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Thank you for reading my articles here. If any piece resonates with you, I encourage you to share your reactions, as they will likely resonate with other readers, too. I also invite you to visit my website to learn more about REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life. Much Love and Many Blessings, Alice

Friday, April 29, 2011

How often do we count our blessings?

A couple of days ago, I went to the annual luncheon of the Bill Wilson Center. It’s an organization in Santa Clara County that provides many forms of assistance to troubled youth, including but not limited to counseling and transitional housing. Among the speakers were the CEO and a board member who relayed convincingly the great productivity and efficiency with which the center is run.
What truly tugged at my heart strings – and I’m sure those of many others present – were the stories of the young people whose lives were changed because the center was there to help them. They rose above abuse, being passed around as unwanted burden in the foster care system, homelessness, substance abuse, teenage parenthood – in many cases, all of the above. As much as I truly respect and admire the work of the center – and I signed up to be a supporter – it’s really the strength of character on the part of the young people and their inner drive to turn their lives around that really touched me. After all, as they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to take a drink.
Wanna talk about life being unfair? Who can argue that the kids served by a place like Bill Wilson Center deserve the first rights to complain? What did they ever do to deserve such hardship? They’re only kids. However, they choose not to dwell in victimhood, but instead do the hard work to turn their lives around. What a great reminder to us adults, who’re much better situated in our lives, to count our blessings.

This is not to say that our responsibilities and challenges aren’t real and, in some cases, potentially debilitating. Instead, it’s about remembering to count the blessings in our lives even when some parts may be falling short in some way. It isn’t wrong to want something better. After all, wanting fuels dreams. Dreams stretch us to grow and move us forward. The key is dreaming without taking for granted who we are and what we already have, being grateful for the here and now from which we create the future. It’s about shining the spotlight on what warrants our appreciation and gratitude, rather than constantly looking through microscopic lenses all that feeds our discontent.
On Easter Sunday, my 8-year-old niece and 4-year-old nephew had a ball at my house. All it took was a pile of used printer paper and crayons. They drew on the back side of the paper, I made paper airplanes for them, and they even made skis out of the paper to “ski” on my hardwood floors (they have carpet at home, so can’t “ski”). They had a total blast! When did we lose our ability to absolutely love life without fancy toys?

The Bill Wilson Center youth and my niece and nephew are great reminders of choosing where to focus our attention and energy. We can choose to focus on the unfair hand we were dealt, and whine about not having the stuff we believe we must have in order to be happy. Alternatively, we can choose to follow our inner wisdom to do whatever it takes to better our lives, and have a grand time with whatever is available to us right here, right now. It’s all a matter of choice.
I’m humbled by the Grace of these young teachers.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Grace of Synchronicities

I’m a firm believer – and appreciator – of synchronicities. Synchronicities are seemingly random events that provide us with an answer or assistance on a timely basis. Here are just a few examples you may have experienced before:

v  You were thinking about something you wanted or needed, and a picture of it showed up in a magazine you happened to pick up a little later.
v  You had a question in your mind about how to do something. While standing in line for your afternoon coffee, you overheard the two people in front of you talking about precisely what you were wondering about.
v  You were contemplating whether to take action on something. While driving, a billboard caught your eye – the tagline contained the answer.
If we don’t believe or don’t pay attention, synchronicities sneak under the radar of our consciousness. We then miss out on the great support available to us everywhere, all the time.
Currently, I’m climbing a very steep learning curve: How to announce my forthcoming book, REACH Your Dreams, to those who can benefit from it. After all, it’s unequivocally clear to me that REACH is the wrapper around the next steps for me to serve in this life. This is what I was born to do.
As I embrace my life’s calling, I want to pause for a few moments to express appreciation and gratitude for the synchronistic guidance I’ve received even just in the last few days.
v  On Monday, as I released an energetic request for help, I remembered Arielle Ford. Although I know of her from a different context than book publishing or marketing, she happens to be the publicist who helped launch Dr. Deepak Chopra’s career. Upon googling her, I found a system she developed to help authors with everything they need to know in order to market their messages! I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of my copy of this system. C’mon U. S. Postal Service – faster, faster!
v  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen to a live interview with Jack Canfield, the co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. His story, advice and down-to-earth style resonated with me on many different levels. For their first book, he and his co-author were rejected by 144 publishers, and it took them more than 18 months to save their book from oblivion to becoming a New York Times Bestseller. Can you imagine? Talk about perseverance! Canfield even inspired me to write my own personal mission statement, based on how I vow to live myself: To inspire and empower others to live passionately in Love and Grace, honoring who they are and where they are in life always.
v  Last night, I also listened to a recorded interview with Dan Poynter, an expert in self-publishing and self-marketing for authors. He made a point of acknowledging the introverts like yours truly. Even though we absolutely love and believe in what we have to offer, it’s daunting to get out there to network and market ourselves. We introverts just aren’t wired to do these bold things. He then proceeded to provide several tips specifically for us in the minority. I know I can’t avoid altogether the extraverted marketing activities. However, the coach in me also knows how critical it is for all of us to know ourselves and to manage how much we do things that don’t come naturally to us. Therefore, I truly appreciate having other marketing tools to minimize burnout from being stretched too far, too fast, too often. I can take care of what’s mine to do while honoring my true nature.
v  I’m also learning that it was a good decision to go with Balboa Press, a division of Hay House, to publish my book. This decision was made solely by following a series of synchronistic guidance. Doing so was effortless, and it now appears to have saved me money as well. Even my logical mind is conceding to the merits of this otherwise irrational choice.
As long as this blog post already is, the above points are only the tip of the iceberg. I’m deeply grateful for all the synchronistic help provided to me – and all that’s undoubtedly on its way. It reminds me of how truly and abundantly supported I am to fearlessly walk my path, which is full of Grace.
What’s mine to bring along on my path? My willingness to believe, pay attention and take guided action.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Choosing to Perceive Grace

Last night, I had the great honor of dining with Gregg Levoy, before attending his workshop at Conscious Living Center in Mountain View, California. Gregg is the author of Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, my go-to book for sage words on courage and saying Yes to inner nudging. Gregg was full of kindness, wisdom and generosity. He gave me great tips on what to do next with my book while it’s in production. His workshop was insightful, thought-provoking and soul-stirring. The 150 minutes melted away in the blink of an eye. It was every bit as enjoyable as – if not more so than – the first workshop of his I experienced in 2003. This wonderful time with Gregg is a very special gift of Grace I will always cherish.

During his talk, Gregg said that fears are unavoidable. We’re wired to be afraid – just think the fight-or-flight response. Feeling safe is our most fundamental human need. From Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we learn that, until we feel safe, it’s challenging for higher-level desires to flourish – think your dream job, your dream relationship, your dream life. When we’re afraid, our physical, mental and psychological resources are instinctively directed to achieve or restore a sense of safety. There isn’t much left to fuel our dream engine, to power the gumption to head toward what calls to us, however faint that call is to start. Our well-meaning ego, whose sole mission is to keep us safe, readily steps in to provide ample evidence as to why it’s prudent to stay right where we are – in divine discontent or controlled misery.

Paraphrasing what Gregg also said, it’s when we feel something stronger than our fears that we are compelled to respond. That’s the stuff of callings. So, it got me contemplating: What keeps fear in check? What powers that “something” that calls to us, such that the latter is always greater than the fear that chains us to the prison of our comfort zone?

I don’t know about you, but for me, saying Yes to that “something” isn't just a discrete, one-time answer. It's a commitment to make over and over again. My “something” happens to be my soul’s calling to fulfill my life purpose. It’s huge, and big fears come with it, too. It stretches me to grow very rapidly into the best version of myself, to venture into something in which I have no established track record. It requires me to answer to my inner judge’s scrutiny every day: What makes me think I can do this? Why do I, once again, want to mess up my nice, comfortable life? What if I lose everything I’ve spent my whole life to date building? In other words, my inner safety wires are tripped constantly – especially last week when I literally had my life flash before me. As Gregg points out in his book, saying Yes to calls is a constant choice that we make over and over again.

