learn how to become a validation machine for yourself. Make it become a habit, as hardwired as hunger, as automatic as breathing. We are already naturals at finding fault and seeing what’s wrong, cataloguing our failings, and focusing on disappointments. Don’t even try to stop doing this. Instead, start a habit of looking for things to validate, affirm, and celebrate. In your journal every morning or evening write about successes from the previous day. During the day when someone near you does something helpful, acknowledge it. When something goes well, say so. Look for ways to honestly and out loud appreciate and compliment people around you. Pretty soon it will feel icky to complain, and then you can avoid it like all the other icky things you’re letting yourself off the hook for.

4. From the beginning, try to bring as much of yourself into your work as you want to. Don’t cut off parts of yourself that don’t fit into what you think you’re doing. These are the very things that make you unique and wonderful and, from a business perspective, help you to stand out in the marketplace. If you’re a musician, let your imagination go wild about how you can bring that into your healing work. Likewise with the visual arts, with writing, with movement. This is the start of creating a comprehensive, unique and wonderful service for your clients that goes beyond your title and credentials.

5. Just because you’re obsessed with your business and love to work from home on your computer, don’t skimp on fun and friendships. Don’t forget how to have fun, and don’t succumb to over-cocooning. These go hand in hand. Keep your friendships alive, and make new ones. Get out of the house and keep involved with what’s going on in your community. If you have to schedule time off, then do it. This will help everything in business and in your life.

On the other hand, there are some things I did do that I’m glad I did, and I hope you’ll consider adopting them for yourself.

Things I’m glad I did and encourage you to adopt
  1. Never stop believing in yourself. Whenever I hear somebody express a belief about what’s possible or impossible in this world, I mentally amend it to, “…for you.” In other words, that’s what’s true for them, great. I’m almost 60, and am just blossoming. I believe I’ll keep blossoming, and I believe I’m on the path I was meant to travel in this life. It’s a choice, and I choose not to second guess my dream and not to diss myself for the timing. I see all around me that people have what they believe is possible. Don’t ever give up your dream because of someone else’s reality.

2. Realize that your intuition trumps all. Get lots of opinions and learn from everyone, including people who are doing it way different from the way you would do it, but keep your truth and stay grounded in your wisdom. Don’t abandon that, because everyone has to find their own way, and what’s more, they’re just making it up!!

3. Keep learning. Keep your memory sharp by using it. You can learn about anything you’re interested in. This will set you apart from others who mostly repeat gossip and never bother to learn anything. Be curious about this vast world, and learn about what interests you.

4. When you get pulled, called, intrigued, curious, etc., follow it. Action matters more than feelings and way more than being right. Take action on your curiosities. Taking action gets you out of your head and face to face with creating your life.

6. Dream huge and don’t worry about how you’re gonna get there. Name your dream. Put it into words, and keep working at articulating it, if only in your journal. Study people whom you admire, and adopt elements of what they’re doing that match your dream. True originality is rare, and on the way there is lots of emulating, imitating, acting as if, trying things on, and creating anew. Welcome to the spiral dance. Your voice is needed.

7. Grab as much free stuff as you can, and when it’s time to invest you’ll know it, and invest. DIY will only get you so far, and eventually you’ll need more support and know-how than you can give yourself.

8. Collaborate with others. It’s enriching. But if someone gives you the creeps, move on.

9. If while working towards your dream you need to live on less money, learn to live on less money. Cut out frills, inessentials and luxuries as much as possible, and learn how to have fun without spending money. Prioritize your dream in as many ways as you possibly can.

10. Self-care before other-care.

11. If you work from home, carve out a place and a time that’s only for work. If you have to share space with the washing machine, do it (as long as there’s a door you can close.)

12. Write every day, come heat or flood, because those pages and ideas and that channel of communication between you and your intuition are GOLD. If you hate writing, talk into a voice recorder or make videos.

13. And I have to include this, because it was never included in any self-help book I ever read before I got into recovery: If you are dependent on a substance to get your through the day, seek help. It’s not normal, and you don’t have to be a slave to anything. You can have freedom and a beautiful life without any enhancing substances. If you suffer from chronic pain, there are alternatives. If you suffer from depression, there is help. Find someone to confide in, and get help. Many have succeeded at this. You can, too.

Let me repeat that last line, because if nothing else, beginning practitioner, I want you to remember this:

Many have succeeded at this. You can, too.

New Site, New Biz, New Season. Welcome!

Hola friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and shazaam! It’s the Autumn Equinox. Last night packing to go away for the weekend, I kept hearing these crazy noises coming from outside the windows of the screen porch where my partner and I sleep, out at Camp. I finally called out, “What’s going on out there?”

The answer: Acorns. Acorns falling. On trash cans, on the compost bin, on tree stumps and lawn chairs. Our hot Autumn night was being drilled with acorns.

Isn’t it amazing how everything knows it’s Autumn, even though in our heads we’re still hoping to catch another day that calls for cold watermelon or a mad dash for the lake, a truly hot and endless afternoon? The timing of the natural cycles doesn’t let up, no matter the temperature, no matter what crazy ideas those humans are broadcasting into the ethers.

It made me feel I ought to be like a squirrel and start collecting nourishment and stowing it somewhere for winter. It’s easy to get caught up in anxiety this time of year. People are having pre-TSD about w-i-n-t-e-r, and don’t know whether to worry more about getting walloped with snow or having another warm and dry one. People don’t know what to worry about!

And, really, it’s a beautiful mish-mash of summer and autumn. There are a few yellow leaves and acorns dropping, late summer fruits are still rolling out, tomatoes and pesto are showing up, and our mouths are starting to water for apples and cider and, yes, even Thanksgiving. (Remind me to tell you about my idea for an even distribution of holidays, someday, won’t you?)

During transitions you get elements of the old and elements of the new, and just like that place where the tide going out meets the tide coming in, it’s turbulent and confusing, but exciting and stirring, and calls for attention and mindfulness.

I’ve been creating huge transition here on the blog and website, where just last month it was called The Joy Report, and I was posting every Wednesday come heat or high tides. Now the site bears the name of my new coaching biz, Love Yourself Forward®, although the blog will still be called The Joy Report, because the spirit of joy still rules around here.

Like a lot of new ventures, this stands on the shoulders of many other times that have in mysterious and unfathomable ways contributed to what is happening now. There are moments that feel like “everything has lead up to this.” And moments that feel like, “This very natural thing that’s happening has always been.” Only now it’s visible.

Just like autumn. It’s been there all along.

A lot of yesses and nos have lead up to today. A lot of balancing, and a lot of falling. A lot of trying and failing, a lot of searching, and a lot of stops along the way that looked like destinations.

And of course this is one of those destinations that will become a stop along the way.  Just like hurricane season morphed into acorn season, which will give way to bare tree season, all in due time. All in some timing that I’m not privy to, but can count on, so truly that I’m sure that none of this is an accident.

Whatever your transitions, take some time to enjoy the swirls of old and new dancing, and listen for the music. This moment will never be again. And yes, it’s been here all along.

Photo credit: Euclid vanderKroew via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA