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, July 29, 2011

An Act of Grace (Guest Post)

This week's posting is the gracious offering of Jodi Chapman. Jodi and I met last month in Philadelphia, when we both joined a year-long program to learn how to get our message out to those we are called to serve. Even though we just met, we instantly recognized each other as kindred souls and connected at a very deep and intuitive level. Once you've read her story below, you'll see why I adore and respect Jodi--and so will you! Enjoy her wise, authentic and insightful words.


Have you ever gone down a path in life that didn't feel quite right on a soul level, but it felt comfortable and secure on an ego level?

For instance, what if you always knew that you wanted to be a writer, but you had been told so often that writing would never pay your bills: you would have to work at a 9-5 job and then write at night and on the weekends. And so you went to school and got a degree in something practical: technical editing. 

And a few years after graduating you found yourself working as a technical editor for the Department of Defense. And let's say that while you were working there, a war started and because you had a secret-level security clearance, you were editing classified documents having to do with this war and were seeing things you didn't want to know about because you were against war in the first place?

And let's say that your opposition to this war was seen on the particular base that you worked at as cute and funny, and watching war videos featuring bombings set to heavy metal music somehow just didn't sit right with you. But let's also say that you were making a good living editing these documents, and it was the first time in your life that you had supported yourself. And even though you had that nagging voice in the back of your mind telling you to leave - that this wasn't right for you - that you were getting farther away from your path - the part of you that clings to security and comfort and the ego side of you that was proud that you were paying all of your bills by doing something you were good at and trained for years to do was winning.

And so for months you drove onto the base day after day and edited these documents that completely went against what you believed in, and each night you would come home and cry for hours about how much your soul was hurting. The voice in the back of your mind was getting a bit louder - begging you to quit and get closer to your path. You knew there had to be a better way, but you were too afraid to venture out on your own. You were too afraid to leave the security of a good, steady paycheck. And your ego was too afraid to leave this job that made you feel important.

The universe always starts with a whisper.
And if we don't listen, that voice inside of us gets louder and louder.

And if we still don't listen, it yells and screams and throws an absolute fit.

This fit can be in the form of an accident, a break up, an illness - anything to wake you up and make you see that you need to listen and change.

This is what happened to me. I was the editor in the example above.
I wasn't listening to that voice inside begging me to leave my soul-crushing job. And so the universe created a situation where I would have no choice but to leave. Had I listened and taken steps to leave my job right away, my journey since then may not have been quite so difficult. 

I had just gotten my hair styled and was excited to be in my friend's wedding the following day. I was driving home when I noticed a car stopped on the other side of the road getting ready to turn left. Before I could brake, the car pulled out right in front of me. I slammed into the side at full speed. 

I thought my car was on fire because of the smoke from the air bag, so I crawled out as quickly as someone in shock can do. I remember the kind people racing over to me - shielding me from the sun with an umbrella, rubbing my arm and saying soothing things while we waited for the ambulance, and then I went to the hospital.

It could've been much worse, and I was so thankful that I was okay.
Pretty banged up, but okay.

But what wasn't okay was my ability to edit. I spent the next few months receiving occupational therapy for my arm and hand. My fine motor skills needed to be learned all over again. I struggled with picking up objects, which meant that typing or holding a pen would be impossible until I healed.

I also went to physical therapy twice a week for my neck and back. My spine curved inward from the impact, which caused all sorts of problems. Basically it meant that I was in a lot of pain and wasn't able to look down to edit.

I stayed on disability for several months and then tried going back to work. I soon realized that I simply was in too much pain to continue working as an editor. I moved in with my boyfriend (who is now my husband), and spent the next two years healing at home. My routine consisted of weekly doctor's visits, physical therapy, shots upon shots into my back and neck, and a lot of lying down and resting. 

During this time I was very angry. Angry at the woman who turned in front of me, angry at the insurance companies when we settled for a much smaller amount than I was entitled to (she was underinsured), angry at my job who eventually laid me off when I couldn't come back, angry at myself for being weak and not able to heal faster. Angry at life.

This went on for years. Until one day I realized that this was all an act of grace. Being there at that moment and getting into this car crash was the best thing that could've happened to me.

I wasn't going to pull myself out of that job - that security - on my own. I needed something this drastic, this clear, this horrific to pull me away. My life was going in the wrong direction, and I literally needed a crash to stop it in its tracks.