This is where faith comes in – faith in life, faith in the many faces of Grace supporting me, faith in myself and who I’m called to become. Whenever I feel scared by the enormity of the call, I keep reminding myself that, if I keep saying Yes to stepping into my life purpose, the Universe will never, ever leave me stranded. As the fear meter fluctuates from day to day, I’m given the opportunity to graciously receive the magnificent gift of free will. I get to exercise the privilege of choosing every day to do my human best on that day, to do the part that’s mine to do on that day. Meanwhile, I also choose to trust that Grace will line up the rest to support me – whether it’s you, my friends, especially in my time of need, or a special guest in the form of Gregg Levoy to eloquently remind me of my truth.

Faith is what keeps fear in check. Choosing to perceive Grace is what cultivates faith.

Monday, April 11, 2011

To Honor Oneself Is to be Whole

What a difference a week makes! After having been knocked around – literally and figuratively – in the car wreck a week ago, I’m feeling much more grounded and centered again. I’m truly grateful to you, my friends, for the love and support you’ve offered. Some of you came as far as 30 miles each way, to take me where I needed to go and to comfort me. You’re beautiful, shining symbols of Grace in my life!
In my last blog post, I mentioned that this accident gives me the opportunity to practice what I wrote in my forthcoming book. The lessons continue to reveal themselves, as I contemplate the greater significance of this objectively unpleasant event at this peculiar time – just when I’m stepping into my soul’s calling. One lesson is that this incident is a wakeup call for me to honor the parts of me I had unknowingly disowned. Before I can move forward in whole, I need to welcome back these parts.
First of all, this last accident made me realize that the one from 2008 still haunted me at a subconscious level. After months of coping with a psychologically and physically trying recovery, I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I was so eager to get on with my second lease in life that I willed myself to feel better. In the process, I pushed off the traumatized part of me that hadn’t fully processed and recovered from what happened. In fact, over the last 2+ years, I’ve had frequent flashes of being hit while driving on a freeway, including on the morning of the accident last week. Yet, every time that happened, I’d shove that fearful thought aside, as if it was an unwanted child with whom I didn’t want any association. I now realize I need to take that freaked out little girl in my arms, and hold her for as long as it takes to help her feel safe again. There will always be risks associated with driving, especially at high speed. However, I’ll do everything I can to minimize our exposure to being harmed again. Besides, as this last incident showed, Grace is everywhere protecting us. We are safe – I am safe.
Related to the above realization is the need to welcome back the part of me I had deemed imperfect. Since childhood, I’ve felt the need to be perfect, lest I failed to qualify for love and acceptance. In my mind, there was no margin for error. With the recent incident, the perfectionist in me couldn’t own being in another car accident. What am I, a frigging magnet to car crashes?! How could I possibly let this happen again? From having dabbled in personality psychology for more than 13 years, I know that someone of my type is challenged when it comes to noticing her physical surroundings. (For those of you who know the 8 Functions by Dr. John Beebe, I’m talking about the Extraverted Sensing Function.) It’s literally a weakness in my makeup. If I’m ashamed of that part of me which is, by nature, slow to react to traffic or road conditions, I effectively shun a real, intrinsic part of myself. Of course, I do need to be on extra alert when I drive. Beyond that, it’s simply time for me to welcome back into my loving arms this unwanted little girl of imperfections as well. She has been shamed and rejected long enough.
In short, one huge lesson in this recent car crash is for me to truly honor myself. This includes the parts that are not easy to embrace, that don’t naturally elicit pride. And, in honoring the fearful and imperfect parts of me, I’m also in a better position to release what no longer serves me, such as the latent fears about not being safe. Release and honor are the “R” and “H” in the “REACH” process in my book. I’m well tooled up to coach myself through this little bump on my human path, supported and buoyed by the many demonstrations of Grace in my life.
I’m ready to move forward in whole.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Power of Grace

