How I clean bathrooms and beyond…


“Do you need gloves? Gather all your cleaning supplies. Make sure you squirt the soft scrub in the toilet and let it sit while…” I was getting the instructions on how to clean the bathrooms while I was attending the four-day silent retreat last week.

Is there any household cleaning chore more dreaded than tackling a dirty bathroom?

I remembered telling my mom that if I ever had to do that chore I would work to make money to pay someone to do it for me. How I have changed!

Now, after years of practice, I can perceive cleaning toilet bowls as a meditative practice. That is, since I started to think of cleaning as a practice in loving, caring, and making a difference.

When we shift from negatively complaining to positively affirming, conditions change. Then complaining is no longer the operative law in our life-freedom is.
– Michael Bernard Beckwith

How can we apply this understanding to our everyday life for the things we perceive as boring, dirty, and unpleasant? This might be preparing Excel spreadsheets, gathering data from all over, drilling a hole, dealing with co-workers; whatever you dread. Can you change the meaning you give to the dreaded task and see if your emotions towards that task will change as well?

We are so conditioned by the ideas that pour out of our TVs, radios, internet and social media – and often, our friends and family. We are conditioned by ideas that we must do certain tasks, wear a certain brand, drive a certain car, make a certain income; so conditioned that we start living in fear, worry, and lack.

May I invite you to break free from the hold of what we may have accepted until now that we should be like, and no longer consider as trendsetters those people who are simply admired and imitated without having actually accomplished anything? Let us connect to what matters to us and attend to our everyday tasks and life as practices of love, care, and making a difference.

So, where can you start?

Witness or experience the resistance, and then remind yourself to focus your attention not just on the dirt, the boredom, the discomfort, but on the beauty, the support, the difference you are making. Joy and beauty are available to you in the seemingly mundane activities that you do. Notice the gentleness here of the reorientation; it is a subtle shift in perspective. Be present in the here and now, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant the experience may be, and you can surprise yourself.

Keep in mind that our approach to physical dirt, boredom, or discomfort trains us to straightforwardly deal with non-physical dirt at every level. Maybe the tasks that are seen as stressful or exhausting can take on a new meaning. Why not give it a try?

The Secret to Your Happiness


If you check out the self-help section of Amazon or any book store, you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of titles aimed at increasing our personal happiness by losing weight, getting a better job, finding the ideal mate, taking the perfect vacation, eating the latest trendy food, or making more money.

The Secret to a Happy Life ~ Native American parable

One day the Creator gathered all the animals and said:
‘I want to hide the secret to a happy life from humans until they are ready for it.’
‘Give it to me. I’ll fly it to the moon,’ said the Eagle.
‘No, one day soon they will go there and find it.’
‘How about the bottom of the ocean?’ asked the Salmon.
‘No, they will find it there too.’
‘I will bury it in the great plains,’ said the Buffalo.
‘They will soon dig and find it there.’
‘Put it inside them,’ said the wise grandmother Mole.
‘Yes,’ said the Creator, ‘it is the last place they will look.’

The latest research on happiness suggests there are as many definitions or experiences of happiness as there are people. Finding our own brand of personal happiness is a bit like appreciating art – it’s subjective, but we know it when we see it.

Though happiness is unique to each of us, we have control over our own happiness (or unhappiness). We can measure it, control it, and learn to cultivate it. In other words, we can proactively train ourselves to feel happy.

Simply wanting to experience more happiness won’t make it so. The happiest people are the ones who take charge of their attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. “Taking charge” is being able to align your thoughts and actions with core values, the result being serving the higher good of oneself and others.

Finding the secret to your own experience of happiness doesn’t require a trip to the moon, a submarine ride to the bottom of the ocean or digging it up on the lonely prairie—it lives within.

My theme for this year — and what is yours?


This new year, may you have the courage to go after your dreams, as well as allowing yourself to receive all the good that life has to offer.

Last week I started sharing with you the rituals I do to make my year the best year possible. I hope that you have reflected on the past year to gain clarity to plan for 2018.

