The Exchange of Presents Demands your Presence

Presents

Tis the season for presents/presence and there is no better time of year to practice both the giving of your heart as well as the giving of your attention.

Have you ever noticed, I mean really truly noticed that when you give a gift to someone you feel as excited and/or nervous to give as the person feels to receive? There is anxiety: will he/she really like what I chose to give, there is anticipation: Oh I can’t wait for him/her to open my gift, there is heart: I really paid attention this year to what he/she said they needed. If you are prone to just hand a gift to someone and allow distraction to take you away from the actual opening of the gift then you are missing out on all the magic of that moment. Being in the present with the person receiving a gift is a gift itself.

Where in your body do you feel this anxiety, anticipation and/or generosity?

In what ways is your energy transferring to those around you?

It’s an amazing connection, a coming together moment for the giver and receiver, where synchronicity is so aligned only the uninterrupted presence of awareness in the opening of the gift, the present, could break the bond. It is the height of mindfulness or intentional attention. How many times during the year do we use intentional attention in our daily lives?

“To allow ourselves to be truly in touch with where we already are, no matter where that is, we have got to pause in our experience long enough to let the present moment sink in; long enough to actually feel the present moment, to see it in its fullness, to hold it in awareness and thereby come to know and understand it better.” Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

The question is how can we give ourselves the present of presence all the time? It’s a magical feeling to be so engrossed in the moment of giving that we don’t pay attention to time or space or what comes next. This deep concentration, this deep immersion of presence is called flow and scientists believe that the pathway toward inner peace and happier human beings is through these flow moments where we are so absorbed in the moment we occupy that there is no room for past or future. Author and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Ph.D., considered by some to the be the father of the concept of flow, says,

“flow experiences occur in different ways for each person. Some might experience flow while doing a sport such as running or playing tennis and some might experience flow while playing an instrument. Some people might experience flow in the simple act of giving a gift whether it be an actual gift to unwrap or the act of volunteering and giving of their time and energy.”

If you are ever in a situation where you want to get a handle on what is happening in this exact moment, breathe. Practicing presence is as simple as deep breathing. Your breath is always with you and you can stop in the middle of everything you are busy with to take purposeful breaths and calm your brain and your heart and your spirit and create focus and intentional attention. There are more ways to give yourself the present of presence. Here are a few to take with you in your bag of goodies this holiday season:

“…the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Turn off your thinking mind and tune into your now mind. The health benefits of mastering being in the here and now are significant. According to an article published on www.ecoinstitute.org “these health benefits include a reduction in stress which we all know reduces the risk for heart disease, lowering blood pressure, reducing recurring pain, and is a boost for our immune system. This boost is accomplished by increasing our antibodies and brain function by our body’s response to our thoughts both positive and negative.”

You won’t be leaving anything important behind if: You let go of old thoughts or let go of what if thoughts. You will however be gaining awareness and color and vibrancy in the moment you occupy by accepting what is happening right this moment and all this moment is giving to you.

Let go of the Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda mindset: Each new moment that presents its gift to you has the ability to be a gift for your heart and soul. Give in to what is being offered by enveloping yourself in the passion, authenticity and energy of now. By letting go of your expectation of what the moment could or should or would bring, allow the moment to unfold in all its organic splendor and guide you.

No Restrictions. In helping my clients set goals and create their own avenues of accountability we create if/then statements. For example: A client wants to lose 10 pounds by the end of the month. The if/then statement might say, “If I feel like having a sugary snack after dinner then I will drink a hot apple cider or munch on an apple instead.” In the present or gift of presence this would be the one time when your prepared mind could hinder complete flow of enjoyment. Let go of the if/then thinking and align your mind with the here/now thinking. Notice how much more rich and emotional the here/now mind perceives life in its raw and real time. If/then changes your course and forces you to control the gift of the present which then has the potential to control the outcome. Here/now allows you to just enjoy flow in the moment for what it is without the stress of barriers or diversion.

Sense your way to presence. Play a mind game with yourself by paying attention to each of your senses, one at a time. This activity is great practice for presence and being mindful of the here and now. Pay attention to your breath, carefully watch how your hands touch things, observe what is going on right in front of you, concentrate on the smells all around you and see if you can name them, really dissect the flavors of your next meal, listen carefully when someone is speaking to you and try to detect the many levels of emotion being used in the conversation.

Purposefully create daily moments of presence. Go a different route home from work, eat lunch in a different location or pack a lunch that is different than what you normally eat, skip lunch completely and pamper yourself instead, take your hobby with you wherever you go and work on it at least once during the day away from home, learn something new today and bring it up in conversation. The opportunity for an awe moment is created in being present with intentional attention.