A few months ago, I read Marci Shimoff’s book, Love For No Reason, which is all about unconditional love. Shimoff said she was warned by fellow spiritual authors and teachers that she’d better be ready to practice the subject of her writing. Sure enough, in the three years it took her to do her research and write the book, her long-time marriage ended (amicably), her mother passed on, which led to the sale of her childhood home. As she said, she lost three great emotional anchors in her life. She had to practice feeling love within herself, no matter the objective circumstances.
Well, I’m having my own big opportunity to walk the talk. One of the messages in my forthcoming book is choosing to live in a state of grace. In Thanks!, Dr. Robert Emmons describes grace as the goodness in our lives that has nothing to do with us or which exceeds what our efforts merit – whether it’s the picture-perfect blue sky or the unexpected kindness of a stranger. Perceiving grace, like all other observations we make in life, is a matter of choice. Unless we make a point of paying attention to the gifts of grace bestowed upon us, we take them for granted.
About 36 hours after I submitted my manuscript to the publisher, I was in a high-speed collision on a freeway. My car spun a few times, and so did the car that hit mine. That car spun off the freeway, past the two lanes of an interchange to another highway, and ended up on the right shoulder there. I later found out there was a third car involved somehow. In the few moments when the world spun around me, I had “flashbacks” to my near-fatal crash at the end of December 2008. (“Flashbacks” are in quotes as I still have no memories of that ordeal, and my “experience” of the incident was from what I read in the CHP report.) A thought flashed in my mind: Was I going to make it this time?
So, where’s the grace in all of this?
First of all, considering the severity of the crash, no one was carried off by an ambulance. Way off on the shoulder of the other highway, two young men got out of their car and hugged each other, probably in gratitude for being alive and unharmed. As I witnessed that, I remember feeling the same gratitude very deeply – I still do. It was utterly by the grace of God that no one was hurt.
Grace was in the paramedic who woke me up from my daze to direct my car off the freeway onto the shoulder. I can’t remember precisely what he said to me, but he was caring, while being firm with necessary directions for everyone’s safety. If I had my wits about me then, I would have instantly adopted him as my new best friend.
Grace was also in the first CHP officer who came to talk with me. He was light and breezy – even charming – in the way he asked me questions. Perhaps feeling compassion for whatever state I was displaying, he even tried to make small talk. Unfortunately, the crash had temporarily shoved my sense of humor to the back seat. Nonetheless, I distinctly remember feeling grateful to him.
Grace was most certainly personified in the tow truck driver, a lovely gentleman originally from Malta. He was as close to a protective father figure as I got in that vulnerable time. He bent company rules to take me home, going opposite the direction of where he was supposed to head. As I was carried off to the familiarity and safety of my home, I was filled with grace, grateful that the universe sent me this angel at my time of need.
Grace has continued to pour into my life with well wishes from some of you, my friends, who know about the incident. You have offered your love, prayers, rides, and whatever else I may need. I’m truly and deeply grateful for the grace of you. (To the rest of you, sorry you’re finding out this way!)
In choosing to focus on grace, I’m not in denial about the objective realities of this situation. It’ll be weeks of dealing with car repairs, insurance claim, etc. (Actually, I’m grateful to say that the people from AAA and the repair shop I’ve spoken with so far have all been very caring and nice.) More importantly, I’m not entirely sure when I’ll be ready to venture back on the freeway again, and what that would mean for my day-to-day life. I have no illusions that it’ll take some time to deal with the fears and anxiety, to process the greater significance of this incident, and to honor my human vulnerabilities through it all.
All the more reasons to notice and be grateful for the gifts of grace in my life.