The other ritual I do at the beginning of the year that you might also do is picking a theme or a word that will help me get to the next level of expansion, personally and professionally.

Having a word, phrase or theme helps me steer in the right direction by asking myself whether my thinking and actions today are taking me closer or farther away from my theme. The word or theme holds the essence of my intention.

I invite you to choose a word or a theme that will inspire you this year as well. Start by making a word list.

What are all the things you want to do, be, or have in this next chapter of your life?

How do you want to feel?

What word makes your heart open?

Simply list out everything that comes to mind. Take your time with this, and don’t leave anything out. No filtering or judgment, just write it down.

Keep feeling the words and looking at the essence, then you will be able to choose your word. Pick the one word or short phrase with which you resonate the most.

Do you want to know my word this year?

It is: ACTION.

My sweetheart asked me for more detail on why I am choosing this word, since I have contemplated choosing others as well. I am choosing this word because this year I want to feel movement and momentum. This word gives me that feeling of movement and momentum, and it is what my intuition says will add the most to my life right now after investing much time and effort into self-understanding as well as researching principles of making a better life. So it is time to take more action!

When choosing YOUR word, connect to yourself and check with your body how the word feels for you. Don’t make a choice just because the word sounds good; make a choice because the word inspires you and points the way to move forward.

So, what is your word? You can enjoy not taking the first one that occurs to you, but giving it some reflection, and then choose after considering a number of options and meanings.

Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best


“Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good.” – The Four Agreements

This is the last agreement and applies to all the other three, which are:

At times it can be difficult to keep the above agreements but if you just do your best, there is no room to judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment.

What does “do your best” mean? That is the heart of it, and here is my answer to that question: be inspired, care about yourself and others, focus, feel joy and sadness, express yourself, and keep to your way!

At those times when you feel excitement, when you are in love, when you are deeply engaged in trying to accomplish a mission you believe in—in all those moments and periods, you do your best. And there is no judging during those times of inspiration.

Only when we drift into an uninspired state of mind, disconnected, skeptical, wondering, do we give time to excessive self-doubt and self-criticism. So finding true inspiration in each moment is key for the fourth agreement: “Always do your best.”

One other important observation is that doing your best does not mean things such as spending the most money possible on a party or a gift, drinking the most alcohol, exercising until you drop, working the greatest number of hours humanly possible, or similar excesses. Those excesses will all lead to an imbalance and if pursued over time can threaten mental and physical health.

But instead, when we are in the right “zone,” we feel connected and nourished by ourselves and those around us; we work with others towards a common goal and share the load; we pursue our own goals with joy and also take breaks to rest and to be with people who are important to us.

I am aware of the fourth agreement as I go through my days, as I consider the following: am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? What priority in choice of words or actions will lead to the best result I can achieve? Hopefully, that awareness and effort is keeping me on a path that will be best for myself and for others.

So when your expectations of yourself and others may be too high, and your perfectionistic tendencies increase out of control, or when you want to push yourself harder to get things done, or when you want to quit and do nothing, at those times stop and ask yourself if you are truly doing your best—then relax your mind, take a few comfortable deeper breaths, and get inspired.

Third agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions


“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.” – The Four Agreements

“What do you mean, you don’t want my pumpkin pie??” (see below!)

It is very easy to fall into making assumptions. I believe as the change in our communication is happening more rapidly through technology the third agreement, “Don’t make assumptions”, will get harder and harder to implement. Today’s very rapid pace of communication through technology is decreasing the interaction between people and making people instead interact with their own thoughts, so the conversations end up being one-sided. You speaking with you!

When was the last time you looked at Facebook or Instagram and assumed from the pictures there that person was having the time of her/his life, while not knowing their reality?

And have you ever received a text message and thought you knew exactly what it was saying, only to find out that the sender’s intention was quite different?

We are thinking and thinking… What is she doing? What is he doing? What about this? What if?… Every human can think a lot and this may cause worry, fear, and anxiety. From there, we start to create the assumptions and the drama yet we don’t always know where it started.

Yes, we often can assume a lot of information based on our own interpretations, beliefs, moods, or values.