In the winter time I enjoy washing the dishes, even with dish gloves on because I am so comforted by the warm water cuddling my cold hands. It is a daily, year round chore but at this time of year the cold is a stark reminder of the blessing of heat. My appreciation level for warm water and keeping my family healthy soars. I find myself actually looking forward to this chore and instead of washing dishes 3 or 4 times a day t keep up with the mess I let it pile up so that I can spend real time appreciating the warmth. Bizarre, I know, but the presence it creates is magical.

“Wherever you are, be there. If you can be fully present now, you’ll know what it means to live.” Steve Goodier

Call to Action

In what ways can you create presence during present giving?

Whatever level you are involved in while preparing for this holiday season, how can you be more mindful of each preparation step along the way?

Even if you are alone, how can you be present rather than wishing the time away?

 

6 Ideas that “Serve Us” in Service

My youngest child is about to graduate from high school and although it is a melancholy time for me and my whole family it got me to thinking about all the ways in which my life and our lives as a family is also ending in one area and about to take flight in other areas. Throughout the years of my children’s entire school career I have volunteered and served their education. I realized this week that I now have to look at new ways in which I can volunteer and serve not just my children’s extended education but also the world I live in. While it may have seemed easy to serve under the guise of being their mom, volunteering was not always easy for me.

I have always believed that we are all here to help and support one another in whatever ways our success characteristics show up but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a struggle sometimes. To say it was easy for me, an introvert, to stand tall and proud and open myself up the way I did by volunteering throughout these past 22 years, is to say that touching a hot burner is no big deal. It was a very big deal but the more I did it, the more I learned about myself and the more I wanted to keep volunteering and serving. I had to keep my motivation in the forefront which is that my children should learn not only from the words I say but also through my actions.

“Service is one of life’s great joys. It’s a privilege to be in service. It’s a great relief, a gift, to be faced with a job that you know absolutely you must do for the benefit of someone else; as long as you give yourself to it. You don’t need to worry about anything but doing that job well, and the satisfaction, when you do, is very beautiful.”
Claire Messud

To serve means to do work FOR somebody else; a helpful action. There is no “I” in serve or in volunteer. When we serve the needs of others we leave our own personal self out of the equation except in the physical doing of the action we are called to perform.

Not long ago someone tried to make me see that the only time we serve others is when it isn’t too uncomfortable or time consuming; that the only real time we volunteer is when we are serving our own interests in the tasks we perform. I took it as an offense at first because I don’t generally see myself as a selfish, self-serving person that way. I had to find out if he was right so I volunteered, out of my comfort zone, I read a lot and I did some soul searching. What I learned was that anything we do out of our normal routine of life like making time to serve the needs of others even if we know it is for their betterment and benefit is going to compromise our personal time and feel uncomfortable. We tend to think of ourselves as inadequate to truly serve other’s needs. What is your story?

A painful life experience can always be used in service to others. You must be willing to be vulnerable and open to share the details of your story and all that you went through. Although it is your personal story about how you handled yourself, what you learned and now how you share the lessons is what makes you unique. Your perspective belongs only to you but can absolutely help someone else see something similar in a whole new way. You and your story matter a lot.

According to Dr. Rick Warren, pastor, theologian, philanthropist, and author of “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” “Serving is the opposite of our natural inclination. Most of the time we are more interested in “serve us” than service. Many people fear serving others because it makes them feel as if they will be viewed as weak, vulnerable, less than or that they will feel those things about themselves. But I believe life is backwards. Yielding to the service of others actually makes us feel whole, important, empowered, special, loving and kind.

I had to ask myself some tough questions:

*“Is LIFE supposed to be about the “I” or is there room, throughout my whole life time to leave the “I” out and make our existence about LOVE and TEAM for surely there is no “I” in those?

* Could it be that serving the needs of others wholeheartedly is just too simple a concept and therefore too simple an action to give meaning to our own existence as well as to those we would serve?

This led me to think about all the ways in which I have been outside my comfort zone in service to other people and trying to understand my approach to that service. Was it personal or was I actually in the shoes of the people I was serving? Honestly at times I would have to say a little bit of both BUT as I am getting older it absolutely is more in the shoes of those that I am serving because over the course of volunteering all these years in many different ways I have learned an important lesson:

Everyone is the same when there is a need, any need, to fill or support and the pure gratitude and gratefulness and love that comes as a result of fulfilling the need is actually quite addictive because it is coming from deep inside of the receiver and the giver.  For me ego gets left at home in a drawer, buried deep under a pile of photographs and papers and books and life lessons written in my gratitude journal.