It's been nine years since this happened, and I am happy to say that I am writing.  And while it has taken a long while to sort through all of this and come to terms with losing an identity that I clung to, I have learned a lot in the process.

I have opened myself up to magical things that I never would've been exposed to had I continued editing.

I am living.
I am on my path.
And that doesn't mean that each day is smooth sailing, but it does mean that I am at least heading in the right direction.

I believe that there are no coincidences in life.
If you are experiencing a major transition or have recently gone through a traumatic event, really take the time to look into why this was brought to you at this particular time.
Why do you need to have this occur?
What lessons can be learned from it?
What is your inner wisdom needing you to hear?

There is always a higher purpose and a bigger plan. Grace has a way of steering us back to ourselves - even if we are kicking and screaming.

I'm working on listening to that voice when it's a whisper rather than waiting for the scream.
But either way, we're always led to the exact right place at the exact right time. 

Jodi Chapman writes Soul Speak – a daily blog that focuses on seeing life through a lens of gratitude and positivity. She is the bestselling author of the Soulful Journals series – writing-prompt journals that help you go within and get to know yourself better. She is also the author of the upcoming book, Go For It: Get Out There and Start Living! She believes that our thoughts become our reality, and our actions lead us to our dreams. She is happily married to her best friend and co-writer, Dan Teck. They live in southern Oregon with their four fuzzy kids. www.soulspeakbyjodi.com

Friday, July 22, 2011

Honoring our boundaries while serving

Many of us were raised to be pleasers. For some of us, we also have the innate personality that makes us highly sensitive to not disappointing others. Pleasing others is the subconscious programming many of us internalize that creates martyrdom and self-abandonment. We ignore our own needs and desires, do what causes us discomfort or even pain, all in the name of wanting to make someone else happy. We tell ourselves that we’re being of service. However, being of service doesn’t require us to abandon ourselves. We can still serve authentically without having to dishonor our boundaries.

This past week really made me come face to face with the above. No matter how many years I’ve already spent excavating the learned rules of how to behave and what to do since I was a kid, deeper layers of forgotten “should”s still sneak up on me every now and then. It’s just like what I wrote in my book: Old beliefs and programming are like layers of an onion. Until we peel away the outer layers, the deeper ones can’t be exposed. That’s why, releasing old subconscious programming is a process. The good news is that when old rules come up, we have the opportunities to release them--that is, as long as we have the consciousness to recognize and accept the opportunities.

I mentioned in last week’s article that I was going to a wedding as the Maid of Honor. The wedding turned out to be absolutely beautiful, and the bride was ecstatic to have her fairytale come true. It was very special to be part of this experience. Especially during the ceremony, I couldn’t keep my eyes dry. I’m thoroughly thrilled for the couple.

With all that said, for me personally, the evening did not end on a high note. The culprit? The dreaded bouquet toss. I knew it was part of the program, but it never dawned on me that I’d be required to participate in it. The DJ repeatedly and obnoxiously declared into the microphone my single status, refuting my personal claim, as if he had the right to do so. When I didn’t budge, I was personally escorted to join a group of women who, too, wished they could find a place to hide. It was utterly humiliating. I was grossly unprepared for that moment, and couldn’t lift myself from the humiliation.

That experience was hard to stomach for several reasons. First, and most importantly, although my legal marital status is single, I haven’t been single in a long time. (That’s a whole different article altogether!) To be forced to accept an attribution with which I don’t identify deeply violated my personal liberties. Besides, in principle, I have real difficulties with the antiquated ritual of lining up a bunch of single women to catch a bouquet. Is that really fun or necessary? For whom? That’s why, when I got married in 2002, I skipped this part of the program to spare my single friends of truly unnecessary embarrassment.

I could continue licking my wounds of having been publicly humiliated. However, as with all experiences that are hard to swallow, they are opportunities to let go of that which no longer serves us. In this case, the first forgotten old belief that needed to go surrounds the social judgments around being a legally single woman in her 40s. This is clearly a bigger social issue that could be debated till the cows come home. Personally, though, what matters is that I know my own Truth in my heart. When I regained grounding in this awareness, it became clear that the humiliation I felt was only a judgment, a really harsh one notwithstanding. By letting this judgment go, I release the feelings of humiliation.