A client of mine was working on managing his relationship with food, but was faced with his mother having given him a “CARE package” after Thanksgiving, with a complete pumpkin pie being the main event along with many other goodies. We had a heartfelt discussion of what food means to my client – and his perception of what it might mean to his mother.

He was afraid to tell her that he would rather not have such a large amount of food all at once, because he thought his mother would feel deeply hurt and not loved.

After looking at the situation together, my client and I agreed he would be open and have a heart-to-heart discussion with his mother. He understood that speaking clearly and openly, instead of making assumptions, would lead to a better result and a closer relationship.

In this and many other life situations, imagine instead of just being in your head, speaking openly and looking and gaining for mutual clarification while getting what you really need. How freeing that is!

Perhaps at times initiating such open conversations may not feel safe but I assure you, you can start with small steps, and you will see how this can transform your life. Here are some suggestions that can help:

  • Find out more information about the situation
  • Don’t expect anyone to read your mind
  • Know that you are also not a mind reader
  • Communicate clearly, openly, and honestly
  • Ask for what you want and need

During your interactions with people this holiday season, be aware of your own thinking. You can truly enjoy not making assumptions, and you will experience the positive results that you create. Of course this principle is not only for the holidays; it applies to your whole life. Honest and open relationships are what make our lives meaningful, and filled with love.

Second agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally


“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” – The Four Agreements

Every time I say I help people learn how not to take things personally they always respond—oh, I need help with that!

Now, if you thought the first agreement needed lots of practice, I find this one to be more challenging.

We get emotionally affected by the things that happen around us, and that happens through our own interpretations. Those interpretations are formed based on our wounds. The more aware we are of those wounds and the better we heal them, the better we get with not taking things personally.

I was talking to one of my clients this week who was hurt by the behavior of his boss. For the first time he was late to work due to blocking of some roads by an accident, preventing him from taking the direct path to the office. The boss was disturbed by this lateness, about 15 minutes, and over the telephone accused my client of being careless with his time and not planning ahead. In other words, my client should leave 15 minutes earlier so that once a year when there is a road problem he could arrive 5 minutes early but the rest of the year he would arrive 20 minutes early! The tone used in talking with my client was also grating and seemed to be attacking.

However, the truth still holds: the boss was expressing his anxiety, anger with the world, and perhaps displeasure with the way his company was doing in its financial struggles. I advised my client to examine whether the critique from the boss was appropriate to the situation, and also to look inside and decide whether he felt he had truly done anything wrong at all. With more awareness of the role that each person—the boss and he himself—played in this situation, my client felt more at peace and confident.

If there is a situation where you want to get a different perspectives in perceiving an upsetting episode with someone in your life (family, friends, co-worker, boss, etc), you can ask yourself and reflect on the questions below:

  • Why is this situation upsetting me?
  • What is the meaning I assign to it?
  • What else could be in play here?
  • What is going on inside the other person’s mind and life?
  • What is the bigger picture?

The second agreement invites us to take back the power we have given others to flatter or demean us, in order to free ourselves from being swayed or controlled by other people’s opinions. Notice that even words of praise or appreciation should not be allowed to deflect us from our own self-knowledge!

This principle does not mean to totally avoid listening to people openly and honestly, taking their feelings and opinions into account. The second agreement includes staying open to kindness and love as well as constructive criticism and honest disagreement, but without being thrown off-balance by any of those.

When you keep the second agreement you can follow your heart and be authentic without fear of being praised or criticized. You can keep your inner peace and happiness no matter where you are, and no matter what situation you are caught in.

Practicing this agreement has brought much freedom to my life. I hope you will try it too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

“The Four Agreements” to enjoy the holidays


It’s that time of year again—time for gatherings and celebrations at work and at home. Although these can be enjoyable times, sometimes the relationships we revisit during these events have a difficult history and seem challenging.

It is within the power of each of us to turn each moment with other people into either an opportunity for connection and growth, or a stressful encounter that can leave both parties feeling diminished.