“When we fix others, we see only brokenness. Fixers trust their own expertise. When we serve others we see the unborn wholeness of them; we collaborate with it and strengthen it. Others may then be able to see their wholeness for themselves next time.” –Rachel Naomi Remen

A person that can see their own wholeness, whether in big ways or small, is a gift because then that person will want to give to someone else. It is a natural, unstoppable feeling that is like a pull from deep inside your gut, the feeling to serve it forward.

So what can I do, now that I too am taking on my own life now that my children don’t need me as much?

I am a life coach and that is how I choose, among other ways, to serve others. Through my training and heart toward my new career I find myself volunteering a lot. With each new client I serve I am equipping myself to serve more people in a deeper, more wholehearted way.

Dr. Warren lists 6 ways to recognize your own power and willingness to serve others’ needs:

1-      Make yourself available to serve: make myself available to serve by always being ready when called whether it is through the PTO at a school, taking on extra responsibilities at work or when a client calls in between session meetings.

2-      Pay attention to needs: I try my very best to pay attention the needs around me. I look for ways to help people. I try to stay flexible in how I approach structuring my day having learned very well as a mom that days, months, life itself does not stick to any kind of structure or schedule; stay open to the road twisting. Dr. Warren quotes John Wesley, and Anglican cleric and theologian with this motto: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.” Wow!

3-      Do your best with what you have: This is where those fantastically unique success characteristics come in to play as well as keeping an open mind and a positive attitude. What are all the things that make you so equipped to serve others? The overall attitude is to just do what needs to be done and don’t worry how you look or what kind of time it costs you. Know for sure that you are absolutely good enough and needed enough to manage the task at hand.

4-      Do every task with equal dedication: Lead with your heart. Big or small tasks, seemingly trivial or vital tasks, perceived need or not, help as equally as if it were life or death. That kind of passion is what makes a great world better.

5-      Make sure you finish what you start: Serve and volunteer until the task is done. Don’t leave your post mid-stream. Be the person that others can always count on from start to finish. You build trust from them to you and from you to you.

6-      Don’t toot your own horn:  Stay humble and modest. Don’t brag or boast about what great deeds you have done. Your efforts will speak a whole lot louder than you ever could anyway. Become like beautiful wallpaper. Pleasant to look at and admire that serves an important purpose by making the atmosphere that much more special.

Here are a couple of questions for you….

What matters most to you, how long you live your life or how you live your life?

Does the “how” in either case only include what matters to you?

Dr. Warren says, “When you attempt to serve in ways that you are not equipped to serve, it feels like forcing a square peg into a round hole.” At times I agree with this statement. It may feel like it wastes your time but can still teach you a lesson. Better service comes when you know your abilities and stories and talents and can use them wholeheartedly and willingly. However by challenging yourself to a new task you have an opportunity to see what more you are made of.

There is a Danish Proverb that in a nut shell says: “What you are is the universe’s gift to you; what you do with yourself is your gift to the universe.”

After I read that proverb I had a thought: Why is it that the smaller our world seems to get the lonelier we feel? Perhaps it is because we are not reaching out enough in aid to others? How would you answer that question?

So, in a round-about response to the person that tried to lump me in with those that only serve for their own fulfillment I remembered the cliché, “You never know until you try.” If you want to truly know what you are made of, all of your gifts given to you by the universe, all the potential still locked inside of you, all of your personal success characteristics, take a look at this short list and see how you can start to serve others.

Call To Action:

1-      Always lead with your heart. Make a list of what brings you pleasure when you take action.

2-      What would you like to do but feel inadequate to try? What have you always wanted to try but felt scared or found a reason not to do when presented with an opportunity?

3-      Ask others what they admire about you and the things that you can do or they have seen you do. This is meant to enlighten you as to how you are seen in someone else’s eyes.

4-      Ask yourself, where have I already experienced success? This can be in a big or small way. Where would I enjoy experiencing success?

5-      Experiment by volunteering to serve anywhere and take note of how you feel and felt.

Were you charged? Were you indifferent? Were you bored? How involved did you allow yourself to get? Did you lose track of time? You might just learn something wonderful about yourself just because you tried.

 

Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear how living outside your comfort zone in service of others was the best use of your time and life.

“The interior joy we feel when we have done a good deed is the nourishment the soul requires.” –Albert Schweitzer

Images by bing.com

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

7 Strategies to Help You Be Here

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“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”
George Harrison

I would bet that for most of us Monday morning feels much like walking through ocean water, uphill, backwards, while it is raining and your eyes are closed. For even more of us life itself feels like this on a daily basis. UGH!!