The bigger lesson from this experience is a reminder to honor my boundaries while wanting to serve. I had made it my mission since accepting the role of Maid of Honor to give the bride what she wanted. I could have held firm about not joining in the bouquet toss had I been in the right level of consciousness. No one could force me to do anything I didn’t wish to accept. Ultimately, I yielded to a ritual with which I personally disagree at multiple levels, because I forgot to represent my rights and boundaries. I abandoned myself in that moment, all in the name of not wanting to mar the auspicious occasion for my dear friend. She would have completely understood my position had I simply explained it. Under any circumstance, it’s always my responsibility to tend to my own boundaries, lest I give my power away, by grudgingly yielding to external expectations and “should”s.

In closing, this article wasn’t easy to write, as it’s deeply personal. However, when I took it into meditation this morning as to whether to write this piece, I got crystal clear guidance to remain authentic. Just as I was directed to share a lot of myself in my book, continuing to share authentically what I learn from working through struggles of my lower human self remains a key part of my calling to serve. I hope you can take my story as a case study for looking at difficult human experiences with a higher consciousness--and for being open to harvesting the gifts they bear. Namaste.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Celebrating Grace

Today, a dear friend of mine is getting married. She’s so dear, in fact, that we call each other “BB” (Bestest Buddies). Since more than ten years ago when we first met, we’ve grown and changed as individuals, and our lives have taken us through different twists and turns. What bonded us to each other a decade ago are no longer the reasons why we remain BBs. Instead, we’ve allowed each other the room to grow into the women we want to be individually, trusting that our friendship would adapt and morph into a redefined state of closeness. And it has. This evening, I’ll proudly and likely tearfully celebrate the blessed union of my BB and her beloved soulmate as her Maid of Honor.

Clearly, a significant event like this is a major cause for celebration, along with birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, promotions and similarly special events. Aside from these obviously significant milestones and markers, we have plenty of reasons to celebrate life every day. Yet, few of us do. It’s so easy for us to inadvertently take the good we have in our lives for granted, especially the things that have nothing to do with our actions or effort – for instance, the perfect blue sky overhead, a deliciously fragrant cup of tea, the unexpected kindness of a stranger. 

The goodness in our lives, whether people or things, is what Dr. Robert Emmons refers to as “Grace” in his book, Thanks! He says that very few of us perceive grace, because we’re forgetful, take things for granted, and tend to pay attention only to the direct results of our actions. Because the presence of grace in our lives often either has nothing to do with our actions or exceeds the merits of our effort, grace are effectively free gifts bestowed upon us on a regular basis. Our job is to be aware of these gifts of grace – and celebrate them.

To live a passionate and joyful life, we all have lots to gain by cultivating a grace consciousness – to notice, appreciate and be grateful for the good in our lives as often as possible. Take stock of the people who grace your life in large and small ways, for just a few moments and for a lifetime. Take even just 5 minutes every day to simply notice the good around you. Nothing is too insignificant or small to acknowledge, appreciate and for which to feel genuine gratitude. By practicing this awareness of “free gifts” in our lives, we train our subconscious mind to look for all things to celebrate, big and small, objectively profound or pedestrian. This practice opens up an energetic portal within us for more grace to pour in.

Oprah says, “The more we praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” Let’s all go into the weekend with the raised consciousness to celebrate any and all signs of grace in our lives.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fear of Success

Last week, I was interviewed about my book for a radio show, “Top of Your Game,” to air on Monday, July 11, at 4pm PT/7pm ET on http://ftns.co. One of the things the host asked me to talk about was my near-death experience in December 2008. She wanted to know if the conviction to change my life coming away from it was constant or if it faded in time. I told her that it wasn’t an either-or scenario, but more a pendulum swing between the conviction to step out and the fear of doing so. After all, experiencing fear is part of being human; it can't be avoided. At the same time, I know that reverting back to hiding in my comfort zone isn't an option. Therefore, it has really been a matter of knowing what to do with fears, such that they don't get the better of me.

I bet you have experienced the fear of failing, haven’t you? After all, isn’t it why so many of us choose the status quo over going after a big dream? But, what if the fear of failure is just a disguise for the fear of success? What if the real culprit is that, deep down, we’re terrified of not being able to stretch and grow (fast enough) to contain the big success we’re called to step into? Isn’t it why so many of us unknowingly self-sabotage in order to return to our comfort zone? Isn’t it why we procrastinate and allow ourselves to be distracted from a big goal that scares us?