As I was thinking what can I share in my newsletters in this period that will help you the most I thought of the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. This is a book I have known for many years, and to this day I still refer to it often. If you have read the book you will remember that the four agreements are:

  • Be Impeccable with Your Word
  • Don’t Take Anything Personally
  • Don’t Make Assumptions
  • Always Do Your Best

What a great time to remember and intentionally start using these concepts!

This week I want to focus on the first agreement. Here it is in full:

“Be Impeccable with Your Word: speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.” – The Four Agreements

What does this mean?

First of all we have to consider our Word to be much more than the construct of words and phrases that comes out of our mouth. Our Word is the force with which we create, and includes everything we express. It includes our emotions, physical actions, thoughts and our attitude. Walking around being silent while filled with hate or self-rejection doesn’t meet the meaning of impeccability.

Expressing yourself impeccably is to express yourself in the direction of truth and love. This includes expressing love, respect, and acceptance for yourself and others. It can also include honesty that provokes a discussion, but leads to more understanding, authenticity and connection between people.

People learn many habits over the years that condition them to use emotional and verbal expressions in ways that are unkind to oneself or others.

This week stop and pay attention to the words you use the most towards yourself and others. Remember that with awareness you can start any transformation.

When you communicate without criticizing, analyzing, blaming, or diagnosing yourself and others–describing your observation, sharing your feelings, and clearly and respectfully asking for your needs, you are more likely to inspire compassion and cooperation.

To keep this one seemingly simple agreement will require some time and practice to master. Just know that every day that you become more impeccable with your Word you will have more love and happiness in your life and relationships. That is the truth! And it applies for Holidays and for your life.

Boxes and roses: reaching for light


“I didn’t know boxes give birth” I said to one of my dear friends who asked how I was settling into our new home.

Boxes-and-roses-mediumThat is exactly how I felt and I was not liking it. My perceived “dark side” — doubtful, perfectionistic, and questioning everything — started showing up. My first instinct was to avoid those aspects of myself. Yet over the years I have learned how to embrace them knowing that my light and dark sides exist in relationship to each other, and are available to help me reach a higher potential and live more fully.

For a couple of days I let my dark side play, allowing the full range of my humanness to take place. I observed and allowed myself to feel all my feelings instead of trying to distract or suppress them.

I also remembered to get inspired through one of my favorite poems from Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

The poem tells us that embracing the rhythms of life, the light and the dark, the contraction and the expansion, the joy and the pain helps us to get authentic, which is the way back to joy.

When I realized that, through my two days of reflection, I became comfortable with everything that I was feeling, and was more able to relax and enjoy each moment. And in celebration, I bought roses for myself. Because boxes and roses belong together!

Next time uncomfortable feelings and thoughts are showing up for you, instead of distracting yourself with busy-ness or addiction or obsession of any kind, try to be mindful and sit with the uncomfortable parts of your experience. Allow yourself to BE, so that you can draw from your inner capacity and grow. It is a good step on the path to a more fulfilled life. Enjoy!

Tomorrow begins a new chapter in my life


There are boxes everywhere in my apartment. As I stuff one more tablecloth into the latest box to close it, I can’t help but drift in my mind to all the changes and transitions that I have gone through in my life — some positive ones and some negative ones as well.

A little tear of gratitude rolls down my cheek and I smile, as my heart flutters with both excitement and nervousness about tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the end of over ten years of living alone. I am moving in with my sweetheart into our new home in Roslyn. I am grateful, yet sometimes the fear of the unknown surfaces.

What I am realizing in the process is that change even chosen lovingly is not very easy. Instinctively we want to repel it and go back to our comfort zone.

Although intellectually I know and understand that “the only thing constant is change”, I still have butterflies!

I ask myself, “What is it about the world that can seem so threatening when change happens?” Why is it that many of us are instantly repelled by the thought of change?

Clearly, we do get comfortable in the way we are doing things, even when that way is far from ideal. Then, when something takes us out of our comfort zone — loss of job, promotion to a new job, moving to a new town, whatever it is — we feel uncomfortable because we are not sure what is ahead, and how we will handle it.

Winston Churchill said: “A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty”. I wonder if he was always an optimist!