Each week we hope that this Monday will be the day that will make all the difference for our hard work and sacrifice. We hope and/or wish deep down inside that this will be the week that everything changes for the better. The question is, what have you actually been doing to make that hope/wish a reality? Have you actually been here?

There is nowhere for you to get to; you are already here. What does it mean to plan for the future, to better your circumstances, to live in the notion of doing what you should and put off what you want? Every day is always now. Comedian/actress Lily Tomlin once said, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat.” I for one don’t want to be a rat. I want to win in increments and eventually feel like I don’t have to scurry and forage and bite.

As you know I am building my life coaching business. Building anything whether it is physical or metaphorical is hard work and as in the overall life equation nothing is for sure except death and taxes, as my father would say. This is not the first time that I am taking on the role of entrepreneur. In one of my previous apparitions I was a wedding photographer so creating a business is not new to me. What is new each time is the “how” and the “what”. I always like to start with the “why”. Why do I want to be a wedding photographer? Why do I want to be a life coach? Why do I want to start my own business? My “why” is always very important to discover. Suddenly, out comes my special paper that I reserve just for list making. I love making lists. Once I firmly and wholeheartedly find my “why” I am then able to work on my “what” and my “how”. I even created a template that helps me narrow down my  “why” questions to help get me to my specific “how” and “what”  of each  business category.  Some of the questions look like this:

1)      What is the outcome I am hoping to achieve?

2)      What benefit will my product/service have for someone?

3)      What are my priorities and action steps I need to engage in to make this idea come to life?

4)      What do I need to decide right now?

5)      How will I use my strengths and values toward my product/service?

6)      How will I implement each step I take?

The biggest question of all for me is how will I know I am HERE? I have created a list of 7 thoughts that help me know and help me stay focused on my here and now. I would like to share this list with you and invite you to think of anything more to add to the list.

You know you are HERE if…..

1) You remain present and mindful. This means that you are attentive and aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it. You stay focused on your current task, thought, objective.

2) You are fully engaged in your life moments. According to the father of the engaged life moments, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a book entitled, FLOW, The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Flow occurs when our thoughts and actions are deeply consumed by our projected outcome. Every part of our body is engaged in our creation process. We lose track of time and space and when we emerge on the other side of all of that creative energy we are changed and charged and feeling purposeful.

3) You are walking the talk. This means that you are completely believing and living your actions and that which you are creating and accomplishing. You talk about your purpose, you read about your purpose, you breathe your purpose, and you recruit believers to your purpose. People actually start to believe and see you as the winner of your intentions.

4) You are in touch with your energy. You know when you are feeling low and unmotivated but at that very moment you know what you need to do to re-energize your intention. This leads to the next idea….

5) You drink plenty of water. Water is a life sustaining element. We need it to flush our systems whether it is for digestion purposes or mental acuity purposes. In order to be in touch with our energy when we need to be we have to nourish our bodies to help them perform when we need them to perform.

6) You are feeling wide eyed. This is a bit deeper than energy. This speaks to our curiosity. In order to be HERE our curiosity must be peaked as much as possible. What more can I learn to help move my objective forward?

7) You constantly work your “to-do” list. Like I said, I love lists, especially “to-do” lists. These lists help me define my present moments, help create energy and objectives for each hour, day, week, and month. One of the greatest feelings I ever have is when I can cross an item off my “to-do” list. I instantly feel the amazing accomplishment the act of crossing off brings. Sure there will be items to add to another “to-do” list but that’s good. That means that I am moving ahead and have created new thought processes and new reasons to keep walking my talk, working my objective, staying on top of my purpose; my game.

Without going into definitions of each of the following, here is my list of 7 ways you know you are NOT here but you are actually way over there, somewhere, out in space…….

1) You are distracted and allow for distractions

2) You are unmotivated

3) You create excuses instead of meeting challenges

4) You feel like you are hiding away; not facing what needs to get done

5) You are projecting too far into the future; letting the work get too overwhelming

6) Your thoughts are on repeat or replay. You just can’t get out of the “song”, the excuses, the road blocks constantly playing and appearing in your head

7) You keep putting off the necessary and sometimes the unnecessary tasks

I know how hard it is to get up on Monday morning and face the prospect of another long week ahead. Setting small attainable goals each day, each hour or each 30 minutes helps break down the insurmountable mountain of a new week and a Monday morning. What I also know is that you can do this. If you are feeling more like your Monday mornings are created in excuses rather than challenges to be met then perhaps it is time to rethink your HERE?

“Don’t wait until everything is just right…There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. SO WHAT….Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger….”—Mark Victor Hansen

Call to Action

What is one thing you can do right now to help you be in the now?

How can you start to prevent procrastination?

How can you begin to get from here to there?