You may ask, what difference does the label make? Fear is fear, isn't it? Well, I beg to differ. The awareness you bring to the nature of your fear makes a world of difference. Just humor me for a moment. Think of where you are in life right now as your baseline for success, however you choose to define success. Whether or not you see yourself as objectively successful, your current status establishes your success baseline going forward. If what calls to you and pulls you stretches your current comfort, you basically have the opportunity to increase your success. The fear of “failure” is then the anxiety of not knowing if you can indeed raise your success from its current level. So, the fear of failure is really the fear of not being big enough to be more successful than you are currently. 

Are you with me so far? Good, let me offer the next thought: In the event that you do "fail," you can always return to your current success level. Oh, yes, you can! You’ve done what you needed to do to get to where you are now. You know how to get here again if necessary. Chances are, though, that if you feel pulled toward something that stretches you to grow, there really is no turning back. But, it’s good to let the fearful part of you know that you’re ultimately safe as you step forward on your path to expansion and growth.

With all that said, by kneeling at the altar of avoiding success--all in the name of not wanting to fail--you aren’t giving yourself the permission to experience the possibility of more joy and passion in your life, to taste the sweetness of higher success--again, however you choose to define success. Instead, you agree to being limited by your current success level, even if it may be sub-optimal. You choose to remain in a rut or to tolerate familiar numbness. If you feel a nudge to step outside your comfort zone, see it as an opportunity to increase your success, knowing that you can always come back to your current state if indeed you so choose. It puts “failure” in a different light. Give yourself the permission to dismantle your fear of success--disguised as the fear of failure--and to raise your success level toward more joy and passion! 

There's no true failure other than not trying. Let’s not be afraid to at least try.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Just do it!

Taking action is a critical part of life, especially to fulfill a dream or a goal. When the dream is big – such as a dream career or a dream home – it often is quite a stretch from where we are. That’s why we can be simultaneously seduced by the mesmerizing pull of this dream and utterly scared off by its enormity, unable to get our arms around how to make it happen. If our desire for this dream isn’t strong enough, or if we don’t allow ourselves to feel the burning desire for it, we let the fear of the unknown and the discomfort of being stretched out of our comfort win. We stay frozen in inaction.

Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” He really had a point. We don’t want to act for the sake of not standing still or simply running away from something, nor do we want to act recklessly. However, all the researching, strategizing and planning in the world won’t do us any good until we get out of our heads and spring into action. The longer we sit and mull over all the contingencies, scenarios and details, the more our instinctive self who wants to be safe will come up with a world of excuses for why we shouldn’t go for it. So, at some point, we just need to do it!

When we act, we set change in motion. We signal to our subconscious that we don’t want the status quo anymore but our dream instead. The universe then conspires to line up the people and events to meet our commitment of action. The results may be exactly what we anticipate, or they may provide us with information on what to do next. Whatever the case may be, we move closer to our dream. It’s just like what Jack Canfield says: When you take a long road trip, you can’t see the destination from the starting point. You can only see a finite stretch of road ahead of you. Yet, as you continue to drive, the next stretch of the road is revealed to you, and the next stretch after that. But you need to get on the road and keep driving before the road will unfold before you, one stretch at a time.

That’s why I’m doing, while still learning and planning. I’m going for every potential opportunity to be interviewed by media, so that the message of REACH gets disseminated. Just this week, I was interviewed for an article for iVillage.com on helping women build self confidence and for an internet radio show, “Top of Your Game,” that aims at empowering listeners to succeed. These happened while I’m still continuing to work with the publisher to resolve quality issues and working with my web hosting company on my website. Things are not happening as neatly or in the sequence the planner in me would like to see them. However, what’s important is that things are happening, and I’m committed to riding this continual wave of action toward a clear sense of purpose. I’m working many hours these days (and often forgetting to eat!). But it doesn’t feel like work, because it fulfills my burning desire, the reason why I didn’t die in the horrendous car accident in December 2008. I’m following my dream into action.

It’s important to be prepared and to have a viable game plan aligned with clear objectives. However, it’s also important to not be stuck in the paralysis of planning and perfecting the course of action. At some point, it’s good to just start doing and to allow the energy of being in motion open up unexpected avenues. If nothing else, we get to test out the strategies we have been planning methodically. If they work as well as we want, wonderful! If not, they tell us what we need to tweak. It’s all good!

So, to borrow Nike’s tagline, Just do it!

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