In Eastern thinking one of the main teachings is that everything in life is impermanent. And the Western expression is nearly as ancient: “the only thing constant is change” was originally written by Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher.

The good and the not-so-good (or just-plain-terrible) do not last; everything exists only for a finite time. That is a fact of life and to resist that fact does not help, because it does not change the reality. This reality has deep meaning for us as human beings.

When we accept the fact that nothing lasts forever, we are far better equipped for the journey. Struggle occurs when we resist reality, so the best way to end the struggle is to fully embrace the impermanence in life.

Upon reflection, I suddenly realize that I can re-interpret my feelings of the butterflies as anticipation of a new adventure. With this shift, I am open to the good that is coming my way, and I feel joyful anticipation in my heart. I observe in myself two simultaneous experiences: anticipation anxiety, and joyful anticipation. And it is good.

Changes are generally more challenging when change is due to a so-called negative event; the ability to go from resisting change to embracing change is still possible, although it may not happen overnight.

So the next time you are faced with an experience which causes your reality to change, for “better” or “worse”, please take a deep breath, take a step back and embrace the opportunity. Embrace each moment.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” ~ Charles Darwin

If we could learn to understand change as the fundamental reality of our lives, we could live happier and feel more fulfilled.

I am working on it!

Are You in Love with Your Old Stories?


If you’ve identified a story in your own life that isn’t serving you, ask yourself what would happen if you let it go. How would your life change?

And you can probably identify a story you have that serves you well. How does that story help you?

In the Inner Mastery Academy this month we are working on changing our stories that don’t serve us and creating new stories. It has been so transformative that I wanted to share with you and remind you how you can create your own story that you want to live by.

Here is an example:

Edward was a successful business owner who always told himself, “I’m not good with money.” He used this story as an excuse to not pay attention to the numbers in his business. He was constantly behind on his taxes and he procrastinated getting an LLC set up, even though he knew it would protect him.

But one day, a friend and fellow business owner called out Edward on what he was saying. His friend told him that this story was holding him back from the next level of success. It was Edward’s way of playing small and staying safe.

What’s Your Story?
Every day, we create or use narratives about our lives. These are the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, where we came from, what we want — and what we are capable of.

Maybe you believe you’re a messy person. Saying that you’re messy means you don’t have to be responsible for cleaning up. Or perhaps you say, “I just don’t like people. They drive me crazy. I’m a hermit, this is just how I am.”

What Are You Gaining from This Story?
You can’t shed an old story until you understand why you keep holding onto it. For example, if you tell yourself you’re a hermit, you don’t have to step out of your comfort zone and get to know people. This story feels like it’s keeping you safe because you don’t have to risk getting to know other people.

Maybe your story helps you avoid responsibility. If you insist that you’re too disorganized to run a business, then you don’t have to take responsibility for turning your hobby into the business you’ve always dreamed of.

What Would Happen If You Let This Story Go?
If you’ve identified a story in your own life that isn’t serving you, ask yourself what would happen if you let it go. If you decide that you’re no longer a hermit, how would your life change? Would you start reaching out to the people around you? Would you build a wide network of friends that are eager to support and love on you?
If you decide that you can become organized and run your own business, what would that look like for you? Would you be able to pay off your debts and help your spouse quit that job he hates? Would you be able to send your kids to that private school you’ve always hoped they could attend?

Why New Stories Energize You – More About Edward
Edward took his friend’s words to heart and he got started creating a new story. He hired a bookkeeper so he knows exactly how much he earns. He started paying his taxes on time so he’s not behind anymore. He even filed for that LLC license he needed. Now, Edward doesn’t feel stressed about numbers. This means he is free to spend his time on creating more products for the community he loves serving.

Letting go of old stories sets you free
It gives you energy and makes you see the world in a new way. It also helps you create space for more of what you love and want in your life.

Journal Your Thoughts
1. What’s the story you keep telling yourself and others about your life? About your business?
2. What are you gaining from this story? Does it make you feel safe and comfortable? Does it protect you from responsibility?
3. What would happen if you let this story go? What would your life look like?

1 2 3 4