Monday, April 4, 2011

An Inspired Dance of Creativity

I’m now at the conclusion of the most creative project in my life to date – finishing my book, titled REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life. Having written for academic peers and business clients for almost two decades combined, writing this book has been such a different – and more enjoyable – experience. Instead of strictly writing from my intellect, I have allowed what needs to be conveyed to flow from the divinity within me. As a result, this experience has been the most exquisite dance between my masculine and feminine energies. Allow me to explain, as I also happen to be a ballroom dancer.
In partner dancing, the man serves as the frame, and the picture is the woman. The story of the dance is articulated through a series of patterned steps and positions, called “figures.” In each figure, the man’s movement sets up the frame for the woman’s movement to tell the story. The man is the leader in the dance who initiates each transition from one figure to the next, until the story is told in full. The woman’s part is to accept the sequence of invitations and dance to the different figures being initiated. Without the frame, there is no structure to the story. Without the picture, a frame is just that – an empty frame. Both parts are necessary to express the character of the dance, and they need to honor each other’s half in the partnership. What’s more, the two parties need be in tune with each other in order for the dance to be expressed in unison, instead of two out-of-sync moving parts.
For my book, my intellectual mind, powered by the masculine energy within me, serves as the frame. It is the synthesizer and organizer of concepts, as well as the planner and project manager for carrying the book through to completion. My feminine heart – the nurturer and compassionate friend who wants nothing more than to express and share love – is the storyteller. It comes up with the tone for articulating the message and the supporting experiences from my own life. The end product contains the soul of a work of love, a creative partnership between my intellect and my heart, the divine masculine and feminine within me.
Writing this book has been a truly exquisite experience, and I look forward to more inspired dances of creativity!

Honor by Surrender

Well, my baby’s off to the publisher. I’m thrilled beyond words but also feeling a bit of the separation blues. It reminds me of sending off my graduating honor students more than 10 years ago when I was teaching at Cornell. I was so incredibly proud of them, as if they were my own kids. At the same time though, I missed having these fixtures in my office throughout the year prior, when we worked on their honors thesis projects. After so much quality time together, it was hard not to feel some sense of loss when they left the nest.
The same goes for my manuscript. I practically lived and breathed the birthing of this book for the last 3 months. Now that it’s done, I can’t help but feel a sense of letdown that often follows the coattail of an extended period of intensity. However, I also recognize that this is an opportunity to practice honoring by surrendering – one of the principles I wrote about in my book.
Part of honoring an experience is to do the part that’s ours to do and to surrender the rest, including attachments to the specifics of the process and the outcome. Writing this book is clearly mine to do, and so is following through with getting it to a publisher. I did both. More will come with the production process and marketing, and I stand willing and ready to do my part in these upcoming steps as well. But, for now, the manuscript is out of my hands, and it’d be good for me to detach emotionally from it as much as I can.
Practicing detachment was exactly how I dissolved the writer’s block I got a couple of months ago. You see, on most days, I could hardly wait to get to this book. If I didn’t have to stop to eat or sleep, let alone tend to my day job and other responsibilities, I’d have been so deliriously happy! Yet, on one particular extended weekend, I felt an old familiar resistance. I was exhausted, and started to feel the same old excuses bubbling up on why I should stop writing.
Because I recognized the old self-sabotaging pattern, I first gave myself a break to regroup. Then, I asked myself why I was feeling the resistance to write. With some reflection, I realized I was trying to fit almost a full chapter of old writing from as long as 3 years ago into the creative flow. Up to that point, I was having the most beautiful experience with allowing whatever needed to come forward to be written. There had been no force-fitting. However, trying to rework old writing to make it fit into the creative flow in process felt very much like force-fitting. It wasn’t that the principles I was writing about have changed. It was just that my writing voice has transformed, and so has how I create. I have simply outgrown the old material that was relevant before, but which no longer carried the voice of my evolved consciousness.
I realized I needed to release my attachment to the old writing that no longer served this book. So, I honored the purpose the old writing served and how I have grown from it. Then, I let it go, and surrendered to the ongoing creative process. With my conscious decision to honor how I create by surrendering attachment to outdated material, the writer’s block was dissolved. I returned happily to allowing my inner creativity to come through effortlessly. As a result, that chapter turned out deeper, richer and more authentic. More importantly, if I had hung onto the old writing, the writer’s block would probably have persisted, and I would very likely have given up writing – again.

In the end, even as an artist friend ached for me at the thought of “throwing away” creative work, that conscious detachment on my part opened up space for something much better for my dream of getting this book written.

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